Last year saw the rise of the #MeToo movement in the entertainment industry, a paradigm shift in which dozens of powerful and successful Hollywood executives, filmmakers and actors finally faced accountability for decades of sexual harassment and assault on women in the industry. As more women came forward with harrowing accounts of abuse, the world listened, and it seems as though a genuine change has taken place in the film and television fields.
The same can not be said, however, for the music industry. In 2014, before the emergence of #MeToo, Kesha sued her longtime producer Dr. Luke for numerous personal violations, including sexual assault, during their professional collaboration. Though Kesha’s lawsuit was met with widespread public support, Dr. Luke has not suffered the same industry blacklisting as his Hollywood counterparts, continuing to work with top acts such as Azealia Banks, Ne-Yo, Pitbull & Trey Songz. He has also engaged in a protracted legal battle with Kesha, including a defamation lawsuit, the expansion of which was authorized today by the New York Supreme Court.
More recently, producer Russell Simmons became one of the only prominent music industry figures to face real career consequences of the #MeToo movement, resigning from Def Jam Records amid numerous rape accusations. This proved to be an anomaly, as none of his peers have yet to face similar consequences: R. Kelly, who for over twenty years has been the subject of several exposés, lawsuits and even criminal cases regarding alleged sexual assault, continues to tour and release music, even collaborating with outspoken feminist Lady Gaga.
That said, the independent, or “indie” music community has been much more successful in addressing allegations of sexual abuse. Rising indie band PWR BTTM were swiftly dropped from their label and forced to cancel a tour after allegations against a front-person emerged, and last week rock band The Orwells disbanded over similar allegations against three members. A musician needs an audience in order to survive, and indie music fans have been instrumental (no pun intended) in holding these bands to account. One hopes the mainstream music industry soon follows their lead.