We Are Ops, female-led operations firm, launches
We Are Ops, a new female-led event operations, safety and people management business, has launched in the UK.
Created by senior female staff at London-based We Are the Fair, an event production company which has worked on festivals including Field Day, Gala, Kisstory, Camp Wildfire and El Dorado, We Are Ops aims to boost gender diversity in what can still often feel like a “macho industry”, according to We Are Ops director and We Are the Fair head of production Yasmin Galletti.
“Since I started out in the industry 12 years ago, we’ve seen the workforce on site and behind the scenes become more balanced, but it still feels women are working in the shadows, not being given the platform or recognition that they deserve for their work,” Galletti explains.
“I feel proud and blessed to be part of a company that celebrates the female attitude towards event operations”
The We Are Ops team have 150 years of combined experience, with other members including health and safety advisors Sarah Tew and Francesca Boden and operations manager Jan Rankou.
The company offers services including licensing, traffic and security planning, safety management, sustainability consulting, risk assessments, crowd and capacity planning and accessibility and inclusion.
“I feel proud and blessed to be part of a company that celebrates the female attitude towards event operations,” continues Galletti, “especially in the area of health and safety, which is still a very male-led faction of the industry.”
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We can’t afford to go back to pale, male and stale
Health passports, fast testing, social distancing, rapid screenings: the industry has been grappling with more medical concepts in the last year than it ever had to before.
Getting back to business; finding ways to reopen venues and stage festivals; getting technicians back to their sound desks and musicians back on stage, is all we’ve thought and talked about during the past 12 months.
But is that everything? All of it? Perhaps the question shouldn’t simply be when is the industry resuming but how and with whom?
Perhaps the question shouldn’t simply be when is the industry resuming but how and with whom?
Because we can’t afford to go back to pale, male and stale music festivals, to companies overwhelmingly ruled by men, to soundchecks where as far as the eyes can see it’s Johns and Jacks and Martins – not that we want them to disappear, we just want them to share their space with us Janes, Jackies and Martas.
It’s been two years since Primavera Sound sent a message to the world: a gender-balanced lineup can be achieved. When we released that line-up, we said that equality and dismantling gender barriers should be normal, and yet, in spite of the fact that we claimed that that edition would be the one in which everything changed… it didn’t.
Two years after becoming the first major festival with a 50/50 gender split, we haven’t seen much of a change. In fact, the situation has only got worse for women thanks to the pandemic. The biggest problem now is not only the ongoing systemic inactivity but the depressing thought that the pandemic can, and will, be used as an excuse to avoid taking the much-needed next steps.
It’s not about the lack of female artists or headliners: it’s the lack of willingness to book them or give them the rank they deserve
At Primavera, we know how challenging this process can be, maybe even more than the promoters and festivals that still refuse to be more diverse. In the end, we set our own standard: we have to live up to that past achievement, and keep honouring it.
2019 was an amazing year for music made by women: Rosalía, Janelle Monáe, Robyn, Erykah Badu, Chris from Christine & the Queens and many more, made it really easy for us. But was that programme just a once in a lifetime? Not really.
The next year proved us right, thanks to Lana del Rey, Bikini Kill, Kacey Musgraves and Brittany Howard. So it’s not about the lack of female artists, or even female headliners: it’s about the lack of willingness to book them or give them the rank they deserve. In the end, if they are the ones who chart the highest and win all the awards, shouldn’t they be also topping our line-ups?
In 2019, Primavera Sound’s [gender-balanced line-up] sold more day tickets than ever, up to 65,000
So, let’s talk business. Does a gender-balanced line-up translate into revenue? In 2019, Primavera Sound sold more day tickets than ever, up to 65,000. That Saturday, 1 June, Rosalía, Solange and Lizzo shared a line-up with James Blake, Jarvis Cocker and Stereolab, as well as the biggest Colombian reggaeton artist, J Balvin.
Isn’t this how real diversity should look (and be heard)? Even our partners at the UN SDG Action Campaign thought so.
