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NEAR TRUTHS: THOUGHTS ON A PERFECT STORM


The music business is guilty. Guilty of sexism, guilty of shielding harassment, guilty of an old-(white) boy network that has deep and seemingly intractable roots. It would be pointless to pretend otherwise.

The behavior and attitudes represented by this fraternity aren’t all-encompassing; plenty of people in the business have long fought against them. Still, these old-boy traits remain defining characteristics of some parts of our business.

It would also be wrong to suggest that these conditions evolved in a vacuum. They can be found in every sector—Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Washington D.C. and Madison Avenue. They are vestiges of systemic inequality, when women and people of color were legally—or at the very least practically—accorded the status of property.

It reflects the ugliness dragged back into the mainstream by the President of the United States, and the powerful resistance that has built up during his regime.

The current administration’s other abuses—racism, xenophobia, homophobia—have also often been mirrored in the narrow mindsets and lack of diversity too often found at the top of the entertainment pyramid. And anger at Team Trump’s excesses has energized the push for institutional change regarding the rights of all.

Crucial to that change is the #MeToo movement, which entered the mainstream as part of the larger uprising of women most conspicuously evidenced by the massive worldwide women’s marches of 2017 and 2018.

Then there is #TimesUp, which is not about chronicling past wrongs but preventing future ones.

These threads came together, in our demimonde, at the Grammys, which reflected both the gathering voice of women’s protest and the obstacles to change.

The photos arrayed here are intended merely as a sampling of the many women we know who are making a mark in the business—though there are far too many to chronicle here. This sea of faces represents a larger wave of change.

Those obstacles are both institutional and attitudinal. Male domination in the boardroom is matched by male domination on the charts. Only six female artists made the overall Top 50 of 2017; only 10% of the Top 50 tours of 2017 were by female acts (half as many as in 2016). While more than half the acts on the year-end 2017 Top 40 Pop radio chart were female (or had a key female performer), Rhythm had seven such acts—and the Country and Alternative radio charts fewer than 10%.

 A recent Annenberg study, meanwhile, found that women received less than 10% of the most recent Grammy nominations. As has been reiterated with considerable fervor since Grammy night, only one female artist accepted an award during the telecast—and the only female Album of the Year nominee wasn’t given a spot to perform.

Which is part of why Neil Portnow’s ill-advised comment about women needing to “step up” became such a flashpoint, turning the Recording Academy boss into a walking example of the problem; thus the letter from female industryites demanding he step down, and a subsequent missive from six top-level biz women insisting that he implement serious changes. His words represented a status quo that is increasingly out of touch with the direction of the biz and the culture.

The response to his words from a number of industry professionals—notably, “The Six,” aka  Jody Gerson, Michele Anthony, Julie Swidler, Sylvia Rhone, Julie Greenwald and Desiree Perez—is chronicled elsewhere in this issue, and is far more eloquent than we could hope to be.

For the music world, the Grammys thus became a point of inflection, thanks to the perfect storm of the repressive Trump-era climate—with the government’s unapologetic embrace of injustice and prejudice—and the post-Harvey Weinstein eruption of the #MeToo movement, which many had been expecting to reach the music industry for some time.


THE LOCKER ROOM AND THE BOARD ROOM
The “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” sensibility that once seemed to signal freedom and independence has sometimes turned into an atmosphere of license and even intimidation.

For too long, many women in our ranks have been subject to all manner of abuse. They haven’t been safe in their offices. They’ve been hit on, groped and straight-up assaulted. If they went through channels to complain, they were often either urged to laugh it off or made to fear recrimination and firing.

While this bad behavior may be part of a “locker-room” culture that involved nonstop sexualization, it wasn’t just about sex. It was also about power and entitlement in a starkly male-dominated business.

