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Keychange: ‘The conversation about representation has never been so loud’

This year marks a seminal moment for gender equality initiative Keychange and the rafts of music organisations that have signed its renowned pledge.

Proposed in 2017 by a number of European festivals, the Keychange pledge initially asked live music events and conferences to commit to achieving a gender-balanced programme by 2022.

Since then, the pledge has expanded to include venues, promoters, booking agencies, trade bodies, record labels, broadcasters, publishers, collection societies and orchestras, as well as festivals.

Now, more than 550 music organisations across six continents have signed up to the 2022 pledge, committing to giving underrepresented talent a seat at the table.

Ahead of Keychange’s progress report this autumn, IQ catches up with Keychange project manager Francie Gorman to find out whether the signatories are on track to hit the target…

 


IQ: Keychange initially set 2022 as the target date for pledge signatories to achieve gender balance. Does that still stand?
FG: It was the initial target date when we launched the pledge back in 2018 but we’ve tweaked the language somewhat since then in reaction to some feedback that we’ve had from the industry. We broadened the scope of the pledge to include orchestras and conservatoires – moving away from it just being a festival pledge. Orchestras commission years ahead of time, and therefore, it would be good for them to be able to extend that target date so that considerations were put in place for the coming 10 years rather than just the coming four years. So we added in a bit of flexibility at that point, just to make the ledger as accommodating as we could to all of the different music sectors.

So the pledges are tailored to the organisation?
Everybody makes a different pledge, which I think is an important thing to note. Some organisations have pledged to have at least 50% women and gender minority artists on the stages and some have pledged to do that and also look at the technicians and the bookers and all of the infrastructure surrounding the festival. But when it comes to festivals, and all of the festivals that signed up when we first launched the pledge in 2018, then 2022 is definitely an important date, and the one that everybody’s been working towards.

“There are absolutely no excuses for people not booking representative lineups post-pandemic”

How many festivals do you expect to have achieved the pledge this year?
We are currently in the process of getting in touch with all of our pledge signatories and making sure that they’ve submitted data for each of the years that they’ve been involved in the pledge. Our hope is that the majority will have reached at least the pledges that they’ve made and perhaps even have some further feedback or some further achievements that they’re able to share. But we do also have to very much take into consideration the disruption of Covid and the fact that some of the festivals that pledged haven’t been able to hold events for a couple of years so how do we take that into account when we’re looking at their pledge? Should we extend their pledges? In what ways can we accommodate their ambitions to meet the target if they haven’t been able to put the events on?

To what extent can the pandemic be used as an excuse to take a rain check on representative line-ups?
There is absolutely no excuse – especially when it comes to festivals – because we’ve seen that the hunger for festival tickets has been such that festivals have been selling out with barely any names announced. So what better opportunity to really programme a festival as you want to and make it as gender representative as you possibly can? This excuse of women not selling tickets is invalid anyway but it’s invalidated further by the point that people have bought the tickets anyway.

And I think that another thing to consider is how active so many artists have been throughout the pandemic, putting sessions online and making themselves visible and available. So there’s also no excuse for bookers not to have discovered new talent throughout the pandemic as well. We will (hopefully) never again have so much time to sit and explore music in an online setting rather than a live setting. So there are absolutely no excuses for people not booking representative lineups post-pandemic.

“We’ve never had as many women of headline status available as we do now”

What other age-old excuses do you hear for gender disparity in the industry?
Throughout this project, we have had the comment that female headliners don’t sell as many tickets and it’s unfounded. If an artist is at the point where they can be headlining a festival then they can sell the tickets. We’ve never had as many women of headline status available as we do now. I think that we have quite successfully argued – and the wider industry has agreed – that there are no headliners if there are no opportunities at development levels.  Festivals really need to look at their full infrastructure and figure out if they’re giving grassroots artists the opportunities to then be booked as a mid-level artist and, two years later, have the opportunity to build themselves up to that headline slot.

Is the onus of gender equality in the music industry disproportionately placed on the festivals?
That’s a really good question. I don’t think it’s unfair because, at the end of the day, every festival booker in every festival team is responsible for the production that they’re putting in front of their audience. So there is certainly accountability in that respect but it is a good point that the festival headline slot is one of the last pieces of the puzzle. This is exactly the reason we expanded the Keychange pledge to be able to represent any music sector rather than just festivals because it’s a conversation that needs to be had at every twist and turn in the music industry. That’s why it’s fantastic that we have people like Alex Bruford at ATC Live making sure that at an agency level their rosters are representative so we can work collaboratively towards this end goal.

“I definitely feel like we’re in a much better place than we were when this project started”

The 1975 once committed to playing only gender-balanced music festivals. Do you think artists have a part to play in this?
It’s a difficult position to put musicians in when they’re at a certain level because the point of this conversation is not to take opportunities away from anybody – it’s to increase opportunities for those who have had less access to them in the past. We want all artists to advocate for each other and we especially want them to advocate for themselves. If they’re performing at a festival where they don’t see a representative lineup and they’re not comfortable with that, we want them to feel empowered to speak up about it and ask some questions. At the same time, we don’t want musicians to be losing out on opportunities ever, which is why Keychange exists. Inevitably, there are times and situations where conversations need to be had so we just want to make sure that we have a support system in place and an action plan for those festivals.

Tell us about the action plans for festivals that want to achieve a balanced line-up?
The very first thing that we get organisers to do is to look at the gender balance of previous lineups to get a very basic numerical overview of how things stand. If the festival wants to make changes, they will sign the pledge and the steps will be outlined. The steps can be things like incrementally increasing the number of gender minority artists on their stages by 2022. Then it’s a case of finding the talent. We are there to put festivals in touch with other festivals to find out how they’ve gone about changing the representation of their lineups. We can put them in touch with booking agencies, which could widen the pool of artists that they have available to them. Also, we can introduce new talent through our talent development programme. I think a huge part of making this change – especially on the festival level – is getting festival bookers to broaden their networks and make different contacts.

“I don’t ever get the ‘why is gender equality important’ question anymore…I see that as considerable progress”

Can you give examples of festivals that have risen to the challenge?
We have festival partners in 12 countries including the likes of Reeperbahn (Germany), Iceland Airwaves, and MAMA (Paris) who all work so hard to achieve gender balance in their conference and festival programmes each year.

It’s important to mention Primavera Sound which isn’t a Keychange signatory but is very much working within the framework of a 50/50 gender balance. It’s an absolutely enormous commercial festival and I think the fact that the organisers have been so publicly outspoken about the work that they’ve done in this area is so important.

In 2022, is the music industry the most equitable it has ever been?
The conversation around representation has never been as loud as it has been in 2022. I think that the feeling of empowerment that women currently have to claim their rightful space within the music industry has never been so strong. I definitely feel like we’re in a much better place than we were when this project started. Having worked on the pledge myself since 2018, I’m having such different conversations now to the ones that I was having when the project first launched. I don’t ever get the ‘why is gender equality important’ question anymore. The conversations tend to be about the finer details of how to achieve gender parity. I see that as considerable progress.

 


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All change at Keychange after Maxie Gedge’s exit

UK-based gender equality initiative Keychange has announced a series of new appointments following the exit of project manager Maxie Gedge.

Three current PRS Foundation members of staff are to expand their roles at the organisation, with Francine Gorman becoming Keychange project manager (UK), Aysha Hussain made Keychange coordinator (UK) and Alison Williams switching from part-time to full-time PRS Foundation communications coordinator.

In addition, Barnaby Duff has come on board as PRS Foundation grants coordinator.

“I am delighted to welcome Francine, Aysha, Alison and Barnaby to their new and expanded roles,” says PRS Foundation CEO Joe Frankland.

“Following the departure of Maxie Gedge, who worked across both Keychange as a project manager and our communications team as a part-time coordinator, it’s fantastic that both Francine and Alison are expanding their current remits with the organisation and Aysha steps into a wider role that epitomises the collaborative, Europe-wide ethos of Keychange.

“And following a period of record demand for our funds, Barnaby will play a vital role in making sure we maintain a pioneering approach to grant-making, efficiently reaching and helping many talented music creators to fulfil their potential as possible. The skills, dedication and knowledge in their respective areas will be a huge asset to the organisation going forward.”

“The impact of Maxie’s work at PRS Foundation over the past five years has been huge”

Frankland also paid tribute to Gedge, who has joined Secretly Group as European project manager.

“I and the whole PRS Foundation team wish Maxie the best in her new role at Secretly Group. The impact of Maxie’s work at PRS Foundation over the past five years has been huge and through Keychange she has really helped to move the dial for women and gender minority artists and innovators around the world,” he said.

“While all at PRS Foundation and Keychange are sad to see her go, we will continue to connect and know that in this exciting new role at Secretly Group, Maxie will continue to shape a stronger, fairer music industry.”

Keychange recently confirmed that 500 music organisations have now committed themselves to achieve parity between men and women and non-binary people by signing its pledge.

The Keychange pledge requires signatories to achieve at least 50% representation of women and gender minorities in an area of their work.

Launched in 2017, Keychange initially focused on festivals – with signatory festivals pledging to book at least 50% of women for their line-ups – and now also includes record labels, broadcasters, venues, publishers, collection societies and orchestras in six continents among its supporters.

 


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IFF puts finishing touches to biggest programme yet

The Interactive Festival Forum (iFF) has announced two Soapbox Sessions panels for the event taking place on 2 and 3 September.

The first 55-minute session will invite five industry experts to deliver quick-fire presentations on a range of specialist topics including agency roster analysis, socially distanced events and mental health.

Soapbox Sessions: Five in 55 will see ROSTR co-founder and CEO, Mark Williamson, present highlights from an analysis of 650+ agency rosters with ROSTR: The Agency World in Numbers.

Deer Shed director and AIF member Kate Webster will deliver a Soapbox Session on Deer Shed Basecamp, the festival’s socially distanced, sold-out camping weekender with AIF presents: Touching Base.

Tim O’Brien – professor at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester (the site of AIF member festival Bluedot) – will reprise a much-loved talk from a previous AIF Festival Congress with AIF presents: Sounds of Space.

