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In this episode of Sound Design Live I’m joined by the Executive Director of Calling All Crows, Kim Warnick. We discuss sexual harassment at live events, how the laws affect freelancers and employees differently, and a day in the life of a touring crisis counselor.
- Harassment in Live Music, how you can be part of the solution
- Books: A Voice in the Darkness: Memoir of a Rwandan Genocide Survivor
- Podcasts: What a day, On Being
- …that’s who I’ve seen get recommended over and over again for jobs or the people who take the time to show care for each other as full people and not just sound engineers or as guitar techs or as whatever that role is.
- freelancers have different protections, meaning fewer protections than employees do.
- someone who walks into a job as like the sexual harassment lady, people are Terrified of me and do not wanna hang out with me.
This transcript was automatically generated. Please let me know if you discover any errors.
I’m Nathan Lively, and my guest today has served as the executive of Director for Calling All Crowd since 2019 and was a 2021 she Rocks Award recipient for her sexual violence prevention work in the music industry through the Here for the Music campaign. She holds a BA in Sociology from Harvard University, where her studies focus on social movements, organizational culture and conflict and peace building, including an intensive study in Rwanda. Kim Warnick. Welcome to sound design live.
Thank you so much for having me.
So I definitely want to talk to you about sexual harassment and what we can do with sound engineers to improve the work environment for everyone. But before I do that, I’m curious about your musical taste. So what’s a recent song that you’ve just been really obsessed with?
So I just got off tour with Clairo, and Arlo Parks was supporting her and the song Hope. She would often finish her set with a song Hope, and that has been with me in part because I listen to it every day while on tour. But it’s a good sign when you can get off tour and still want to listen to the song.
So hopefully it’s great with me.
Mary tries to hold the pleasure back into being alive.
So tell me about what you do on tour and maybe this will help people get to know you and your work a little bit. And we were just chatting a little bit before I hit record. So you’re on tour, but my understanding of tour is like, making technical things happen, and then there’s the artist and they make the art happen. So tell us a little bit about your day on tour.
Yeah, so when I’m on a tour, I am doing a handful of things, so my day starts a little later than most people. My biggest start is really the security meeting. So I go into a security meeting. I’m chatting with security director about how do they respond to harassment, how are they responding to crowd safety issues, to really understand what they already have in place and to give them a sense of this particular fan base, what issues we’ve been coming up against and what we want to see happen. And so my background in sexual violence prevention and response, I’m a trained crisis counselor, and while I’m not doing full on crisis counseling in a venue that would not work very well, what I can do is bring that trauma informed training to any response efforts. And so there’s some just chatting with security to get to understand how they’re already dealing with this, who their people are, that are walking around and checking in on folks who might be sitting on the ground not to see this thing or like crying in the corner. We get a lot of crying in the corner at shows to just be proactive and then we run a helpline so we have a text number that folks can text for help if they need it on site.
And they either don’t feel comfortable, like, talking to someone for help or they can’t find someone, especially if you’re in the middle of the crowd and don’t want to lose your spot. You don’t always get to security and ask for help. So we run that helpline. That all comes to me. But I also just worked directly with the local security and medical teams to get pulled into any issues that might require traumainformed response. So that’s my tour responsibility is like pretty focused on the show itself. There are tours where we’ve done trainings and policy reviews for venues during the day before the show as well.
That sounds great. And that to me makes a lot of sense. Not just from like morally we want this to be a good experience for everyone, but if people have a bad experience at your show or because of your tour, then they’re not going to come back. They’re not going to buy more tickets to see your shows in the future and your CDs or whatever in your merch. And then on the other side, if people had a really great experience at their show, either having no idea because of the work that you’re doing in the background to keep them safe or because maybe they did have an incident and it got resolved in a good way or something like that. I’m just seeing as you’re talking how this makes and financial sense for the tour as well as probably making a better place to work for everyone.
