skip to main content

MU's Campaign for Sexual Harassment Law Change Featured on Badass Women’s Hour XL

The MU spoke to Badass Women’s Hour XL about sexual harassment in the music industry and our new campaign to change the law to protect freelancers too.

Published: 29 October 2019 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:30 PM
Black and white photograph of a woman playing acoustic guitar in casual setting
Supporting people who speak out is really important. Photo credit: Shutterstock

MU research shows that 48% of musicians have experienced sexual harassment at work, 85% did not report it, and 61% of musicians surveyed believe that freelancers are at greater risk. Over a thousand people have already signed the petition calling on Government to change the law.

Badass Women’s Hour XL invited MU Campaigns & Social Media Official Maddy Radcliff for a chat about how the law fails freelancers now, musicians’ experiences, and how we can create change.

How the law fails freelancers now

Maddy explained:

“It depends on the kind of freelancer that you are. If you can be classified by law as a ‘worker’ then you have access to mechanisms of justice.”

“But if you aren’t defined as a ‘worker’ which a lot of musicians aren’t - because they don’t have an employer as such, they have an engager or a contractor, and because they are not seen to be providing a personal service – you don’t actually get protected by the law or accessing protection is that much harder.”

“We don’t think that’s right. We think everyone at work should be equally protected from sexual harassment. And that’s why we really really need this law change.”

Musicians’ experiences

“We have cases whereby musicians have tried to raise a case and they’ve found their reputation damaged, they’ve been threatened with not being able to work again. Fear of losing work, expectation that it won’t be handled appropriately, and expectation of not being believed are the second, third and fourth reasons people did not report. The first is workplace culture.”

“We did have one musician come to us. She’d been harassed at work by someone quite high profile. Ten other musicians came forward. They’d also been harassed. And the report on that found it was due to a quote-unquote lad culture where she was working, which is absolutely horrific. So it’s kind of everywhere.”

What can we do about it?

“Supporting people who speak out is really important. Right now, if you’re a freelance musician you don’t have that many recourses to justice, and a lot of musicians have found themselves the subject of defamation claims.

“There’s a group, Solidarity Not Silence, who are crowdfunding because someone has taken them to court for defamation for calling out sexual harassment – or alleged sexual harassment I should probably legally say.”

Changing the culture

“There are quite a lot of legal asks and I think that’s a really good first step. Because what happens is that if there is a legal consequence for people’s actions – the perpetrator’s actions – if they commit sexual harassment at work, hopefully that will go some way to changing their behaviour and hopefully change the culture of the industry as well.”

Safe Space

“We started a thing called Safe Space and an email address for people to report instances of sexual harassment to.

“We found that over 95% of the people who reported to us were women, we did get men as well, and that was kind of the catalyst for this campaign.

“But it doesn’t feel like #MeToo has hit the music industry yet. We talk a lot about sexual harassment. We’ve been banging on about it for a couple of years now. But we still haven’t had an opening of the floodgates and people talking about it – although people like Lily Allen and other high-profile musicians have definitely come forward and spoken about their experiences.”

#MeToo and music

“The thing about #MeToo that made it really special was women sharing their stories, and men sharing their stories, and non-binary people sharing their stories. It was like a floodgate had been opened and thousands if not millions of stories were being shared.”

“The thing about these statistics and this data is that they show you aren’t alone, and I suspect, had the floodgates opened, the statistic - that 48% - would have been much higher.”

Have you signed the petition to protect freelancers too? Sign it now and help spread the word.

Continue reading

Photograph from the back of a string section in an orchestra, looking forward across scores and players holding violins.

Health and Safety In Orchestras

For those of you returning to work in orchestras, you need to be sure your employer or engager is offering you a safe place to work. This may not be straightforward!

Published: 17 September 2021

Read more about Health and Safety In Orchestras
Photograph of a close up of a young flute player, practicing in a classroom setting. Behind them we can see other performers and a teacher figure.

MU Urges New Education Secretary and Schools Minister to Work Together to Protect Music Education

Following the sacking of Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Schools Minister Nick Gibb – and their replacement by Nadhim Zahawi and Robin Walker respectively – the MU urges the new ministers to work together to address systemic problems affecting music education in England.

Published: 17 September 2021

Read more about MU Urges New Education Secretary and Schools Minister to Work Together to Protect Music Education