A few weeks ago, The Gen asked if the music industry has a Weinstein problem as sexual assault scandals began to engulf Hollywood. This week, almost 2,000 women working in the Swedish music industry have alleged that they have experienced sexual assault, harassment or overt sexism during their career and signed an open letter calling for urgent change.
The Swedish petition is signed by 1,993 women who work as producers, songwriters, artist managers, A&Rs, booking agents, publishers and artists including Robyn (pictured), First Aid Kit and Zara Larsson.
Others featured amongst the 1,993 signees – who have all given their names – include both junior and senior executives at all three major labels, as well as people working at independent record companies, publishers, live promoters and booking agents.
The open letter contains a series of anonymised stories from some of the women containing historical allegations of abuse and criminality by powerful male industry figures, including allegations of rape and attempted rape by executives and musicians.
The letter cites “excerpts from hundreds of testimonies” and states: “In the music industry, we work around the clock, often with unsafe and temporary employment. Being courteous and not worrying becomes extra important… this makes women in the music industry targets for power demonstrations that are often of a sexual nature.
It continues: “We live in a life… where we are objectified and where sexual abuse and harassment are more common than [not]. If we report these events [the result] is words speaking against words… we tie our fists into our pockets and rarely mention [these incidents]. Silence culture prevails. But we will no longer be silent… We demand zero tolerance against sexual exploitation and violence”.
A leading major label executive in the Swedish music business has subsequently been suspended following multiple serious allegations of sexually harassing young women.
In related news, the UK’s Musicians’ Union has announced that, at a meeting with its counterparts from across the Nordic region in Stockholm last week, it was agreed that tackling sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry must now be made a priority. The MU recently ran a series of meetings in London and Manchester to discuss the issues of sexual assault and harassment in the music industry.
Commenting on these meetings, MU Assistant General Secretary Naomi Pohl said: “The feeling around the table was a wish that we had realised the scale of the problem earlier, so we could have intervened and acted on behalf of victims and survivors of sexism, sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse at work”.
Pohl continued: “While abuse of power occurs in all industries, in the entertainment industries there is the carrot and stick of success and exclusion that makes the imbalance of power especially stark and open to abuse. While we regularly deal with such cases for MU members, they are individual, isolated from a bigger picture and often subject to confidentiality agreements that end up protecting the victim but also the perpetrator, masking the true scale of the problem”.
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