Posted On: Mar. 7, 2018


PRS Foundation’s International Keychange initiative gathers politicians, artists and the music industry at the Canadian High Commission this evening to celebrate a milestone moment on the journey to decreasing the gender gap in music. In a pioneering move, 45 international music industry conferences and festivals including four leading Canadian events have made a pledge towards achieving or maintaining a 50/50 gender balance across their festivals by 2022 (including live line-ups, conferences and commissions). They are:

53 Degrees North (England), Aldeburgh Festival (England), Blissfields (England), Bluedot (England), Borealis (Norway), BreakOut West (Canada), By:Larm (Norway), Canadian Music Week (Canada), Cheltenham Jazz Festival (England), Cheltenham Music Festival (England), Eurosonic Noorderslag (Netherlands), FOCUS Wales (Wales), Granada Experience (Spain), Hard Working Class Heroes (Ireland), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (England), A2IM Indie Week (USA), BBC Music Introducing Stages (UK), Katowice JazzArt Festival (Poland), Kendal Calling (England), Liverpool International Music Festival (England), Liverpool Sound City (England), Manchester Jazz Festival (England), Midem (France), Norwich Sound and Vision (England), North By North East (Canada), NYC Winter Jazzfest (USA), Off The Record (England), Oslo World (Norway), Pop-Kultur (Germany), BBC Proms (England), Roundhouse Rising (England), Spitalfields Music (England), Sŵn (Wales), Trondheim Calling (Norway), Waves Vienna (Austria), Westway LAB (Portugal), Wide Days (Scotland), Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival (France)

This follows the gender balance commitment proposed by Keychange’s founding festival partners which are Reeperbahn Festival (Germany), BIME (Spain), Iceland Airwaves, Way Out West (Sweden), Musikcentrum Sweden, Tallinn Music Week (Estonia), MUTEK (Canada) and The Great Escape (UK).

Keychange is a pioneering international initiative supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union which is empowering women to transform the future of the music industry and encouraging industry conferences and festivals to achieve or maintain a 50:50 balance by 2022. By bringing together like-minded festivals and conference programmers committed to positive action, Keychange aims to create much needed long-term change in live music and beyond.

Vanessa Reed, CEO of PRS Foundation said:

“We support diverse talent across every programme we run at PRS Foundation. 40% of our grantees in 2017 were from a BAME background and 53% featured female artists. Our focus on gender equality in 2018 aligns with the centenary for some women being given the vote in the UK. 100 years on, the push for gender parity across society continues and with increased public awareness of inequalities across the creative industries we have an opportunity to respond and commit to tangible change in music. The Keychange network of female artists and industry professionals and the festival partners’ idea of establishing a collective pledge will significantly accelerate change. I hope that this will be the start of a more balanced industry which will result in benefits for everyone.”

Alex Schulz, Founding Partner, Reeperbahn Festival said:

Reeperbahn Festival is proud to be a founding Keychange partner because we recognise the barriers that women are facing in the music industry and we know that our festival stages aren’t as balanced as we would like them to be. Keychange is promoting a shift that will ultimately be good for our festivals and good for the industry as a whole.  I hope that many more festivals will have joined with us by the end of this year, making this a global movement.

Festivals are making a commitment relative to their own event, engaging with the gender balance pledge in a way that best makes sense to their programme and music genre, including through their line-ups, conference panels or commissions.

To date, the Keychange programme has included a series of popular panels and showcases at Reeperbahn Festival, BIME, Iceland Airwaves and most recently Eurosonic to explore how men and women can work together to accelerate change and to promote role models for the next generations. As well as announcing the 60 strong network of Keychange artists and innovators from across Europe, these panels have featured leading men and women including Garbage’s Shirley Manson, artist Nadine Shah, Reeperbahn Festival director Alex Schulz, President of Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed and more.

This milestone moment at the Canada High Commission is only the beginning for the Keychange initiative as it strives to engage further festivals in the gender balance pledge in the coming months. The time for a shake up in the music industry has come. The Keychange festivals are firmly at the forefront, paving the way for progress across the industry as a whole.

High profile ambassadors of Keychange include Shirley Manson, legendary producer Tony Visconti, Madrid’s indie rockers Hinds, German singer-songwriter Alexa Feser, Publisher Paulette Long OBE and more. Find their quotes of support here.

Alongside the festival campaign, Keychange is supporting a network of artists and innovators who are invited to international festivals to take part in a series of showcases, collaborations and a programme of creative labs. By investing in talent and collaborating with a broad range of music industry partners, Keychange aims to create a better more inclusive music industry for present and future generations.

Keychange is led by PRS Foundation, supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, in partnership with Musikcentrum Sweden, Reeperbahn Festival, Iceland Airwaves, BIME, Tallinn Music Week, Way Out West, The Great Escape and MUTEK.

