Perpetrators promoted while female victims exit music industry, inquiry hears

The Misogyny in Music inquiry has been told women are “forced out” of the music industry after becoming victims of sexual harassment while perpetrators “move up the workforce”.

On Wednesday, the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee was looking at the treatment of women and girls, including at live music events.

The inquiry aims to examine what misogynistic attitudes exist in the industry and what steps can be taken to improve attitudes and the treatment of women working in music.

John Shortell, head of equality, diversity and inclusion at the Musicians’ Union (MU), said the “fear” of workers losing their jobs has made “sexual harassment more likely and under-reported in the music industry”.

He added that this is down to employment relying on “networks” and “really informal working practices”.

Mr Shortell also said: “Why women don’t raise their heads? Of course, it’s that freelance nature, again.

“The minute someone raises a problem – whether that be sexual harassment, lack of facilities for women (or) discrimination – generally, what we’ll see at the MU is that they become the problem.

“So the person who’s complaining, the woman in this instance, is forced out of the workforce or victimised and we quite often see the perpetrators stay in the workforce and move up the workforce … it’s a massive problem for us.”

Mr Shortell said his organisation, which represents more than 30,000 members working across the sector, has also seen other issues experienced by female performers at gigs and festivals.

He said: “We’ve had reports where women… (say) there’s no changing facilities for women at venues, so women will be getting changed in cars, which obviously raises safety concerns, or they’ll be asked to share a dressing room with the rest of the band members.”

Earlier, Marta Pallares Olivares, head of international press and PR at Primavera Sound Festival, recalled how “hell on earth” broke out after they began increasing their booking of female headliners.

In 2019, Primavera – which has seen Miley Cyrus, Lizzo and Robyn among their line-up – achieved a 50/50 gender balance.

Ms Olivares said: “At the beginning, when we released the line-up, we had a tremendous backlash … we felt that many, many people (had) felt Primavera (was) something of their own (and they) felt betrayed.”

She added following this “first wave” of negative comments the festival in Barcelona, one of Europe’s biggest music events, received “praise”.

Ms Olivares said: “So then we started receiving a lot of comments from very young gay (males) that said: ‘Yes, I’m going to come because my friends are also coming and I think that I will feel safe (at) this festival’.”