Whilst I don’t pretend to be an expert on this matter, by any means, let’s ask Google how a more diverse and inclusive environment can and will improve any company.
I remember moderating a panel last year at Primavera Pro. We were already asking ‘What’s Next?’ because we suspected that 2020 could be the perfect time to pause and reflect on our work. In that panel, we were inspired by Fruzsina Szép (director of Lollapalooza Berlin and Superbloom Munich) and her approach to the pandemic: her whole team was taking much-needed time to take a deeper look at their festivals and to think how they wanted them to be, not how they had to be.
It’s not about being perfect, the real challenge is to do better
Why shouldn’t we use this crisis as an opportunity to fix systemic issues – that are more deep-rooted and insidious than a virus – instead of as an excuse?
We understand that competition can be fierce, but saying that line-ups prior to the pandemic have to be honoured feels cheap. Crazy thought: what if they had already been diverse in 2020? To all the festivals who pledged to achieve gender equality in 2022 and to all of those who were already trying to do better, please don’t take a rain-check due to the pandemic; you are doing a great job. It’s not about being perfect, the real challenge is to do better, no matter how small each step may seem.
We have this chance to start planting in empty fields, as nothing is written in stone anymore. If we don’t have a clue what it’s going to be like when we programme festivals again, if we lose all the benefits of a stable landscape, why should we inherit its problems?
International Women’s Day: Live biz marks IWD 2021
Companies and associations from across the live music business have celebrated International Women’s Day (8 March) by paying tribute to inspiring female staff members, executives, performers and role models.
Established in the early 20th century, International Women’s Day (IWD) is held annually to commemorate the achievements of women, as well as to draw attention to ongoing issues around gender equality and women’s rights. Among the live music organisations participating in IWD 2021 are LIVE, the new umbrella organisation for the UK live music industry, which ran the #LIVEtogether campaign on social media, spotlighting female members of its constituent associations.
The LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) profiles included members of including the Concert Promoters Association, Association of Independent Festivals, Music Managers Forum, Production Services Association and more.
— LIVE (@LiveMusic_UK) March 8, 2021
Using the hashtag #WomenToTheFront, LIVE member Music Venue Trust and its members will, throughout the week, highlight the work of women “who are vital to the grassroots music community”.
Music Venue Trust (MVT)’s head of events, projects and communications, Sarah Claudine, explains: “It’s incredibly important to Music Venue Trust to be using International Women’s Day 2021 as an opportunity to celebrate the women who play such an important role in the UK’s grassroots music industry. We are very proud to have so many remarkable women contribute to MVT, from our core team and coordinators to our board of trustees and patrons, and know that this diversity is reflective of the changing face of the wider live music community.”
MVT recently announced six new patrons, all women working in the music industry: rock duo Nova Twins, Welsh post-punk trio Adwaith, DJs Moxie and HAAi, singer-songwriter Kerri Watt, and booking agent Natasha Gregory (née Bent).
“From tour managers to merchandise sellers, venue owners to sound engineers, and members of my own band, I’ve experienced first hand the heart and soul that the women in our industry put in to live music,” says Watt. “I see my colleagues as role models, giving younger women the confidence to get more involved in live music and work within an industry they’re really passionate about.”
“It’s incredibly important … to be using IWD 2021 as an opportunity to celebrate the women who play such an important role in the grassroots music industry”
Similarly running content throughout the week is Liverpool Sound City, which is hosting a slate of IWD-themed programming both on its Facebook page and its dedicated Guesthouse streaming platform.
Today it streamed a Keychange-presented showcase featuring emerging female artists on Guesthouse, while a Keychange conference co-hosted by the Sound City Facebook page included panels on the gender gap and equality initiatives and a keynote interview with Keychange ambassador Kate Nash. More content is planned through Friday.
Sound City MD Rebecca Ayres says: “International Women’s Day is an important day in the calendar in terms of both lifting women into the spotlight and promoting awareness around the gender inequality that still exists in the music industry.
