Accountability in the Music Industry in 2017

accountabilityBen Hopkins. Matthew Mondanile. William Bensussen.

Unsure of who these people are? Good. That's the way it should be.

An advantage of not meeting many musicians in person is that it's unlikely you'll meet the kind of musician who could use their position to abuse others. A disadvantage is that you're reliant on social media to draw attention to the at-best unethical behaviour of those whose work you've come to love.

Despite these barriers, accountability has become a big part of the music industry in 2017. PWR BTTM's Hopkins was one of the first to draw the limelight this year, which was made an even viler shade of green as the two-piece encouraged an LGBTQ, safe space at their gigs.

It wasn't the first time the music industry acted appropriately to news of sexual harassment and assault, but the vigor with which many PWR BTTM fans turned upon the act was stark. The press, alongside their label Polyvinyl Records, management agency, and touring members of the band quickly distanced themselves from the duo while showing support for Hopkins' victims. Other examples follow a similar pattern.

At the beginning of October 2017, one-time Mac Demarco band member Alex Calder was quietly dropped from Captured Tracks following an undisclosed accusation of an assault. The victim wishes to remain totally anonymous, and rightly so, although they have promoted accountability, the label has released no further details. Demarco has yet to comment, and though Calder denies the claims, he has nonetheless "taken a step back from creative pursuits" according to his statement.

At the time of writing, the disgraced Mondanile of Ducktails has lost the support of promoters across the world due to multiple accounts of assaults published through multiple different websites. His project is self-released in the UK and US, but his Japanese label has called quits on their partnership and his career looks to be dead in the water.

The accusations do not stop there. Two harrowing and explicit tales of rape were published last week against shamed Los Angeles producer The Gaslamp Killer, who outright denies any wrongdoing. Ariel Pink has also been under fire following a violent outburst on stage towards his girlfriend, who for her part says they were simply "wrestling."

Inevitably, checking the behaviour of active musicians has led many to reflect on well-established musicians with a prolific history of abusing their fans. Lest we forget, David Bowie reportedly committed statuatory rape in the 1970s. How many of us continue to listen to records that were produced by Phil Spector? There's no denying his guilt: he's in prison for his crimes.

Many others accusations that have been conveniently forgotten about in the face of good musicianship, and the lack of accountability is unacceptable.

Don't forget, these are the accusations that have made it to the press. There are - guaranteed - plenty more. It's simply a case of exposing the claims and keeping them at the fore of your mind, and when you're a music fan removed from your favourite scenes, that's not as easy as it sounds. Trawling social media and scene forums has become a regular occurrence for DrunkenWerewolf, but we still get a sour taste in our mouth whenever anyone says, 'Everyone knew.' We didn't - did you?

When the PWR BTTM accusations emerged, we began to research for sources that detail known sexual predators in the music industry. It's not easy. The process and its barriers have been highlighted by those involved in the Harvey Weinstein case: a fear of reprisal not just in terms of civil, but legal action too is often to blame. Do you know state law in California protects professionals from being accused of sexual misconduct? This is to the point of deliberately aiding settlements outside of the courtroom.

Legal systems backing abusers isn't limited to the sunny state. In Canada, a band recently sued their label for supporting a victim of sexual assault. Yes, that actually happened.

Beyond the courtroom, there is also a concern that allegations will damage the victim's career or the career of those supporting them. This was almost certainly the case when Life or Death PR Heathcliff Berru was accused at the beginning of 2016. Many questioned why established female musicians (amongst them Amber Coffman of Dirty Projects and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast), and Berru's colleagues hadn't highlighted his problematic behaviour before. The answer is, they had. Often women vocalised their concerns but were ignored due to Berru's influence over the music scene, and the supposition that it was old news (like that fixes the problem).

What's changed in 2017? Accountability has become the very welcomed darling of the music industry, and local DIY scenes increasingly ensure musicians are held culpable, if not by the law, then their fans. Many also argue exposure online and in the press has acted as a catalyst, allowing victims to feel more confident in stepping forward to tell their story.

Don't be fooled by this positivity: it's still happening, and there's more to come.

Recently in an interview prompted by the Weinstein scandal, Preatures frontwoman Isabella Manfredi charged that the "Head of a New York indie label" had criticised her band following her rebuke of sexually inappropriate demands. In her 2017 court case, Taylor Swift acknowledged she had only been successful because she had the money to pay for a decent lawyer. And the #metoo hashtag that recently gained popularity on Twitter proves assault and harassment are widespread.

What can we do to help strengthen this revolution? It's important to never remain complicit by working with and supporting the accused. Noah Cyrus and Diplo recently collaborated with disgraced rapper XXXTentacion, and Amazon executive Roy Price notoriously downplayed Weinstein's behaviour to his colleagues - resulting in his resignation this autumn. These are internationally famous examples. It's happening on a local and independent level, too. Those who 'always knew' need to take responsibility and spread the word: stop collaborating, stop endorsing, stop referencing. DrunkenWerewolf is committed to not write about the sexual predators known to them, and we'd like to see this reflected across the industry.

Those who oppose sexual harassment have to keep pushing and those who don't have to be pushed out. Victims need to be supported, stories need to be told, and the music industry has to listen and react. Accountability needs to grow. Good examples have been set, but issuing a token statement and then forgetting about it isn't enough. For this surge in awareness to make a difference, we all have to consciously address sexism within the industry every time we pick up a pen, speak to a colleague, or sign a new band. No exceptions.

Who's missing from our article? Help us to spread the word and nurture awareness. Let us know about the tales of sexual harassment and assault in the music industry you've heard before.

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