Totally. And we had, for example, someone who used the helpline during this last tour I was on. I think sometimes artists or managers really are scared of that. They’re like, what if someone uses the helpline? Isn’t that bad? Doesn’t that mean bad things are happening in our show? Having a helpline does not make bad things happen to your show. It makes you aware of them and it gives the opportunity to help. And so this person texted in, asked for help around like a person who was harassing someone and we were able to resolve it and their response was just, thank you so much for your help. There was no, like, I can’t believe this happened, I’m never coming back. It’s that people want to enjoy the show and if someone is hurting them or someone around them, that blocks that from happening. But if you give opportunities for people to resolve that and be able to get back to the music and that’s why we call it the Here for the Music campaign. That’s what we’re here for, but we can’t ignore the harassment is being done, and this allows someone to get back to the show.
Awesome. Let’s take a break. We’re going to come back to your work in a minute, but I’m curious about just your life as an entrepreneur. Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur or a founder or I don’t know, is there a label? When people ask you what you do, what do you say?
I never know how to answer that. I’m like, no one will ever know what I do. But I think of myself as someone has an activist, but some of it is sort of a designer, a work designer.
Okay, so when you think of yourself as an activist or a work designer, at the same time, you have to make money like everybody else, and you have had many jobs like everybody else. So I just wanted to start with a little bit of career advice. So from what you’ve seen of how hiring works in the music industry and live events and how people move forward and build successful careers, and also just, I guess, drawing on your relationships. I know your boyfriend is a sound engineer, and so you’ve seen some of how that has worked out for him. What’s your advice for me and maybe some of the other sound engineers listening? What would you do if you were in my shoes to find more of the work that you really love?
So much of it is relationships. You need to have the skills you need to be good at what you do, and that is a bare minimum. But there’s a lot of people who are good at what they do. And so if you’re kind and proactive, I think sometimes people get uncomfortable with networking. But networking is just relationship building, especially with live music and touring or festivals or whatever it is. You have to spend so much time with those people. You have to be kind and understanding. And it doesn’t sometimes people describe it as being like a good hang, and that’s somewhat true. But I think even more important is just being able to get along with people and to be able to be yourself quickly. Because if you are able to show up as your authentic self pretty early on and not take two weeks to warm up to a work environment, when you work in an office and you’re there for a year or two or three years, it’s okay if you take a little while to come out of your shell. If you’re on a month long tour, you got to show up and be yourself immediately and also allow space for other people to be themselves, to ask them questions, to get to know them and not just their technical skill, but to understand their interests outside of it.
And that’s who I’ve seen get recommended over and over again for jobs, are the people who take the time to show care for each other as full people and not just as sound engineers or as guitar techs or as whatever that role is. So be really good at what you do, but also show care and interest for the people that you’re working alongside because it can be a really lonely and hard industry to be in.
I’m wondering if you can give me an example of showing care, and I’ll start with an example that comes to mind for me. So I worked at a theater for a couple of years with a guy who I felt was so caring in a way that I had not seen before. And it almost just went under the radar. But I noticed, looking back, that no matter what clothes I wore or how I looked, this guy never made a comment on my appearance but always seemed like he cared. And I don’t know if I’m explaining this in the right way, except that this guy was a very interesting looking guy and was often changing sort of his very interesting looking hair. And people were always commenting on it, but he acted like it didn’t matter at all. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I always felt safe with him and also that it didn’t matter what I did. He would always have my back. And I don’t know really how I got that from him, except that he did seem to genuinely care. So my question is, how do you show care?
And so I just wondered if you could give an example of maybe somewhere or somehow that you’ve seen that happen.
