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I Wrote a Book About #MeToo and the Music Business; Here’s What Happened After (Guest Column)

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Hanna Barczyk for Variety

When I released my book, “Anything For A Hit: An A&R Woman’s Story Of Surviving The Music Industry,” in September 2018, it was a starkly different environment than when I wrote it in 2016. Harvey Weinstein had been outed, Les Moonves was about to be removed from his CBS throne and Matt Lauer was weeks away from his own dismissal. #MeToo had hit the film and TV business, it stood to reason that music was next. But that’s not what happened.

In fact, the industry known for the mantra of turning it up to 11 was all but silent. The response I received for exposing years of systemic gender-based prejudice as an A&R executive was received by the current executives with little more than a whimper. I was supported publicly by two men in the business; Jason Owen of Sandbox Management, whose clients include Kacey Musgraves and Little Big Town and who sponsored my Change The Conversation talk in March 2019, and John Esposito of Warner Music Nashville, home to Blake Shelton and Dan + Shay, who had me speak to his senior staff about sexual harassment. Others have supported me privately. I am grateful to those men!

The women of the former and present music biz flooded me with stories of being sexually harassed, raped, assaulted, and emotional and physical abuse. There were stories of affairs, abortions, and even illegitimate children. Lives changed forever because of a career decision — rarely advanced, more often punished.

In speaking with the men, the common theme is they do not understand CONSENT. Legally, if a woman says yes to sex with a man it’s a legal clearance. But in the #MeToo era, if the man has the power over a woman professionally, there is no consent. That is what all the drama at NBC was about. And it’s what we’re seeing play out in the courtroom as the Weinstein trial progresses.

Sexual harassment is always about POWER, not sex, and shareholders of public companies want nothing to do with this reckless behavior. The common thread is no matter how bad the man is, or how he behaves, he stays. The women are forced out through firings or settlements that include NDAs.

When women in the music business do say something, they are punished. Artists like Lily Allen, and Kesha who have spoken out, their careers seemed to stall. Coincidence? In our latest scandal, the Recording Academy placed Deborah Dugan on leave because she wrote a memo asking for sweeping changes — initiatives suggested by the organization’s own fact-finding Inclusion Task Force report. Dugan was called a “bully” — would that be a liability for the scores of men who became rich employing this exact management style? A double standard.

I wrote a memo in 1990 at Atlantic records asking for equality, and was promptly shamed, and then thrown out the door. Some have suggested that my experience came as the result of having “worked in a different time.” What was different? Time Warner was a publicly traded company. I was a shareholder as well as an employee. There is no difference then or now. The men running the companies protect the men. There are cover ups.

I would like the men controlling this business to protect employees and artists. They need to implement effective executive training for everyone — from receptionist to CEO. And of course, they need to provide equal pay.

No more turning a blind eye to bad behavior. Stop waiting for accusations and firings. Engaging in dialogue rather than denial is the first step. This will alleviate the fear and anxiety that executives are feeling.

The Grammy debacle shows just how ill-prepared and out of touch the business is. We must do better.