Whether you decide to blame it on the alarming amounts of drugs circulating around the scene, the testosterone-driven, male-centric management or a pathetic excuse like “that’s how the industry has always been;” the world of music has always had a despairing dark side that many choose to ignore, and one that is still predominantly undealt with.
Sexual assault and predatory behaviors against women permeate at a systemic level in the industry, from artists and producers to promoters and managers.
The world of rock music and its derivative genres has been notorious for normalizing and perpetrating these heinous acts, seemingly assimilating them into “the culture.” Songs such as “Rockstar” by Nickelback help solidify the womanizing and misogynous stereotypes with lyrics like “the girls come easy and the drugs come cheap/every gold digger’s gonna wind up there/every Playboy bunny with her bleach blond hair.”
The autobiographical “Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways,” tells the tale of Kim Fowley, a promoter/manager who is often cited as the founder of the popular scene rock group The Runaways. The book describes Fowley as a vile, opportunistic and sex-crazed maniac who would prey on young, unsuspecting and sometimes desperate girls.
One of the more insane stories is that of Kari Krome, who was 13 years old at the time she met Fowley. She would bounce around different apartments in the Long Beach, California area, finding refuge from her abusive stepfather in the glam rock scene, which she saw as a sexually accepting community—she is bisexual.
Krome would write songs for Fowley, who’d in turn pay her $100 a month. She recalls staying at Fowley’s place with the other Runaways and being woken up by Fowley in the middle of the night and being abused.
Her economic dependency played a factor in her decision to withstand the abuse and keep quiet. “I didn’t know how to say, ‘I don’t want you to do this,’” Krome said in an article on the Huffington Post. “I did not have that voice. … I was also scared of him. He could be really scary.”
The Runaways’ Jackie Fuchs—better known for her hypersexualized on-stage name Jackie Fox—also described another incident where she was raped by Crowley after being paralyzed with Quaaludes and alcohol. Crowley was abused in front of a room full of people at a party after her first set of shows with the band. Krome was present during the incident and wondered why no one did anything to stop the assault.
Artists are just as responsible when it comes to sexual assault and abuse. Some artists even take advantage of their position as influencers to sexually dominate others. Such is the case of artists David Bowie and Matt Mondanile—guitarist for indie rock band Real Estate and producer under the Ducktails moniker.
While Bowie is celebrated as a cultural icon in music and film, he has also had his fair share of rape allegations. In an article titled “I Lost My Virginity To David Bowie: Confessions of a ‘70s Groupie,” Lori Mattix told Thrillist about her underage encounter with Bowie.
“He focused his famously two-colored eyes on me and said, ‘Lori, darling, can you come with me?,” she said. “He walked me through his bedroom and into the bathroom, where he dropped his kimono. He got into the tub, already filled with water, and asked me to wash him. Of course I did. Then he escorted me into the bedroom, gently took off my clothes and de-virginized me.”
In Mondanile’s case, he quit Real Estate last year citing a bigger focus on Ducktails as the main source of the separation. However, Real Estate issued a statement on Oct. 13 saying they parted ways because of Mondanile’s issues with sexual assault. While details are hazy in his case he has come forth to apologize to the women he has harassed and canceled Ducktails’ U.S. tour.
“I am endlessly sorry for my inappropriate behavior. I took advantage of my position as a musician, though I never intended to hurt anyone emotionally or otherwise. I’ve been an insensitive creep and again I apologize to everyone and anyone who was affected by this. I respect and commend the women who have come forward. Their breaking silence has compelled me to seek a more intense course of self-reflection and personal development. I make no excuses for my behavior, I only want everyone to be ok. Words cannot convey how truly sorry I am,” he told Pitchfork in a statement.
While music festivals in Sweden have been notorious for having multiple cases of rape, they have adopted a male-ban model to help combat the situation. The measure could seem extreme to some, but these felonies make these places inherently dangerous for women in particular and that is reason enough to resort to policies that can be more effective in ensuring safety.
As a business, it is hard to see how record labels can enforce stricter rules as a solution for these crimes.
Perhaps an organization such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) can enforce a mandated sexual assault course for managers, promoters and artists as a barrier of entry to the recording industry.
Clubs could also be a lot safer in terms of heavier security in all rooms, and regulating the kind of substances consumed at the venue.
No matter what the measures taken are, music is an intrinsic safe space and escape for some, but if the industry has that much baggage, it is time to start thinking of regulations and changes that make it a uniformly safe experience.