Dignity at work: ISM releases report on discrimination in the music… Jump to main content

Dignity at work: ISM releases report on discrimination in the music sector

  • Research finds high levels of sexual harassment in the music sector, as well as bullying and discrimination across all protected characteristics
  • Survey invited musicians to offer their suggestions as to how to improve the working environment and to share their personal experiences on an anonymous basis
  • 86% of respondents call for a sector wide Code to address behavioural issues

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) has today (Thursday 26 April) released a report into the level of sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and inappropriate behaviour in the music sector.

The ISM’s research – an analysis of the data received through anonymous responses to a survey of the music profession (which launched on 2 November 2017 and closed on 28 February) – has revealed a disturbing culture of discriminatory behaviour, including sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination relating to all protected characteristics across the entire music sector. As well as gender discrimination and bullying, high levels of sexual harassment were reported by 60% of the respondents, 72% of whom were self-employed. Our research also uncovered a high level of non-reporting of sexual harassment and discrimination – 77% and 75% respectively. These troubling statistics, coupled with the fact that almost 50% did not report their experiences due to fear of being victimised and ‘blacklisted’, indicates a toxic culture which needs to change.

To tackle this culture 86% of respondents called for a sector wide Code and 69% called for improved processes and procedures.

The report also sets out a series of recommendations and calls on the Government and the music sector to tackle the issues which have been highlighted in the ISM’s survey.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM said:

‘Our research has revealed a worryingly high level of discriminatory behaviours and practices, including sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour and discrimination relating to all nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, in our music sector.

The music sector has a high level of self-employed workers which makes them particularly vulnerable. Very often they do not have access to the protection and support mechanisms which are to be found in more traditional employment. As a consequence this highly talented but vulnerable workforce is afraid of reporting their experiences for fear of victimisation and losing work opportunities.

The sector needs to tackle this fear of reporting. The first step is to make clear that all engagements are based on a ‘contract personally to do work’, to ensure that the musician is within the ambit of section 83(2) of the Equality Act 2010.

However this is not enough. It is also the responsibility of the entire music sector to change this toxic culture by putting in place a sector wide Code which will set standards in the workplace. The ISM will be consulting on a draft Code, drawing on the learning from organisations such as the BFI, and we call on all organisations to sign up and support its implementation.

The risk of musicians losing work because they report sexual harassment, discrimination or bullying must end now.’

Sue Sturrock, President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians 2017-18 said:

‘It is a moral imperative that this behaviour in the music sector is eradicated; that all musicians understand their rights and responsibilities; and that perpetrators are held to account. I welcome the ISM working with all organisations on all levels in the music sector on this important issue.’