Yeah, I think two examples come to mind. So there’s someone I’ve worked with who he’s really just good at remembering people’s names and their pets or their kids or whatever their names are. And whether if you have a bad memory, like you can also write it down, it’s okay to just use that tool. But people feel really seen and really valued when you say, hey, how are you doing? How’s your dog doing? And being able to use a name, how’s your kid doing? How’s Anthony? How’s whoever? And that makes people feel really seen. And it’s small, but it’s a huge thing to just know that, again, that’s a whole person and they miss their kids or their dogs or their cats or whatever it is, and being able to say, give them the opportunity to share a sentence or two about the conversation they had with their kid that morning. It goes a really long way. And I think I’ve experienced on tour I do that and then all of a sudden, every day I get to see photos of everyone’s like puppies and kids every day because I ask questions about it and you can see how much that lights people up.
So I think that’s one example. The other one I’ve noticed is and not everyone has this skill, but if you have it, you got it is like being attuned to someone’s energy. So I worked with someone who he really just was so quiet, but if something was a little off or a little sad or a little high energy or low energy, just noticed that and was able to say, hey, you seem a little down today. Is everything okay? Or hey, it’s more specific than just like, how’s it going is to name that observation. And for me, I try to be neutral enough because my job is so emotional that if there’s a lot of harassment or assault at a show, I don’t want to bring that onto the bus. I don’t want everyone to be aware of that. I really need to use discretion in my job. Some ways I try this to be so even keeled that if I have an off day, you can’t notice it quite as much because I’m not usually high energy. But someone once was like, wow, you seem in a really light, good mood today. What’s going on?
And I was like, oh, yeah, actually, I just got this news. But it just, again, that observing something specific and offering it is a really nice way to make a connection.
That’s such a great point. I’m thinking about the hardest tour I was ever on, and I feel like there was one person who seemed to care about my life outside of performing this technical task and artistic task I was there for. And I’ll probably never forget that guy. There’s a famous story about the guitar slash, like, calling people a bunch of people on Christmas. Have you heard these stories? What I wanted to ask you is if you have any Pneumonic devices for remembering people’s names. And I’ll tell you that my first multi month tour, I just noticed I just developed the skill. I know I need to know this person’s name. And so if I care and I just tell myself I need to remember this person’s name, come to me for 24 hours. And so I noticed that I could memorize like, ten people’s names for 24 hours, and 24 hours later I’d forget it. But I wonder if you figured out any techniques in that area.
I have to write stuff down. So once I’ve written something and seen it written, but also the act of writing, not typing, then it stores in my brain differently. So saying it out loud, writing it, and then seeing it written, I do it. So when I get onto a tour, usually there’s a day sheet that everyone’s emails written out. I will actually just write everyone’s name down. And so then when I meet them, I’m like, oh, Eddie, okay, I wrote that down before. And so it’s almost like matchmaking faces to names because I’m actually terrible at remembering names, and so I just have to write it down. But truly, if I meet someone and they tell me their kid’s name, I will go write it down. And it’s not that I like reference back notes, but for me, again, the act of writing it down, sometimes I have to reference back notes, but generally it’s just that, yeah, it codes it differently on my brain to write something down. I know some people say it out loud, and it’s like the equivalent for them.
I think it sends a signal to your brain that says, this is important right now. And so I’ll never say this to anyone to their faces, but at this point, I feel like if you go around telling people that you’re just bad with names, you’re basically saying to them, I don’t care. Yeah, you ever say that to me, I’m not going to call you out. But in my head, I’m thinking, you just don’t want to trust.
That’s the thing. And I’m like, I’m bad at it unless I put a lot of effort in. So I put in effort, okay. Because I know that it’s not something like there’s so many other things that I’m good at remembering, but names, for whatever reason, they just fly out of my brain. But, yeah, just use tools because I agree. It’s such an easy way to make someone feel cared for just immediately that just figure out whatever it is that you need to do, whether it’s writing it down, saying it out loud. I don’t know what else there is, but those are the big ones.