Geoff Dixon will present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months

In Soapbox Session Covid-19: You Are Here, Dr Mark Salter, consultant for global health at Public Health England, will update delegates on the latest international developments in the fight against Covid-19, including the search for a vaccine, as well as how public health authorities are planning for the months ahead.

Finally, Getting Back to Work: The Fan’s Perspective Vivid Interface will hear Geoff Dixon present exclusive new research on festivalgoers’ confidence about returning to live events over the next 12 months.

Another new addition to the conference schedule is The Lost Causes, a series of presentations from specialists covering diversity, accessibility, and mental health and welfare.

Attitude Is Everything‘s Gideon Feldman will deliver Accessibility: Building Back Better, Keychange‘s Francine Gorman will present Equality: Representation Matters and festival booker-turned-psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton will educate delegates on Mental Health: Minding the Gap.

Today’s announcement follows the news that CAA board member and London co-head Emma Banks, Paradigm’s head of global music, Marty Diamond, and FKP Scorpio MD Folkert Koopmans are joining the conference.

With just over one week to go until iFF, and with passes increasing in price on 1 September, secure your place and save money by registering here. Tickets are still just £50 inc. ALL fees.

 


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IQ Focus highlights live music’s Lost Causes

The Lost Causes: Campaigners & Advocacy, the 11th IQ Focus virtual panel and the first following last week’s break, caught up with industry pros whose work advocating for mental health, accessibility and diversity has been put on hold by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chaired by FanFair Alliance’s Adam Webb, yesterday’s discussion – the first in a series of ‘Lost Causes’ panels – welcomed Francine Gorman, outreach coordinator at Keychange; Jacob Sylvester Bilabel of Green Music Initiative; Natalie Wade, founder of Small Green Shoots; Attitude is Everything’s head of volunteering and skills development, Paul Hawkins; and Musica Therapy’s Sital Panesar to find out what they’d been doing during live music’s shutdown – and how their work continues when it returns.

Wade expressed a typical view when she said Small Green Shoots – a charity which aims to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds engage with music and the arts – went from being “on the crest of the wave” at the start of 2020 to  “everything being cancelled this summer”, meaning “no one could finish their projects”.

Similarly, said Hawkins, “the aim for 2020 was to be one big 20th-anniversary celebration” for accessibility charity Attitude is Everything. “The one positive we’ve got is that a 21st birthday still sounds like something worth celebrating!” he joked.

Panesar said the worldwide lockdowns in March weighed heavily on the industry’s mental health, as “people lost their coping mechanisms”. “Alongside the additional pressures of being in lockdown, that really compounds difficulties,” she said.

For disabled people, Hawkins added, the pandemic has had a “huge impact on people who don’t like to think of themselves as vulnerable”.

Bilabel said March “felt like a car crash in slow motion”, but the live music industry – and everyone working in it – will ultimately come through the other side

Gorman spoke of the importance of “building back better” when touring and festivals do resume. “Representation is a massive part of that conversation,” she explained. “There are all kinds of voices and they deserved to be sustained in the industry, at every kind of level.”

“We want to make sure that when live music does start again, disabled people have the same opportunities as any other talented people,” Hawkins added.

Bilabel said March “felt like a car crash in slow motion”, but emphasised that the live music industry – and everyone working in it – will ultimately come through the other side.

“Some companies will die, but the people behind them won’t,” he explained. “And the demand for culture – for festivals, for music, for cinema – will be even bigger than it is today.”

The return of live, added Wade, is a chance for “people to say yes” to new opportunities. “It’s so easy to say no, because there’s less work. But I want people to take a chance, to say, ‘Yes, maybe we can help you – let’s get behind it.’”

For more discussion and debate, watch the session back on YouTube or Facebook now.

 


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Lost no more: Campaigners take centre stage as IQ Focus returns

After taking a week off last week, IQ’s popular virtual panel series, IQ Focus, returns this Thursday, inviting six new panellists to shine a light on worthy causes which have taken a back seat during the Covid-19 crisis.

Before Covid-19, a wide range of advocacy work was centred around live music, from campaigns to improve gender diversity in line-ups and accessibility for disabled customers to environmental projects and drives around recruitment, inclusion and mental health.

But what have experts and practitioners in these areas been doing since live music shut down? And when music events do return, against an uncertain economic backdrop is there a risk that their important work will be diminished?

The Lost Causes: Campaigners & Advocacy counts the broader cost of the business interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic

The first in a new series of ‘Lost Causes’ discussions invites Francine Gorman, outreach coordinator at Keychange; Jacob Sylvester Bilabel of Green Music Initiative; Natalie Wade, founder of Small Green Shoots; Attitude is Everything’s head of volunteering and skills development, Paul Hawkins; Musica Therapy’s Sital Panesar; and chair Adam Webb (FanFair Alliance) to counts the broader cost of the business interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As with previous sessions, The Lost Causes: Campaigners & Advocacy will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. To set a reminder for Thursday 13 August’s session, head to IQ’s Facebook or YouTube pages now.


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