New study outlines “widespread” sexual harassment throughout Australia and New Zealand music industries

A thesis from Dr Jeffrey Crabtree has documented multiple instances of harassment against music industry workers, most of whom were female

This story contains discussion and descriptions of sexual harassment and abuse.

Bullying and sexual harassment are “widespread” and “perpetrated by patrons, peers and power figures” in the music industries of Australia and New Zealand, according to the results of a study released last month.

The study was conducted by Dr Jeffrey Crabtree as part of his PhD thesis at the University of Technology Sydney, and its results first reported by The Industry Observer on May 11.

The thesis, titled Tunesmiths and Toxicity: Workplace Harassment in the Contemporary Music Industries of Australia and New Zealand, included both a survey and interview component. 145 participants submitted responses to the survey questions, including performers, artist managers, journalists and technical crew.

From the survey component, Crabtree found women were far more likely to experience harassment compared to men, and that women “are sexually harassed in ways that become normalised in the industry”. Delving deeper, the survey found all but one of the respondents had experienced some form of harassment at some time.

It was noted that respondents knew they were contributing to a study on workplace harassment, so this sample could be considered biased.

The most common forms of harassment recorded came in the form of teasing and sarcasm, insulting or offensive remarks and practical jokes, all reported by more than 80 per cent of survey respondents.

The researcher also highlighted that 13.5 per cent of female survey respondents reported experiencing sexual innuendo either weekly or daily, while 7.3 per cent reported experiencing “sexual pressure” – or unwanted sexual overtures or pressure to engage in sexual physical contact – either weekly or daily.

Elsewhere in the interview component, just under 79 per cent of the 33 participants described power as a factor in their experiences of harassment. More than three-quarters also listed alcohol as a factor. Crabtree also included quotes from the interviews in his thesis.

“Hair falling out, constant shaking, massive weight loss. Paranoid, petrified that his powerful connections in this town are going to kill me. I thought he was going to kill me,” one participant said of a work colleague turned intimate partner. “Absolutely in fear of my life. I thought I was a dead woman walking.”

Another respondent, a journalist, said she was harassed by a stranger who “was clearly on another planet” while at a music festival.

“He then put his hand up under my skirt, and between my legs and managed to get around my underwear,” she said.

“At that point I screamed and threw myself backwards and kicked the person in front of me to get them away and push myself through the mosh under everyone’s legs…on my hands and knees to get out, because no one would let me through.”

Multiple people said they were threatened with being shut out from future work opportunities, with Crabtree noting “this trope is a frequent form of coercion in the music industry”.

The findings were first reported by The Industry Observer on May 11, as part of an investigation into an alleged rape during BIGSOUND six years ago. The alleged victim, Rosie Fitzgerald of I Know Leopard, said she was raped by a producer after her band’s showcase at the conference.

In a statement to TIO, BIGSOUND said it was “committed to combating sexual and gender-based violence by rolling out new initiatives that are centred around safety”, and engaging in a “top-down review of how we view and understand the reality of sexual violence and creating rigorous new protocols to ensure the ongoing support for all patrons impacted at our events and beyond”.

It was reported the afternoon of May 11 by The Music Network that Angela Samut, the CEO of BIGSOUND organiser QMusic since 2019, had submitted her resignation from the Queensland music body months ago, and that her departure from the organisation was not related to the TIO investigation.

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