I saw one of ionie‘s posts on Facebook about something that recently happened to her and asked her if this was just a one time experience from a creeper or something that she encountered regularly in the music industry.
Unfortunately, she told me it was the latter. So I asked her if she would share some of her experiences. She has courageously revealed what it’s like to be a woman in the music industry. When she told some female colleagues she was working on this article they encouraged her not to write it for fear of backlash or blacklisting. She went ahead anyway and I am grateful she did, so men can finally get a glimpse into women’s realities. And make a fucking change.
As a man, I have been completely oblivious to what women have to put up with from (many) men on the regular. After some more investigating, I have realized that this isn’t unique to ionie. It is apparently commonplace in the industry. And that’s disgusting, infuriating and, frankly, disappointing. I have only witnessed, firsthand, this kind of sexualized power dynamic once and it left me sick to my stomach – and it didn’t even happen to me!
Last year at a music conference I was chatting with an up and coming attorney, let’s call her Jane, at the dinner thrown for all panelists. We mostly chatted about the state of the music industry and where we saw our place in it. We were both around the same age and starting to make a place for ourselves in the biz. A very well-established music attorney acquaintance of mine, let’s call him Jon, was a couple tables away and I called him over because I thought this is a great connection for Jane. He walked over, I introduced them with quick little bios to talk each one up – as you do – and immediately Jon put his hand on Jane’s head, stroked her hair and said “wow, you’re so beautiful.” Jane was seated and Jon was standing. The physical dynamic couldn’t have been more apt. This powerful man in the industry was towering over her while he touched her. I was stunned. Jon just met her and immediately he made it about her looks and started touching her. I quickly diverted the conversation and asked Jon how his panel was. As Jon and I were chatting he kept stroking her hair. Occasionally he’d pause, look at her and say “beautiful.” Then he invited me to an event he was throwing and he said “bring Jane.”
Jon left. I sat back down. Jane was noticeably shaken. As was I. I didn’t know how to continue our conversation. I so badly wanted to apologize for Jon’s actions because I invited him over. He was my contact. I felt let down by Jon as I had respected him for years. He’s extremely well-established in the music industry and has huge clients. He is in a position of power that Jane and I were not. But in that moment, I lost all respect for Jon. I said nothing. Jane said nothing. But the following day, as the experience had been gnawing at me, I wrote Jane and email and apologized. She boldly said that “it reflected the character of Jon.” And she was right.
As we get to ionie’s stories below, let me make this perfectly clear to the creepy men of the music industry: you’ve been put on notice. This shit ain’t acceptable anymore. It’s time to change. This has nothing to do with women and everything to do with men. Women can wear bikinis or burkas to business meetings and studio sessions for all I care. It shouldn’t make a difference. Treat them how you treat your male counterparts.
The following comes from singer/songwriter ionie.
I’m a singer, songwriter, and actress from SF/NYC currently living in Los Angeles. I’ve been working in music since 2011 when I graduated from NYU Steinhardt’s school of music. Over the course of my career I’ve met many producers, label and publishing reps, booking agents, and venue owners, and I’ve noticed a pattern. Nearly every middle-aged man I’ve met in music who holds a ‘position of power’ has acted in an inappropriate way towards me and caused me to feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I find myself constantly on guard and unable to relax. I most definitely cannot concentrate on the work at hand–the most important thing to me in the world: music.
Last year I attended a song pitch session in Greenwich Village where I met a very experienced producer whose credits include one of the greatest vocalists of our time. We agreed to make one song together – with the potential for more music down the line. He invited me to a show at Rockwood Music Hall because he had some people he wanted me to meet. It was dark, crowded, and loud, and every time he came over to talk to me, he got real close. He snuck his hand around me onto that place where your back meets your ass. A few times he just stuck me with a pointed finger in my pelvic area, in the crease where your stomach meets the top of your thigh.
GASP! I thought to myself, “Did he just do that? Maybe he’s drunk, maybe he didn’t realize where he put his hand, maybe he’s just short. OK but is that actually my ass, or is it just my back?” I started to doubt myself, I questioned my own feelings and instincts, that little voice in my head that says “this is definitely not ok.” Then he did it again. And again. And again. Any chance he got he did it.
And that doubt I felt earlier got replaced with anger and distaste, shame and confusion.
I didn’t want to talk to him anymore. I wanted a 50’s schoolteacher to swoop in and wedge a textbook in between us, anything so he’d stop touching me. All I wanted was to escape, end the night, powerwalk home so I could call anyone who’d listen and tell them how deeply disappointed I was that yet another man in the music industry made it about sex.
But I felt like I couldn’t leave because he had some people he wanted me to meet and they weren’t there yet so I waited and waited and every time he put his hands on me my heart sunk deeper in disappointment.
It’s a constant catch-22. The lines are always blurred between professional and personal, between studio and home, between favor and obligation, between concert and date.
Shows are at night, people are drinking, the session goes late, it’s music and it’s emotional. This blurring of lines sets up the perfect conditions for a man to cross boundaries. And if he intends to take advantage of that grey area, he can, and almost always will. I’ve heard it all before: a man tells me he can get me a synch license or introduce me to a manager, he offers to connect me with a contact or a performance opportunity, and I want to believe it’s because he actually thinks I’m talented. If he’s due a producer or a finder’s fee, I’ll pay it – but that’s where the transaction should end. Instead, there’s the overwhelming sense that he wants something more. He may in fact think I’m talented, but that’s not really what he’s after.
You’re probably wondering, then why did you decide to work with this guy? I’ve been asking myself the same question for months, and the answer is exactly why I’m writing this letter today. I’ve spent long enough accepting that this is the way it is. I’ve spent long enough waiting to see if it would happen again, only to find myself unable to speak out when it does. You see, these things happen in a instant, and no matter how many times it’s happened before, it takes you by surprise. It feels as if men use the element of surprise to their advantage, to catch you off guard, to push the boundary a little more, to see how much they can get away with.
Make no mistake, having this done to you is a paralyzing and incapacitating phenomenon. In one fell swoop it takes away your power as a woman and your right to consent.
