Oh, the DM. Scroll through my Twitter direct messages or Facebook inbox and you will certainly find an unwanted graveyard of ignored memos. There they sit - the introductions, the pleasantries, the propositions, the opportunities, the pitches and the pleaded favors - unbothered and untouched. I quickly learned a long time ago that there's not too much in there for me, definitely not for my career's benefit and especially not for my peace of mind. As a general rule, no message starting with "hey beautiful" shall prosper.

We can crack jokes about it all day, but the social media boys club, through screen-grabs and 140-character reaches, have turned the DM into an idealised and sexualized digital hub long before Yo Gotti furthered its momentum and celebrated its accessibility with a club-centric anthem this past year. But earlier this month, a single hashtag engrossed the UK Twittersphere, drawing attention to the real dangers of the direct message and the unsettling warning signs attributed to people's motives in the creative industries of music and fashion, who use the privilege of convenience for ulterior motives, under the guise of networking opportunities, professional exposure and portfolio additions.

On January 7, the hashtag #TheKitchenPortraits exposed "creepy photographers," while alleging one man specifically had been messaging dozens of young aspiring models through Twitter DMs with the promise of opportunity and exposure, while lying to them and harassing them in the process. But while this eye-opening instance in particular gained fervent attention, it's no secret that plenty of men take advantage of, and in other cases, even prey on young women looking to make something of themselves in their respective fields. What many don't realize however, is that in various levels of degree - from blatant virtual cat-calls to misogynistic micro-aggressions - it happens to a larger handful of women working in the still very visibly male-dominated music industry then we even talk about.

So we asked eight successful women working behind the scenes - ranging from writers and editors to publicists, promoters to radio hosts - what their DMs look like specifically and how they respond when professional boundaries are crossed. As experts in what they do, how are women supposed to decode ulterior motives when they're approached within the confines of social media, in a place where they're so accessible and personal and business attributions coincide? Unsurprisingly, they too had a lot to say.


Jenna Jarrett - Press Officer at Pardon My Blog

One of the things I find super annoying on Twitter mainly is, artists that have never spoken to me or even follow me sending me links to their music. I'm a nice person and often have a listen as I love hearing new music and keeping on the lookout for all things new but it's a major pet hate. Just say hello rather than randomly tweeting me a link, I am more likely to take action with the music if they have introduced themselves.

I have also had a few creeps, naming no names, who claim to be part of the industry, wanting to meet up and discuss working together, who then twist it around and try and flirt. I don't care how big you are in the industry or how much of an opportunity you are trying to give me. If you make me feel uncomfortable on any level before we have even met, it's a straight no.

I'm a friendly person and often reply to messages as I am keen on getting as much experience as possible, but keep it professional please. I think people think that because it's Twitter it's casual, but many people like myself use it for professional purposes. It's a platform to promote what I do and for that reason, I try and keep it professional as possible although you will often see the odd tweet about going out and silly little things. But that's my personality and I feel you can really get to know who I am and about me in general from Twitter - to be fair, I mainly tweet song lyrics or moan about trains being late!


Anonymous social media editor

He was a well-known guy in Toronto, and I guess, well-respected. So when he originally reached out to me through social media and wanted to connect, I was flattered to say the least. I had kind of just started my career as a writer, was still a little bit insecure about it and he gassed me. I featured him in a couple of my articles, we built a cool relationship and we chilled from time to time. Things got weird when one time (and I take part of the blame) we were at his house and he said, "You know if you let me, I'd f*ck the sh*t out of you." I didn't burn the bridge completely after that, but I definitely started to distance myself.


Jill Krajewski - columnist for Apt613 and freelance music writer

It's difficult to proceed with a colleague you've sought or hope to seek career guidance from when they slide into your DMs. I completely froze up when someone in the industry -- after a month of tweeting each other about likeminded things on a professional level -- asked me out to drinks.

Do I humour him, or will rejecting him compromise my ability to network? It's a dangerous, false debate that women in the industry face when really there's another option: just don't reply. It took a guyfriend's suggestion for me to realize it, and it's made all the difference. If someone makes you uncomfortable, they don't get a right of reply. Let your read receipt do the talking.


Anonymous concert promoter

I have a lot of local rappers sliding into my DMs to listen to their 'mixtape' or 'fire track' with 'over 2000' plays and they're 'looking to open up for (insert large act here).' I have local IG photographers who want a media pass to every show but have no outlet - they just want the access. I get girls even, who slide into my DMs because they probably assume I kick it in the green room all night.


Tiana - from Canadian music blog Ride the Tempo.

Luckily, I've never had any creepy messages regarding industry related things. What I find is that men tend to think I will just hand things to them because I am a girl and appear nice or something. A typical conversation on Facebook Message for example frequently starts like:

Dude: "Hey how is it going?"

Me: "Good"

Dude: "Can you please post/check out this song?" or "I'm playing a show, can you review it?" or "I see you are working for _____ now, are there any openings?"

It is rarely subtle. I know the second a dude talks to me that they're going to ask for something. I actually specifically state in my profile that I do not want to get pitched there, but that doesn't stop them. I never get such request from girls. I've made it harder to send me a friend request on FB (we must have mutual friends) and don't accept requests from people who look like they will message me the second I hit "accept."

I'm the same on Twitter. I tend not to follow many artists, unless I enjoy what they are like as a person and not just as a marketer. That's what is important for me in regards to social media. I'm so sick of following "brands." I surprisingly do get the occasional "Hey sweetie, I just dropped a new track" type messages from people that I thought would know better. I tend to just ignore this as I do most social media pitches. In terms of DM and messaging etiquette, be a real person. Get to know me before you pitch me. If I like you as a person, I'm more likely to check out your music or help you out.


Anonymous publicist

Starting out as a journalist I was keen to gain experience writing for multiple blogs and sites. I found a site I loved, and applied to write there via the editor who was male. He gave me a position as a daily writer and said he'd need my number to contact me regarding posts. When I gave him my number, I started to receive messages from him regarding posts on my Instagram and Twitter. Lines like "You look so hot in that shirt." Not what I expected, or wanted, from a colleague.

As a publicist, I have also had experiences from male journalists who presume that your repeated emails are a romantic pursuit. As well as from one male client, who asked his manager to ask me out on a date when we were on a shoot. It's just awkward and unprofessional, and i don't think it would happen so readily, in another industry.


Sarah Sussman - Associate Editor-in-chief of HipHopCanada

When I first started working in the industry I made it my mandate to never have relations with artists. It's a conflict of interest and it's always a terrible idea to mix business with pleasure. I don't date rappers. That's my thing. I stick to it. Most guys in the industry know this by now and for the most part it's respected. But - of course - I've still had my fair share of problems.

One time I conducted an interview with a high-profile rapper who came through Calgary on tour. We had a great interview - arguably one of the most emotional and honest interviews I've had. But at the end of the interview when the cameras were off, things got weird. He asked me if I had a boyfriend to which I responded that I did not. Then he asked me how old I was. I was 21 at the time. He asked if he could be my boyfriend. I thought he was joking so I laughed it off and left the venue to go to another interview at a nearby hotel. Within the hour, said rapper had slid into my Twitter DM with the classic "Wya?" Ick.


Anonymous

One things I've always noticed on Twitter (I barely know how to use the Insta DM function) is the way guys approach you. I'm pretty naive so if a dude slides into my DM's with a pretty "normal" looking message, I'll reply. Things normally start to turn a little bit fishy by the third or so message, the convo begins to digress. My advice, keep it professional and witty, but if they don't handle that ego bruise well, there's always the block button.

DM: "You got a boyfriend"

Me: Lol

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