The UK music industry has an astonishing track record of producing musicians, artists, songwriters and other fantastically talented people whose work sets world-beating standards.
However, those high standards must apply not only to the side of the music business that millions experience at a live show or when they listen to music, but it must also apply behind the scenes in every workplace too.
For many the music industry is a safe, welcoming and creative place to work - away from fear of harassment, bullying and discrimination. But sadly, this is not always a universal experience, and this is what we must all work together to urgently address.
Campaigners like Rebecca Ferguson and many others have courageously spoken out and shone a light on the problems in the music industry that we all need to tackle.
The scale of the issue is clear and is a societal challenge that is far wider than the music industry. A recent Government study found almost three in four people (72 percent) in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. A total of 29 percent of respondents to the same survey said they experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past 12 months.
‘It is essential the music industry takes a zero-tolerance approach towards incidents of harassment, bullying and discrimination within our industry and fosters an environment where survivors are reassured that they can raise complaints without fear of recrimination or any adverse impact on their careers.‘
While sexual harassment is an issue that affects men and women, it has a disproportionate impact on women, as well as trans-women and non-binary people.
Formal reporting of workplace sexual harassment remains very low. Only 15 percent of those who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace made a formal report, making it likely that employers underestimate the level of harassment.
The Government’s announcement of plans to legislate for a new statutory duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment was a very welcome step.
The nature of the music industry means there are some specific challenges that are different from some other sectors. There can be significant power imbalances in working relationships, frequent evening and night working, and environments where alcohol and sometimes other stimulants are consumed.
Around 70 percent of the music industry workforce are self-employed, which means they may not have as easy access to services, rights and benefits in the same way as those who are directly employed.
As we embark on the year ahead, we need to see real progress in tackling harassment, bullying and discrimination.
‘We need to ensure our industry comes up with solutions that work and make the music business a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.‘
It is essential the music industry takes a zero-tolerance approach towards incidents of harassment, bullying and discrimination within our industry and fosters an environment where survivors are reassured that they can raise complaints without fear of recrimination or any adverse impact on their careers.
We need to ensure our industry comes up with solutions that work and make the music business a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.
UK Music is working with the BPI and other music organisations to improve standards. This involves setting consistently high standards to apply right across the industry, coupled with bespoke guidance for different sectors and aspiring for all of the industry to adhere to the same set of principles. This would build on established and extensive internal procedures and resources that individual companies, such as record labels and music publishers, as well as trade associations and collective management organisations, have in place.
Ensuring that following codes of conduct are a condition of membership is a welcome move that organisations such as Music Managers Forum (MMF), The Ivors Academy, Music Producers Guild (MPG), the Association for Electronic Music and PRS for Music, have taken.
Crucially, we need to better signpost existing codes of conduct within the music business and are working on how awareness of education and training can be communicated and applied throughout the industry to ensure that everyone in every sector of the industry is behaving appropriately and respectfully.
We also need to ensure that survivors feel supported and have access to the services and resources that they need. Part of the work that UK Music is doing is to look at the existing support services and see how they can be enhanced.
‘As we embark on the year ahead, we need to see real progress in tackling harassment, bullying and discrimination.’
For example, the Musicians’ Union’s (MU) Safe Space is a resource to support those who have experienced sexual harassment. It was launched a few years alongside the MU Music Sector Code of Practice. It is open to anyone in the music business for advice and to make a report.
To build on this we are working with the MU and Help Musicians to develop further helplines, counselling and triage services to be integrated with the Safe Space scheme, covering all forms of harassment, bullying and discrimination.
We are also talking with other initiatives to see what we can learn from them, such as Cactus City Studio. It is a safe space for women and gender minorities, which recently launched a Charter and is seeking better safeguarding policies for artists and creatives. Project Four UK is an independent research and action-based initiative focused on eradicating bullying, harassment and abuse from the music industry. The University of the West of Scotland, University of Strathclyde, and University of Winchester are working together as part of the Bullying and Harassment in the Music Industry (BaHMI) project and have been conducting a national survey to inform this work.
More broadly, across the creative sector UK Music, BPI, MMF, MU, PRS Foundation and Keychange all sit on the new Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Creative Industries Working Group. Led by Creative UK and involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, this group has since summer 2021 brought together organisations from across the creative sector with the overarching aim to ‘prevent, protect and monitor.’
As part of this work, music industry organisations are also engaging with plans for an independent standards authority. Devised by TIME’S UP UK, this proposal would support the reporting and investigation of misconduct complaints, with the benefit of improving accountability across the creative industries. We welcome the principle and intent behind it, which would complement existing resources and hopefully provide much needed support to freelancers, as well as survivors of historic cases.
These projects reflect just some of the work happening in the industry to tackle bullying and harassment.
As we emerge from the pandemic, everyone is hoping the UK music industry can rebuild to become bigger, better and more successful than ever in the years ahead.
It is vital that we unite as an industry to drive out discrimination and harassment and make the UK music business a truly welcoming and inclusive place to work for everyone.