• Zoe Wheeler

Should you continue to listen to bands with allegations?

Music can change the world. It is probably the most impactful artistic medium in society today. It can mean a lot to a lot of people, but nowadays there’s a big problem with music, the artists. Since the rise in social media, victims of sexual assault and abuse by these artists can be heard louder than ever. So, what can we do when our favourite artists are accused of these horrible acts? Should we stop listening to their music? Should we stop paying for gigs? I think it’s important to engage in this discussion, as someone who has stopped listening to an artist after learning of an accusation of abuse, I want to understand why.

I think the first thing to look at is how the artist, or the band they are part of, responds to the allegations made against them. Earlier this week, Lydia Night, lead singer of The Regrettes, accused Joey Armstrong, drummer of SWMRS, of emotional abuse and sexual coercion. In her statement, posted on social media, she spoke about their 2 year relationship which began when she was 16 and he was 22 which she said consisted of him “gaslighting [her] or ignoring [her] when [she] didn’t give [her] consent” and “pressuring” her into performing sexual acts. Joey responded to the allegations in a statement posted on the band’s Instagram account below.

To me, this is a bad apology. Joey invalidates the victims experience by saying he disagrees with the things she said in her statement. Although this is only an allegation and nothing has been proven, to deny the way Lydia feels without seeking out any corrective action feels disappointing to me and, if the accusations are true, he should be held accountable for his actions. As a long-time fan of SWMRS, I, like many others, were very disappointed by not just the allegation, but the apology that was given as well, since the band always appeared to be fighting against sexual assault and for safe spaces for women. I know a lot of fans felt betrayed at the band’s hypocrisy. But it’s not just SWMRS that have given bad apologies, some artists use the excuse of being “young and naive” which, to me, seems to only be an attempt to invalidate the victim’s experience.

In 2019, Tiny Moving Parts’ lead vocalist, Dylan Mattheisen, was accused of sexual assault by an anonymous source and I would argue his handling of the situation was a good example of how to apologise. Firstly, he apologised without trying to justify his actions and validated the victims experience and why she felt that way. He sought out corrective action in the form of therapy, offered the victim mediation, and donated all the proceeds from their tour at the time to the Peace Over Violence charity. This is not to say a ‘good apology’ is justification to continue supporting a band, I believe that choice lies with the fan to decide for themselves, but I do believe this is a good way to go about apologising and taking steps to improve. You can read Dylan’s statement below.

I think it’s also important to listen to the viewpoint of victims of abuse and their stories and to actively be involved in these discussions. It’s imperative that victims of sexual abuse continue to come forward and feel comfortable in doing so. As mentioned above, Lydia Night came forward in her statement regarding Joey Armstrong and SWMRS by saying: "My goal here isn't to 'cancel' anyone but to further the conversation on the intricacies of power, abuse, grooming and manipulation that not only exists in the music industry, but in so many industries." I think this is especially important because so many people partake in “cancel culture” without listening to the victim and what they want and losing the point that we need to take steps to stop abuses of power within the music industry. We do need to hold bands and individuals accountable, but we also need to do more to address the systemic issues that create these environments.

Earlier this year, Karen Ledford, drummer of GRLWood, accused the lead singer of the band, Rej Forrester, of raping her. Ledford then announced she would be leaving the band. Interestingly, Ledford said she believes the music transcends the people who created it but is that justification enough to continue listening and supporting their music? Although you could argue it is possible to separate art from the artist I think it’s important to consider that by continuing to stream their music, or buy their music, merch or concert tickets you are also financially supporting them and allowing them to keep their platform.

I don’t think there is a point blank, right or wrong answer as to whether you should continue listening to a band after they have troubling allegations made against them. It’s important to look at each allegation on a case by case basis. Many fans have different views on the matter and if the allegations aren’t proven or disproven in a court of law, then it does become more of a matter of individual opinion. I do still think it is important to continue to engage in discussions about sexual assault and listen to the victims and what they have to say as well as coming to your own conclusions about who you choose to listen to. Hayley Williams posted her thoughts about recent allegations in the music scene and said: “It is inexcusable and there isn’t any way to change it except for to call it out and cut it out.”

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