Though, as I do, you may consider yourself outspoken, you are stunned into silence. So, you say nothing. Because you don’t even know where to start.
I agreed to work with this producer on a trial basis. I had the sense that his behavior would continue but I naively hoped he might clean it up. He offered (for a fee) to pitch my old record to his synch contacts, and I figured that working with such an experienced producer (for a fee) could lead to good things. He wasn’t doing me any favors here, so the free touches were an added bonus for him.
He quickly demonstrated that this would be the only track I’d ever make with him. Every time I arrived at the studio, with no exception, he’d look me up and down no matter what I was wearing. I felt like I was constantly being evaluated for my sexual worth. This really sets the tone for a studio session. I’d always end up sitting as far from him as possible, keeping my sweater on in the middle of summer, and drawing wide circles of personal space around myself whenever possible. His partner was oblivious. I wanted to take him aside and confess so he would do something about it, but I never found the courage.
When I was right out of high school in San Diego I met a producer through a local music store owner who offered to work on some tunes for me, for a fee.
I was a kid who knew nothing about the music industry and neither did my parents, so I had no real guidance. The producer was warm and gave a lot of hugs. We met at his home studio, played through some songs, and set up a rehearsal with the rest of the players. I visited his home a few times for pre-production. One time on my way out, he hugged me and his hands crossed that line between my back and my ass. I waited to see if it would happen again, and it did. He lived in a huge house on a secluded piece of land in San Diego, and every time I went there I played through scenarios in my head of what might happen if he tried something. How much bigger he was than me. How I would escape. But still, I couldn’t really tell what was happening, I kept talking myself out of something being wrong, and I said nothing to my parents. I didn’t want to make a scene.
Now let me be very clear, anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a very friendly, open person. I’m a hugger. But over the years, I’ve begun to wonder if I should adjust my friendly personality when in a business setting—I’ve thought, maybe something about me invites these advances? I’ve considered not wearing makeup to meetings or events. I think about how I could dress as to not invite unwanted advances.
The fucked up thing about these questions is that they put the burden of preventing men’s illicit behavior on me, and that is flat out wrong.
I really struggle with this because on one hand I think being a performer means looking the part, being ready to hit the stage at any moment, and for some that means the whole nine yards—costumes, facepaint, makeup, alter-egos. But I also have immense respect for people like Alicia Keys who have renounced the pressure to wear makeup and look a certain way onstage. We all know that music and the media are hyper-sexualized, severely blurring that line between product and artist (but that’s another conversation entirely).
Last week in LA, I met a man who owns a record label and runs an artist showcase that a friend was performing in.
I mentioned to him that I’d be interested in performing, got his information and cordially texted “Nice to meet you!” Without hearing my music, he suggested we meet in person that same day, and asked where I lived. I happen to live close to the showcase venue, and he responded, “I need you to be my new girlfriend so I don’t have to drive home at 2am after the show lol!” I “LOLed” back and tried to shrug it off, but it kept bothering me, so I decided to speak up. Very graciously, I explained that while I’d love to help him out with the driving, “I don’t mix business with pleasure.” He then asked if I’d like to date him or work with him, as if I hadn’t made it sufficiently clear. I gritted my teeth trying not to be rude, and responded with a friendly “music music music.” But he went on, asking, “Does love music count?” and I insisted it’s just business. Finally he backed down, telling me how much he “likes my focus.”
Last February I was at a Grammys viewing party hosted by NARAS in NYC and a session drummer was sitting next to me with some friends.
That night I networked with all sorts of people because that’s just what you do at a NARAS event. The drummer and I chatted and exchanged info. I asked nothing of him, but he offered to help me because he “saw something” in me. He told me he wanted to introduce me to the owner of Urbo so I could gig there. He told me he wanted to put a band together for me. He told me he knew a producer I’d expressed interest in working with. He invited me out to Urbo, and it turned out he only knew the host of their weekly showcase. He invited me to a jam session led by someone he wanted to introduce me to, and he showed up too late to make the connection. He asked to “meet” me many times, and the one time we did, it happened to be at a restaurant at night, where he directed the conversation toward everything but music. He looked me up and down, called me “sweety” and “honey”, complemented my looks and personality, but didn’t follow through with any of his promises. I invited him to multiple gigs, but he never showed. The whole time we were in contact, I felt like he was withholding what he said he’d do for me while subversively trying to date me. It felt as if he expected me to have dinner with him every time he had somebody he wanted me to meet.
Last week I was out at an LA music venue and one of the owners’ business partners kept putting his hands on my lower hips, crossing that line between back and ass again.
Dim lights, loud music, and drunkenness, a perfect recipe for a few unnoticed caresses. I was in a weird position. A family friend who’s involved with the venue wanted to introduce me to the music director for the night. I didn’t want to offend anyone. The man touched me like this multiple times over the course of the night. Just when I was about to leave, he snuck up behind me, grabbed my hips and thrust himself against me, pulling me closer so my entire body was pressed to his. He put his head over my shoulder, his face right next to mine, and whispered in my ear, “Have I told you how beautiful you are tonight?”
As it was happening, I thought to myself, “Who the fuck is that? An old friend? An ex-boyfriend? (not that that would make it ok). I don’t even know anyone in this town! I’ve lived here a month.” I turned around and firmly told him to stop touching me.
“Oh sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to be that guy,” he said, putting his hands up and shrugging his shoulders in apology. I told him I’d be in contact about the showcase and left, and that was that.
I want to reiterate that what I’m talking about here is a very specific group of middle-aged men who hold ‘positions of power’ in the industry.
Perhaps they feel their age, position, or clout entitles them to a free pass to our bodies. Perhaps they feel entitled to do as they please and not suffer the consequences. Well, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of setting boundaries for men that they should be setting for themselves. I’m tired of chalking it up to “that’s just the way it is.” I’m tired of this being the rule not the exception. I’m tired of not being surprised. I feel obligated to speak out against the unrelenting sexism and misconduct that pervades my beloved place of work. I’m writing to tell you that I’m done holding my tongue, and I’m done choosing men’s feelings over my dignity.
I hope this brings a little comfort to my fellow women in music. Know that you’re not alone.
