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Industry pros back Safe Spaces Now initiative

UK artists, festivals and industry professionals have signed a new pledge to improve safety for women at live music events.

Emily Eavis/Glastonbury Festival, The Eden Project, Strawberries & Creem, Dice and DJ Clara Amfo, as well as artists Rudimental, Paloma Faith, Anne-Marie, Mabel and Beverley Knight, are among the signatories to an open letter launching Safe Spaces Now, created by UN Women UK to push for a safe and inclusive concert environment for both genders post-pandemic.

As part of the initiative, UN Women UK has drawn up more than 150 solutions for ‘safe spaces’ for concerts, nightlife and festivals, including redesigning venues, addressing behaviour within them, inclusion within staff teams, and training to recognise potential abuse and respond appropriately.

The first Safe Spaces Now pilot event will be Strawberries & Creem festival from 18 to 19 September, with organisers promising festivalgoers a “safety-focused strategy in close collaboration with UN Women UK” at the Cambridge event.

Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK, part of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, says: “As live events return following the Covid pandemic, women and marginalised people everywhere are not only thinking about staying safe from the virus – they want to be able to enjoy their right to music, arts and culture without constant fears of violence and harassment.

“We have a unique opportunity as we return from lockdown to reconsider the way we construct and use our public spaces”

“We have a unique opportunity as we return from lockdown to reconsider the way we construct and use our public spaces to be safer for the long term. UN Women UK is pleased to partner with Strawberries & Creem on this first Safe Spaces Now live event, and we hope many more representatives from the music industry will follow suit and commit to helping us build a more equitable future.”

According to a 2018 YouGov poll, over 40% of women under 40 have experienced some kind of unwanted sexual behaviour at a British music festival.

“We’re passionate about ensuring our events are welcoming, inclusive and safe spaces for people to enjoy music together. Festivals should offer joy and hope to everyone, and they are absolutely no place for harassment or abuse of any form,” says Chris Jammer, co-founder of Strawberries & Creem.

“Equality and diversity are values close to our hearts, and we’re proud to have a gender-balanced line-up this year, as well as to be working with UN Women UK on this crucial initiative. We hope that together, we can set a blueprint for what safe spaces should look like for festivals moving forward – for all of our audience, as well as our artists and staff.”

Festivals, events, promoters, venues and other live music organisations are invited to sign the pledge and register their support for the Safe Spaces Now initiative, after which UN Women UK will follow up to discuss your commitments.

 


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#PunksToo: #MeToo moment for Finnish industry

Finland’s major live music companies have condemned all forms of harassment and discrimination following a series of allegations posted on the Instagram account @punkstoo.

The #MeToo-inspired account, which has amassed more than 25,000 followers over the past week, collects anonymous accounts of alleged hate speech, violence and sexual harassment/assault in Finnish punk and rock circles.

Among those to confirm they have contributed their own experiences to the page are Anni Lötjönen from the band Huora, who has spoken of being subjected to violence in the industry, while the band Pää Kii, whose frontman has been linked to some of the allegations, have had a number of festival appearances cancelled.

In a statement, Fullsteam, the leading promoter, management company and record label, thanks those who shared their experiences and linked to a number of resources for those affected by the issues raised.

“The music industry still has a long road to take to eradicate all kinds of discrimination, harassment and violence. It’s overwhelming, but it’s also extremely important to hear how terrible things have been done in our field and how such activities have been repeatedly and constantly made possible,” says the company.

“Thank you to everyone who shared their experience. We hear, see and believe you,” the statement adds. “The problem is deep-rooted and we are not beyond it. We apologise to everyone who has ever been mistreated at our events or otherwise by us, our staff, our audiences, our partners or our artists, and we support every victim.

“Every person must be safe regardless of the situation and the situation, and that’s what each of us must work for. We will be doing everything we can in collaboration with other music industry players to make this happen.”

The company has also provided a link to a Google Form via which people can give anonymous feedback on Fullsteam’s “activities, artists and events”.