So, Kim, I’ve noticed that people who teach something or do something professionally are not necessarily people who that came naturally to them or they’ve had some struggle with it. So I’ve met a lot of personal trainers through my wife. A lot of those people have a lot of body issues, and so they get into personal training because they’ve had a lot of struggle with it. People are usually surprised to learn that I’m not very good at math and physics I got to see in college. And so I was struggling with a lot of these concepts that really brought me to want to teach it and help other people, because I’m like, I know how hard this was, and I’ve found some ways through the maze. So I’d love to help you with that. Also of a long preamble to ask you, like, why do you do this work now? Why is it important to you? Would you be willing to share sort of a story about why you are where you are today?
Yeah. So I am a survivor of sexual violence, and one of those assaults for me was in a workplace. This was before the Me Too movement happened, and so there wasn’t much conversation about harassment or assault in the workplace. And obviously, assault always catches you off guard. Like, I’m 30, so when I was going through college, there was a lot of conversation about assault on college campuses. It was in the news. It was, like, in the air. And so it almost became less shocking when that was done in those spaces. But I assumed once you left, we are good, we’re in the clear, we’re in the professional world, we’re adults now. We’re not going to be hurting each other in these ways, especially not at work, where you’re there for a reason. We’re all there to make money, to make something happened. And so when I was assaulted in a workplace, it shook my world in a lot of ways, because also that’s where I make my money. And then all of a sudden, it was this really unsafe place to be. I checked all the boxes of what you’re supposed to do. I reported it, I went to the police, I did all these things, and absolutely nothing happened.
And so that I had already had a background in crisis counseling. But for me, it really motivated me to say, like, we should be safe everywhere, but you should be able to go to work and be safe and to not fear for your safety, your livelihood, and for all of these. It’s already stressful enough to go to work. You shouldn’t have to worry about your bodily autonomy and your safety there. And if something does happen, because violence happens in different places, you should have the expectation that it will be dealt with professionally and in a straightforward way. It shouldn’t get dragged into this long, dramatic affair. It shouldn’t be gossip. It should be just handled. And so that was what motivated me to do this work that didn’t happen in the music industry. That happened in a different industry. But I had worked in the music industry previously. I love working in the music industry. I think it’s more fun, more creative, but also there’s really not an infrastructure around sexual violence and harassment in particular in the music industry. And seeing that huge gap in this industry where a lot of my friends and loved ones work, that was really what drew me to do the sexual violence prevention response work specifically within the industry.
And so for me, the motivation was more around the workplace side of it. I certainly do fan safety as well, but IEM really in it for ensuring that people have safe workplaces.
Wow, what a thing to experience. So now I know it’s happened to you. There are other people who are listening who know what’s happened to them. Do you have any statistics or a sense of how prevalent this is today in live events? And I guess the music industry, we.
Don’T have great data around specifically how often this happens in the music industry. We’ve done some surveying personally at Colin Crows around the fan experience of it. So in 2018, we did a survey. We surveyed about 1000 music fans who had attended a live event in the last five years. I believe it was something like 700 people had attended something. They’ve reported over a thousand incidents of harassment. And there were plenty of people who hadn’t experienced it. I think that’s important. Not everyone is going and being harassed at these shows and festivals, but what that means is many people are being targeted multiple times, experiencing harassment multiple times, and that ranged from catcalling to groping to drugging to rape. It was quite a spectrum of incidents that were reported, and that included both concerts and festivals. So it’s being done on the work side of things. We haven’t done surveying around that, but generally in workplaces, we do know that you’ll see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has done some things. There’s not updated numbers, but I was pretty shocked at this is quite frequent. Many people have experienced harassment, but an alarming number of people have experienced assault in the workplace, which I thought would be quite rare.
It was alarmingly high. I believe it’s something like seven to 12% of assaults happen in the workplace.
Okay, and what is it about the music industry that makes it, I guess, the entire live event industry, especially high risk for sexual harassment?