This happens to us all, but it’s not right, and it will never be right. And to the men of the music industry, I truly hope this inspires you to just stop. Stop sexualizing everything. Stop mixing business with pleasure. Stop testing that line or convincing yourself you haven’t quite crossed it. Stop shrugging it off like “it’s not that bad.” It is that bad. Here’s some advice: We do not want to sleep with you. Stop convincing yourself we do. We took the meeting because you offered to help. If you don’t truly intend to help and just want to sleep with us, don’t offer a meeting. Because, I repeat, we do not want to sleep with you, we do not want to be touched by you, and we do not want to be looked up and down like a piece of meat. We’re never thinking, “Ooh I wonder if he’ll invite me back to his place.” No, what we’re thinking is “I hope this meeting leads to a fruitful business relationship.”
Here’s some more advice to the men of the music industry: keep your hands to yourself. A hug is commonplace. Fine. But we both know that when you slide your hand down my backside you’re not just being friendly.
How often do you do that to the men you meet with? Never? Then don’t do it to women.
I want to emphasize that I am honored and grateful to be part of a music community with some of the most talented, creative men I know, who also happen to believe in respect in equality for all. There is a truly inclusive community that really does make it all about the music. So I want to sincerely thank you, wonderful men, for holding that safe space.
To the women who face this every day, I want to encourage you to find your voice, unleash your resistance, and use that two letter word NO. If that’s all you say, fine. USE IT. Yell it. Kick it and scream it. Don’t keep your mouth shut any longer. Name things as they are, as soon as they happen. If he slips a hand over your ass, say, “Don’t touch me like that.” If he looks at you like a steak dinner, say, “Stop looking at me like that.” Say NO. Say STOP. Say DON’T. You can do it.
Know that no man who does this actually cares about you or your music. No favor is worth sacrificing your dignity and your power as a woman, and nothing guarantees that he’ll even see it through. Know that I am with you, and so are the people who love you. Start talking openly about this, get mad, post it to Facebook, and shout it from the rooftops. We’re in this together, and it stops now.
ionie is a singer/songwriter (currently) based in Los Angeles. Find her music here.
White men are evil.
I am female with 30 year career in music, first playing in bands, then working in record and publishing companies. Same experience in bands and at work as in life – SUPER easy to complain and/or play victim, and much harder to control situation and not let that happen – and 98% of the time it’s pretty easy to control the situation and avoid bona fide aggression. People flirt. Girls do it, boys and those in between all flirt and all can be/feel harrassed. Keeping a situation in comfortable boundary is everybody’s responsibility – on both sides of the flirt – with jerks everywhere and in both genders pushing boundaries. Is it ok? No. But it’s part of life, in all its parts. Yes, there are times when behavior is beyond simple flirtation, aggressive and truly inappropriate. But that’s not what Ionie describes. She describes lots of jerks she could have easily rebuffed and missed opportunities for her to reset situation to “level playing field”. Good for Ionie that she has been able to direct all this attention to herself. I just wish she assumed more responsibility for taking control of the situations she describes instead using her gender card while choosing to play victim. Ionie’s behaviour just reinforces weak female stereotypes and makes it harder for the rest of us ladies to stay on equal footing.
The last few sentences of your reply sound bitter, and less than compassionate. Sorry if your expereinces have created this type of armour and lack of understanding. Rather than identifying Ionie as a “victim” you might be more helpful by explaining the behaviors a “survivor” like yourself made use of to …”level the playing field”. Flirting is interpretted by different people in very different ways and different energy is present in each situation based on individulas. A sweeping genrealization like, “stop flirting” is less helpful than…keep you hands up to create a boundary, either on your hips or with bent elbow…don’t lean your ear in to a mouth listen…etc. As a woman, who has been “victimized” by aggressive physical and verbal male behaviors, and a survivor, I can identify, understand and lend compassion to this conversation. Yes, agreed with you and Ionie, we need to speak up when a behavior is inappropriate, and increase our awareness of how our own verbal and nonverbal communication might be interpretted, as well as how to define OUR boundaries with intention. But on point is that Blaming someone, especially another female for inviting inappropriate advances is NOT OK. When something bad happens to you…it is NOT necessarily because of you–Many people, men and women alike are disrespectul, intolerant, rude, and aggressive — More than ENOUGH — A little understanding would be more helpful.
Violets are blue
What a load of bullshit
We all hear ya, ionie. I have a lot of stories of my own, and I’m only an amateur female guitar player who has never even gotten to your level in the music industry. Just today I am fuming over something that happened to me yesterday at a casual jam session with strangers, when I had already introduced myself to the other players and they knew I had a band of my own (ie, I am experienced). In the middle of song, the other guitarist actually came over to my amp and tried to adjust my settings. Seriously? Has a male guitar player EVER done this to another male guitar player? He said he thought I needed more gain. I explained to him that I since I prefer a clean tone, I keep my amp settings as they are and use my overdrive pedal when I want more dirt, rather than change my settings every few songs. Because I owe him an explanation? Or something? The obvious assumption was that I have no idea what I’m doing. A short while later he came and clipped a tuner on my headstock, again get outta my personal gear space dude, even though I have an inline tuner. So insulting. It’s fucking constant, you guys have no idea.
on the flip side … as an amateur drummer in a cover band we had a steady rotation of female lead singers over the years. Most were great band players, part of the team kinda girls; then you had the “plug and play” girls who wanted to show up 5 minutes before show time, plug-in her mic (into a fully set and sound checked system) and sing away. At the end of the night disconnect her Mic, grab her money and head for the door. Now I’m not saying unwanted sexual advances are OK, but for every female who has their act together and wants to be treated the same as a male, there’s females in this industry who believe they ARE the show, everyone should cater to them and they don’t need to put in the work
While that was probably annoying, this post isn’t really about that type of misbehavior.
That is absolutely not relevant to this post.
Divas of both sexes are part of the industry. Either they have the pull to get away with that kind of behavior or they don’t, but most successful people know that being a jerk doesn’t help your career.
Insulting and rude AF.
