VV Brown shares experience of bullying within the music industry

Singer VV Brown has said she felt “deeply unsafe” after receiving a “barrage of racist comments online” and has been “silenced and excluded” as a new survey investigating bullying and harassment within the music industry is launched.

The Shark In The Water singer is among the diverse artists urging others in the industry to share their experiences in the anonymous YourSafetyYourSay survey, which has been launched by the charity Black Lives in Music (BLiM).

The data from the survey will be utilised to help inform legislation and the work of the new Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA).

Singer Brown, born in Northampton to Jamaican parents, said she feels the survey is needed, especially for black artists and artists of colour, to have a space to report incidents they have experienced.

“I fully support Black Lives in Music’s valiant work, and urge those comfortable to share their stories”, she said.

“As a black woman, I often felt silenced and excluded, labelled as aggressive or aloof. Bullying ranged from isolation to daily emails with derogatory language. Even in high-profile fashion settings, I felt marginalised, as if I didn’t belong.

“I faced a barrage of racist comments online… enduring over a million comments, leaving me feeling deeply unsafe.

“The most hurtful bullying I experienced came from left-wing liberals who professed to support equality but hindered black individuals’ opportunities.”

She also claimed the expectation to “internalise and tolerate” the bullying she faced was “pervasive”, adding: “There was a constant fear that expressing my pain would lead to being labelled as overly sensitive or even being blamed as the aggressor.”

The Brit Awards 2023 – Arrivals – London
Nova Twins urged artists to complete the survey (Ian West/PA)

The Mercury-nominated artists said they have faced their music and performance styles being labelled as “too intense or aggressive”, but feel the “same energy from white male counterparts would be praised as ‘rock and roll’”.

“Far too often, black musicians and industry professionals encounter bullying and harassment, stifling their voices and existence”, they added.

“Discriminatory labels limit our creativity and opportunities, hindering our ability to thrive. Hearing from other artists like us with very similar experiences, both independent and on majors, has been eye-opening.

“These hurdles, and plenty more like them, could’ve easily held us back from reaching our full potential. It’s a story too many of us share.

“That’s why the YourSafetyYourSay survey is a vital step towards amplifying marginalised voices, uncovering untold stories that need to be heard.”

The data from the survey has also been requested by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to inform its work on the topic, BLiM has said.

Since it was established, the organisation has published a Being Black In The Music Industry report which suggested the mental health of black women and the disabled was significantly affected by systemic racism in the music industry.

The findings of the report have been utilised by the Government in its Misogyny In Music inquiry.

The new YourSafetyYourSay survey is being supported by a host of music industry bodies including The Ivors Academy, UK Music, the Independent Society of Musicians and the Musicians’ Union.

BLiM chief executive Charisse Beaumont said the organisation has been “flooded with stories from people who have experienced bullying and harassment” in the music industry since launching.

She added: “They are shocking and it’s clear that high-profile cases in the media are the tip of an iceberg. It can happen to anyone and it is often rooted in misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia and more.

“Bullying and harassment is normalised in the music industry, as shown by the Misogyny In Music Inquiry. To turn the inquiry findings into action, we need the information.

“The data, especially from under-represented groups, just doesn’t exist. The bullying and harassment survey will be a comprehensive survey to capture everyone’s voices, especially those rarely heard.

“We need to understand what is really going on behind closed doors so we can tailor interventions.

“It’s time to double up our efforts against bullying, (sexual) harassment and discrimination.

“Black Lives in Music is fighting to ensure equality is standard in the music industry. Together, we can create a safe music industry where everyone thrives.”

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