“But the fight for greater equality needs to be constant and, indeed, for Sound City, the commitments we have made as the lead UK Keychange festival are year-round commitments, with gender equality being a key aspect of our festivals, conferences and training. We look forward to celebrating women in music on International Women’s Day and beyond.”
“We need more women executives and female artists on our rosters”
Live Nation France chose to recognise its female staff with a special video, titled Les Femmes de Live Nation, which premiered on Instagram TV, while its UK sister company worked with Swedish singer-songwriter Zara Larsson on a free IWD live stream premiering at 7pm GMT:
At West End theatre operator LW Theatres, a special feature, ’West End Women’, shines a light “on some of the stars who run the show”.
The company, which operates celebrated concert venue the London Palladium, also revealed it has changed the traditionally masculine titles of its production jobs to gender-neutral equivalents, with master carpenter becoming head of stage engineering and dayman ‘first grade electrician’:
Did you know we’ve changed our tech-based jobs from traditionally masculine titles to be gender neutral?
— LW Theatres (@LWTheatres) March 8, 2021
For Australia’s Mushroom Group, IWD provided the perfect opportunity for the women of the company to pay tribute to its late founder, Michael Gudinski, who was known as an advocate for women in live music.
“I did the first Australian Go-Gos and Bangles tours in the ’80s. That’s when I realised that, on the road, the girls were no different to the boys,” he recalled last year. “It further encouraged my belief that we need more women executives and female artists on our rosters.”
“He just gave women a go,” remembers Australian broadcaster Jane Gazzo. “Everyone says they have a Michael Gudinski story because he had time for all of us,” she told ABC Radio. “We’ve all had a piece of our heart ripped out this week.”
— Mushroom (@MushroomGroup) March 8, 2021
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Female-first Swiss Music Directory launches
Helvetiarock, a Swiss association and networking platform pushing for gender equality in the live music industry, has launched a national ‘Music Directory’ of women and non-binary people working in music.
The resource, located at MusicDirectory.ch, aims to boost female/non-binary representation both on and off stage, including promoters, producers, agents, sound engineers and artists, by providing a centralised resource of non-male industry professionals.
“Only 10–20% of people on, and behind [the] stage, are women,” Laurence Desarzens, president of Swiss Music Export, told Radio Vostok.
The association, launched in 2009, aims to have 1,000 registrations by 20 November.
“This platform allows us to make ourselves visible, to take our place”
“This platform allows us to make ourselves visible, to take our place,” comments artist Elodie Romain, the coordinator of the Music Directory for Francophone Switzerland. “It’s a place to exchange information and advice on the best equipment, the representation of artists, or the skills needed to break through as a producer, and also a place to launch new projects.
Other artist supporters of the campaign include Flèche Love, Stefanie Heinzmann, Steff La Cheffe (pictured) and Msoke.
The launch of the Swiss Music Directory follows that of Live Nation’s Black Tour Directory, which aims to increase representation for black professionals in the US, last month.
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LN to boost exec diversity by 2025
Live Nation has committed to spending $10 million over the next two years to increase the diversity of its workforce, with plans to have 30% of its directors representing underserved groups by 2025.
In an open letter, which was sent to employees around the world last week, Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino wrote that the company must “address inequality and injustice at every level”, committing to increasing representation at director and leadership level; putting diversity centre stage at its events; increasing spend with Black and minority-owned vendors; amplifying social justice causes; and holding itself accountable.
The company is investing $10m in launching new programmes to develop, promote and hire people from underrepresented groups, aiming to bring its overall employee population to parity across race and gender in every country.
Rapino also pledges to increase diversity “at the very top”, with plans to nominate more women and Black, indigenous and other candidates of colour for the board of directors so that at least 30% of its directors are “diverse” by 2025.
For leadership level (director and above), Live Nation is setting country-specific representation goals “in order to acknowledge local dynamics and best serve each region”. In the United States, the company plans to double its Black leadership representation in the next five years, as well as increasing the overall diversity of leadership to 30% .