It will include, later this year, an event in Brussels at the European Parliament, at which Keychange partners will present a manifesto based on contributions from Keychange participants, partners and associate festivals.

For more information on Keychange please visit here and for PRS Foundation please visit here.

Quotes from participating festivals:

“We have always aimed for a 50/50 gender balance with our music projects and wider work, and being a part of this great initiative holds us completely accountable to practice what we preach. We are extremely excited to be committing to Keychange moving forward and can’t wait to see the positive impacts it has upon our industry.” – Stewart Baxter, 53 Degrees North

“A2IM is committed to gender equality in all its endeavors and is excited to partner with PRS Foundation’s Keychange. Now is the time!.” – Richard James Burgess, A2IM (American Association of Independent Music)

“Borealis strongly believes that equal gender balance makes better programming. Since 2017 the festival has programmed an equal number of female and male composers and headline artists, and has committed the festival to this for the future. We work hard to encourage our colleagues across the classical and experimental music scenes to see the value of this decision, and becoming a Keychange associate allows us to join with likeminded festivals around the world to achieve this.”  – Peter Meanwell & Tine Rude, Borealis

“Though BreakOut West festival is curated through an impartial jury process, we do and will continue to focus our outreach to a wide scope of the industry, supporting a balanced genre base in the submission process. We see this resulting in a balance in the selected showcasing artists year to year. With respect to music entrepreneurs engaged in the conference programming, we have a balance of diversity at front of mind throughout the programming process to ensure a representative balance of leaders and mentors from which new industry and artists can learn. We find maintaining this balance to be incredibly important in ensuring the artists and industry involved felt relatable and included and found that achieving this balance to be a natural fit and not to affect our goal to produce the highest level programming in any way.” –  Robyn Stewart, BreakOut West

“Actions generate attitude and it starts with talent! That’s why the talent focused showcase festival by:Larm is delighted to sign up for the 50:50 pledge and join the Keychange initiative.” – Linnéa Svensson, By:Larm

“At Canadian Music Week, we have always strived to create diverse programming that is reflective of both audience interest and the current landscape of the industry. We are proud to partner with Keychange in an effort to strive for the excellence that our community deserves.”  Neill Dixon, Canadian Music Week

“ESNS has joined Keychange proudly. Congratulations on a great initiative and example for the rest of our industry. Let’s do all we can to make the 50/50 aim work by 2022 or earlier. But let’s not forget that this is not covering the whole industry, there is much more work to do to make this a fairer and more equal world.” – Ruud Berends, Eurosonic Noorderslag

‘FOCUS Wales are proud to be signing up to the Keychange initiative to tackle gender inequality in the music industry. It’s great to see this happening, and about time too.’ – Andy Jones, Focus Wales

“The focus for this year’s Granada Experience is ‘Women in the Arts’, so our involvement with Keychange is entirely fitting. We are delighted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with so many fantastic European events to promote the initiative’s mission and values.”– Pepe Rodriguez, Granada Experience

“Hard Working Class Heroes has long seen the rise in the number of new acts forming with female fronts or members and will always challenge the argument that “the talent isn’t there.” It’s there and we will do our best every year to showcase it to you. We are committed to presenting music of all genres and gender to new and young audiences because we truly believe if you see it you can be it. Half our audience is female so it makes sense that that should be reflected on stage too.” – Angela Dorgan, Hard Working Class Heroes

“Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival is proud to be part of the Keychange initiative, and to reaffirm our commitment not only to achieving gender equality in terms of work commissioned by the festival, premiered at the festival and soloists presented at the festival, but to providing an ongoing programme of activities designed to create opportunities for female music-makers and explore and challenge barriers to women choosing music as a career option. We’re so excited to take this vital step towards challenging the underrepresentation of women in the music industry, and especially to do so as part of such an inspiring community of organisations and festivals.” – Róisín Hughes & Graham McKenzie, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

“Building gender awareness among music industry specialists still remains a huge challenge in Poland. Discussions on the winners and the nominees of the music awards yet again started a fiery discussion and proved that lack of gender equality has been taken for granted, even by acclaimed journalists in our country. However, that convinces us that we should gather, talk about our situation openly and keep on working. JazzArt festival is governed, programmed and designed by women. Therefore we want to stand for women artists to let them being exposed in the way they deserve it.” – Martyna Markowska, Katowice JazzArt Festival

“Championing equality is at the heart of what we do at Sound City, across our festival and conference programme and within our organisation we strive for diversity in everything we do. We’re delighted to be part of Keychange which we believe has come at exactly the right time for the live music industry and will be an important advocate for powerful change in the international festival landscape over the next 4 years.” – Rebecca Ayres, Liverpool Sound City

