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New YourSafetyYourSay survey on bullying and harassment in the music industry

Black Lives In Music has launched the survey with support from The Ivors Academy, Pirate Studios, VV Brown, Nova Twins, Kamille and more.

Black Lives In Music (BLiM), the organisation set up to address racial inequality in the music industry and create opportunities for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse musicians and professionals, have launched their #YourSafetyYourSay survey on bullying and harassment in the music industry.

After becoming aware of shocking abuse, BLiM will use the anonymous survey to collect real world data. This will inform legislation and the work of the new Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) and the wider music industry. It will also be used to support BLiM’s forthcoming Anti Racist Code of Conduct and reporting tool, which will work towards eradicating discrimination, bullying and harassment throughout the music ecosystem.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has also requested the data to inform their work in this area.

Since publishing their ‘Being Black in the Music Industry’ report in 2021, BLiM has been inundated with calls for help from creatives in the music industry who have experienced bullying and harassment. Testimonies gathered so far range from women being pressured to wear shorter skirts at events, allegations of rape and sexual assault in music studios, racial and sexual comments about appearance and being pressured to drink alcohol before being assaulted, all of which are reminiscent of the gruelling accounts of the #MeToo movement.

Their evidence informed the recent findings of the Misogyny In Music Inquiry in Parliament, which found the UK music industry to be a “boys’ club” where sexual harassment and abuse is common, and the non-reporting of such incidents is high. “Victims who do speak out struggle to be believed, or may find their career ends as a consequence.”

Singer-songwriter, and Ivors Academy Board Director VV Brown supports the YourSafetyYourSay survey and has shared some of her experiences of bullying and harassment in the workplace:

“The YourSafetyYourSay survey, is needed to help eradicate discrimination, bullying and harassment in the music industry, especially towards Black and POC individuals, and to have somewhere to report these incidents. This is such important work, and I fully support Black Lives In Music’s valiant work, and urge those comfortable to share their stories.

As a black woman, I often felt silenced and excluded, labelled as aggressive or aloof. Bullying ranged from isolation to daily emails with derogatory language. Even in high-profile fashion settings, I felt marginalised, as if I didn’t belong. I faced a barrage of racist comments online…enduring over a million comments, leaving me feeling deeply unsafe. The most hurtful bullying I experienced came from left-wing liberals who professed to support equality but hindered black individuals’ opportunities. One of the most painful incidents was when a prominent DJ on national radio mocked my appearance with a caller. I cried for days…even though it marked my first radio play.

The expectation to internalise and tolerate [bullying in the workplace] was pervasive. There was a constant fear that expressing my pain would lead to being labelled as overly sensitive or even being blamed as the aggressor.”

Alternative rock duo Nova Twins also express their support for the survey, sharing their experiences:

We have to acknowledge the barriers faced by POC talent within the music industry. Far too often, Black musicians and industry professionals encounter bullying and harassment, stifling their voices and existence. Discriminatory labels limit our creativity and opportunities, hindering our ability to thrive. Hearing from other artists like us with very similar experiences, both independent and on majors, has been eye-opening. These hurdles, and plenty more like them, could’ve easily held us back from reaching our full potential. It’s a story too many of us share. That’s why the YourSafetyYourSay survey is a vital step towards amplifying marginalised voices, uncovering untold stories that need to be heard. 

We were often told that Black women shouldn’t make the music we were making because there was supposedly no market for it. We’d be pushed to fit into stereotypes, saying we should go more Hip Hop or RnB. It wasn’t just the labels; even Punk/Riot Grrrl publications excluded us from event coverage, which felt telling considering we were often the only POC artists on the bill. Our music and performance styles were labelled as too intense or aggressive. Yet, the same energy from white male counterparts would be praised as ‘rock and roll.’ At shows, our position as musicians was frequently undermined, with people post show assuming we were backup dancers, rather than the Rock act just performing on stage.”

Grammy and Ivor Novello Award-winner Kamille adds:

“From the beginning of my journey in the music industry, I’ve faced so many barriers… I realised very early on that we (black women in music) are labelled negatively when we defend ourselves against bullying. We’re often judged beyond our talents, and even sometimes exploited in ways that can gaslight us into accepting harassment online via social media, in the form constructive criticism. But it’s not ok, and I think it’s important to speak up against bullying in any form. I really want to use my platform to promote a safe supportive space for all types of black artists.”

The survey is also supported by The Ivors Academy, and our CEO Roberto Neri said:

There is no place for bullying, harassment and discrimination in music. No one in the industry should be abusing their positions and no victims should be silenced through NDAs or fearful of the implications of speaking out. It is time that freelancers are not left vulnerable and isolated. Black Lives in Music’s research is a powerful way to give voice and drive the change that we need. I encourage everyone in music to complete the survey and take us one step closer to a fair and just industry.”

Chief Executive of BLiM, Charisse Beaumont says:

We are flooded with stories from people who have experienced bullying and (sexual) harassment in the music industry. They are shocking and it’s clear that high profile cases in the media are the tip of an iceberg.  It can happen to anyone and it is often rooted in misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia and more.  

Bullying and harassment is normalised in the music industry, as shown by the Misogyny In Music Inquiry. To turn the Inquiry findings into action, we need the information. The data, especially from underrepresented groups, just doesn’t exist. The Bullying and Harassment survey will be a comprehensive survey to capture everyone’s voices, especially those rarely heard. We need to understand what is really going on behind closed doors so we can tailor interventions.”

“It’s time to double up our efforts against bullying, (sexual) harassment and discrimination. Black Lives in Music is fighting to ensure equality is standard in the music industry. Together, we can create a safe music industry where everyone thrives.”


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