Rebecca Ferguson, a Liverpool-born X-Factor star, rocked the sector last week with her declaration that “enough is enough”. She wants MPs to investigate the welfare of musicians and is pressing for regulation of the industry so individuals can “never become so powerful that their actions are unpunishable”. The singer wants managers and agents to have to have a license to operate and for them to face a tribunal if they mistreat staff or artists. A further goal is the appointment of an ombudsman for the creative industries. Ms Ferguson will shortly meet with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who has said it is essential artists feel “safe and secure” and that he is “committed to addressing this”.
Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens agreed that a “rotten culture” must end.
She said: “For too long the power imbalances involved in the music industry have meant that artists and others have had to tolerate behaviour that should not happen in any working environment, in order to get on. What Rebecca Ferguson and others have described experiencing is absolutely unacceptable.
“This is about changing a rotten culture and ensuring that people, whatever their job, are treated with respect.”
Alex Davies-Jones, the MP for Pontypridd and a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, also wants to protect artists from predators.
She said: “As a musician and music lover myself I have been horrified by the stories of bullying and mistreatment in the music industry that have been shared on social media in recent days.
“We all must do more to protect artists, whether they are starting out or years into their career, and I am extremely concerned that the recent stories may only be scratching the surface of what is a much wider problem.
“Artist welfare should be at the forefront of the industry, and I will be doing all that I can to support the artists who are bravely speaking out and sharing their stories.”
The cross-party committee has already demonstrated its readiness to scrutinise the music industry.
Fellow member and Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, who plays with the parliamentary rock band MP4, said: “Our committee has just concluded a long inquiry into the economics of music streaming which has sparked a debate in the music industry about whether artists and songwriters are treated fairly in the era of Spotify and other similar services. When the committee agrees its conclusions it will be issuing a report with its recommendations.”
An X Factor spokesperson said: “Duty of care to our contestants is of the utmost importance to us. We take welfare very seriously and have measures in place to ensure that they are supported.”
A UK Music spokesman said: “UK Music takes the issue of sexual harassment and abuse extremely seriously. We are determined the music industry should be a safe and welcoming environment for the 200,000 people who work in our sector.
“UK Music promotes best practice across the industry and we support the work of our members at the Musicians’ Union and their Safe Space scheme which helps people who have been subject to harassment or abuse.
“It is open to everyone working in the music industry to confidentially report sexual harassment and abuse to experienced people who can help.
“We have signed up to the MU and Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Code of Practice which aims to eradicate bullying, harassment and discrimination within the industry and promote a positive working culture.
“We want the UK music industry to continue to lead the world and that includes leading the way on tackling sexual abuse and harassment.”