700 music people call on government to help tackle discrimination and harassment in the music industry


February 8, 2023

Over 700 people from across the music community have signed an open letter calling on the UK government to help tackle discrimination and harassment in the music business by making amendments to the law. The letter has been published as Parliament’s Women And Equalities Select Committee stages another session discussing misogyny in music.

The letter – addressed to Minister For Women And Equalities Kemi Badenoch – has been organised by the Independent Society Of Musicians, which last year published a second edition of its ‘Dignity Of Work’ report based on a survey of 660 people working in music who were asked about discrimination and harassment in the sector.

That survey, the ISM said at the time, “painted a picture of unsafe workplaces where perpetrators face no repercussions and there is a scandalous lack of action by contractors and employers”.

There are a number of changes to the law that would help address some of those issues, the new letter explains. That includes amending the 2010 Equality Act to “ensure that all those working in the music sector are protected and provide clearer definitions around worker status”.

Ministers should also look into reintroducing “rights around third party harassment to protect those who experience discrimination from audience members, clients or customers” and “the use of discrimination questionnaires to make it easier to challenge potentially discriminatory behaviour at work”.

And the government should seek to “extend the time limit for bringing discrimination cases from three months to six months” and “implement the recommendations of the Women And Equalities Select Committee report into sexual harassment in the workplace”.

Most of those changes would help tackle discrimination and harassment in all sectors and workplaces, of course, though a particular focus here is providing additional protections for freelance workers, because there are a particularly high number of freelancers in the music industry, and especially within music-maker community.

ISM notes: “While some of the proposals would give additional protection to workers and freelancers generally, music has its own circumstances due to the predominately freelance nature of the workforce … the recognition of the unique challenges music has is why the letter has received such significant support from across the sector”.

The letter has been signed by hundreds of musicians and people working in music, as well as the CEOs of numerous industry organisations in the music and the wider creative industries, including the Musicians’ Union, Equity, UK Music, PRS, PPL, Help Musicians, Black Lives In Music, the Association Of British Orchestras, Creative UK, the Featured Artists Coalition, the Association Of Independent Music, the Ivors Academy, the Music Publishers Association and the Music Managers Forum.

Commenting on the letter, ISM CEO Deborah Annetts says: “For over 700 individuals to come together and publicly demand change in this way is extraordinary and shows how deeply held the desire for improvement is. The music sector has today sent a strong message to the government and I hope that Kemi Badenoch listens and acts”.

“The open letter calls for five changes which if implemented would make a big difference to music workplaces and the incredible music workforce, going a long way to make our sector safer and more inclusive for everyone”, she adds. “The ISM wants to see a music sector free from discrimination and harassment and I thank everyone who has supported this letter”.

ISM President Vick Bain – who is also founder of The F-List organisations – adds: “The number of signatories to our open letter sends a clear message to Kemi Badenoch. Music is an industry where people achieve phenomenal things and, to keep producing wonderful music, we need action to make our freelancers and music workplaces safer”.

“The response to our work to eradicate bullying and harassment has been phenomenal, and that’s because it sadly resonates with the music workforce. I’m grateful to every individual who has signed their name and the many leaders who have spoken up for change but now we need the government to act too”.

Bain is among those to speak at today’s select committee hearing. She will answer MPs’ questions alongside Vanessa Threadgold from Cactus City Studio, Melinda Kelly from Safe Gigs for Women, and Nadia Khan from AIM and Women In CTRL. You can follow the session here.

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