The company is also aiming to increase the diversity of the vendors and suppliers it works with, actively looking to support minority-owned businesses “wherever possible”.
“We spend over $2 billion each year on staging and sourcing for shows, with a supply chain that spans the globe,” writes Rapino. “We can use this spending power to drive economic empowerment and help grow small and disadvantaged businesses.”
“Our ultimate goal is to be as representative as the communities and artists we serve”
On stage, Live Nation commits to developing and investing in more music ventures, as well as festivals, tours and programmes, that “empower Black, Latin, female and other underserved groups as they continue to shape the future of music and culture.”
Once the live business is back up and running, line-ups at Live Nation festivals can also be expected to include more artists from underrepresented races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders.
To ensure it meets its diversity goals, Live Nation is implementing anti-bias education training; tracking its diversity data globallying facilitating ongoing pay equity analysis; tying its goals to leadership compensation; and establishing an Equity Accountability Board with input from leaders from across the business.
“With ongoing accountability, we believe we can become a more actively anti-racist organisation,” states Rapino.
“Our ultimate goal is to be as representative as the communities and artists we serve. The core of our business is promoting, and we are committed to improving our promotion of diversity within our company and the world at large.
“I am confident that this will make us an even stronger team.”
Rapino concludes by urging employees to “please continue to make your voices heard.”
Last month, a group of US industry executives formed advocacy group the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), addressing the heads of companies including Live Nation to “put a plan for change in place” to tackle systemic racism in the music business, following similar calls from Black music executives in the UK.
The letter is available to read in full here.
74 participants chosen for Keychange programme
Seventy-four artists and music industry professionals from across 12 countries have been selected from over 650 applicants to take part in the 2020 Keychange development programme.
Launching with a full network meet-up in Stockholm on 13 February, the programme aims to give the 74 female and gender minority participants the skills and opportunities needed to advance in their career.
The programme, part of the new-look Keychange 2.0 led by Reeperbahn Festival in partnership with PRS Foundation and Musikcentrum Öst, will benefit three cohorts of participants over four years. Keychange announced the initiative following a €1.4 million funding boost from the European Union’s Creative Europe programme in August.
Among the first group of participants are Estonian singer and violinist Marrja Nuut, Berlin-based lo-fi pop artist DENA and London alt-soul singer Anaïs.
Alongside meet-ups and mentoring sessions, participants will take part in ‘Creative Labs’ at one the 13 Keychange partner festivals, including Iceland Airwaves, BIME and Way Out West. The labs will offer showcase opportunities to artists, as well as workshops, seminars, studio sessions and masterclasses. Polish consulting company Chimes will oversee all training.
“We are pleased that a more inclusive approach to recruitment has resulted in a very diverse and exciting group of participants for 2020”
In accordance with feedback from the 2018 edition of the programme – which consisted of 60 participants – a percentage of Keychange funding will go towards participants’ childcare arrangements.
The announcement comes as the number of signatories to the Keychange pledge of achieving a gender-balanced line-up by 2022 surpasses 300. Norwegian organisations Talent Norge and Norsk Tipping, as well as the UK’s Musicians’ Union have recently joined the movement as sponsors.
“The Keychange talent development programme lies at the core of the initiative,” says Christina Schäfers, Keychange lead and head of Reeperbahn Festival’s programmes in arts, word and film. “While the pledge encourages organisations to book diverse talent, we’re helping the talent get to their stages.”
“We are particularly pleased that a more inclusive approach to recruitment has resulted in a very diverse and exciting group of participants for 2020,” says Schäfers, noting that the programme represents “many more gender minority participants and a diverse range of ethnicities, genres and career levels” this year.
“We can’t wait to host this incredible cohort at the full network meet-ups in Stockholm and at Reeperbahn Festival.”
Record ticket sales for Primavera Sound 20
This week’s line-up announcement for the 20th-anniversary Primavera Sound has led to “the most significant surge in sales in the history” of the Barcelona festival, with more than 10,000 tickets sold in the space of 24 hours, according to organisers.