Guys WILL do this to each other, although sure someone should ask before they touch your gear. I would say this is more a function of the general egomaniacs that reside inside of music. One of my oldest friends can be a real dictator when it comes to music, and we’re great friends personally, but the way he always has to take control makes me not want to play with him. We’re both men, nothing to do with gender. Some people in music are just control freaks, and, unless you actually have what it takes to lead and succeed, you won’t get to tell other people what to do. But if you want to tick off an entire gender calling it chauvinism, then, by all means, proceed.
Omg, from one female guitar player to another, I FEEL YOU. The exact same thing has happened to me multiple times. It’s soooo aggravating.
Ari, thanks for this and thank you for being a decent person. When I had just turned 18, I signed with a label in Hollywood. I was invited to a meeting one day to discuss how to proceed. It turned out to be a private meeting with the guy who signed me. Right there in his office, he raped me. I so wanted to perform and record, and just plain didn’t know what to do. The guy had the nerve to keep calling me after that. Luckily, there was a loophole in the contract so all I had to do to get out of it was wait a few years. Those few years turned into 30 years very quickly. I still wonder how many women this happens to.
This is so sad. I’m so sorry to hear this. Your story illustrates the devastation of Rape. He took so much from you. But I hope you can still go back to music , life is long and the talent is yours. Sending you love and hope and peace and encouragement . X
Thanks Nina. I got back to music in my 50s. It took me that long to stop feeling like the only reason that guy signed me was to get at my body. I even auditioned for one of the best music schools in the country and got in! But seriously, people in powerful positions should not impose themselves in this way. And to aspiring musicians, people in the industry have power. Not okay. And yes, rape is devastating, but the behavior that Ionie describes is wrong, wrong, wrong and so is the mindset that enables it. Sending you light and love too! Hope you’re doing what you love! <3
Rape? I don’t see mention of Rape in Ionie’s story.
Thank you thank you for this. Indeed as a man, I have no idea about these things. In fact I sit here in disbelief. This can’t possibly be true, but it is. I’m not in a position of power, but its important to treat my fellow musicians with respect regardless of where I am at in my career.
Be careful. This sounds like brushing over specific groups, saying they are ALL a specific way. I feel offended when ‘men’ are stamped to be this or that – because I am one. Apart from that, my posture to the subject of ‘power’ is this: yes, some misuse their position/ power, because they think they can – and they probably simply do it and get away with it, because many (I’m not saying all) women are drawn to men with power, money and lifestyle. I have lost girlfriends to money – loaded scumbags because they (she) simply couldnt control themselves. So, sadly, I speak of experience. I believe a position of power inherits even more responsibity towards others – leading by example. It’s been tough for me, as a guy, to have to compete against bragging and loaded males by staying in my integrity and sincerity – by choice … only to see the girls wander off with the moneybag or the guy with a promise. Its tough to watch. Because there have been girls I actually cared about.
On the other hand, I, as a guy and singer, have had pretty surprising passes at concerts from women – some of them married – similar to the way you’ve described it, Ionie – perhaps more subtle here and there but my god, can they be persistent and not take no for an answer !!
So its not about ‘white men are evil’ – or ‘powerful men are evil’ .. it is about ‘people – men and women – and their respective issues & drives’ .. I have had to learn to remain true and closely connected to my core at all times – you can get caught off guard so many times .. if I dont like something I say it in a balanced way .. and if I like something I say it too & mean it – with the difference that you can actually have a wonderful, deep, fullfilling connection to someone – simply because it is honest, truly meant and sincere – and needs not be illusionally mistaken with the energy of lust, which is misleading ..
I look at the person. Be strong enough to say ‘no’ and go your own way and have the confidence because you know your worth .. know who you are and make it BECAUSE of that .. this must be worth everything to you – … even if it means walking away.
I come from South Africa. Nelson Mandela once said: “it is better to walk alone than follow millions into the wrong direction”. Thanks, Madiba, I confirm.
Literally one of the headlines in bold:
“I want to reiterate that what I’m talking about here is a very specific group of middle-aged men who hold ‘positions of power’ in the industry.”
Way to make it about you
Hey Mark – I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term “Not All Men” but I would definitely look it up. You’re really not helping.
There are so many stories every women has and also men have (I’ve heard some very crazy awful stories), I have a tonne myself and felt paralyzed and speechless and that made me feel even worse about the whole situation. I always blamed myself. I feel so sad to hear these stories still and wish I could just be the superwoman that swoops in and pow bams these people into the past… but alas we often stand alone in these situations and it is scary. We don’t trust ourselves and how we are feeling, it feels to subtle to be what it is… you don’t need to get crazy just consider yourself on equal footing – because you actually are. So many times I never said anything and always hoped the situation would magically change, or the guys would change, or they would realize what they did, how uncomfortable they are making me. They don’t! They won’t! Sometimes I think they simply don’t get it, they often think they are just making it known that they are into you, they think you should feel flattered. Sure often it’s complete power play and they want to take advantage. As much ‘right’ as they feel they have to touch you inappropriately you have the same ‘right’ point out you don’t like it, to move away, or simply even brashly say I’m really not into you or whatever you are feeling like you need to do to stop it. You are not powerless actually! If the touch or words are enough to make you feel uncomfortable they are enough to be yes intended to be exactly that, an advance, and if you don’t say anything they think you are into it. They don’t ‘get it’, they think you’re shy or they think you like it, condone it, are okay with it – they obviously don’t know how to behave and cannot ‘read’ people. If he’s a decent person he wouldn’t have done it in the first place. If he gets angry you rejected him — well you now know what he’s about… and then you RUN! Think you might ‘miss an opportunity’? Well it probably wasn’t one without strings anyway. Can you really put up with that kind of disrespect for an ‘opportunity’ that can be taken from you at any moment? Personally I’m tired of being afraid to speak my mind, women need to not be afraid anymore to say something and you can start by saying it in a nice way… You don’t need to bottle it up and explode, you can just say it. IF a situation feels weird… it IS weird, if your instincts say leave, run, he’s a jerk, then do that… trust your instincts, we have them for a reason. Sometimes you don’t see it coming and you find yourself in a bad situation and it is not your fault but please listen to your instincts – this doesn’t just happen in the music industry it happens everywhere and I’m so sick of it. Lets not make it us against them, lets educate, other women to feel powerful as well as men on how they should treat them… remember guys are not mind readers either…
I am Anglo – Brazilian . I’m sure half the reason I came back to England and ended up staying here was because the way men in the music industry are in Brazil. Meetings arranged in Jacuzzi’s and on the beach, fellow musicians wanting more than just vocals, always being reminded that you are first a woman then a colleague. Allover the world Producers and engineers deferring to the men in the band not the woman.. In the end I had to learn to record and engineer myself to get the sound I wanted . It’s been amazing to see and hear the results, and for the guys their first experience of being recorded by a woman . I have really enjoyed being in control. I find I tend to dress down for all rehearsals and recordings now… Verging on the boyish so I can be one of the guys. Just when I get on stage or videos do I go for the ‘pow’! Factor .
