Pin It
Keychange manifesto for music industry gender equality
Kat Frankie, one of the participants in the Keychange programme for gender equalityPhotography Francois de Ribaucourt

New manifesto details steps the music industry can take for gender equality

A manifesto from the pioneering international initiative Keychange was launched at the European Parliament last night, November 20

We know that the issue of gender inequality in the music industry is urgent: in 2018, just 14 per cent of performers at US festivals were women, and the gender pay gap at some of the biggest music-focused companies is a staggering 30 per cent. Of the world’s 600 most popular songs this year, only two per cent were produced by women. The statistics highlight a vital need for inclusivity and representation for women – on stage and behind the scenes. Statement Festival in Sweden, for example, was a direct response to sexual assaults in local festivals, and is for women only, and Mujeres en la Musica, a Spanish documentary campaign, highlighted that music industry money largely goes to men.

Working to combat these issues is Keychange, a pioneering music initiative bringing together the industry, national governments, European Parliament and the European Commission, with the aim of tackling the gender imbalance. Keychange, run by the PRS Foundation, has built a manifesto based on the work and ideas of women participating in their programme, which originally started as a talent development pool and sprung from there. That includes 60 emerging women artists and DJs from across Europe – like Jamz Supernova and Violet Skies – and seven international festivals across 18 months.

This manifesto builds on Keychange’s ask of music festivals and conferences to pledge a 50/50 gender balance on their line-ups by 2022. Over 130 festivals from 22 countries took them up on it, and we’re already seeing results.

“Festivals aren’t only festivals, they’re marketplaces for the music industry – that’s why it’s so important, we have influence on the headliners of tomorrow,” Alexander Schulz of Hamburg’s Reeperbahn festival explained.

Speaking at the manifesto launch at the European Parliament building in Brussels last night (November 20), Helen Sildna of Nordic festival Tallinn Music Week said: “Supporting women to boldly choose their path and career in music is a way to both upgrade the industry as well as to creative next generation role models in society, based on equal opportunities.”

Vanessa Reed, the CEO of PRS Foundation and the third ‘most powerful woman in the music industry’ behind Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, added that the programme was interested in “solutions not statistics”, and believes there’s “no excuse” for not working towards equality.

“I hope this first set of recommendations provides a powerful starting point for further debate about the best practical steps towards tangible and lasting improvements which will benefit everyone,” Reed said.

So what are those solutions? Keychange has called for collective action based on four areas they’ve identified for change: working conditions and the lack of senior role models, investments and funding, research into pay gaps and imbalances, and education.

They’re calling on the music industry to take direct action, like anonymising recruitment processes and investing in mentor and leadership schemes for artists and other professionals. In the age of #MeToo, they’re also suggesting that more detailed ethics and safety policies specifically around sexual harassment are vital, making artists and other professionals feel safe when reporting assault or discrimination.

Keychange also focuses on work that national governments can do, like introducing mandatory gender pay gap reporting for companies of all sizes, and offering assistance in how to fix parity – this is similar to what Iceland and the UK, to some extent, already do. They’re also asking governments to invest in education campaigns to encourage young women into music, and make policies that stop tired and sexist marketing campaigns that objectify women.

On what the European Parliament and European Commission can do, Keychange is calling for a fully funded initiative report into gender balance and diversity in creative industries, as well as further funding for mentoring programmes and commissioning research studies.

Michel Magnier, the director of culture and creativity at the European Parliament, said at the launch event: “It’s about diversity, it’s about inclusiveness and innovation. The tangible results from Kechange show the effectiveness of targeted initiatives for the under represented.” Magnier said that in six years working at the EU, it was his first time getting to speak about the creative industry gender imbalance. 

Keychange is already seeing results, with festival partners like Tallinn reaching gender balance, and artists from their talent development pool landing international gigs. Kat Frankie, a solo artist and one of the participants, played to a crowd at Parliament.

Ultimately, this now-global movement shows how vital it is to be investing in programmes that help women and marginalised artists flourish, as well as the importance of pushing awareness of the gender pay gap and representation for a better future.

You can read the full manifesto from Keychange on recommendations for a gender balanced music industry right here.