Tickets for Primavera Sound Barcelona went on sale at 10am local time yesterday (16 January) via new ticketing partner Dice, on the back of positive press for its 2020 line-up, which features 211 artists from 35 countries, including the likes of the Strokes, Massive Attack, Iggy Pop, Lana Del Rey, Kacey Musgraves, Tyler the Creator, Beck, Bikini Kill and Disclosure.
As in 2019, when Primavera called time on “pale, male and stale” festival bills, the Primavera Sound 20 line-up is gender-balanced, with at least as many female performers as male.
“Primavera Sound wants to thank the audience, the media and the sponsors for the enthusiastic reaction to a line-up that is committed to uniqueness and to artistic independence,” reads a statement from promoter Primavera Sound SL.
“[This] line-up is committed to uniqueness and to artistic independence”
Primavera Sound Barcelona is – alongside festivals in Oporto, Los Angeles and Benidorm – one of four Primavera Sound events planned for the tastemaking festival’s 20th year. (A fifth, in London, was called off late last year.)
Taking place on Barcelona’s waterfront at the Parc del Fòrum, the festival has added an extra day for Primavera Sound 20, which will run from 3 to 7 June. The closing party on 7 June will extend the electronic Primavera Bits programme to another day, and feature beachfront DJ sets by Disclosure, Nina Kraviz, Black Coffee and more.
Full festival tickets are priced initially at €195 plus booking fee (increasing once 80% are sold) and available exclusively from Dice.
See the full Primavera Sound Barcelona 2020 line-up below:
HearHer Festival: Redressing the balance
I am only just recovered from the intense adrenaline rush of putting on a three-day music festival. The inaugural HearHer Festival took place in a rainy holiday park in Poole, Dorset, in the UK, on the weekend of 11–13 October. I’ve felt emotionally and physically battered but so, so happy at what my team and I achieved.
HearHer Festival is a music festival with an all-female line-up. It’s a statement against the gender imbalance in music festival line-ups in the UK and abroad.
The percentage of women-fronted bands or female solo artists at Download last year was just 3%; at Trnsmt it was 11%, Kendal Calling 14% and Glastonbury 29%, just to mention a few, according to Ann’s Cottage’s British Festival Report. The average – between the UK and the US, at all major festivals – was coming out at 19% in total.
With the Keychange initiative at PRS making festivals rethink their bookings, this year has seen significant improvements, especially with Glastonbury wowing us with 42% female-fronted or solo artists on their bill. But Emily Eavis was recently quoted as saying that while she would love to book women in the top slots at Glastonbury, “the pool isn’t big enough. Everyone’s hungry for women but they’re just not there.”
Huge talent absolutely is there, but women are not being given the slots to hone their performances – they are not being nurtured from the off.
HearHer is not a novelty ‘woke’ response to male-dominated festival bills, but a celebration of talent
HearHer is more than just a weekend of music; HearHer is part of a movement. We also support women in production and sound engineering and want to provide apprenticeship opportunities for the engineers coming through. After being a victim myself of the PledgeMusic collapse just this last year, I want to also be able to provide artist bursaries towards the costs of artists’ first EPs/albums.
This festival is about women uniting with a clarion voice to say that this has to change across the board. At the festival, Soak said that booking women should not just be a novelty; it should be commonplace. I want HearHer to remain the small, boutique festival it is today but be a nurturing space from which bigger festivals can pluck our artists and take them to the next level.
HearHer is not a novelty ‘woke’ response to male-dominated festival bills but a celebration of talent, and a platform that hasn’t currently been provided. HearHer was never about excluding men – we wanted them to attend and many did, along with kids and even dogs! We provide a safe space for everyone, and the feeling at our little festival, I think, was unique.
I am excited at the prospect, in a few years – when we have reached a parity in festival line-ups, or close to – of welcoming the first male artists or male-led bands to HearHer. I think that would be really something to celebrate.
Social issues top festivalgoers’ concerns
Sustainability and gender diversity are among the main concerns for UK festivalgoers, new data released by Ticketmaster has revealed.