I’m delighted and proud that mjf is a Keychange associate, and it’s humbling that our ambitions and achievements towards creating a more gender-balanced jazz industry are being celebrated with this initiative. There is of course plenty more to do, but I hope that, together, we can continue to inspire others to effect change for good. – Steve Mead, Manchester Jazz Festival

“Midem is the home of the global music community and as such we are dedicated to providing a platform that respects and promotes equality and diversity. By joining the KEYCHANGE programme and working alongside the PRS Foundation and the Creative Europe project, Midem reaffirms its commitment to supporting gender balance throughout its conferences and live performances,” – Alexandre Deniot, Midem

“Norwich Sound and Vision Festival is produced by Norwich Arts Centre whose core values it does not falter from. We have aimed over the last three years for at least 50% of programmed acts to be people who do not identify as male and so we are proud and honoured to agree, without any apprehension, to the principles of Keychange. This is yet another initiative from PRS Foundation that is paving the way for a future where equality is front and centre and where every person in an audience can see someone on stage with whom they identify.” – Rosie Arnold, Norwich Sound and Vision

“As a fervent supporter of gender equality, NYC Winter Jazzfest is proud to join Keychange. Pledging our continued gender balanced programming, we hope our progress acts as a beacon to inspire other music festivals beyond our jazz community.” – Brice Rosenbloom, NYC Winter Jazzfest

“Achieving gender equality in the music industry requires the joint engagement of men and women from the entire cultural sector. We are proud to be a part of the uniting movement of Keychange, aiming for a common and concrete goal of 50/50 balance by 2022. Reaching this goal it would not only be beneficial for the music industry but it is a priority that should be reached in an interdisciplinary context across the globe” – Alexandra Archetti Stølen, Oslo World

“Pop-Kultur festival was held for the first time in 2015 and is specifically dedicated to diversity. From our very first edition on, we actively ensured that Pop-Kultur’s conference and festival line-up was 50:50 gender-balanced, promoting a broad variety of extraordinary female and queer artists over the past three years. By being a part of the Keychange initiative we want to set an example, strengthen the promotion of our common objective and inspire other festivals to follow – making gender balanced festival line-ups become a norm and not an exception.” – Katja Lucker, Pop-Kultur

“Achieving a 50/50 gender balance of contemporary composers performed at the BBC Proms is something we have been committed too for some time and consider vital to the creative development of the world’s largest classical music festival. We are delighted to be partnering with PRS for the Keychange initiative, a crucial statement for gender equality by the arts industry both in the UK and internationally.” – David Pickard, BBC Proms

“Spitalfields Music is delighted to be a Keychange Associate Festival and underline our commitment to gender-balanced commissioning. We are proud to have met this target for our 2017 festival and look forward to being part of a vital movement to accelerate change and create a more inclusive music industry for present and future generations.” – Dominic Haddock, Spitalfields Music

“Sŵn Festival is delighted to join PRS Foundation in the Keychange initiative as we pledge to achieve full gender balance in our line-ups by 2022. We’ve always worked hard to ensure good representation, but the fact that we’ve had to work to do this always reminds us that opportunities are not equal. Keychange is an inspiring initiative that makes a commitment from us to the artists and to the fans that come to our festival. That we can set a benchmark for others to follow is something we are proud to be able to be a part of.” – John Rostron, Sŵn Festival

“We are really excited about signing up on the Keychange gender balance pledge and working more focused to achieve a 50:50 gender balance in our programme. As are many others, we are both sick of and bored by how male dominated the music industry is” – Thomas Ryjord, Trondheim Calling

“The fact that women are still underrepresented in the music business – on stage as well as behind the stage or working in management and other leading positions – is undeniable. But so is the fact that there are thousands of exceptionally competent and talented women working in these fields. Contributing to an initiative like Keychange in order to reach a gender balance of 50:50 and thereby empower women and their visibility in the music business and above seems a perfectly natural thing to do. Waves Vienna is happy to be part of Keychange.” – Susanna Fellner, Waves Vienna

“In 2015 our Off The Record youth music business event became the first in the UK to programme an equal number of male and female speakers. The following year our Wide Days convention showcase featured a majority of acts fronted by women and in 2017 we succeeded in getting a gender balance across our conference panelists. By joining Keychange, we hope to share our experience of programming gender-balanced events, participate in a wider network and learn from other industry platforms.” – Olaf Furniss, Wide Days

“An initiative like Keychange provides clear goals and measures for festivals who are already committed to presenting audiences with more diverse line-ups. By giving discrimination an ultimatum, we’re ensuring that equality will eventually be the norm, and we’re very proud for Kendal Calling, Blue Dot and Off The Record to be a part of the progress.” – Emma Zillmann, From The Fields (Kendal Calling, Blue Dot, Off The Record)