The country’s other major live music player, Live Nation Finland, also released a statement in response to the #PunkToo revelations, along with a similar call for feedback: “We would like to thank everyone who participated in the recent discussion and shared their experiences for your courage and openness. [I]t’s time for all of us to act so that nothing like this will happen again in the future.

“We take all harassment cases extremely seriously and will be doing things even better in the future so that everyone can be themselves and enjoy themselves safely at our events.

“It’s obvious that sexual harassment, violence, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and any other harassment is not acceptable under any circumstances. It’s not part of our events, nor our work environment.

“We are currently working on the prevention of harassment and creating an action model we will introduce in our upcoming events.”

“As a company, we commit ourselves to developing our own understanding and activities, so that we can be a part of a more tolerant and safe future for everyone,” the company adds. “You can leave us anonymously feedback regarding our events or the artists we represent. We will use the feedback we received to improve our activities and raise awareness: https://bit.ly/Avoinpalaute.”


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SSD Concerts boss quits following allegations

Steve Davis, the managing director of Newcastle-based promoter SSD Concerts, has resigned with immediate effect following allegations of inappropriate behaviour at the company.

The company runs four music festivals – This Is Tomorrow, Hit the North, Bingley Weekender and Corbridge festival – and five venues in Newcastle and Tynemouth. In July 2020, the company launched the UK’s first dedicated socially distanced music venue, the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle.

The allegations about SSD Concerts were posted on workplace review website Glassdoor last week and subsequently shared on the company’s Instagram account, when it was reportedly hacked.

According to a statement posted on SSD Concerts’ instagram yesterday (5 March), Davis will take no further part in the running of the company. He said: “It would appear some people have been upset or made to feel uncomfortable while working at SSD and for that I’m truly sorry.”

The news was also confirmed to NME by Davis’s representative.

According to the statement, an outside organisation will be conducting an independent investigation into recent claims and will act as a point of contact for complaints.

 

 

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Anyone who would like to raise a complaint directly to SSD Concerts’ head of HR can email HR@ssdconcerts.co.uk.

 


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NZ’s top artists speak out about sexual harassment

A slate of New Zealand’s top female artists including Lorde and Bic Runga have co-signed an open letter urging professionals across the music industry to assess their own behaviour.

The letter – penned by musician Anna Coddington and co-signed by the likes of Bic Runga, Lorde, Anika Moa, Tami Neilson, Hollie Smith and Mel Parsons – arrives after a report by Stuff detailed allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation experienced by women and non-binary artists in New Zealand’s music industry.

The investigation prompted an admission of guilty and an apology from former Lorde manager Scott Maclachlan who told Stuff: “I do accept the harmful impact of my past behaviour and I try every day to repair the damage and prevent it happening again.”

Maclachlan confirmed he lost his position as SVP at Warner Australasia and was banned from Warner Music’s Australian offices and gigs, after the company commissioned a sexual harassment investigation in 2018.

“The onus for change can’t sit with those of us who don’t hold that power”

Benee manager Paul McKessar was the second big name in New Zealand’s music industry to step down after he admitted “crossing professional boundaries” with artists he represented.

McKessar, who was last year awarded Manager of the Year at the Aotearoa Music Awards, resigned as a director at CRS Music following his implication in the exposé.

The group’s letter, also signed by Tami Neilson, Mel Parsons and Hollie Smith, says: “Men in the music industry have been operating in a safety-in-numbers scenario since forever. Young women, LGBTQ+ people, and other minorities stepping fresh into the music industry do not have that safety.

“We don’t want to be writing open letters about inappropriate behaviour. We want to be working on our music”

“We need better behaviour from those who hold power now, but ultimately we need more diversity in those positions of power so that the music industry as a whole can thrive and reap the benefits of different perspectives.

“The onus for change can’t sit with those of us who don’t hold that power. Everyone should want a better, safer, more productive industry. Artists are not here to help you make these changes. We don’t want to be writing open letters and talking to the media about the inappropriate behaviour of others. We want to be working on our music.”