I’m lucky I don’t have to go to those meetings anymore. Iona I suggest you talk about your ‘boyfriend’ early on to these guys. That way if they’re only interested in you for sex or flirting or because they enjoy their power, you soon know. I’ve had too many creeps dangle record carrots at me , they never come to anything. I wish there were more women in A&R, in radio , tv… The balance is still so wrong. I’m sure we would have a much healthier music industry if there were more female ‘gate keepers’ letting the right ones in… Not just puppets for creeps to manipulate… And then call crazy when they’ve fucked them up.
I just want to follow on from my last point and say that I’ve got FANTASTIC male music colleagues ( musicians, engineers, and A&R in Brazil England and beyond, real gentlemen , who treat me as equal, as a friend and comrade. And I cherish that. There are dodgy people on every scene .. I wonder if the president of the USA is making us women feel particularly twitchy as he is bringing to the fore some memories and situations that we try to bury. And he makes us feel concerned for all women… And for a healthy relationship between the sexes to be encouraged not undermined .
indeed clarity is the most important thing and music can be a very emotional and line- blurring scene.
Thank you for sharing this, Ari, and thank you Ionie for being brave and sharing your story. I’ve experienced it from men of all ages but definitely had my worst experience with a middle aged man a few years ago. A mutual friend set up our cowrite and this guy had written with and contributed to the music of some top level people. He made me uncomfortable from the very beginning but I thought I could just stick it out for the connect. When we would actually write music, it was fine. Before and after were the problem. We always wrote at his house, just the two of us. He would always ask if I wanted to get dinner sometime/follow the writing with a hang out. He actually asked me to stay after on his couch to watch a movie with him…. after repeatedly saying he was old enough to be my father. He would also see me out at shows and tell me how cute and sexy I was/my outfit was and it made my skin crawl. I finally just pretended to be too busy to write because I didn’t want to offend the person who made our connection.
Other people have brought up having him work on my new material (they didn’t know the story) and I just always said “I don’t know, he’s probably too busy.” I never felt comfortable enough to speak up but these past few years, I’ve definitely been changing that and making sure that I never let that happen again.
I’ve even had an instance with an older fan who comes to my shows and always touches me inappropriately. He didn’t seem to understand the boundaries and I decided to just stop inviting him to my shows and not saying hi to him when he’s at showcases I play. I would like to just be able to say hi and stand my ground, but it’s hard when someone makes you that uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve suffered from any type of sexual trauma in the past. It can sometimes make you shut down. (I also want to reiterate this point to men who say that women should hold more responsibility in these interactions/should speak up. Sometimes, it’s not that easy. The power dynamic makes things difficult and women are also socially conditioned to behave a certain way. It takes many years to sort through those things and become more confident in these types of scenarios).
Thank you for sharing this and creating a space where women can share these stories. This shit cannot keep happening. Thanks for being an advocate for women, Ari.
Thanks for sharing this. I have had many experiences like this. I began working in music as a college freshman in 2001, and I was constantly being touched without any discussion about whether or not I wanted it. I’m a very outspoken woman so I have no problem brushing a man’s hand away and saying No, but it did close doors for me at major companies. I decided to opt-in to integrity and I decided at age 23 that if a man in a power position needed sex to hire me, I was better off somewhere else. I ended up not moving to LA because of this, and making a career for myself as an accountant and business manager in the midwest. I haven’t had a problem with it since (but I’m also married now.) It does help to know that we aren’t alone, and I really appreciate you speaking up about this, Ari.
There are things men like you can do to help stop this, and there are things that women can do, too. First, speak up. Keep speaking up. Speak up in the moment – brush the hand away and say, no thanks. Then walk away, and find someone safe. Partner with other women in the industry, travel in groups. Do anything you can NOT to reward this kind of thing. Don’t accept jobs or money from people who molested you – it reinforces their power. I know that sounds impossible, but we as women have more power than we realize.
Thanks for sharing this. Having been a touring bass player in the hard rock-metal scene for many years, I could write a book about this, unfortunately…this touching and hugging is always going on, even by men you already actually DO work with. With the addition of also being doubted as an artist/musician, where men don’t believe I can write a song or even play bass myself, some man in the background must have done it for me… not to mention not being let in to the venue “because the band isn’t here yet” WE ARE THE BAND asshole…
I feel blessed that when I started I worked with great (male) producers who never put me in uncomfortable situations. However, even so, I didn’t manage to escape the ugly side of the music industry predominantly run by men for whom creeping is a part of the job.
Thank you for writing and sharing this. I wish I knew these things before, because I could have been safer. I still feel like I dodged a bullet because I was old enough to figure it out on time but so many women don’t have that luxury, that actually should be a necessity.
Thank you for posting, Ari. This is absolutely true and 100% on point. These behaviors are certainly not limited to the music industry, but I’m sure it’s that much harder given the “grey area” the artist so eloquently describes.
When I was in my 20s, I worked for a male attorney among a sea of female paralegals. His eyes were constantly fixated on our chests. It was very strange and very uncomfortable. We all made up excuses for it – he’s short, he doesn’t know he’s doing it, it’s harmless, etc. But it WAS harmful – to our egos, confidence, comfort, and job satisfaction. It was paralyzing not knowing what to do or say for fear we might lose our jobs.
