The Musicians’ Union carried out a survey of 725 artists and found that 48% said they had been sexually harassed while working.
And 85% of victims fear speaking out due to a culture with “few consequences for the perpetrators”, the union said.
High-profile figures such as Lily Allen, Madonna and Cardi B have spoken out about sexual abuse and misconduct in the industry in recent years, with Allen claiming in her 2018 memoir My Thoughts Exactly that she was sexually assaulted by a record executive when she was drunk at a party.
Earlier this year, Brit Award nominee Chloe Howl told Sky News that sexual abuse is widespread at every level of the industry and there are “more systems in place to protect the abusers” than victims.
“I know masses of girls in the industry who have handled sexual assault, who have been raped by a member of their team, harassed by a member of their team, who have basically been threatened that the flow of their career will be stopped if they don’t appease to what [the abusers] want, and for a lot of these girls it’s stopped their career,” she said.
The Musicians’ Union claims that most affected young artists end up leaving the industry and is calling on the government to introduce tougher legislation to stop abuse.
Deputy general secretary Naomi Pohl said: “We are aware of far too many cases of talented musicians, particularly young or emerging artists, leaving the industry altogether due to sexism, sexual harassment or abuse.
“Many musicians who have gone public with their story are now being taken to court for defamation – evidence of the situation we’re dealing with.
“Survivors are often unable to speak out because the consequences for their career or personal life are devastating.
“In most cases we’re aware of, the survivor ends up leaving the workplace or the industry and there are very few consequences for the perpetrator.”
More than half of the musicians surveyed said they felt the culture of the industry was the greatest barrier to reporting any form of abuse, the union said. About 60% said that working on a freelance basis, without the same safeguards as those available to those in fixed employment, put them at greater risk.
In a statement, an anonymous musician who spoke to the union said: “I reported sexual harassment by a high-profile individual to a major employer in the industry.
“I was told this was just ‘lad culture’ by the person investigating my complaint. No wonder such a high proportion of issues go unreported.”
Top reasons given in the research for not speaking out were fear of losing work, believing the issue would not be handled properly, and fear of claims not being taken seriously.
The union is asking the public to sign a petition directed at Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss, calling for freelancers to be given “an equal level of protection to those in fixed employment”.
The government equalities office has responded to say abuses “must be stopped” and that a consultation on how current laws can be improved had just finished.
“We proposed a number of measures to strengthen and clarify the law so that we can provide explicit protections to anyone who experiences this vile behaviour in the workplace,” a spokeswoman said.