January and February mark festival lineup season, which in turn means that you may well have seen your music journos of choice grumbling online once again about the lack of female representation on the bills released so far (or heard your boyfriend grumbling about Reading and Leeds). And while 2018 has shown some improvement (read, for example, my thoughts on the Primavera Sound and Field Day lineups), at this point, flagging up gender disparity in music festivals feels like a yearly ritual – a shit, boring one, like doing your taxes. A new initiative hopes to put a stop to that.
PRS Foundation (the same group who brought us ReBalance, a scheme that attempts to give woman artists a helping hand into the industry) and their initiative Keychange are today announcing their campaign to encourage international music festivals to pledge gender parity on lineups by 2022. In Keychange's own words:
"Keychange is a pioneering European initiative which is empowering women to transform the future of the music industry and encouraging festivals to achieve a 50:50 balance by 2022. 60 emerging artists and innovators from across Europe will be invited to international festivals to take part in a series of showcases, collaborations and a programme of creative labs. Backed up by an innovation fund for the network to test new projects and ideas, Keychange aims to accelerate change and create a better more inclusive music industry for present and future generations."
Forty-five music festivals globally have already committed to participate for 2018 under the Keychange banner, which is pretty amazing. In the UK, those festivals include the BBC Proms, Wales' Sŵn festival, 53 Degrees North, and BBC Music's Introducing stages at festivals across the country. Beyond, the initiative extends to mainline Europe. As Susanna Fellner, of Waves Vienna festival said: “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."
The push for equal representation for women in music on festival lineups couldn't really have come at a better time, in the wake of the Grammys gender row, and following on from #MeToo, which highlighted a number of the issues women in the music industry face. As we've said on this site before, much of the responsibility for festival bills more accurately reflecting the actual demographic make-up of society rests with the bookers. Let's hope that Keychange's power and influence continues to swell – if more festivals join up, that goal of gender balance by 2022 seems pretty attainable.
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