The Great Escape 2014

Blurred Lines: Does pop have a misogyny problem?

By | Published on Friday 16 May 2014

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke’s hit ‘Blurred Lines’ was the biggest selling record of 2013, but also one of the most controversial songs of the year.

As critics accused the track and its video of sending out irresponsibly misogynistic messages, a newly-charged debate began online about the way pop music portrays women, especially to younger audiences. Should the industry take a stand on this issue, or would doing so meddle with the creative freedoms of songwriters and performers, male and female? Is part of the problem that behind the scenes there is still a gender imbalance in music? Only 14% of the PRS membership are women. What can be realistically done to address this issue, and do controversies like that which surrounded ‘Blurred Lines’ help or hinder in that process?

At this year’s CMU Insights-programmed Great Escape convention, we brought together artists, journalists, campaigners and leading music industry execs to debate the issues in a strand hosted by Radio 1 DJ Jen Long.

The debate so far
Ahead of the ‘Blurred Lines’ strand at TGE, CMU Publisher Caroline Moses surveyed the debate that was kicked started by Robin Thicke’s controversial, presenting the key points and quotes that have been made to date.

Read the article in full here.

Does pop have a misogyny problem?
The issue of misogyny in pop is part of a wider societal issue, concluded the first of the Blurred Lines panels that took place at CMU Insight-programmed Great Escape Convention on Saturday. But there are things that the music industry could do, both on its own and in tandem with other sectors, to make positive changes.

Chaired by Radio 1’s Jen Long, the panel featured Cooking Vinyl’s Sammy Andrews, Coda’s Stephanie Clive, Transgressive’s Claire Southwick and John Robb from Louder Than War.

Read our write-up and listen to the discussion in full here.

The American dimension
Following discussion of how the UK music industry could adapt to improve its representation of women, in the second part of the pop misogyny strand at The Great Escape last weekend, the focus shifted to the US.

Because while there is a lot that could be done on a practical level to address how women are represented by and certainly within the music industry, given that the tracks and performances that caused most controversy this year mainly came from the US industry, what impact can we have without involving artists and labels from the States? Did the controversy over ‘Blurred Lines’ even register in America, and is there any movement towards change?

Chaired by John Robb, the panel featured four representatives of the US music industry, Adam Lewis of Planetary Group, Friendly Fire Recordings’ Dan Koplowitz, B3SCI’s Mike Clemenza and Atlantic Records A&R Mollie Moore.

Read our write-up and listen to the discussion in full here.

The video dimension
Having asked what steps could be taken to improve equality in the UK music industry, and what can be done about misogyny in pop when the most controversial music is coming out of the US, the third part of the ‘Blurred Lines’ strand at The Great Escape last week looked more deeply at music videos.

Led by Caroline Bottomley from Radar Music Videos, the debate included Phil Tidy, a prolific producer who has collaborated with Diane Martel, director of the ‘Blurred Lines’ video; Craig Haynes, content manager for electronic music YouTube channel UKF; Jerry Barnett, founder of free speech group Sex And Censorship; and De La Muerta (aka Deborah Scanlan and Elizabeth Adams), regular directors for artists such as Kyla La Grange, Lulu James and Chlöe Howl.

Read our write-up and listen to the discussion in full here.

This house believes British radio should have banned ‘Blurred Lines’
For the final part of the ‘Blurred Lines: Does Pop Have A Misogyny Problem?’ strand at The Great Escape last weekend, talk turned to the airplay Robin Thicke’s controversial hit has enjoyed on British radio.

Taking the title ‘This house believes that ‘Blurred Lines’ should have been banned on British radio’, the final session of the day took the format of a good old fashioned debate, with two sides stating their case and then arguing it out, under the watchful eye of Radio 1’s Jen Long.

Speaking for the motion were Caitlin Hayward-Tapp from the University Of Sussex Students’ Union, which did ban the song last year, and CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke, who noted that in his role as programmer of the Great Escape Convention, it had been very difficult to find anyone in the music industry or music radio willing to talk publicly in favour of banning the track from the airwaves. Meanwhile speaking against banning ‘Blurred Lines’ were two representatives of UK radio, Amazing Radio’s Ruth Barnes, and Edward Adoo from Mi-Soul.

Read our write-up and listen to the discussion in full here.

Listen to all four debates below: