In my second year of study at a music conservatoire, our class (90% male) had a visiting lecturer/musician give a lesson on the music industry via Skype. Upon being asked on how we should make the most of our time at university, his response was; “Use your fellow students as resources…yeah, if any of the girls want to learn how to play a proper instrument.”
Little did he know that all the females on my course sang and played more instruments than all the males put together.
A conductor tried to grope me on public transport, then followed me around buildings waiting for me to come out of them for a whole weekend, then grabbed my waist repeatedly during rehearsals. Everyone could see the behaviour enough to tell him he was being 'inappropriate', but they took no further action until months more of harassment had already passed. It was made obvious to me that I should keep my head down and be the peacemaker otherwise there would be repercussions.
When touring with a musical in the UK, my nick name was simply "Tits". For the entire run which was about a year. So much so that I actually only really responded to that name and sometimes didn't hear my own.... I'm in quite a male dominated section so I just thought it was funny. In hindsight, that kind of jovial "banter" has hugely contributed to my massive lack of self esteem as a musician and then resulting in crippling issues with my playing. I have only really discovered this In the last couple of years that this is a huge contributor to my issues. I was convinced for a long time after this that I only really get booked in the basis of my breasts and my ability to take a joke. And not on my skill at all. Which eventually made me think that I don't really have much of a skill. Now that I've had children, my body isn't what it was so at least I now know that if I get booked it's not for that reason! But my self esteem is still in the gutter and is probably always going to be an issue. Seems trivial, but this stuff wears you down.
From a recording engineer in LA: When I was a student I was invited to join a small company to tour a prominent recording studio in Manhattan. There were 4 men from the company and me. The studio owner, who was respected in the industry as a musician and tech, showed us around. I wasn't there looking for work - just joining them with the same interest as anyone else in the industry. At one point, the studio owner said to me, "I'd never hire you. I won't hire women after what happened with the last one." He went on, "We had a band working at the studio and one of their guys wanted to sleep with the female assistant. She said no. The band complained and I had to fire her." I couldn't believe he would tell this story so brazenly let alone embarrass me in front of a group of my colleagues.
The studio owner passed away a few years ago and I remember reading people say it was a loss to the industry. I could only remember him as the crappy boss who had no interest in protecting his employee from being harassed.
In my early twenties my songwriting /performing was gaining quite a lot of attention and there was a bit of a buzz around it. I began to get some major label attention - talk of demo deals etc. It felt like I was on the cusp of my big break in the industry. I was contacted by an A&R man from one of the majors who said he'd heard the buzz about my music and wanted to work on a demo deal. We arranged that I'd organise a special gig, make sure it was packed out, and he'd bring along some of his superiors etc to start sealing the deal. Then he started texting me in the middle of the night asking me "what are you wearing" and saying he "liked me" because I had a "GSOH". I thought, he's probably drunk and just trying it on so I'll be straight to the point and we'll move on. I replied and politely and kindly told him I had a boyfriend. He never replied to any more messages, e-mails, calls and no-one from the label turned up to the show I had specially arranged - the guest list tickets remained unclaimed. That was the end of that.
The other demo deal with another major ended similarly when I refused to lie about my age and was told that my music wasn't 'adult' enough.
The A&R guy from the first story now works in a local college teaching young people about the music industry. Every so often one of the young people I mentor will decide to go to college there and it sticks in my throat to know he'll be there with power and influence over her and her view of her place in her profession.
I've made a pretty good career for myself since, self-releasing and self-publishing but it's been a struggle. And when things are particularly tough, these formative experiences leave you always wondering what potential you could have reached had those deals worked out. And whether they didn't because you weren't talented enough, or weren't pretty enough. And how many of the people who did 'make it' are there because they answered those middle of the night texts. Or whether you were never good enough anyway and all the talk of demo deals was just a ruse to find another vulnerable victim to take advantage of. It plays havoc with the sense of yourself and your worth as a musician and as a person.
When I was 17 and just learning to write and play my own songs, while performing in pubs in a "high school band" , I had a regular solo gig at a great little open mic night. Most regulars there knew we were very young and would look out for us and encourage us. There was a guy who started coming every week, always very drunk. He would inevitably come and try and sit next to me - with his leg touching my leg and leaning in to me too close. I would generally politely try to move away from him but as weeks went on this just got worse and more intense. One week he was particularly bad, and began actually touching my knee. I extricated myself, said I needed to go play my next set, but this time as I got down off stage, he followed me and actually pinned me to a wall with his arms, getting quite aggressive. At this point my friend came over (also 17 at the time) seeing what was going on, and said "would you like to go now?".
