U.S. ‘Sound Off’ Report Explores Music Industry Misconduct

Sexual misconduct is rife in the music industry and, since the 1950s, has been ignored, covered-up, silenced and victims threatened by powerful artists and executives, a new report claims.

Published this week, “Sound Off: Make the Music Industry Safe” brings to light accounts of sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct in the business, which its authors claim is inherently linked with money and power.

Numbering 224 pages, Sound Off doesn’t pull its punches.

“For decades,” reads the opening line of the executive summary, “the music industry has condoned, perpetuated, and often marketed a culture of sexual abuse of women and underage girls.”

The document continues, “Thousands of artists, executives, and shareholders have made billions of dollars in profit – while engaging in and/or covering up criminal sexual behavior.”

“Sound Off” gathers publicly available information and is the work of several women-led not-for-profit organisations, including Lift Our Voices, The Female Composers Safety League, The Punk Rock Therapist, and The Representation Project — with a mission to hold accountable those businesses, execs, artists and powerbrokers who’ve done harm, and ensure a safer industry for those who work in it.

Those who wrote it, acknowledge the document is a “scathing history,” tracing the impact of decades of bad behaviour.

Its authors put the heat on the music majors, dozens of artists, and spotlight wrongdoing in the U.S. and U.K. It’s a powerful and, at times, difficult read. Australia’s music community is not part of the probe.

“Given market value in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” reads the study, “there are significant financial risks to these companies from failing to act on sexual misconduct, covering it up, and in some instances, having executives who perpetuate the misconduct.”

The music industry, its authors claim, “has followed a playbook for dealing with sexual abuse that shields predators, including musicians, producers, managers, executives, and other behind-the-scenes players, from liability.”

Record companies “continued to work with artists publicly accused of sexual abuse and artists who publicly admitted to misconduct,” the document continues, “allowing abuse to continue.” In time, the report notes, shareholder litigation and regulatory investigations could result.

During a presentation Wednesday (Feb. 28) in Los Angeles, the activists presented a checklist of demands they will deliver to the leaders of the music industry’s biggest companies, reports the U.S. ABC network. They include:

  1. No more NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) that silence survivors.
  2. Mandated policy protocols. If You See Something, Say Something.
  3. An independent organization funded by MusiCares – The Make Music Industry Safe Division.
  4. Publication of the names of artists and executives credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment.
  5. Adopt a Survivor Bill of Rights.

With the document in hand, advocates will urge U.S. lawmakers to open investigations into sexual misconduct accusations in the music industry, and draw up new legislation.

Australia’s contemporary music industry has stared down sexual harm, harassment, and systemic discrimination in its own ranks, details of which were laid out in Raising Their Voices, published in September 2022.

That document, based on the contributions of 1,600 victims, witnesses and advocates, illustrated a picture of widespread sexual harassment, sexual harm and bullying, with the vast majority of those incidents going unreported. The perpetrators are rarely punished, the report explained.

Among its 17 recommendations, the creation of a Code of Conduct, a Contemporary Music Industry Cultural Reform Council, and a “statement of acknowledgement” from the music industry, which was immediately actioned.

Read the “Sound Off” report and “Raising Their Voices”.

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