Music industry ‘boys’ club’ means musicians have to sit next to sexual abusers at award ceremonies

Entertainment

Musicians have to sit beside sexual abusers at award ceremonies, MPs have said as they warned that misogyny and discrimination is “endemic” in the industry.

The Women and Equalities Committee has held an inquiry into the sector, where it found sexual harassment and abuse was common.

But it said many women did not report the incidents as they worried about whether they would be believed – or if their careers would be over as a result.

The cross-party group has recommended a number of measures to be put in place, including changing the Equalities Act to offer more protections to freelance workers and increased investment to get more women into the sector.

“People in the industry who attend award shows and parties currently do so sitting alongside sexual abusers who remain protected by the system and by colleagues,” the report said.

It added: “The music industry has always prided itself on being a vehicle for social change; when it comes to discrimination, and the harassment and sexual abuse of women, it has a lot of work to do.”

Committee chair, Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, called for a “shift in the behaviour of men” in the industry to ensure the “transformative change” needed.

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Caroline Nokes is Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee
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Caroline Nokes is Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. Pic: Sky News

The committee gathered evidence from a range of people within the sector, from industry bodies and festival organisers, through to artists.

They concluded women were underrepresented in key roles across the industry – shown most clearly in the number of female artists signed by record labels or on festival line ups.

And while the numbers were “improving”, in certain areas progress is “slow and shackled by discrimination, misogyny and sexual abuse in an industry that is still routinely described as a ‘boys’ club'”.

They also said for women trying to get into the industry, they faced “unjustifiable limitations in opportunity, a lack of support, gender discrimination and sexual harassment as well as the ‘persistent issue of equal pay’ in a sector dominated by self-employment” – which was even worse for women from other minorities.

And while the MPs said abuse and discrimination was not unique in music, it was “amplified” by the high number of freelance workers, the informal nature of many workplaces, and “late-night working, often in places where alcohol and drugs are available, can result in women working in environments that are unsafe”.

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Is rock really only for the boys?

The committee has called on the government to change the Equality Act to give the same support against discrimination to freelance workers, and impose a duty on employers to protect workers from sexual harassment by third parties.

The also want non-disclosure agreements to be banned when it comes to cases of sexual abuse, harassment or misconduct.

The MPs called on ministers to increase investment in talent from a range of backgrounds, including through official schemes, and create pathways for women in male-dominated careers, such as sound engineering and production.

And they said record labels should regularly publish statistics about the diversity on their books.

Ms Nokes said: “Women’s creative and career potential should not have limits placed upon it by ‘endemic’ misogyny which has persisted for far too long within the music industry.

“Our report rightly focuses on improving protections and reporting mechanisms, and on necessary structural and legislative reforms.

“However, a shift in the behaviour of men – and it is almost always men – at the heart of the music industry is the transformative change needed for talented women to quite literally have their voices heard and be both recognised and rewarded on equal terms.”

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