"Who is this?", he shouted, "your boyfriend?!" and swung a punch at my friend. A huge fight then erupted, involving bottles and chairs. I vividly remember the bar manager - the kind person who gave me my first 'break' in the industry by letting me play - with blood pouring from his head, desparately trying to protect his premises. My friend and I had to escape out of a fire escape and run away as the fight spilled out into the street.
I had several gigs in other venues in the weeks that followed that were advertised locally, and at each one I was terrified that he would show up, and this time there would be no-one to rescue me. Or that more people would be hurt "because of me". I don't know why this didn't put me off pursuing music as my career, but it really could have. It was an early realisation of the violence of sexual harassment and that being a performer means someone always knows where to find you if they want to pay you any kind of unwanted attention.
The principal of my section glanced over his shoulder at me and joked, "Sorry but you'll never be able to sit next to me darling - I only ever have brunettes sitting here in the front desk."
Aged 16, in the brass band world. I was on the equivalent of a summer camp that represented the country.
One boy would openly perv at my chest, often adding comments. Another boy around my age would grab my breasts as a 'greeting'. Just a couple of many things that steered me in the wrong direction with my own self worth (or lack thereof), along with the males regularly talking so candidly and sexually about the other girls.
In my local borough music service - someone photoshopped my head onto a porn star's body and sent it to me and my group of musician friends. I was mortified, but didn't know I should be complaining about this kind of thing.
As an adult on a different summer camp, I witnessed someone tap one of the girls on the breasts, and mentioned it to the assistant director. I said it would probably be best coming from a man he respected that it's not OK to do that. The assistant director agreed, yet did nothing about it. Infuriating.
Ive worked in the music industry all of my adult life-
I came from a boarding school and was very naive - when I first began in music aged 18 i was lucky enough that my first job was perfect- although i was the only woman in the building I received nothing but love and encouragement from everyone around me.
In my late teens and early 20s i then became very ambitious - I wanted to be succesful in music business i wanted to be a top manager or run emi records and so I started going out to meet people and network which i was told to do.
After networking for 2 years I was offered a job in America, I couldn’t believe it - it was my dream come true. At that time both my parents lived abroad and we didnt have much contact - it was before internet - i was so proud to go to New York I thought finally they would be proud of ME !
The day i arrived in New york a limo picked me up from JFK and took me to my boss’s apartment. he then told me my work permit hadn’t come through so he couldn’t pay me and so my apartment had to be let go and i would have to stay with him until it appeared. The first few days were great ! i was staying with the boss ! my new job was interesting - but then a few days later i was in his apartment one night and he said he was in love with me and grabbed me and kissed me - although i said no he continued to kiss me and told me come on this is great you are beautiful etc… I let him kiss me and went to bed thinking maybe he was drunk but i felt sick but i excused him as i thought he was drunk and would forget in the morning. he didnt- it got worse each night id go back and he would ask me for blow job or he would be coming out of the bedroom naked- he lived in a NY loft and there were no doors on the rooms just curtains- he’d come into my bed at night - I didnt know what to say. I couldn’t tell my parents - i wasn’t really getting on with them plus I thought id finally made them proud by getting a job in new york City ! I also felt weak and somehow that it was my fault- i had let him kiss me the first night so id led him on - it wasn’t really his fault - etc it was mine.
I finally confided in a male friend i made a few weeks into the job- bless him he used to wait up with me until 3am outside my bosses apartment on the steps for the light to go off and Id creep upstairs and get up at 6am to “go running” just to avoid anything happening. this went on for months.
One day i was in the office late with another female friend and our boss called us up to his office and gave us vodka, he then locked the door and asked us to give him a blow job. My friend looked at me horrified - at that moment the door bell rang and our boss had forgotten he had a meeting - when the meeting came up my friend and I literally ran out of the door.
She said to me we needed to go to a lawyer and say what had happened - we did the next day - the lawyer told us our boss had committed a felony but wed never be able to prove it so he suggested we sue him for alot of money and he’d probably settle- but he said we would never work in the industry again as women who did that were usually cast out from his experience.
We decided not to pursue it but my friend told her dad who said we must never go back to the company again so we quit the next day.
