Why has #MeToo bypassed the music industry? Just look at the guardians | Tamanna Rahman
JThanks to a joint investigation by BBC Three and the Guardian, allegations of sexual misconduct against DJ Tim Westwood – allegations he strongly denies – are finally being heard. Listening to the testimony of the seven women who came forward, I had a strong sense of deja vu. Last year I spoke to women in the industry for another BBC Three film, Music’s Dirty Secrets, and many of the stories mirrored those told by the Westwood accusers.
What I learned while making my film and in my research for a follow-up documentary is that in the music industry there is a problem with sexism, misogyny and sexual misconduct. It seems that those at the top are only pushed to act when a major scandal (and therefore serious negative publicity) is brewing. Part of the problem is that sexual misconduct allegations are notoriously difficult to prove, especially if the defendants are powerful and extremely litigious. Yet the #MeToo movement, which led to the downfall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein and other powerful figures, seems to have bypassed the music industry entirely, even though many people I spoke to believe that it’s even worse than Hollywood.
Why? The issue of industry gatekeepers has been raised by almost every woman I’ve spoken to in the music business – and I’ve spoken to sheet music, from interns to Grammy-winning act executives and managers. and at the Brit Awards. For a long time, men have held the keys to the glamorous, fun and sexy world of music. Interested in developing a musical group and becoming an A&R director? Want to travel the world to promote an artist’s work as a PR? More likely than not, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’re good at laughing, that you can gossip with the best of them, that you can get along with the man who’s likely to be your boss – and, perhaps, be, turn a blind eye to the shenanigans. .
In some offices, women report seeing men watching pornography on their computers and openly discussing masturbation. There have been comments from patrons about the tightness of their tops; their backs have been stroked suggestively at concerts; sexually suggestive comments were whispered to them at awards parties. And women, on the whole, keep their heads down. They laugh about it. Doing anything more could spell the end of a hard-fought career. They are made to feel superfluous, whereas the male executive, the manager, the entertainer – those who earn the money or control it – are not.
One of the women interviewed in my first film was Kristen Knight, a DJ. She brought rape charges against DJ and label owner Erick Morillo, and told me she first reported what happened to co-workers, but many shunned her rather than supporting her . Morillo was found dead of a drug overdose just days before facing charges in court. Since his death, several women have come forward to make similar allegations.
In 2018, Lily Allen alleged in her book, My Thoughts Exactly, that she was sexually assaulted by a music executive. Almost everyone in the industry thinks they know who Allen’s alleged abuser is and that it’s someone still working in music. Even if they are wrong, the fact that so many people assume that there would have been no consequences for the defendant as a result of Allen’s allegation speaks volumes.
So what is the answer? After all, if it is right for people to be innocent until proven guilty, it follows that a person cannot have their livelihood destroyed on the basis of a single allegation. It is certainly difficult for a record company to fire them on this basis.
The problem is that many record companies don’t seem to even try. If you work your way into the industry, chances are you’ll work for an independent record label. If you are assaulted by the owner of this business or the artist, who can you go to to complain? There are often no HR structures in place, and even where they exist, which HR person is going to scrutinize their boss, or the person on whom a significant part of the business model relies? And it’s a small world. If you rock the boat, women have told me, you get labeled a troublemaker and may even find yourself locked out of jobs at other companies. This lack of internal recourse leaves women with only two options: to denounce their aggressor in public, with all the associated risks, or to remain silent.
The responsibility should be even greater for major labels and respected music organizations where human resource systems are in place. But dozens of women told me that when they filed complaints with HR staff, the response was to be gaslighted, ignored, threatened with lawsuits, made to sign NDAs or quietly let go. In one example, a junior member of staff told me that she revealed she had been raped the night before by one of the bosses, and her manager’s response was brief sympathy, but nothing more. . In another, an investigation was opened after allegations of inappropriate touching. The man in question was quietly taken out of the building and given a glowing reference in the music press with best wishes for his future. The woman says she was forced to sign an NDA. And so the cycle continues.
It should be noted that all seven women who have come forward to make allegations about Tim Westwood are black. They allege he abused his position and power to go after them – in fact, the film’s subtitle is Abuse of Power. If a white woman feels a lack of support among her peers and elders when she makes allegations of sexual misconduct, their testimony suggests the problem is compounded for black and brown women, who often have to work even harder to succeed. in industry.
Music may not have had its #MeToo moment, but industry players are increasingly coming together to support each other. There are more female executives, more female-owned businesses, and a greater awareness of what is and is not acceptable behavior. Last month, former Atlantic A&R executive Dorothy Carvello launched her foundation, Face the Music Now, to provide a safe space for women to report abuse and help them find a lawyer. And it’s not just women. Many of the people I’ve spoken to are men who are tired of seeing their co-workers abused, only to be belittled and shunned.
The music industry has many artists, managers and executives who have been accused of sexual misconduct. He has the tools to investigate and take the allegations seriously. It’s time to use them.