Home » Singer Rebecca Ferguson tells of music industry abuse in MPs’ report

Singer Rebecca Ferguson tells of music industry abuse in MPs’ report

DJ Annie Mac also provides evidence to report that says racism and misogyny is ‘endemic’ in the sector

by Narges Mohammadi

The singer-songwriter Rebecca Ferguson has spoken about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her former management company as part of a new parliamentary report, which has called racism and misogyny across the industry “endemic”.

Ferguson gave evidence to the women and equalities committee, whose misogyny in music report has on Tuesday recommended the creation of the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) to protect women from predatory and abusive practices in music.

Ferguson, who rose to prominence on the ITV talent show The X Factor, said that when she attempted to split from her management team, staff “were instructed to ruin my personal relationships … ignore calls from my children”, while she was told: “‘When you earn as much money as you do, you do as we fucking say’; ‘She’s good, isn’t she, we just need to break her spirit’; ‘He only wants you to perform because you’re black’.”

Evidence was also provided by the DJ Annie Macmanus, aka Annie Mac, and the Guardian’s deputy music editor, Laura Snapes, who painted a picture of a “boys’ club” where women faced expulsion and in some cases threats of legal action if they spoke out about abuses.

Macmanus told the committee about a female photographer who was repeatedly humiliated on tour by a male musician after he found out she did not find him attractive. “She couldn’t have won,” said Macmanus. “If she had gone with him, she would have been fired for being unprofessional, and she didn’t want to go with him anyway.”

Other anonymous contributors told stories of waking up with male colleagues on top of them attempting to undress them. When they challenged them they were dismissed and put in a position where they had to choose between quitting and “being able to pay my bills”.

Another woman successfully brought a wrongful dismissal case against a label but then found it impossible to gain employment in the industry. “The result being they had to pay me off, yet I, the victim, lost my career,” she said.

The committee’s main suggestion is to establish the CIISA, which would act as a deterrent by “preventing serial perpetrators of harmful behaviours going unreported”, but the committee cautioned the new body would not be “a panacea for all of the problems in the industry”.

The chair of the women and equalities committee, Caroline Nokes MP, said: “Women’s creative and career potential should not have limits placed upon it by ‘endemic’ misogyny which has persisted for far too long within the music industry.

“Our report rightly focuses on improving protections and reporting mechanisms, and on necessary structural and legislative reforms.

“However, a shift in the behaviour of men – and it is almost always men – at the heart of the music industry is the transformative change needed for talented women to quite literally have their voices heard and be both recognised and rewarded on equal terms.”

The report also criticised the use of non-disclosure agreements. Victims of sexual harassment often felt “threatened into silence” after signing the documents that prevent them from speaking about certain companies and individuals.

“Victims described to us of being told they would suffer reprisals if they failed to sign what was put in front of them, often without independent counsel,” read the report.

The misogyny in music report echoed earlier industry surveys on attitudes towards women in music. In 2022, the Incorporated Society of Musicians found that sexual harassment, racism and bullying existed on a “devastating scale” when it asked musicians about their experiences.

Source: Guardian

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