Yeah, so it has a handful of key risk factors. So alcohol is prevalent, drugs are prevalent. There’s huge power dynamics. Think about really famous artists and then the hourly employees or fans. There’s just so many different layers of power dynamics that are at play. And at its core, harassment is about power. So those are two big ones, and then there’s some other pieces. So workplaces themselves tend to be quite homogeneous. So there’s a lot of, for example, a lot of white dudes working in the music industry. So even though the industry might have, like, genres that are diverse, or, like, when you think about music, it’s actually, like, incredibly representative. There’s so much going on when you look back behind the scenes, it’s quite homogeneous in terms of the workforce. Those are things that are all known risk factors for violence in the workplace.
So at last year’s Live Sound Summit, you gave this great talk called Harassment in Live Music how you can be part of the solution. And if you would like to watch that, I recommend that you do it’s at Live Sound Summit. 2021 sounded onlive.com. But I’ll tell you the shortcut, the big takeaway for me is that you have to educate yourself on the topic. So you need to know what is harassment. You need to know that it is a workplace safety issue at its core, and you need to understand how you can be part of the solution, understanding these things, how you can it’s like.
You can be involved. You can disrupt violence is oftentimes how I talk about it.
Yeah, I guess that’s what I want to say, is that there’s so many more places and ways and levels at which you can be disrupting violence and stopping something before it gets out of hand than I really considered. So that’s my pitch for people to watch that whole thing. But there was a follow up question that I wanted to ask you. And I know you are not a lawyer, and so you can’t speak to everyone’s personal conditions and their city and state and country, but I know that there are different laws that affect freelancers versus employees. And so I wondered if you could just give a little overview of what you know about those differences and then I guess, where people could go next to find more answers.
Sexual harassment is a legal concept that applies to employment law. Specifically, sexual harassment is nothing you go to the police for. It’s a thing you go to your boss for, right? And then if the protections come from a government agency called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the EEOC and freelancers have different protections, meaning fewer protections than employees do within that, as you said, like a Mueller. And it gets super specific. Like, protections aren’t always in place if a company has fewer than 50 people in certain states, and for other states, it’s five people. And so those are things where you really do want to look up, like your own state laws, to understand what protections are in place for you as an employee or a freelancer, because even sometimes being an employee of a small company, you don’t have the same protections in place. But generally, freelancers have a lot fewer protections in place for them, meaning your legal avenues for accountability just aren’t there. And so much of what we try to do as an organization at colonel crows is to push people to look beyond the legal lens and to say, everyone deserves a safe workplace, whether they’re a freelancer, whether employee of a tiny company or a huge company and to not follow the legal guidelines as the bare minimum of what you’re doing as an employer.
And to say, actually, we want you to have safety regardless. And we want you to know how you can get help if your safety is violated. Because you can’t guarantee a harassment free workplace. You just cannot. But you can guarantee a workplace that’s responsive to harassment, and that will ensure that if you’re harmed, you’re supported after the fact.
Kim, would you be willing to tell us about one painful mistake you’ve made on the job and what happened afterwards?
Yeah, I have many painful mistakes in this job.
How to pick just one?
I’ll pick one. Don’t worry. I think for me, I often try to walk this line of being very professional, but also very personable, because when you think about someone who walks into a job as like, the sexual harassment lady, people are terrified of me and do not want to hang out with me. They’re like, I don’t want to say the wrong thing around Kim. I do not want to make a bad joke and get fired.
I’m going to get in trouble.
I’m going to get in trouble. Or also she’s just going to think, I’m a bad person sometimes. It’s not really like, there she’s going.
To see into my soul.
I’m going to make a joke, and she’s going to see that one time I make fun of my mom, and I still feel guilty about it. And so I tried to walk aside being really fun, and sometimes I’ll make a joke just to be like, see, I can make jokes, too. You’re fine. We’re all human here. But I remember, and I don’t remember what the joke was, but I made some sort of joke that was meant to be like, See, I can play, too. And it just fell flat on its face. And people were like, really? Not. They’re like, I can’t believe you just said that. And I was like, I can’t either. Oh, my God. And it was just this, like, I was trying so hard to fit in, right, and to be part of the joke and to not be like the sexual harassment cop that I went outside my own values and made a joke that I didn’t I couldn’t stand by. And the way that I recovered was by not being defensive. I just said, you’re right. I crossed the line, and I was vulnerable in that moment. I was like, Look, I am trying to make it so that you all feel like you can be yourselves around me so much that I went over the top to show that it’s okay for you to make a joke around me.