The letter makes a number of suggestions such as “learn about boundaries and consent”, “diversify your workplace” and “do not accept the transgression of those boundaries from anyone you work with”.

Read the full letter here.

 


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Australian music biz launches equality commitment

The Australian music industry has united to launch The Music Industry Collaborative Commitment, a new resource dedicated to tackling the systemic and harmful power imbalances within the sector.

The Commitment provides guidelines that aim to create “a level of security and confidence in entering collaborative situations,” using the broader directive “Don’t be that guy”.

The agreement puts forward a number of commitments regarding discrimination, harassment and abuse related to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, ability and minority status.

Mick Walsh, a Sydney-based artist manager, and co-founder of the Music Industry Collaborative Commitment, says: “In a matter of mere days, we’ve received overwhelming support for the Commitment. It’s a shame that we even need something like this, but this is an industry that is committed to change.”

“We’ve made a conscious decision to use the word ‘guy’ in this context. This is largely a men’s issue, and we’d be remiss not to acknowledge that.”

The initiative was developed through consulting with several marginalised and underrepresented groups, including women, disabled people, people of colour, indigenous Australians, LGBTQI people, transgender and gender non-binary people.

“We’re all aware change is needed. We’re all aware change is coming. I just hope this plays a part in that”

Though the guidelines were created with artists in mind, the organisers hope the agreement will be adopted by the wider industry in collaborative environments such as writing or recording sessions, photoshoots, rehearsals.

“This is inclusive and it’s backed by our music industry community,” says Poppy Reid, managing editor at The Brag Media, and co-founder of the commitment. “As a whole, we are now offering both a resource for meetings and gatherings, and a commitment to respect our peers. We’re all aware change is needed. We’re all aware change is coming. I just hope this plays a part in that.”

Australia has had an ongoing problem with sexual harassment which came to the fore in 2017 with two major campaigns.

Industry-backed initiative Your Choice aimed to raise awareness of and combat the “growing cultural issues around behaviour and lack of personal accountability” in Australia’s live music industry.

Central to the campaign was a charter, dubbed House Rules, which organisers hoped would be recognised in the industry as a code of conduct.

Shortly after, more than 350 leading female figures in Australian music signed an open letter calling for “zero tolerance for sexual harassment, violence, objectification and sexist behaviours” in Australia’s music industry.

The letter, which contains multiple anonymous accounts of alleged sexual harassment and assault launched the #meNOmore movement.

It was signed by agents, managers, label staff and artists including Courtney Barnett, the Veronicas, Tina Arena and Missy Higgins.

 


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LA Opera, IFPI investigate ‘Opera King’ sexual misconduct

The Los Angeles Opera and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) have launched separate investigations into opera superstar Plácido Domingo, who has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.

Multi Grammy award-winning singer and conductor Domingo has served as general director of the LA Opera since 2003 and as IFPI chairman since 2011.

On Tuesday (13 August), the Associated Press reported that nine women in the opera industry had come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Domingo, spanning over three decades. Seven of the nine claim they felt their careers would have been jeopardised if they rejected Domingo’s advances.

A further six individuals told the AP that “suggestive overtures” by the singer had made them feel uncomfortable. Only one of the subjects, retired opera singer Patricia Wulf, allowed her name to be used in the report.

In response to the reports, the LA Opera is hiring a third party counsel to investigate “the concerning allegations”, as the IFPI launches its own “formal inquiry” into the accusations.

The Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera have cancelled upcoming performances by Domingo.

The singer had been invited to appear at the opening gala for the Philadelphia Orchestra on September 18, and was also set to make his 50th anniversary appearance with the San Francisco Opera on October 6.

“I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual”

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is awaiting the results of investigations “before making any final decisions” regarding Domingo, who is to perform in three operatic productions of Macbeth next month.

The opera star will appear at the Salzburg Festival in Austria as planned on 31 August. Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler said it would be “factually wrong and morally irresponsible to make irreversible judgements at this point.”

