When is the music industry going to get its #metoo moment?
It’s a sentence you’ve probably heard cropping up in the record business ever since multiple disturbing allegations came to light regarding movie business giant Harvey Weinstein last year.
So far, a comparable global uprising amongst female artists/executives in the music industry hasn’t really erupted – although powerful individuals have certainly been publicly disgraced, and professionally dismissed, following claims of sexual intimidation and/or misconduct.
(Perhaps the closest the music business has come to a widespread movement came in Sweden last year, where over 1,900 women signed an open letter which indicated they had all experienced sexual assault, harassment or overt sexism during their career.)
One individual who gives a troubling explanation for this lack of a worldwide movement is British artist Lily Allen.
In June, Allen told UK newspaper i that an unnamed industry executive had sexually abused her in the past, but she didn’t name him.
She commented: “My record label [Warner/Parlophone] have a list of priority acts, pretty much all of which have a link to the person who did something to me. I know what will happen. They’ll say, ‘Let’s try and get rid of Lily because this person is worth more to us because he makes us lots of money.’
She added: “In film and TV, you can choose not to work with any of those people again. You can move country, move out of London to LA. You can’t do that in music. It’s the same bunch of people on both sides of the Atlantic and it’s inescapable because it’s 15-year-long [record] contracts.”
Allen later repeated this point about the nature of record company deals, tweeting: “[The] reason people in music aren’t coming forward in droves is because we’re all in decade-long deals, unlike film and tv where for the most part, contracts last as long as any one project.”
Now, Allen has given more details about the alleged assault – and, although she again stops short at giving a name, a few more details are revealed about the record exec she says abused her.
In a new article/interview in The Guardian covering details revealed in Allen’s upcoming autobiography, it is confirmed that the alleged abuse happened in November 2015.
Allen says that she met with a record industry executive who pretended to ‘want to help her get clean’, but who instead ‘got her drunk on tequila’.
Writes Guardian journalist Sophie Heawood: ‘The next day, she had a bad feeling; she didn’t remember getting home, but decided to write it off. She met up with him again for work, drink was involved, and woke up to find him trying to have sex with her in a hotel room.’
“I wanted it on record that I’d been sexually abused by someone I worked with.”
Allen says that, on that second night, both she and the exec both attended a party where she got “smashed”, and ‘settled’ her in his hotel room to sleep off her alcoholic excesses.
Allen writes, “I woke up at 5am because I could feel someone next to me pressing their naked body against my back. I was naked, too. I could feel someone trying to put their penis inside my vagina and slapping my arse as if I were a stripper in a club.
“I moved away as quickly as possible and jumped out of the bed, full of alarm … I found my clothes quickly … and ran out of his room and into my own.”
Allen recounts that, soon after the incident, she signed an affidavit with a lawyer relaying details of what happened, because: “I wanted it on record that I’d been sexually abused by someone I worked with.”
The Guardian notes that Allen’s meeting with this lawyer happened ‘after returning to London following the alleged assault’.
Writes Allen: “I expected him not to take advantage of my weakness. I felt betrayed. I felt shame. I felt anger. I felt confused.”
Allen says that after the event she was offered the chance to play at a gig promoted by BBC Radio 1, where one of the executive’s artists would have also appeared.
“[I] had to turn it down,” she writes. “Because I didn’t want to be around him. And I got punished by Radio 1 with no airplay for my next single, Trigger Bang [released in December 2017] – I just couldn’t tell them why I couldn’t take the slot.”
If the alleged abuse happened in November 2015, the first major Radio 1-promoted event following the incident would have been the network’s Big Weekend in Norwich, in May 2016.
“I woke up at 5am because I could feel someone next to me pressing their naked body against my back.”
Allen further claims that the music industry is “rife with sexual abuse” in her memoir, My Thoughts Exactly, which is released this Thursday (September 20).
In it, she recounts another story involving an older A&R executive with whom she had consensual sex aged 20 (Allen is now 33), prior to inking a record deal with Parlophone for her first album Alright, Still.
“It was consensual, sure,” she writes. “It’s just that he had all the power and I had none. It’s just that I was young and he wasn’t. It’s just that I was looking for help and he acted as if he was doing me a favour.”
Allen’s latest album, No Shame, was released earlier this year and has been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize in the UK – and event which also takes place on Thursday.Music Business Worldwide