Perpetrators of such abuse have been regularly insulated from consequences, though that is beginning to change. The Weinstein saga shows how a powerful predator can ruin lives for years without challenge—but also that he can eventually be toppled. Now, serious allegations have been leveled against Charlie Walk, and the response has been swift: He’s been placed on leave from Republic, pending an investigation, and has departed the FOX TV series The Four.


WHO'S NEXT?
Conversation in the business is obsessively focused on this issue—who’s next? How does this change the way we interact with one another? What’s to prevent baseless charges from ruining lives? As these aren’t criminal proceedings, “due process” isn’t part of the equation—the potential for false accusation is real. This is especially concerning when anonymous charges fly in online forums.

But it’s also important to emphasize that going public with these allegations isn’t a picnic for the accuser. Invariably the comment threads fill up with the vilest, most misogynistic commentary. Going through all this is the inevitable result of coming forward, which is a difficult and uncomfortable choice on its own.

The Internet can be a horribly ugly place, but it’s sometimes the only instrument—however blunt—for redressing wrongs that have been shielded by a system rigged by and for the powerful.

Because in the overwhelming majority of cases, these claims aren’t made up—they’re part of a pattern. The music biz is guilty of enabling this pattern.

We don’t know for sure if #timesup, but a countdown is starting.


THE NEW LEADERS

In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of a wave of new, young leaders, many of them women and many people of color, who are clearly ready to break with the excesses of the past. Leaders whose hiring and policy choices are changing the culture.

This is happening in all sectors, no matter how many old (white) boys run amok.

Our own business is seeing profound growth in female leadership. Women are running major companies, piloting artists’ careers and plenty more—and refocusing the cultural conversation via activism. A young, diverse wave is coming, and it will in all likelihood alter the dynamics across the biz.

We recognize how Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris, among others, have moved and are still moving the needle for women’s issues and equality in Washington. We note such corporate leaders as GM CEO Mary Barra, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (whose recent comments in Glamour on the need for male execs to mentor women are a must-read), YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki and Apple’s Angela Ahrendts. And then there’s Oprah, an entire ecosystem unto herself.

Beyond “The Six,” an emerging core of influential women also includes (but is by no means limited to) Michelle Jubelirer, Cindy Mabe, Candace Berry, Jacqueline Saturn, Katie Vinten, Debra Lee, Allison Kaye, Wendy Goldstein, Lynn Hazan, Jen Knoepfle, Amanda Berman-Hill, Sarah Stennett, Caron Veazey, Ty Stiklorius, Beka Tischker, Marion Kraft, Kerri Edwards, Virginia Davis, Martha Earls, Mary Berner, Sarah Trahern, Kathy Willard, Brenda Romano, Doneen Lombardi, Sara Newkirk Simon, Sas Metcalfe, Elizabeth Matthews, Allison McGregor, Hildi Snodgrass, Laura Swanson, Ambrosia Healy, Marian Dicus, Cara Lewis, Amy Howe and Allison Jones.

In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of a wave of new, young leaders, many of them women and many people of color, who are clearly ready to break with the excesses of the past.

The photos arrayed here are of course by no means exhaustive—they’re intended as a sampling of the many women we know who are making a mark on the business. They represent a wave of change.

Artists such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, P!nk, Lady Gaga, Kesha, Lorde, Alessia Cara, Julia Michaels and SZA have made compelling statements—musical and otherwise—about the abuses, pressures, stigmas and other assorted landmines women face.

In our company, Karen Glauber has long been a strong, reasoned and witty voice; Michelle Santosuosso is a passionate, fearless advocate; and Samantha Hissong has contributed a thoughtful, honest perspective. Correspondents Holly Gleason and Rhian Jones have expanded our editorial in vital ways. We’re also grateful for team members Robin Gerber, Rebecca Baltutis, Leisa St. John, McKenzie Meadows, Nicole Ghapgharan, Sara Baczewski, Ranya Khoury, Janet Ramirez and Bree Argarin.

Is change happening quickly enough? Certainly not. But it is underway. We are witnessing the dawning of a movement that’s long overdue.

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