OP-ED: The State of Sexual Harassment in the Underground Music Scene
At Digital Tour Bus, we don’t dive into op-ed type pieces too often, but we felt this issue needed to be addressed. Friend of DTB and touring musician, Jake Watson (from, the now disbanded, pop rock band, Stay Seventeen), contacted…
At Digital Tour Bus, we don’t dive into op-ed type pieces too often, but we felt this issue needed to be addressed. Friend of DTB and touring musician, Jake Watson (from, the now disbanded, pop rock band, Stay Seventeen), contacted me about bringing his experiences with this delicate subject to light. We agreed because our mission is to alway insure that concerts are a safe environment to freely express yourself and enjoy the music you love. You can check out Jake’s thoughts and advice to touring musicians and concert goers, after the break.
My name is Jake Watson, I’m a musician and entertainer from Boston, MA and have roughly three years of experience being in a small time touring band called Stay Seventeen, which was marketed toward the young teen to young adult market. While three years is a short amount of time compared to many, it’s long enough to experience the large amount of band members sexualizing and harassing their young, underage fans. The sad truth is that more often than not, you can find at least one person in a band that does, or has done this in the past. From my experience it’s become such a “social norm” in the industry that even those who would never have imagined being that way can find themselves being sucked into the lifestyle during a long tour, if they’re surrounded by the wrong people.
During my time in Stay Seventeen, my band mates and I had countless young fans confide in us about various touring musicians who were harassing them, asking them for nude pictures and sexual acts. Many of these people wouldn’t take no for an answer, and would continually harass them until they either got the answer they wanted or were ignored. This all was really hard for us to hear because we cared a lot about our fans and thought there was nothing we could do except be there for them and give them our best advice.
The reason I’m writing this is because lately there have been a few cases where people have spoken out about their experiences being harassed by touring musicians. (Editors note: The situations being referred to are just allegations. Police reports have not been filed, to our knowledge. This is all based off of accounts posted on social media). The handful of musicians that have had accusations made against them have become scapegoats for a much larger issue.
Since the outing of these alleged aggressors, I’ve seen many band members and entertainers talking trash about them online who I know have done similar actions. I don’t know if this is a way of concealing their own wrongdoings or if they honestly just don’t see that they’re involved in the same sort of sexualization, but it’s hypocritical and costly to the careers of others who may have simply got caught up in the lifestyle. My perspective is that people don’t think before they act most of the time, and many demonstrate a “monkey see, monkey do” behavior. If their peers are acting a certain way, they may see it as an acceptable way to act themselves, leading to mistakes drastically affecting their careers, personal lives, and the lives of others.
No, this does not make such behavior acceptable, but it does help give a better understanding of why and how it happens.
In order to save the reputation of a scene that is, in my opinion, already struggling to stay above water, musicians need to come together to make a change in the way fans are treated and as listeners, you need to be outspoken about what you are comfortable with and what you are not. Not by zeroing out a select few abusers and crucifying them as the only ones who act this way, but by speaking up when you see or hear about the abuse happening. Whether you’re a victim, a friend or in a band yourself, you can’t be afraid to let them know the way they’re acting is wrong. We’ve been silent about this issue for too long, maybe because we’re afraid to confront our peers, maybe because we’re afraid of the damage it could do to our own careers, or maybe a whole different reason entirely. If you’re in a band with someone who’s guilty of these things, I encourage you to confront them about their behavior and make a change. If you’re a victim, make them aware that you are uncomfortable and if they still persist, stop attending their shows, block them on social media, save any evidence you have and file a police report. Bottom line is, in an imperfect world like ours second chances can make a huge difference in someone’s life, but in order to offer a second chance, you must first make them aware of the issue and see if they’re willing to accept that they have a problem and make the change, not continuously send them hate-messages until they quit and are replaced by potential new abusers.
There are a lot of good people in this world who are guilty of doing bad things, unfortunately, it’s become all about who gets caught first. Let’s change that and show them their actions are unacceptable before they damage their lives and the lives of others. In the words of Kevin Lyman, “the way we communicate is at a pivotal point” so let’s make our future generations proud by speaking up and changing the way we treat each other, so the scene that we’ve all grown to love can remain a place where you can be yourself, love who you are and feel safe while doing so.
Thanks for reading,
You can keep up with Jake Watson on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Vine and Instagram.