Michigan music promoters are providing safer spaces to combat sexual assault and other toxic behavior. Safe spaces provide a conflict-free area where community members can exist freely without harassment.
This growing list of music industry figures accused of sexual assault highlights a fraction of the musicians who have taken advantage of people.
As these issues come to light, more people in the Michigan music scene are finding ways to hold performers, promoters and others accountable.
“We have a very socially conscious crew here, and seeing how things have been going these past few years, there was a need to start actively thinking and talking about making show spaces safer,” said Nate Dorough, the lead talent buyer at Fusion Shows, a Lansing music promotion co.
Just last year, the BLED FEST music festival in Howell dropped the band PWR BTTM from its lineup after sexual assault allegations about lead singer Ben Hopkins came to light. The action sparked an important moment of accountability within the community.
Fusion Shows was instrumental in the decision, as it was involved with the booking for BLED FEST. Its event plan for the Do Good With Music Initiative is evidence of the efforts Fusion has made.
“I want to stress, there was no real initiative,” Dorough said. “It was just a meeting.
We’ve made an unofficial, but very concentrated push to be better about social issues in the music community.”
But the meeting held an important conversation on ways to ensure safer spaces at Fusion’s events.
“We’ve made banners to hang at shows that let people know what their options are if they feel like they’re being assaulted, harassed, or if they’re just generally uncomfortable,” Dorough said.
The banners set guidelines for the crowd to follow at a Fusion event and have been part of Fusion’s process since September 2017.
“We’ve hosted a sexual assault recovery workshop at our office” Dorough said. “We’ve had panels at last year’s BLED FEST to talk about a variety of these issues.”
Fusion focuses on these issues for the greater good of its mission, he said.
“I’m not sure it’s a requirement or a responsibility so much as it is personal choice, but it’s hard to just remain ‘Switzerland’ when it comes to assault,” he said. “You either want to stop it in your spaces, or you don’t. It’s not FUN to talk about and this business is about fun.”
Lansing musician and DIY show organizer John Warmb uses his house as a venue, dubbed First Contact. He and other First Contact organizer Piper Bazard say they strive to stimulate the music community in Lansing by giving musicians and other artists a space to share.
Warmb is no stranger to promoting safe spaces at First Contact. He is also involved with Stoop Fest, a Lansing music festival that features a vast range of venue locations and artists every year.
“The group that plans Stoop Fest, it feels obvious that we consider safe spaces. It seems like all of the organizers are committed to this. I’m honored to be a part of it,” Warmb said.
Warmb has been part of the DIY community for nearly a decade. This group self-organizes artist-related events as a way to encourage creativity.
“Safer spaces is something that I’ve always been conscious of,” Warmb said. “I’ve been in the DIY scene for seven years, and it’s always something that’s been a part of my booking process and how I operate.”
Warmb notes that when Fusion Shows removed PWR BTTM from the BLED FEST lineup in 2017, it was “a really good moment of transparency” for the Michigan music scene.
Club Virago, a Detroit-based artist collective, strengthens the local scene by giving recognition to under represented artists.
“The goal is to decrease disparities in the art scene and to bring light to those who don’t have a platform,” said founder Rori Mullen.
Mullen was inspired by artists around her to create Club Virago. The collective’s prior involvement in the Detroit’s Bleeding Hearts Club also encouraged a new space for underrepresented voices.
Through the network of other artist collectives that Club Virago works with, Mullen notes that these groups draw attention to potentially harmful people within their community.
“There is only so much we, people who are not qualified for legal repercussions and who are third parties of these situations, can do to help,” Mullen said. “So, the safest way to help professionally is to blacklist and expose abusers for what and who they are on flyers, tweets, and posts.”
Contributed to City Pulse by MSU’s Spartan Newsroom.