Indie Rock Has a Sexual Abuse Problem

by Emma Davey

Burger Records, longtime home to many scrappy and charming garage bands, has come under fire for fostering a culture of sexual misconduct among both its artists and staff. The label announced on Monday that they intended to make “major structural changes” in order to address “a culture of toxic masculinity” that they have long perpetuated, though they have since made the decision to shut down completely. Bands like the Growlers, the Black Lips, SWMRS, and the Buttertones have been implicated. 

Multiple artists came forward last week to share their experiences with sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse including Clementine Creevy from Cherry Glazerr and Lydia Night from the Regrettes. Both women recounted how they were taken advantage of older men on the label when they were just minors.

The Instagram account, @lured_by_burger_records, has compiled various accounts of abuse with the goal of “amplifying voices and supporting those who were victims of sexual predation by predators involved with Burger Records.” They cite a toxic culture of abuse that the label perpetrated “by allowing these men to prey on children…[b]y inviting these underaged teenagers to be a part of something that they felt honored to be ‘allowed’ into, placing predatory men on pedestals and giving them access to potential victims” Though the label has been a hotbed of predatory behavior and abuse, they are certainly not the only indie artists who are culpable. Ryan Adams has also been accused by multiple women of being manipulative and emotionally abusive (including Phoebe Bridgers, who is two decades younger than Adams). Bands like PWR BTTM and The Orwells disbanded after numerous allegations of assault emerged against their members. None of these artists were on the Burger Records label, but abuse is clearly rampant in these often male dominated spaces (though it’s important to note that both members of PWR BTTM identify as non-binary). 

I am curious to see how the DIY ethos could potentially extend to repairing the damage between victims and abusers, perhaps by way of restorative justice. Burger Records has already created an intentional community of musicians, and restorative justice often works in previously existing communities, in order to ensure accountability between multiple parties. Maybe it looks like trauma counseling for the victim, an agreement that the abuser will not release new music and tour until they have formally apologized and sought help or treatment for their predatory behavior. Perhaps labels will require their employees to learn about bystander training and attend workshops on consent. At events that happened on our campus nightclub in college, we would often have designated bystanders stationed around the venue who you could come to if you needed to feel safe, or just wanted to talk. Raucous all-ages live shows have been a place of solace and release for many a teenager, beyond just at Burger Records. There are many steps to be taken in order to ensure that everyone feels safe and supported at these shows, and many of them can be accomplished without invoking the carceral state. 

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