Sexism and sexual misconduct have long been entrenched in the entertainment industry and have recently come to the forefront of national and international news. The #MeToo movement has given voice to many women who, due to the structural sexism of the male-dominated industry, largely went unheard before. And the recently formed Time's Up coalition is taking steps to combat these problems through pushing legislation, securing legal funds for victims, fighting non-disclosure agreements in settlements and securing industry commitments to increased gender parity in the workforce.
The music industry also has a long history of sexism, sexual harassment, misconduct and gender disparity in the workplace. There has been relatively little news focusing on this, but that is starting to change through reports, #MeToo exposure and new movements. For those studying music business in a degree program like Frost's online Master of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries (MBEI), understanding how systemic sexism is reflected in the music industry, and how to address this problem, is an important part of pursuing a leadership role in the field.
What Kinds of Sexual Misconduct Can Be Found in the Music Industry?
As with the TV and film industries, many instances of sexual misconduct have surfaced through news stories and the #MeToo movement. These vary from sexual harassment and intimidation to outright sexual assault, perpetrated by persons in positions of power, from employers and business associates to artists. Similar to Hollywood stories, industry leaders hushed many such instances by including non-disclosure agreements in settlements with victims.
Why Is Sexual Misconduct so Common in the Music Industry?
Relationships of power and sexual misconduct are especially prevalent in the music industry because a lot of music business jobs are carried out by freelance or contract workers. A large record company may have a sexual harassment policy to address various forms of sexual misconduct. But independent contractors like publicists, agents, artists and promoters do not have clear avenues for recourse (except in the case of criminally prosecutable forms of sexual misconduct).
Plus, many people feel pressured to go along with sexual advances from those with greater stature or power (i.e. employers, supervisors or potential high-level business associates like record execs) in order to maintain or advance their careers. Actively pressuring someone to commit an unwanted sexual act in this way is considered sexual assault. And, when a perceived power differential exists, even putting someone in a position that requires them to accept or refuse such an advance is a form of pressuring that person.
There are all too many stories of women, from artists and entrepreneurs to top executives, feeling compelled to accept sexual advances in order to keep their jobs or enter into an important working or networking relationship. And of course, people of any gender and sexual orientation can be victims of sexual misconduct.
How Is Sexism Entrenched in the Music Industry?
It is important to realize that sexism can be seen in, and is reinforced by, many aspects of the music industry. The music industry has long been seen as a "boys' club." Data from the Census Bureau shows that men hold more than 70 percent of jobs in the "sound recording industries."
A recent study of Billboard's Hot 100 charts from 2012 to 2017 found dramatic disparities between male and female representation in popular music. For instance, the gender ratio of top male artists to top female artists in 2017 was 4.9 to 1. Men received 87.7 percent of songwriter credits over the six years. And the ratio of male producers to female producers of these songs was a staggering 49.1 to 1.
Women are clearly underrepresented in the music industry on both the business side and the artistic and creative side. Professional female engineers commonly experience men's assumptions that they do not have a depth of knowledge in technical aspects of the field. Hardworking, successful female executives are seen as bossy and called expletives while their male counterparts are simply seen as "stern" or "business-like" and treated with respect.
What Is Happening to Change This?
Thankfully, the #MeToo movement has gained traction in the music industry. The Voices in Entertainment organization (VIE) was recently founded by a group of top female music executives to bring awareness to sexism and sexual misconduct in the music business. They have added their support to Time Up's Anti-Harassment Action Plan, combatting sexual misconduct both inside and out of the entertainment industry, and funneling donations to the coalition's legal fund.
Things are certainly changing, although systemic change in structural sexism in the music industry has a long way to go. The leaders of VIE are emphasizing the importance of awareness plus mentorship, building female presence and advocacy in the industry through the work and support of women leaders in the field. Likewise, this commitment to combatting sexism and sexual misconduct is essential for those aspiring to join the ranks of leaders in music business and the entertainment industries.
Sources:Rolling Stone: New Study: Music Industry's Greatest Gender Disparity Is Behind the Scenes
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