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Australian music industry issues statement of apology and action following report on sexual harm, harassment and discrimination in the workplace

By | Published on Thursday 1 September 2022

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A long list of music companies and organisations in Australia have signed a letter of apology and action following the publication of a new report into sexual harm, harassment and discrimination within the country’s music industry.

The report was based on a survey of nearly 1300 music industry professionals, of which 55% had experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment or harm during their career – and of the women surveyed, it was 72%. Meanwhile, 76% said they had experienced some kind of workplace bullying.

The new report was commissioned last December by a working group that had formed earlier in 2021 as the spotlight increasingly fell on bad working practices and misconduct within the Australian music industry. The toxic corporate culture at Sony Music’s Australian division had been exposed following the sudden departure of its top man Denis Handlin, though it was widely agreed the issues went far beyond one single music company.

The review of working practices in the music sector was led by independent consultants Alexandra Shehadie and Sam Turner. A statement alongside the publication of their report says that they found “high rates of sexual harassment, sexual harm and bullying” within the Australian music industry, and that “women do not thrive to the same extent as men, and young people and people of diverse backgrounds can be at particular risk of harm and poor employment practices”.

72% of the women surveyed had experienced sexual harassment or harm during their career in music, as had 39% of men. 33% of those surveyed said they had experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment in the last five years. 74% of perpetrators of sexual harassment were men and 25% were women. The harassment was most likely to occur at gigs that music industry practitioners were attending, although about 21% of the time it happened in the office.

Alongside the very concerning stats, Shehadie and Turner’s report sets out seventeen recommendations for reforming the industry, while also noting that the research had “revealed a strong appetite for widespread and sustainable cultural change across the industry and a strong desire for leaders and those with influence to drive this change”.

One of those recommendations is that the industry make a ‘statement of acknowledgement’ of the “harm caused by sexual harm, sexual harassment, bullying and systemic discrimination in the contemporary music industry”, while also committing to implement the other recommendations and bring about reform across the sector.

With that in mind, a statement was issued this morning signed by companies and organisations from across the Australian music industry, including major and independent labels and publishers, live music and management firms, and groups representing artists and songwriters.

It reads: “As leaders in the Australian contemporary music industry, we accept the distressing findings of the review. We acknowledge the harm documented by the review, and we are sorry. This review has been a vital process of listening and truth telling. We thank all the participants for their courage in speaking out, in bravely re-living their experiences, and engaging in this critical report. We acknowledge the impact of these behaviours on the lives of victim survivors from our industry”.

“Everyone has the right to work in an environment free from bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination”, it goes on. “As disturbing and confronting as the findings are, the Australian music industry is committed to change and to rebuilding trust. The music industry should - and will – foster safe, welcoming, respectful, creative, and fun environments. We have been listening and have heard your calls for change. We can and will continue to do better. We all can”.

“As leaders and members of the music community”, it then states, “we all have a responsibility to model courageous leadership and do our best to bring an end to poor and destructive behaviour. We urge all in the music industry to continue working with us to implement long-term, sustainable change for the better. We all have a personal and professional responsibility to make our culture the best it can be”.

It then concludes: “We are committed to working through the recommendations of the report, doing the necessary work and being accountable, to ensure our industry workplaces are safe, inclusive, and respectful. Our work has already started, and it will not stop until we have a culture that is safe for all”.

You can access the new report here. Its authors note: “The content of the report may be distressing. We encourage you to consider what support and care might be needed for you and those around you during the coming weeks. It’s good practice to seek consent before discussing the report and its recommendations”.