I don’t want to have to do that anymore. But it would really be helpful if you all would just be yourselves around me and stop treating me like a sexual harassment cop, because they would say it out loud. And that was a really important moment for that group of us to say, like, hey, we’re all a little uncomfortable with this. I messed up. But also, here’s what would help me to not mess up as much, because I’m feeling really out of place here and I don’t know how to navigate this. And I think that vulnerability and that ask for help rather than getting defensive was really key in being able to recover pretty quickly.
Kim, what’s one book that has been really helpful for you?
That’s a good question. What book? I don’t remember the name of it, and it’s really dark. I’ll just name that, although you did share that in the beginning of this that I studied in Rwanda. But there was a book that I read in Rwanda about it was all accounts of genocide survivors and the way that it was just these, like, beautiful human stories, many of which were very painful, but in lots of different ways. And oftentimes in ways that surprised me, that it was maybe they lost a parent, or maybe they were part of the genocide, that they actually had to kill someone. Or like, there were all of these incredible first person essays, and it just really helped. Ground me in how to work in what I consider to be like, antiviolence work while still holding the humanity not only of the victim, but of the person who caused harm. That. I think that study, and that book in particular, really helped me to remember that we all just are humans, like, trying to navigate through this world, and that even when we mess up in the most horrific and violent of ways, there’s a path to justice, there’s a path to redemption, and there’s a path to reconciliation.
If the people involved want that. And I think that I carry that with me and really think about how to hold space for not only the person that was harmed, but the person who caused harm so that we can continue to work and live and find joy together.
What about podcasts? Do you listen to podcasts?
I have a daily news. Like, I listen to what a Day, which is a news podcast. Definitely not religiously, but I find it funny. It is news, but they have some humor around it and that makes me a little more palatable for me. And then the one that I try to listen to really frequently is called On Being by Krista Tippett. Yeah. And I really love those conversations. I think she’s a great interviewer, but also just people’s different takes on spirituality and these big topics taken in a small way. I really love that.
Yeah, there’s a thing that I heard on Being recently related to the book you were just talking about, which is that everybody it really helps to remember that everybody is doing their best with whatever their level of perception is in the moment. And it can be so hard to do that when you get caught up with feeling unfairly treated and someone else did something to me and you start building up a case against them and telling all your friends or whatever. And somehow if you can always come back to whatever’s happening, that person is also and I’m also doing the best I can. Anyway, sorry. I also like that podcast a lot. Yeah, it’s really good. So Kim, where is the best place for people to follow your work?
You can go to Colonelcrows.org or we’re on all the social media things, Calling All Crows. Those are the best places. I think the work that I do is under the Here for the Music campaign. That’s key for you. Calling All Crows doesn’t only do sexual violence prevention work in the music industry, we’re really an organization that’s focused on engaging musicians and their fans and people who love music in activism and in community work. And to hear from the music campaign specifically, we believe that in order for people to make their communities stronger, they need to be safe where they’re enjoying music or where they’re working in music. And so that campaign allows us to do the other work that we do by building safety into the places that we’re trying to create.
What is the symbol of the crow for you?
So the founder of the organization, Chadwick Stokes, he’s a musician and he has a song named Calling All Crows, but that song is really about movement building. And he talks about how crows, they have theology in a bunch of different cultures, but they’re also very family oriented and just really smart. And so there’s just this sort of idea of building family building connection, looking out for each other and really being able to work together to create change.
Well, that’s great. Well, Kim Warnick, thank you so much for joining me on Sound Design Live.
Thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.