A top female entertainment executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, describes the abuse of power she has seen in the music industry, why a code of silence exists and what needs to change. As told to Isabel González-Whitaker.
Every industry has a code of conduct, but in music, lines are even more blurred around what is normal consensual behavior and what is abuse. Famous artists as well as powerful executives have given women and men drugs and alcohol in order to take advantage of them. I know a woman in the entertainment industry who was roofied by an executive she trusted who is too powerful to go up against.
Harvey Weinstein was exposed, in part, because he had lost a lot of the power and economic influence he had previously. If he had the same power now as he did in the 1990s, I’m not sure all this would be happening. That’s one reason we haven’t seen this happen in music yet. We know there are stories of assault and abuse in this industry, too, but if the perpetrators are still in positions of power, they can afford to hire powerful lawyers that the victims can’t.
The reason many victims don’t come forward is the fear that no one will hire them and people will wonder if they are speaking out for their own gain. It’s terrifying, and for some it makes more sense to take a couple of hundred thousand dollars to just go away. Look at Kesha. Even though artists came out to support her, questions were brought up about her motives. Was she just trying to get out of a contract, as Dr. Luke claimed? The doubts about her claims overshadowed her talent and discouraged others to come forward. We need the biggest stars to come forward with their stories if we want to solve this problem.
One good aspect of all the media surrounding these incidents is that it has created awareness of how prevalent this is. Harvey Weinstein was accused of telling women that famous actresses engaged in sexual activities with him, which was the reason for their success. Beyond implying that the artist only made it because she or he slept with someone with power, this normalizes the culture of abuse.
Victims need to tell as many people as they can -- friends, coworkers, bosses -- and they need to document their experiences. They should also inform HR or the police -- or both -- but even if they don’t, telling others creates an awareness that might have an impact. The floodgates are starting to open now across industries. People are coming forward, and the people who have used their power to abuse women and men are being knocked off their pedestals.