Domingo calls the allegations “deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate.”

“Still, it is painful to hear that I may have upset anyone or made them feel uncomfortable – no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions. I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual,” continues Domingo in a statement issued to the AP.

“People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone. However, I recognise that the rules and standards by which we are – and should be – measured against today are very different than they were in the past.”

The opera singer has upcoming European dates in Hungary, Switzerland, Russia, Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland.

 


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APA execs deny sexual harassment claims

Executives at Los Angeles-based Agency for the Performing Arts (APA) have denied claims made in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee, and claim evidence has been fabricated.

In the complaint, a former APA assistant – named pseudonymously as “Jane Doe” – accuses APA chief executive Jim Gosnell and other executives of nine charges, including sexual harassment and battery, gender violence, retaliation and wrongful termination.

The ex-employee alleges she was “incessantly subjected to sexual advances” and “crude and obscene comments” by Gosnell, Josh Humiston (head of music), Paul Santana (vice-president of talent) and Michael Hammond, chief operating office of APA client Collins Avenue Production.

In a statement made by APA, a spokesperson states that an independent investigation into the allegations, which were previously made internally, found claims to be false. The agency also claims sexually explicit text messages and emails, used as evidence against senior management, are fabricated.

“APA months ago sued the former employee in arbitration for extortion and defamation,” says the spokesperson. “We believe she is now retaliating against APA and its agents through this frivolous public complaint in which she hides her identity.”

“[APA] intends to take all appropriate legal action against her [the claimant] and her counsel”

The assistant was dismissed from APA in August last year, for reasons she terms “trumped up” and “pretextual” with “no basis in fact”.

The spokesperson states the agency intends to “take all appropriate legal action” against the claimant “and her counsel”.

An attorney for the claimant, Michael Popok, says he has confidence in his client’s “veracity”, stating that other witnesses would corroborate with the allegations. The attorney also backed up the validity of the text messages and other evidence.

APA dismissed agent Tyler Grasham in 2017 amid several alleged sexual abuse claims.

APA represents artists including 50 Cent, Kiefer Sutherland, Azealia Banks, Cee Lo Green, Mary J. Blige and Nickelback.

 


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7/10 women in Indian biz have been harassed – report

Nearly 70% of women working in India’s music industry have experienced some form of sexual harassment, according to a new nationwide survey.

The poll, conducted by Indian-American artist Amanda Sodhi, found some 69% of women working in the Indian music business had been subjected to sexual harassment, including inappropriate comments and touching, with nearly 7% of those having also been sexually assaulted.

“Having faced sexual harassment within the music scene, several times, over the past few years, I felt it was important to collect data regarding the experiences of other women,” Sodhi tells RadioandMusic.com, which has the full survey results. “There haven’t been any numbers on the table about how rampant sexual harassment really is within the Indian music scene.”

The survey, of 105 musicians, lyricists, managers, engineers and other industry professionals, also discovered 72.6% of those women who faced harassment did not report it, either because they thought it wouldn’t make any difference or it would negatively affect their career or personal safety.

Some 97% of women in music think the Indian business needs more initiatives, organisations or committees to handle “#MeToo incidents” – referencing the global movement against sexual harassment, including in the live music industry, that emerged after the Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017 – and take action, the survey additionally found.

“When I was conducting extensive research to administer this survey, I could barely find 400–500 names of women active in the music scene, nationwide, to send the survey link to,” continues Amanda Sodhi (pictured). “It’s sad that we can’t even offer a safe work environment for such a tiny group. Fear of losing out on work opportunities was one of the top two reasons to not report incidents of sexual harassment.

“I hope female artists who are doing hundreds of shows each year can perhaps pledge to employ X number of women in the year for X number of shows, whether it be as opening acts, musicians or sound engineers – in essence, affirmative action that empowers women to speak up without worrying about losing all employability in an industry that is dominated by men.”

Sodhi adds that she plans to launch a closed Facebook group for Indian women in music to discuss instances of harassment and women’s responses.

