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Music Industry Corruption

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Article by: Stacy McWilliams

How many artists have spoken out about the corruption in the music industry, from sexual assault, physical or medical abuse, to financial abuse? There is more and more evidence coming to light that being in the music industry is like being Pinocchio when he’s singing I’ve Got No Strings to Hold Me Down. He works and works and works, yet he’s shoved into a cage after each performance while someone else collects his earnings. 

For every aspect of corruption that is exposed another person or group of people find out that the glitz and glamour of the music industry is just a cover for the horrific working conditions, inhumane contracts and exploitation of artists who sign their souls away on the dotted line without realising at the time they’ve just made a deal with the devil. 

Even now, as certain members of the press are being exposed as horrific abusers, they are still being protected and it’s taken a very long time for the abuse to be approached by the mainstream media, especially when it’s one of their own they are exposing. Not only is this damaging, but it calls into question the credibility and integrity of the mainstream media to expose those who are a risk to the public, and to professional journalism. 

You might be asking how this is tied in with the music industry, but when certain entertainment journalists (and I use the term entertainment very loosely) are allegedly closely tied in with certain members of TV talent shows and linked with members of ex-members of a very, very famous boyband’s PR team, then you’d be remiss for ignoring how they are inextricably linked. 

However, this article isn’t only about how abusive the media is when it comes to celebrities because we’ve all lived through the last decade when celebrity scandals have been front and centre for many mainstream media outlets, such as Caroline Flack and her subsequent suicide, or Lily Allen who was bullied relentlessly by certain so-called journalists, or Megan Markle who had no choice but to flee the UK because of the insane levels of racism and abuse she suffered at the hands of, amoung other things, the UK media. 

For those in the music industry, articles about relationships or interviews allegedly with a source “close to the artist” get published by their PR teams and, as such, are approved to ensure that their clients stay in the media. Whether these articles show the clients in a good light or a bad one depends on the relationship the client has with the PR company, record label and management. The decisions about the image of the celebrity made in the backrooms and boardrooms in question can be highly intrusive, extremely abusive and the complete opposite of the artist’s own personality following the agendas and narratives given by labels or management teams. 

Other forms of abuse that the music industry undertakes is making artists sign contracts with a signing incentive and then charging them for everything from hair and makeup, to studio time to promotion costs and also paying the artists so little for their albums that they virtually see no profit, even if their album sells hundreds of thousands or millions of copies, because the bigger an artist is, the more the label invests and the more owed to them. 

The record label also, most times, own the masters of the songs and even though the artist can have written the songs and created the melodies, came up with the concepts for the videos and worked countless hours making an album, they can also be squashed in terms of reaching the general public if the label decides that they won’t pursue radio play, meaning the artists is held back from the general public and then owes the record label more and more money. 

Artists who get thousands upon thousands of streams on Spotify, which one would think, would make the artist money, but it doesn’t because Spotify or Apple Music or any other online streaming service pay so little to the musicians that it almost becomes negligible, especially when you take into account that labels take roughly 80% of what an artist makes on streaming platforms with the artists themselves receiving a paltry 20%. It doesn’t seem very fair does it? Our beloved musicians make incredible music that helps us escape, but are paid so little for the joy they bring us that they almost have to kill themselves on tour to do well.

This is one of the traps of the music industry and many artists fall into it. As Mahalia, a musician who started to expose the music industry on Twitter recently, outlined, it’s a vicious cycle, more streams means more time spent on the artist and more time means more money owed to the label so it’s a catch-22. Artists want to do well, but doing well means that artists owe labels more.

Isn’t it time this stops? Isn’t it time we stop the exploitation of musicians both in the press as click bait and focused on their talent? And isn’t it time that they are paid fairly? Labels shouldn’t have the power they do over artists lives, finances and welfare. It’s time for people to realise that our artists, the ones we love, the ones we pay good money to see, deserve better than they get. They deserve freedom. They deserve to be paid for their hard work and not have 80% of their earnings stolen by an unforgiving machine of greed and power. 

I don’t know yet how we solve these problems, but we need to keep shedding light on this and other abuses. We need to do better, be better, and help them fight back because too many times before have those in positions of power shut down artists such as Prince, Michael Jackson, and George Michael who threaten to expose them. No more. It’s time for people to stop believing the lies and open their eyes to the very real abuses artists and creators suffer and I hope we can. I hope that we can show them we won’t back down, we are here and we are strong. 

How can we, as music fans, help? First off all we can share articles showing industry abuses, draw attention to the times artists have spoken up about abuse, like Harry Styles and the cleanliness clauses the One Direction boys were under or Liam Payne talking about being locked in hotel rooms and not being allowed to leave. We owe artists like Katie Waisel and Rebecca Ferguson to share their stories with the general public and try and increase the GP’s knowledge of abuse that we are aware of. We can fight this fight together and support them, sharing articles from Byline Times calling out certain Journalists and helping investigate claims of abuse. This is how we help and although it’s not much, it shows artists that they are heard and that we listen to them when they speak. 

We love our artists and we will continue to fight for them because they might not be in a place where they are able to fight for themselves. 

They need us and we need them. They bring us light, love and music that soothes the soul, so let’s fight back and stop these abuses, once and for all. 

Thanks for reading. 


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