Business News Education & Events The Great Escape 2014

Positive steps towards a less misogynist music industry discussed at The Great Escape

By | Published on Tuesday 13 May 2014

Blurred Lines

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.

Asked if the industry should or could do anything about male artists who create misogynistic lyrics or videos, or female artists who choose to give sexualised performances, all agreed that they would like to see more industry and media support for those artists who wanted to move away from that domain, with Lorde coming into particular focus. Though there was also a resistance to censoring artists who are doing the opposite.

“I think there’s a lot of female popstars who do genuinely believe that they’re empowering themselves”, said Andrews. “But there’s a – dare I say it – blurred line between whether you are empowering yourself or you are just exploiting yourself. I don’t think you should censor any artist. It’s up to her if she wants to put that content out, and it’s up to us as an industry to decide if there are blocks in place to stop children and young girls from accessing this, but that’s a much wider debate about the internet”.

On how the music industry feeds into this, Long said: “Everyone in the music industry wants to quantify success in some way, whether that’s number of streams on SoundCloud or number of likes on YouTube, and because record sales aren’t what they used to be, that’s the way that you say something’s successful and obviously you’re going to get way more views if you do something that’s causing controversy”.

“I think that there must be some correlation between this trend and record companies struggling to sell records”, agreed Clive. “I think a lot of things have become safe – these images are shocking, but in some ways they’re a no brainer”.

The lack of women behind the scenes in certain areas of the industry can also cause problems. A&R still being predominantly a male domain was singled out as a continuing issue, though the panel said that other parts of the business – particularly booking agents, management and live promotion – have changed to include a more even gender split in recent years.

“We were looking at some stats the other day and we found that agents, promoters, managers are almost at 50/50 now, in terms of male/female”, said Clive. “But it’s actually the area of sound technicians, producers and A&R that are really imbalanced”.

As for the impact that has on the artist community, Clive continued: “I think it’s hard for female artists touring around venues with predominantly male crews, front of house, tech. I think that has been difficult for bands like Savages, Warpaint. You’re sometimes treated like you don’t know how to tune your own guitar because you’re female”.

More women are beginning to come into technical roles within the industry, but John Robb noted that in general many men still feel like they “own the idea of buttons moving backwards and forwards”.

Even where positive changes are being made, things can still be held back by people not considering what effect seemingly minor actions might have. Claire Southwick told a story of a studio manager proudly telling her that he’d hired two female interns and had used them on a lot of recording sessions. However, he said that a lot of male bands specifically requested a male engineer when they come in to record because they “don’t want a female engineer in the studio because they can’t concentrate”.

In these situations, the studio manager admitted, he’d bowed to the band’s request, rather than point out the stupidity of it.

Sticking with this point, both Southwick and Andrews said that their rise up the industry ladder had only really begun when they’d given up trying to come in through more traditional routes and left to start their own companies.

“That’s a story that you hear quite a lot from women in the industry”, said Andrews. “That at some point we just go, ‘fuck this’ and start off ourselves. And a lot of us have done quite well with it, but it’s sad in a way that we have to move out of the industry to go and get that platform, but also brilliant because we can go and make it on our own a fold back into the industry”.

You can listen to this discussion in full here:

And read all of our articles on the ‘Blurred Lines’ strand at this year’s Great Escape, and listen to all four sessions in full here.