Mid-30s me would never put up with that nonsense again. I hope all the younger sisters out there heed this advice.
It’s so hard to deal with, because in the moment, you’re in networking mode, you’re trying to give open body language, express commonalities, be agreeable. And then it’s suddenly, no, actually this is not something I agree with, this is not ok, but it’s so hard to transition out of that mode. And of course you don’t want to offend, but you also don’t want to keep heading down that road.
For a long time I thought it was me. I joked about it, man, I need to recalibrate my networking approach, I must be doing something wrong to make them think I meant it as sexual appreciation instead of professional interest. But no, it’s not anything I’m doing, it’s them.
Thank You. Thank you Ari for writing this. Thank you Ionie for sharing these stories. Please read and share this, it can only help to illuminate and expose. This is real, it happens everyday to women in many industries. I have experienced so many instances just like she describes, I have felt paralyzed and incapacitated by similar situations. I know many women that can relate and I believe it’s important to talk about it, if you feel ready or compelled to. Ari describes how Ionie was given advice from other women not to share these stories for fear of backlash or blacklisting, a real and unfortunate consequence sometimes. Sometimes worse.
As she says “In one fell swoop it takes away your power as a woman and your right to consent… these things happen in a instant, and no matter how many times it’s happened before, it takes you by surprise. It feels as if men use the element of surprise to their advantage, to catch you off guard, to push the boundary a little more, to see how much they can get away with.”
The more I think on this the more I realize a reason why I have felt weird about talking about this. I have A LOT of male friends that would NEVER treat a woman this way, in fact they would be mortified if a woman ever felt uncomfortable or upset by their actions. When the majority of your personal relationships with men are totally acceptable and then something like this happens its hard to even put into words or express to someone that is a part of the offending parties sex. Not wanting to imply that all men are this way, not wanting to invite all the “you were asking for it” or “what did you do to invite that behavior” or even “that’s a one time thing” comments. Not wanting to make a blanketed statement that men are always inappropriate always and women are always being victimized in interactions with men.
It happens. Constantly. One thing I want to point out is that she said almost every encounter with MIDDLE AGED men. I find the same thing to be true! I feel much more comfortable around my peers or men under 35 because they wouldn’t dare treat me like that. I can’t help but wonder if it’s an age thing, or a power thing. Middle aged men have more time to achieve their accomplishments…so do they do it because they think they can? What do you think?
I think he would probably be one of the scumbag lawyer types in the music industry who are now living the high life. Making tons of money off the artists whose careers they have destroyed, and exactly like this jerk’s sick interaction with this poor woman where she is treated as an object for him to gain pleasure from, he is the type who creats a company to make tons of money by stealing musician’s music, ignoring federal copyright laws and in the meanwhile writing his own laws where he can make money off the property of an artist who has spent his whole life learning how to create and record it. The government will not uphold the copyright law, so he feels he is above the law as he does with this woman, thinking he is able to do as he pleases without consequence. They are criminals, self-centered and greedy. Like the married executive of Google whose prostitute spiked his drink and he fell oveboard on his yacht. Married with a prostitute… a yacht, but they can’t pay musicians’ for their work. THOSE type of people.
Men are scum and the cause of all the world’s problems.
Clearly the men depicted above are dirtbags. I’d like to add though that we all have a responsibility to treat the music business like a business. In most large corporations these days, this type of thing gets called out immediately and the offender is handled by HR departments not to mention sexual harassment lawsuits. In the “its who you know” world of the music business I’m sure its tough sometimes to figure out where someone is just being friendly or where a line is being crossed. My point is, you are not friends with these people, this is a business relationship. If you are meeting someone for business you should be clear on the agenda of the meeting and as soon as there is no longer a business agenda you get out of there. Also be clear on what the agenda is for the meeting and what you are there to accomplish. Most people that are interested in your music should respect your professionalism. If they dont, then they probably werent that interested in your music. Call these guys out in a professional and courteous manner and you should quickly be able to figure out if they are interested in your music or your ass.
I don’t know where you work, but I call bullshit on “this type of thing gets called out immediately.” It does not. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in ( though the music industry is particularly prone to it), or how hard you try to set boundaries.
The advice you’re giving above is all common sense, but it doesn’t work when creeps with power cross the line. And giving common sense advice to adult women discussing their experiences, women who clearly understand how to be professionals, is pretty condescending.
I work in a Fortune 50 company with over 50 billion dollars in annual revenue in the high tech industry. I have over 250 people that work for me all over the world. We do not put up with this kind of BS from anyone. If you dont like my free condescending internet advice then you are welcome to move on to the next comment.
The music industry is not a Fortune 500 company. It’s not run anything like one. There’s no clear cut code of conduct, no HR representative to contact, and no protections against retaliation if you speak up. Women who speak out risk their livelihoods.
It’s quite apparent that you’ve never worked in this environment. All of the suggestions you have made are useless to a musician.
There’s yet another side to this story. These middle aged men in powerful positions prey on YOUNG artists. And completely ignore older ones…no matter how talented and even beautiful…and that is also disgusting. All they want is a sexual encounter with these young girls.
Yaasssssss! After years in this industry you start to realize the creepy men in charge are only interested in money and sex! It’s so creepy and perverted!
‘It’s a man’s world…but it doesn’t mean a thing without a woman’.
I’m so glad to see this article here. Just as women who dress and act provocatively aren’t asking to be raped after a night out partying, a pretty female musician using her looks for promotion is not asking for sex from producers. I know I personally experience this all too often.
When I was struggling to break through early on in my career, an ex BF told me I should change my image. Bleaching my hair, getting a tan, losing some weight and showing my curves killed me a bit inside, but I started getting more bookings, more high-profile bookings, and it helped. The problem was, with more exposure, both physically and professionally, more and more men in power oozed out of the corners of the venues thinking I was ready to trade my body for further promotion. Don’t get me wrong…I landed the top gigs by playing that game, but you have to be selective.