 


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Ben je oké? Biz backs Dutch anti-harassment initiative

To mark 6–12 October’s ‘national action week’ against unwanted sexual behaviour, Dutch promoters’ association VNPF, along with some of the Netherlands’ leading music venues and festivals, have thrown their support behind Ben je oké?, a new campaign taking aim at sexual harassment at night-time events.

An initiative of sexual and reproductive rights charity Rutgers, Ben je oké? (Dutch for ‘Are you okay?’) is backed by VNPF (Dutch Promoters and Festivals Association), Celebrate Safe and No Thanks!, and seeks to raise awareness of sexual harassment in a country where more than half of women and one in five men have been the victim of inappropriate sexual behaviour, according to Rutgers.

The idea behind the campaign is simple: To encourage concertgoers who witness unwanted sexual behaviour to ask the victim, “Are you okay?”. There are videos on the Ben je oké? website showing how to discuss the incident and deal with the reaction of the other person, and people are encouraged to share their stories and photos on social sites such as Instagram and Snapchat to normalise such conversations. “This way we can make it clear that it is okay to discuss inappropriate sexual behaviour,” says Rutgers director Ton Coenen.

“We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change”

Although sexual harassment is common throughout society at large, Coenen says it’s especially prevalent at concerts, festivals and nightlife events, “where flirting plays a big role, and boundaries blur”.

“These figures are unfortunately not new,” says Coenen. “We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change. A culture in which everyone realises that sexual [interaction] is only okay if you both want it.”

Other supporters of the campaign include Eurosonic Noorderslag, Welcome to the Village and venues TivoliVredenburg, Melkweg and Luxor Live, as well as several Dutch municipalities.

“It is important that we work together as venues, clubs [and] festivals […] to make going out safer by reducing unwanted sexual behaviour,” says Sandrijn Dekkers, GM of Amsterdam’s Melkweg.

 


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Swedish govt investigates man-free Statement festival

Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, DO) has contacted organisers of the new Statement festival as part of an investigation into whether the event violates the Discrimination Act by prohibiting men from attending.

Billed as “the world’s first major music festival for women, non-binary and transgender [people] only”, Statement – set to take place in Gothenburg on 31 August and 1 September 2018 – was conceived by comedienne Emma Knyckare as a “safe space” for female music fans, after several Swedish festivals were hit by reports of sexual assaults. (The most prominent, Bråvalla, was cancelled as a direct result, with promoter FKP Scorpio blaming “some men” who “cannot behave”.)

Knyckare raised SEK 533,120 (US$60,395) on Kickstarter to fund the festival, whose line-up will also be “completely free from cis men” (ie men born men). According to a press release from Sweden’s Kulturrådet (Arts Council), which is providing funding to the festival, “the long-term goal” for Statement is to open up the festival to “cis men”, although year one remains a female, non-binary and transgender only event.

Under the Discrimination Act 2009, it is illegal in Sweden to discriminate against individuals based on their sex/gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or age. The DO, therefore, is investigating whether Statement is “compatible with the prohibition of discrimination related to sex”.

“Shutting out potential visitors based on their gender means that there is reason for us to check they comply with the rules”

“This means,” says the government agency in a statement, “among other things, that we are contacting the organisers of the festival and asking them a number of questions about the information we have received that cis men are not welcome. Then a legal assessment will be made based on the Discrimination Act.”

“It is well known that there are serious problems with sexual assault and abuse at music festivals, and that actions are needed to make sure all visitors feel safe,” says the DO’s Martin Mörk. “But it is important that these measures do not violate the Discrimination Act.

“[Statement’s] completely shutting out potential visitors based on their gender means that there is reason for us, as a regulatory authority, to check whether they comply with the rules.”

Knyckare told the Kulturnyheterna (Cultural News) programme that she has taken legal advice. “You can do it [discriminate based on gender] at a private party, or through a society like men already have, like a gentleman’s club.”

Failing that, she added, “we’ll have to push on anyway and deal with the consequences.”

 


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