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“Something needs to be done”: FR launches ReBalance

Festival Republic and PRS Foundation hope to increase gender diversity in the industry by funding studio time and festival slots – or studio apprenticeships – for women

By Jon Chapple on 08 Aug 2017

Halsey, The Chainsmokers, 2016 American Music Awards, Disney-ABC Television Group, Festival Republic, PRS Foundation ReBalance

image © Disney-ABC Television Group

Festival Republic has announced the launch of ReBalance – a three-year funding scheme that aims to combat the “gender imbalance within the music industry” by providing free studio time, and a slot at a Live Nation festival, to female artists or female-led bands.

The programme, supported by PRS Foundation, will also help women into sound engineering – also a male-dominated profession – by offering studio apprenticeships to wannabe engineers.

A recent PRS Foundation study found women represent just 16% of songwriters and composers in the UK, and that the industry is seen as an “almost entirely male ‘closed shop’” to women.

Sexism rife in UK biz, finds study

Artists and engineers eligible for the ReBalance scheme – in the case of the former, that includes all who “identify as women”, while bands must feature female members who are “fundamental to the writing or producing duties” – will be nominated a panel of industry experts invited by Festival Republic and PRS Foundation to nominate their choices.

A quarterly selection panel, which includes Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn, Live Nation’s Kelly Chappel, Coda’s Natasha Bent, Dice’s Jen Long, ATC Live’s Isla Angus, journalist Alexis Petridis, artist Nadine Shah and The Guardian’s Laura Barton, will then shortlist and select the successful artists and engineers.

Successful artist applicants – of which there will be one per month in 2018, 2019 and 2020 – will be provided with a week’s recording time, accommodation and travel to the studio, and a festival slot at a Live Nation or Festival Republic event.

Two successful engineers will train as apprentices at Old Chapel Music Studios in Leeds, first (for 18 months) as apprentices then as lead/co-engineers.

Reading and Leeds Festivals, promoted by Festival Republic, have in recent years attracted flak for their overwhelming male line-ups: in June, The Independent reported the festivals have been 95% male for the past decade.

“This is a project that gives a step up from start to finish”

“Something needs to be done about gender equality in the music industry,” said Benn today. “It’s a wider issue that involves us – the live industry – but the solution doesn’t rest only with us. I have decided to be proactive in changing and working towards this no longer being an issue in the future, and that’s what this project is about.

“We’ve been working closely with PRS Foundation and their Women Make Music programme, alongside Old Chapel studios in Leeds, to pull together this exciting new initiative. ReBalance will enable future, and current female musicians within the industry, to have the support they need in order to be recognised.

“There is a significant lack of female acts with recording contracts and, indeed, airplay; it’s quite astonishing. Artists like Maggie Rogers, Halsey (pictured), Zara Larsson and Ray BLK are all playing festivals and succeeding in the music industry, so in that respect there has been a surge comparably to previous years – but all these artists have a very mainstream presence. Mainstream pop doesn’t seem to have an issue, but the festival environment caters for all genres; hence this being a wider problem. Shockingly, there has been only one UK no1 single this year from a female solo artist: Ariana Grande’s ‘One Last Time’.

“[Almost 80%] of the applicants to the Women Make Music programme have said the support they had made a significant impact on their confidence, which proves that targeted approaches like ReBalance may well be the answer to correcting this imbalance.

“This is a project that gives a step up from start to finish.”


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