Sarah I have experienced the same thing. It’s all a game; the biggest difference is if you are connected to older women/men/mentors/family in the industry who already know the scumbags, and can tell you who to work with, and who to avoid. These people already know when you should say “No” to someone. Older men prey on younger women with little to no “higher-up” contacts because these men know they really are the women’s sole resource for success. (And they may not have studied this game long enough either…). Ladies you can do it! There are hound dogs everywhere, just PLEASE ask people about people BEFORE you work with them… Bad news still travels fast…
It’s sad, because I’ve heard of a lot of these stories. Just anecdotally, hanging out with friends and acquaintances. I count a lot of successful women in my friends circle, and sadly a lot of them do deal with this bullshit.
As someone who basically never has to deal with this (a guy), I wonder why younger guys don’t seem to be as much as a problem? Is it because they are less powerful, at least in their industry stature, money, and influence? Or, maybe because they feel more confident in their ability to actually meet a woman who actually reciprocates, whether through their friends, Tinder, a bar, whatever?
A swift kick in the nuts should sort it out.
These guys would have been luck with women if they were a lot… cooler..
Men are the worst.
This hits home for me. As a masters student in music business last year, I attended The Great Escape music festival in Brighton, UK, since my program recommended that my peers and I attend as student delegates. I already struggled throughout the year, since many of my peers showed a very competitive (and sometimes “I’m better than you”) attitude, and wondered how difficult it would be for me to start my career in the music industry. At a networking event at the festival, there were drinks going around. While my peers were getting approached by managers/directors/etc. for potential future opportunities, I had one drunk man (well in his 50’s-60’s, my dad’s age) approach me. He was one of the directors for a very well known festival in Europe, I won’t say which or who. The man never asked me about school, my goals, or why I want to be in the music business. Instead, he proceeded to keep putting his hand on my leg while telling me “You’re beautiful, I love oriental women.” Then he kept talking about how he had gone to Seoul one time, and basically told me he loved “oriental” women since that trip because they were so nice to him (this basically told me he went to the underground sex trafficking scenes in Seoul).
Also, we are Asian women. Not “oriental”. You describe a rug as oriental.
Anyway, I was so disgusted by that man within the first 15 minutes of me being at the networking event and just left alone. Apparently I had missed lots of opportunities for leaving so early, but the man ruined my time and I really considered dropping out of the program/not entering the music industry. I knew it wasn’t going to be the last time this would happen. But then again, I’m sure it happens in many industries, not just in music.
Oh, what a tragedy, An old man touched you, and you had to dump your entire day of networking? Ridiculous. All you had to do was walk away. You could’ve told him I don’t appreciate you touching me, and given him the lesson on oriental, which is clearly a boomer thing, since I’m Gen X, and I wouldn’t use the word oriental to describe a person.
People like you are the reason Trump got elected. You focus on minutia. So a drunk old man was creepy. BFD. GET A LIFE! You obviously aren’t going anywhere in any business, because music is not the only place for this. Of course, there are about 10x as many great musicians as female, because they WORK AT IT! And guess what? WOMEN FINE MUSICIAN MEN TO BE ALPHA and throw themselves at them! That’s why men go into music partially, is for the lifestyle, and who made groupies? WOMEN, NOT MEN! Man, your generation really is full of snowflakes. Well, Repubs are going to show you how harsh the world really is, since all you women worry about is creepy old men touching you instead of electing a woman for president. God, your generation is so delicate its pathetic.
Lol, you are the worst troll. Too bad I didn’t vote for Trump, but take a look – the article is titled “Creepy Men In Music” so of COURSE I’m going to write about a creepy man in music, why are you so offended? Your assumptions are pathetic and you argue like a high schooler. What does me finding the way a drunk old man was behaving around me have to do with getting a life?
I did walk away. And didn’t I even mention that I know that this happens in all areas of business, and not just music? You need to go elsewhere, and stop categorizing and assuming that I’m this and that because of the very first experience I had with that shit. And your comment is the most ridiculous thing in all these posts. You don’t pay attention. You don’t even know what generation I’m in – a Masters student can be of any age, just remember that. Take your shit and troll somewhere else.
BTW, I had some irritating women once remind me repeatedly it was ASIAN-AMERICAN NOT ASIAN. Better get your lecture ready on that one next…
I don’t even know what you’re trying to get at with this one.
Shoutout to Ari for giving voice to this & Ionie for sharing her story as well as the others who have in the comments. I am appalled. I want to know what we males can do to help beyond posting comments. Please let us know.
I call bullshit. An attorney? She’s been thru the rigors of law school? And she remained seated when introduced to anyone? And she sat there while someone PETTED HER? I highly doubt that.
There’s one easy way to put a stop to this conduct – public shaming. If you went to meet a guy at a show and he kicked you in the shins, would you have any hesitation in giving us his name? Would you write a blog about the incident and be discrete about this identity? If women start naming these guys on social media, watch how quickly the problem goes away.
@Max Talk to Ke$ha about public shaming. She called out Dr. Luke and now she is unable to work with music producers, publishers, or record labels to release new music.
Dr Luke is one of the top writer/producers in the world. I’m talking about the average jerk who tells the artist he “knows somebody”. Expose a few of those guys and that will be the end of it.
Yeah Ke$ha was such a tremendous vocal talent, it’s amazing she can’t move on. Any musician worth half their salt can record anywhere these days. If Ke$ha can’t pull together some new songs and release them in the midst of all this publicity (she didn’t), then it just shows what a hack she is. Remember, this is an industry that has called Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry geniusses. Seems like a lot of borderline talent females are making money off of their looks, NOT musical talent. I thought that’s what the modelling fashion industry was for. So these women are all making tens of millions of dollars, but they’re all oppressed by the men who did the work of writing and producing their hits. Yeah, OK. Thanks for the gratitude, starlets.
And if Ke$ha (dollar sign in her name) needs professional writers and producers because she can’t do it on her own, then it’s the right of that community not to want to work with her, if she’s going to end up suing them. Why doesn’t she go hire a female songwriting/prodution crew? The music she does isn’t rocket science, or maybe it is to the average idiot off the street.
None of us know the details of what happened between her and Dr Luke, so let the courts decide. You know, the courts Donald Trump is ignoring, or do the crop of feminists not believe in the courts either?
