Dec 19, 2017

Unique conditions of the music industry allow sexual harassment to thrive

As victims from the music industry come forward with their stories, Crikey asks what is it that is unique to the music scene that allows this behavior to flourish?

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Last week, an open letter "to the Australian music industry" (dubbed #meNOmore) was published, detailing the widespread experiences of sexual harassment, assault and violence experienced by women in the industry. It contains appalling stories, from everyday acts of denigration and boundary-crossing, to sexual assaults kept quiet with threats to the victims' careers. It is far from the only industry to experience these issues, but is there something unique to the music scene that allows this behaviour to flourish?

"With all of the recent developments and scandals, we often go straight to the consequences for the individual perpetrator, which is obviously important," Elspeth Scrine, a musician and co-ordinator of Listen -- a feminist organisation that organises events to showcase and support marginalised artists -- told Crikey. "But we don't often enough look to the structural elements." 

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6 thoughts on “Unique conditions of the music industry allow sexual harassment to thrive

  1. old greybearded one

    One hopes we advance, but be wary of comparing eras. I have been involved in a small way with very grass roots music for a fair while (ie forty odd years). There is something a little uncertain, a little dangerous, a little exotic in the figure of the minstrel. Historically, they lost their heads now and then: literally. I have never been a hunter of unattached women, being happily monogamous, but I have often been intrigued at approaches made by women towards musicians and advances accepted from them as well. There has been a milieu which has blurred limits and easily gets out of hand. No respect and no time for the predators, but it isn’t always as simple as it has been painted. Especially not in times gone by when attitudes were different. Today we can and should expect better.

    1. AR

      OBO – “Gone with the Gypsy laddie-Oh”.

    2. half_hippie

      I’ve been going to gigs for close on fifty years and, where I’ve been close enough to the stage to observe what’s going on, I don’t remember a single one where there weren’t women in the audience making f— me eyes or gestures at the singer (assuming he happened to be male). Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’n roll go together. It’s too simplistic, as you say, OGO, to look at ‘predatory’ sexual behaviour in the music industry in isolation of this sometimes inconvenient truth.

  2. lykurgus

    The answer is mate, that blatant industrial-scale exploitation is in the music industrys nature.
    Remember when the Mob controlled the industry (don’t answer that – it was first half of the 20th or thereabouts)? The general way of doing things hasn’t moved on from those days (eg. that payola’s illegal as balls, doesn’t matter if you have battalions of barristers ready to argue that it ain’t no thing); ditto the more general exploitation and sliminess woven into its fabric as a result (eg. Milli Vanilli weren’t told that they’d be lipsynching until the manager made sure they’d spent their advance – he didn’t want them walking away).
    Courtney Love wrote about the more customary exploitation some while ago
    if you can get past her defence of Lars Ulrich (it was before we learned the extent of his malpractices*)

    *(listen to Excels “Tapping Into the Emotional Void”, 1989 – sound familiar?)

  3. Martin Zakharov

    Not an easy one, working in an industry inherently aligned with the (legal and illegal) drug industry. And also being financially inherently unstable means it tends to attract risk takers in all genders. Not that that should ever excuse anyone’s misbehaviour, but it does complicate matters on the ground. But the more it’s discussed openly the better, for everyone.


    The music and entertainment industry are open to many forms of exploitation…

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