I then spent several months homeless literally staying on friends couches as although my work permit came through soon after i didnt have a job.
finally a few months later I got another job as an A&R assistant. I had a great job and everything went well for several months - the company was small so it was just me and my boss and wed go out every night and see bands and often travel together. he was happily married and i knew his wife. One trip we went on after the show he said the hotel only had one room, but we'd have separate beds - in all honesty i really thought it was be ok - it wasn’t - half way through the night i woke up to find his hand down my pajamas - i distinctly remember groaning to my self and saying Oh god here we go again….
I didnt know how to say no- I was naive, young , i relied on these people for money, work, prestige with my parents - i felt ill, sick like i was a prostitute or something - fortunately my boss was fired not long after so luckily i was able to escape anything for too long.
After a few years i was then in my late 20s and I was transferred by my company back to the UK - i suffered no real sexual abuse there except that I had to sit on the accountants knee before he would give me my expenses back and one day the head honchos organized a bra pinging contest that i had to be part of - however I suffered in other ways - I was A&R manager and a woman - the three other A&R managers were men and all had company cars - when i asked for one i was told “Women can’t drive” . The company often had days out golfing and trips to horse races etc, I was never invited - everytime there was a meeting i was told to make tea as i was the woman in the room - i once told my boss i was interviewing a male assistant and he said the role is too demeaning for a man snd to get a woman !
i was pad about had what the men were paid for the same job, i was told my phone couldn’t be reimbursed even though every call was a work one because women yak too much ! - i was also told to wear a short skirt to meetings to try to get cuts for the artists and once I was told i couldn’t have expenses any more as I should wear a skirt and flirt enough so the men would pay !
I was never able to get properly paid as when i asked for pay rises i was told dont be stupid -your lucky you aren't the secretary still and once I suggested getting a lawyer to negotiate and was told as a woman if i did that it would be seen as aggressive
I can actually go on and on with examples, there are many more -and Ive not only suffered sexual abuse, even to this day occasionally I encounter men that are bullies - who try to denounce me and make me feel bad- even last year I was working on a project with three men and one of them went out of his way to leave me out of calls , several times in meetings said why are you here ? I’ve forgotten what you do - etc .. and then tried to take the credit at the end of the job for everything even though he had done nothing.
Over the years I have gone from a wide eyed confident girl to someone slightly cynical because of my experiences - i have loved working in music and met many friends but Ive suffered major consequences -
1. I have never been paid properly for the work I’ve done over the years - even today i value myself so lowly my going rate is much lower than everyone else and i am scared to ask for a rise because i just dont know what im worth
2. Ive suffered years of mental health (minor ones) but definite issues- i am no longer the confident girl i once was and I feel Ive let myself down and had so much potential which Ive never reached
3. this abuse has definitely affected how I feel about myself, what partners I have chosen, my confidence to go for promotions etc
4. It has affected my long term stability as i have no pension health care etc from time always made to feel “grateful” i had a job at all as a woman (all the men in the company got pensions)
5.my physical health - i suffer from acute anxiety and have a nervous disorder that affects my health on a daily basis
6. Low sef esteem - i still to this day feel vaguely responsible for my actions
7. Lack of security- i own no house even though Ive supposedly worked at the upper middle grade of my profession - Ive never been paid enough to have a downpayment
8. Loss of earnings/ income etc for having to pay for therapy to get over these abuses and time off work for anxiety related illnesses
and im sure there are many more consequences - yet meanwhile the men who have done this are all multi millionaires and go around pretending they are saints as they have charities etc to make them look good.
I was in agony for so long - i felt alone, so isolated i thought i was a slut a whore , i was trash , also useless, not good at my job (even though I’ve never been fired) but i thought maybe i only had the jobs as i was cute
Im so so glad this has come out re Weinstein because I no longer feel i carry a dirty secret -that i deserves it all - I am not alone.
At music college I was pressed against a door by a male teacher who shouted at me and banged his fists either side of my head because he was having a bad day and I was making it worse. I never said anything but it seriously affected me. I constantly felt ridiculed picked on and like a failure. Even to this day I have to push all my sadness to the back of my mind to be a confident performer. I love being a musician, but it has been a constant struggle and fight and one which has caused me mental health problems and severely low self esteem. I’ll never forget the day an old friend to me “oh so you still play” walked off laughing. So sad.