Music Industry Review: What Comes Next?
Over the past 12 months, there have been a series of articles published surrounding the culture of the Australian Music Industry.
In these articles, the current climate within the industry, the need and desire for change, and the complex environment that makes any change a long and sustained process were discussed.
In 2021, over 30 artists, workers and leaders from across the Australian contemporary music industry came together to address the prevalence of sexual harm, sexual harassment and systemic discrimination in the industry. At this meeting, it was agreed that an independent review should be commissioned to identify the extent of the problem and to develop strategies to prevent and respond to harm. A Temporary Working Group (TWG) was elected to oversee the process and galvanise broad industry support for the Review.
The TWG engaged specialist consultants, MAPN Consulting to conduct the Independent Review into Sexual Harm, Sexual Harassment, and Systemic Discrimination in the National Music Industry. The Music Industry Review commenced in February 2022 and was released on September 1, 2022.
This opinion piece is not an attempt to summarise or present the findings of the review. The review is a credit to both The Review Team, and to the resilience and strength of the many people in the industry who contributed to the report, often sharing personal accounts of trauma and abuse. Whilst there is an overwhelming passion and a deep commitment to working in the music industry, there is clearly a need for systematic and sustainable cultural change across the contemporary music industry.
The Review Team has presented a detailed, comprehensive, yet confronting report. They conducted a thorough information gathering process, including one-on-one confidential interviews, an online survey for music industry workers, small focus groups conducted online and individual written submissions and organisational submissions.
The Review made 17 recommendations for change, with a key driver of this change being the formation of a Contemporary Music Industry Cultural Reform Council. The Council’s primary role will be to mobilise the industry and drive cultural reform in a consistent, robust and systemic way. It will oversee the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report, developing an Action Plan to address sexual harm, sexual harassment, bullying and systemic discrimination in the contemporary music industry.
In Part 2 of the series putting the spotlight on culture change in the music industry, we examined the issues surrounding the reputation of the music industry, noting that it has, in part, spent the best part of a century cultivating a ‘hard living’ brand based on sex, drugs and rock and roll.
“How do you start dismantling the very reputation that has not only generated some of the greatest music of all time, but has also enabled seriously bad behaviour to masquerade as culture?”
How do we move forward?
There are several unique aspects and complexities to the music industry acknowledged in the review that present challenges to setting standards for good workplace culture. These include the considerable number and diversity of workplaces in music, and the number of freelance and ‘gig economy’ workers and small organisations, with the precariousness of employment causing them to accept poor practices and unacceptable behaviours.
Despite this, all music industry workers have the right to safe and respectful working environments, and employers and industry leaders have a responsibility to the wellbeing of their workers. A key recommendation in the report suggests The Contemporary Music Industry Cultural Reform Council should, within 3 months of its establishment, develop an industry Code of Conduct to prevent harmful behaviour including sexual harm, sexual harassment, bullying and systemic discrimination.
As stated in previous articles, we are in no way advocating for a “sterilisation” of the music industry. We are not criticising anyone or placing judgement on anyone’s lifestyle or creative choices. However, when certain expectations and behaviours are pushed onto artists or workers requiring them to conform to an inappropriate culture to remain part of the industry, there needs to be serious internal examination.
Furthermore, it is not just a moral and cultural imperative to change – it is necessitated by law. Employers have a clear obligation to ensure the safety of their employees, regardless of the size of the business and whether they be permanent or casual employees. Businesses need ensure they are compliant with a range of rights and obligations under Australian workplace law.
As such, it is recommended by The Review a campaign is developed – in collaboration with Safe Work Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman – to assist employers and workers in the industry to understand their workplace rights and obligations. This campaign should include the publication of up-to-date resources for the industry. Areas that should be covered include for example, unpaid work, parental leave and workplace sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.
How do I start to make a change as a business?
As a small business, there are a number of steps you can take to manage the risk of sexual harassment and meet your WHS duties. Safe Work Australia provides the following suggestions on what a business can reasonably do to prevent sexual harassment at your workplace.
- Create a safe physical and online work environment. Make sure work areas are secure, have good natural surveillance and are well lit. Provide facilities to give privacy such as toilets and change rooms and communication systems like phones for workers who may need to ask for support.
- Implement safe work systems and procedures. Regularly check in with workers and talk to your workers about workplace policies and expected standards of behaviour, including at work social functions and online. Where you can, address lack of worker diversity.
- Create a positive and respectful workplace culture. Set the behaviour standards that provide a safe workplace for all workers. Make sure everyone at the workplace understands what sexual harassment is and that it will not be tolerated, including from customers and clients.
- Implement workplace policies. A workplace policy may help set out how your business will prevent and respond to sexual harassment and communicate to workers, customers, clients and visitors that it will not be tolerated.
- Provide information and training. Everyone needs to understand the workplace policies and behaviours expected of them. Training for workers and managers should include information on all aspects of sexual harassment.
- Address unwanted or offensive behaviour early. Dealing with unwanted or offensive behaviour early can stop it from escalating. Sometimes small acts of harassment may be more easily ignored, but these behaviours can quickly escalate to more serious forms of harassment.
- Encourage workers to report sexual harassment. You should provide your workers with a range of accessible and user-friendly ways to report sexual harassment, such as informally, formally, anonymously or confidentially.
- Respond to reports of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is best managed by responding as soon as possible after suspecting or becoming aware there is a problem. Talk to the person about how they wish to pursue the matter e.g. formally, informally or in some other way, and what support they require. The Australian Human Rights Commission provides good practice guidelines for internal complaint processes in the guide Ending workplace sexual harassment: A resource for small, medium and large employers and in the [email protected]: Community Guide to the Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020).
- Talk to your workers. Workers and other people (such as other small business owners) may help you identify the hazards and risks that can lead to sexual harassment and give you ideas about how to control them.
Good leadership starts at the top. But strong, inclusive and courageous leadership across all organisations, venues and events – and among artists – is required at all levels of the music industry to drive change.
The Review states that the music industry should come together and commit to act in a concerted, determined and resolute way to effectively address sexual harm, sexual harassment, bullying and systemic discrimination. There is an opportunity for the music industry to create more inclusive, dynamic and creative workplaces built on respect, representation, safety and belonging. It also presents an opportunity for the music industry to be a leader for other creative industries, both domestically and overseas.
Strategies, to date, have been ad hoc, one-off and the product of individual organisations and sub-sectors. As such, there is no consistent or industry-wide commitment and approach to these issues. Harmful behaviours will continue to occur if the status quo remains.
The challenge now is for the contemporary music industry to honour these people and those who will join it in the future, by making safety, respect, diversity and inclusion the lived reality for everyone in the industry.
The author wishes to acknowledge that much of the information in this opinion piece was taken from The Music Industry Review and acknowledge the work of Support Act in providing help to many within the sector
Dr Brendan Magee is a co-founder of Ako, a behavioural change consultancy specialising in improving an organisation’s ability to deliver change and improve connection with their employees and community. Ako’s approach draws on research-based data analysis, and cultural change to achieve holistic improvement.