The victims are talking, the media is listening, the abusers and enablers are hoping it goes away.
Look who isn’t saying anything: the stars of Australian music.
THEY ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST NAMES in the Australian music business. Some of them have been vocal on social, political, and health issues for decades. Some of them have defined themselves as independent spirits, examples to be followed, representatives of their generation. And yet, when the biggest and ugliest moment in the industry has arrived, they have not just gone silent, they have gone into hiding.
Does anyone think this can go on? We are talking about artists who benefited not just from the work of people at the record companies, touring companies and radio stations, but in one way or another inadvertently benefited from the abuse and exploitation and mistreatment of people at the record companies, touring companies and radio stations, despite never participating in any of it or condoning it.
Whether they knew or didn’t know then – and one day we may want to dig into how they might not have known when it seems everybody else in the industry did – 2021 has made that position unacceptable, be it Beneath The Class Ceiling’s revelations, the stories in the Sydney Morning Herald and Guardian, or the high profile departures from the three biggest record companies.
And, tonight, the full exposure coming with a Four Corners investigation of the appalling world of Sony Music Australia during the “reign” of Denis Handlin.
As for Sony, if being unaware was always a questionable position from those who made a point of regularly, effusively, publicly thanking Handlin for their careers – or whose fear of him made those public thanks automatic, from tomorrow it will not be tenable for Australian musicians.
So let’s hear from them, these current and past Sony artists. If you are appalled by what happened, if you’re sorry for the victims, if you are impressed or emboldened by those who have risked a lot to speak out publicly, if you want to see action taken, if indeed you were among those manipulated, abused or destroyed by the actions of major figures at this company and want that finally revealed, stop hiding.
What have you to say Midnight Oil and Tina Arena? Conrad Sewell and Illy? Jessica Mauboy and John Farnham? Amy Shark and Guy Sebastian? Altiyan Childs and Reece Mastin? Delta Goodrem and Human Nature? Dami Im and Gang Of Youths? Brad Cox and Josh Pyke? Daryl Braithwaite and Luke Hemmings?
(I’m going to suggest we don’t wait on a comment from Craig McLachlan & Check 1-2.)
We are ready to hear from you. You owe it to the people who did everything for you. Don't leave it to Jaguar Jonze to do the heavy lifting.
Of course they are not alone. Recently, I and others have been highly critical of the lack of action and complete absence of a public presence, clear recognition of abuse, and unambiguous commitments to change from senior, representative, figures in the Australian music industry.
The principal target of my criticisms, fairly and unfairly, has been ARIA.
Unfairly, because the current CEO has only been there nine months and the new chair of the board three months, neither of them with ties to the old regime, and as usual they are women sent in to clean up mess made and left by men. But fairly because even though no one pretends ARIA is anything but a mouthpiece for the member bodies accused of some of the worst behaviours, the major labels, it has pretensions to industry representation, as it declares each time there are debates on Australian content rules on radio, calls for government support during Covid or shiny trophy nights.
If you are going to speak for the industry and turn up next to the stars for a photo op with the good news, then you have to own the industry’s shit sandwich too. Instead, ARIA has been picnicking, nibbling on crudités and lightweight questioning.
Attention on the public, essentially powerless, faces of course has allowed George Ash, who runs the biggest player in the game, Universal Music Australia, Dan Rosen, relatively new boss at Warner Music Australia (but a man with a long past at ARIA during the latter years of its control by former Sony and ARIA chair, Handlin), and whomever has the talking stick at Sony this week, to get away with saying as little as possible.
They better believe that is not going to stay the case. And nor should the dodgy promoters and bookers, the sleazy producers and managers, the corrupt and lecherous radio figures, and the grubby musicians whose behaviour, if not yet whose names, have been filling the columns of Beneath The Class Ceiling’s Instragram, feel any more comfortable. Not when their collective abuse probably exceeds even the worst of what we know about the labels.
The ugly truth for them is it’s getting harder and harder to rely on silence for protection.