Sexual abuse is rife in the music industry. I can’t iterate it enough, because mostly, even in the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, everyone still stays silent about it. We now know that it’s all too common in all kinds of industries, but the music world, with its hierarchies and ways of doing business, offers a particular set-up that allows, and sometimes even endorses, toxic behaviour by men towards women (and of course if they’re gay, then younger, less powerful men, too). As well as music, our industry trades in a potent mix of sex, youth and availability. Drugs are allowed. Money swills about. Bad behaviour is tolerated. It’s rock ’n’ roll. That’s the point.
Young men and, particularly, young women, are seen as commodities who need marketing and managing and moulding. Mostly that is done by men. Quite a few of the men seem to take it for granted that they can sample the wares.
Let’s at least give it oxygen, air it out, begin to get rid of the smell of it. Let’s try and teach our daughters to be stronger and more resilient, better at being less grateful, more insistent on being taken seriously, louder at saying no.
The record industry is beginning, I think and hope, to change. The silence around abuse and harassment is still resounding, but some noise has emerged
The record industry is beginning, I think and hope, to change. The silence around abuse and harassment is still resounding, but some noise has emerged. In January 2016, a singer called Amber Coffman from the New York band, Dirty Projectors, wrote a series of tweets calling out the inappropriate behaviour of a publicist who was paid to represent her. “A very popular music publicist rubbed my ass and bit my hair at a bar a couple of years ago,” Coffman tweeted, before naming the perpetrator as Heathcliff Berru, the CEO of a company called Life or Death PR. A lot of people in the music industry read Coffman’s tweet and thought, He did what? You’re publicly shaming a guy on Twitter just for biting your hair and touching your ass? For real?
For real. Coffman had had enough. Her tweet also triggered responses from other women, who thought: Yeah, Heathcliff Berru did that to me, too. They shared similar experiences online, some of them recounting much more violating and frightening experiences. Coffman’s record company, when she told them about what he’d done, took her seriously and stopped working with Berru’s company. Berru was forced to resign. He wrote an apology online via the website, LA Weekly, blaming his behaviour mostly on his drug and other addictions. He made sure to specify that he’d never raped or drugged anyone. He checked himself into rehab.
It’s not the biggest story ever, I know, but it’s telling. It’s important. Women are beginning to speak out. The singer Kesha didn’t win her legal battle against Dr. Luke, but she refused to back down. Her female peers have publicly supported her. They believe her. I believe her. Women know what goes on, day in, day out, in their personal lives and in their places of work, and we are beginning to speak out about it.