Music

The “Don’t Dog The Boys” Mentality Is Ruining The Australian Music Industry

It's 2018 and we're still dealing with this crap.

Last Friday, the worst kept secret in the Australian music industry was finally revealed.

Sydney band Sticky Fingers were unveiled as the “secret headliner” for the annual Inner West block party Bad Friday, having teased their return to the stage on social media a few days earlier.

It was the first Australian appearance by the band since December 2016, when they announced an indefinite hiatus due to ongoing and highly-publicised “internal issues”. The internal issues in question were a string of allegations of violence, and racist and sexist abuse levelled at the group’s singer and frontman, Dylan Frost.

The backlash to the band’s spot on the bill was swift:

Sticky Fingers Are Still “The Lads”

It wasn’t lost on many that Sticky Fingers’ reappearance comes at a time when the music industry is grappling with issues around representation and diversity, and while the wider entertainment world is still reeling from the #MeToo movement.

After an intense few days of criticism, yesterday the organisers of Bad Friday — brothers Matt and Dan Rule, who book Sydney venues such as the Lansdowne Hotel — issued a response.

They said that they’ve known “the lads” for a decade and that “despite the endless stream of utter lies that gets peddled out about them, we know the truth and we will never forget the loyalty they have shown us”.

They dismissed their critics as “clowns”, conceded the band weren’t everyone’s “cup of tea” but argued that “it made absolute sense for [Sticky Fingers] to headline Bad Friday, as they take their first steps back from what we know has been the most difficult year of their professional and personal lives.”

To put it lightly, the statement did not go down well:

Because pretending that you’re above responding to criticism doesn’t mean you’re immune to it. Dismissing genuine accusations of sexist and racist abuse as “utter lies” is dangerous and offensive to those people who have risked their personal and mental safety to come forward publicly. Labelling those who raise valid questions about Sticky Fingers’ spot on the bill as “clowns” is dismissive.

And then to cap it all off, there’s this line: “They will never be everyone’s cup of tea”. Only those in a position of immense privilege have the luxury of being able to reduce alleged sexist and racist abuse to a matter of personal taste.

Bad Friday have since deleted the post, which had racked up well over 1000 comments — the majority of them critical.

It’s Just Another Case Of “Don’t Dog The Boys”

But the most poisonous part of Bad Friday’s statement comes in this one line: “We will never forget the loyalty they’ve shown us.”

That chummy loyalty they speak of is just another exhausting example of the Good Ol’ Music Industry Boys Club and it’s “don’t dog the boys” mentality.

It’s this blokey, back-slapping atmosphere that prevents artists and industry figures from calling out bad behaviour in their peers, fearful of not being seen as one of the lads anymore. It’s the same sentiment that spurred the organisers of Party In The Paddock to add Kirin J Callinan to their line-up after he was roundly criticised for exposing himself on the ARIAs red carpet — as a show of support for being such a “bold and brilliant” artist.

When Callinan eventually broke his silence regarding the ARIAs incident on social media, fellow musicians, photographers, industry big-wigs and journalists rallied to support him in the comments section. No such support was afforded to Brisbane artist Miss Blanks, who bore the brunt of transphobic attacks following her criticism of Callinan and his placement on the Laneway line-up.

When women and non-binary artists call out shitty behaviour, they mostly end up having to defend themselves against vile attacks. Back in 2015, Best Coast singer Bethany Cosentino slammed a sexist review of one of her shows that focused on her “incredible outfit” and appearance instead of her music. She was subsequently bombarded by trolls, and the music publication — instead of issuing an apology — defended the review, stating that Cosentino had simply “misunderstood” the reviewer.

It’s a worldwide issue, but it’s made worse in Australia by the small size of our industry. When everyone is mates with everyone else, the pressure to keep quiet about shitty behaviour is considerable. No one wants to be on the out. No one wants things to be awkward when they run into someone at a show. No one wants to cost themselves potential career opportunities by ruffling feathers. No one wants to dog their mates.

No doubt this blokey camaraderie will get Sticky Fingers back into the touring circuit and onto the airwaves. Because the Australian music industry has proven time and time again that it supports mates, not the victims of abuse.

It’s time for this mentality to die. And it’s high time for men in the Australian music industry to call out their mates when they fuck up, not close ranks and stubbornly defend them.

Jules LeFevre is Staff Writer for Music Junkee and inthemix. She is on Twitter