Ummmm, why didnt this chick tell the guy to stop or leave? I was waiting for that in the article… It didn’t happen.
And this girl cares about who this guy wants her to meet? So shes willing to endure this guy touching her, and not say anything or give any signals… to meet people? comon girl, be stronger than that.
Sorry but human physical contact is real, it’s umm, one of the ways you figure out if someone is mutually interested or not.. be a fucking adult and deal with it, say yes, or say no or give some sort of signal of displeasure… holy fuck, what is this grade 8??? There’s nothing creepy here, just a guy being a guy. Stop being a victim for click bait blogs.
Stupid article and girl.
This is annoying to read. The problem is the “guy being a guy” card shouldn’t even be brought up when it comes to professionalism. Women should not be told to have to “deal with it”. It’s fucks like you that claim women are victimizing when assholes put them in an obviously uncomfortable situation. You need to grow the fuck up and open your eyes to the problem, which includes people like you.
Stupid comment and fuckboy.
“Humans will be humans”, there you go, gender neutral for ya. Professionalism in the music industry??? Ha! It’s all still sex drugs and rock and roll, even though the later has become shitty electronic music.
Uncomfortable situation? See that’s the problem with you retards… Anything that makes your tiny brain uncomfortable is automatically rape. Some people get uncomfortable from eye-contact for fucks sakes. That’s not being put into an uncomfortable position, that’s her putting herself into a real life position – in the music industry, a bar, with alcohol, where people go to hook up. Some women may have taken him up on his advances so fucking get over it.
SOME GIRLS WANT A DICK IN THEIR VAGINA, stop ruining it for everyone with this bullshit hyper-sensitive victimization. It’s the opposite of being strong – being strong is dealing with it then a there… not running back home to the keyboard.
So its A-OK for snotty divas to sell their bodies across the board to the world, but men can’t try to pick up women? Some guys are creeps, they don’t respect lines of etiquette, but a lot of women in the West are starting to overreact to men hitting on them. GO live in a female only utopia if you can’t stand men. BTW, men do a lot of work in the world, don’t forget it. They’re working on their talents and abilities, instead of chasing babies the world doesn’t need.
I think the point of the article is to let men know is offstage there are certain boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. Keeping your hands to yourself, like we learn in kindergarten, for example. No one is doubting the working quality of men or how much they’ve contributed, but I think for those last couple sentences it’s unfair to say that women don’t do just as much. And there are plenty of women out there who care much more about their careers than popping out babies.
Hearing about incidents like this never ceases to floor me. In my novel, “Different Drummer,” I wrote about inappropriate advances made by a shady producer with a singing female drummer which is set in 1979. At one point, “Cara” wonders if this ever happens to men in the industry. At times, I worried it was too over the top, but examples like this show me that it isn’t. You would think that almost 40 years later, the music industry has evolved and women would be treated with respect, as the talented, vital artists they are but it’s not the case. It happens even with well-known artists like Ke$ha. It needs to end. Thank you for your candor and for sharing your experiences. Hopefully, it will contribute to the demise of creepy guys in the music business.
Yeah, Ke$ha is right up there with the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. She’s had so much publicity and support, and yet, did she pivot that into any kind of new music or attention? There have been other artists who were in binding contracts and released new music under new labels, or even new identities. She’s no Prince. She’s just another cardboard cutout who needed a songwriter, since she certainly isn’t some incredible vocalist either. Who would want to work with such a legal grenade?
I’m a female who has been in heavy rock bands since the age of 14, playing guitar, bass, drums, singing, songwriting.. the works.. I have toured Europe, played in LA and across canada. etc……..
I am now 30 and still make music and make money from it.. I just want to say that men have always been amazingly supportive and cool with me.. yes the odd “LA producer” will try to sleep with you and offer you tales of diamonds on a plate but thats funny and if you are smart you will just laugh it off and be like yeah ok dude, see you later. I just needed to say that this whole victim thing is so boring. Not only that, but WOMEN are way way way way more unsupportive and have a terrible attitude towards other women in the industry, due to jealousy, insecurity, bitchy-ness and all kinds of random bullshit reasons.. I’d much rather deal with some jerk whose motives are obvious and usually harmless, then some mean cunt staring me down and talking shit about me to everyone.. It’s time for women to own up to being assholes too and cut the shit!!!! Be nice and treat other women with respect too and the victim card is just too overplayed and actually manipulative too. Girls, Just be cool. Cut the negativity ..most of you are banking on the fact that sex sells and overplay that part anyway and then cry if someone buys into it… oh please.. dazzle with your skills and maybe people will see past your gender and into your artistic soul, or something like that…
I love the way this bullshit sounds. It’s not just women that suffer from inappropriate touching and molesting, it’s other men too, but that hardly ever gets spoken about. It will never stop. Oh and we didn’t even start on the subject of pedophilia in the entertainment world. Good luck with stamping that out!!!
I hated it when he touched me, and then when I found out he was worth 100 million dollars, suddenly my feelings changed….
Wow, that’s really sad for you! I feel sorry for you!
Thank you for posting this – we all need to all talk about this, it is SO prevalent! The whole system is set up to take advantage of people, especially women! I finally got myself a huge deal with Atlantic Records but got so exhausted dealing with all the ‘boys club’ with all the grabbing and being expected to put out, that I finally asked to be let out of my deal. Taking the chance of running my own show gave me my self esteem back and the music keeps pouring out – much happier now, and I will not be supporting the over sexualizing of women in music. Learn to play your instrument, learn to produce, compose, perform, and tell the bastards to take a hike. ; )
David: Thank you for your insightful post. These are excellent and useful points. We have to take a stand and clean up the music business, at least for the next generation of women who want to make
music or be a part of the music business. (P.S. I have watched Bonnie Raitt handle it and it freaks the guys right out, very effective. lol)
A producer I was working with (I am a singer) wanted to sleep with me and pimp me out to other men in the industry. I am not making this up or kidding. I am scared to be in this industry but I love to sing and have also met guys in it who respect me and are nothing like that. But they have told me that my story is more common than you think in the music industry.