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Musicians' Union calls on government to act on "rife" sexual abuse in music industry

New reports show harassment and abuse is still prevalent despite the #MeToo movement

The Musicians' Union has called on the UK Government and various music industry bodies to come together to do more to tackle the issues of sexual abuse and harassment within the music industry.

New reports, the organisation says, show that harassment and abuse, particularly against women, remain a prominent issue within the music industry despite the #MeToo movement. "As the industry attempts to bounce back post-pandemic and those who lost jobs and income urgently seek employment, the MU warns many could find themselves more vulnerable to exploitation," the organisation has said.

A statement shared by the organisation continues: "In recent months, artists such as Rebecca Ferguson and Lily Allen have shone a spotlight on the abuse by senior figures and organisations in the industry, detailing their experiences which range from sexual harassment and assault to bullying and coercive control. However, the MU warns it's not just high-profile artists who are put at risk by the culture of the music industry – victimisation and sexual abuse is also rife behind-the-scenes."

The Musicians' Union has shared new anonymous testimonies from a group of women, all ex-employees and freelancers from a well-known music promotions company in the North of England, whcih detail ill-treatment, sexual harassment and assault, at the hands of their employer.

One of those anonymous testimonies reads: "I experienced sexual harassment constantly at work – both in and outside of the office. I was regularly groped and touched inappropriately. Outside the workplace, my manager would often send me lewd, explicit photos or videos of himself. I never felt safe."

The testimony continues: "Like many of the other survivors I know I'm still traumatised by my experiences. When you choose to work in the music industry it's often because you have a real love of the arts. You want to be surrounded by passionate, creative people – not entering a workspace when you worry you may be assaulted by your employer. More needs to be done to protect people in the industry both on and off-stage. I'm hopeful that through sharing stories like ours that we can help implement industry-wide positive change.

Naomi Pohl, Deputy General Secretary of the Musicians' Union, said: "It's unacceptable that so many artists, musicians, employees, and freelancers have suffered abuse at work and that many have left the industry as a result. With more women stepping forward to share their experiences, it's vital the industry adopts a zero-tolerance approach to ensure everyone in the creative arts is protected as they return to work.

"We're pleased to see the Government is recognising the seriousness of this issue after having recently convened a series of important creative industries-wide meetings to ensure positive action is implemented. Now we ask for action: we need the Government to strengthen the law to prevent sexual harassment at work before it happens.

"Together, with survivors, and other trade bodies like UK Music who are committed to ensuring change happens, we want to create a movement to ensure the music industry is a safe place to work for everyone."

The Musicians' Union has also revealed that a poll carried out prior to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a number of shocking statistics, including that 48% of musicians have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, and 58% had witnessed an incident of sexual harassment whilst at work. 10% of respondents to the poll said they had had witnessed incidents of sexual harassment on a regular basis.

To find out more about the Musicians' Union campaign, click here.

This latest campaign follows on from an initiative launched last month that saw UN Women UK push for a renewed focus on women's safety in the music and events industry.