Of the 4,000 festivalgoers that participated in the survey, 62% state that waste reduction at events, along with better recycling facilities, is their number one concern this festival season.
Despite growing awareness of environmental issues, the Ticketmaster survey shows that more than a third of fans (38%) admit to leaving their tents behind at a festival, with 36% saying they do so assuming tents will be recycled.
A recent campaign by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) revealed that abandoned tents result in almost 900 tonnes of plastic waste every festival season.
Victoria Chapman, head of sustainability at Festival Republic, says it is “a huge positive” that sustainability is festivalgoers’ number one concern.
“It is imperative that festival organisers look at how they can minimise the environmental impact of their events and work together with fans to enjoy an amazing festival experience whilst respecting the planet,” comments Chapman.
Several initiatives have been set up to make festivals more eco-friendly, including Live Nation’s Green Nation coalition and Glastonbury Festival’s single use plastic bottle ban.
“British summer wouldn’t be what it is without festivals and these findings give us an insight into what festival fans really want”
Gender representation in festival line-ups is another concern for festivalgoers, with 41% of those surveyed saying that want more diversity in line-ups and almost a third (29%) saying they take the gender parity of a line-up into account before buying a ticket.
According to Ticketmaster, more traditional festival gripes are down, with 37% of respondents stating that festival toilet facilities need improving, compared to 66% in 2012.
The survey also highlighted the importance of festivals for emerging artists, showing that three in five festivalgoers find new artists by attending festivals. On the headliner side, fans of BTS stated they would pay up to four figures to see the K-Pop band head up a festival.
The numbers are also in on festival romance. Two fifths of people (37%) have hooked up at a festival, with a fifth doing so with someone they met at the event. Those who shower at a festival are more likely to find love (45%), than those who opt not to (36%).
Almost one in ten festivalgoers (7%) have carried on a relationship with a fellow attendee after the event. Location-based dating app Tinder is tapping into the romantic potential of festivals, rolling out its specialised Festival Mode at events across the UK, United States and Australia.
“British summer wouldn’t be what it is without festivals and these findings give us an insight into what festival fans really want,” says Ticketmaster UK managing director Andrew Parsons.
“While it’s mostly all about the music and having a great time, I’m not surprised and encouraged to see fans wanting more action on sustainability issues and line-up equality.
“Festivals have always been a microcosm of wider society and with the continued rise of social consciousness we expect fans will only become more demanding of festivals to get it right,” adds Parsons.
The full report is available to read online here.
Denmark’s Spot festival pioneers all-female crew
With the push for greater female representation on festival line-ups, women-only stages are becoming increasingly common – witness the Rinse FM stage at Wireless 2018, for example, or the Queen Tut’s stage at this summer’s Transmt in Scotland. Danish showcase festival Spot, however, has taken a different tack, instead bolstering female representation backstage with an all-female crew.
The initiative – a collaboration between Women in Live Music (WILM) and festival organiser Danish Rock Council (ROSA) – saw ROSA invite WILM, a Denmark-based association for women working in the European concert business, to run a stage at Spot with an all-female production team.
“This has never been done in Denmark before – in fact, it is so rare to see women working at live music events in Denmark, and many other places around the world, that some people are not even aware that they exist,” reads a WILM blog post announcing the partnership. “So when ROSA informed us of their initiative and offered us a collaboration crewing a stage at SPOT festival this year, how could we say no?”
After realising the crew could not be all-Danish – there are only around 10 female sound engineers in Denmark, out of more than 700 – WILM opened up for the call for staff to other European countries, and flew in crew members from abroad. It also took on three trainees in Denmark.
Malle Kaas, crew chief, explains: “WILM received resumes from approximately 15 women from all over Europe for the different positions. We voted for the women we thought best suited to the different tasks and then I took interviews with everyone upfront to be make sure they were comfortable, aware of their roles and, most importantly, could be great team players.
“None of the artists or their crew and managers seemed to be thrown off by us. It all felt pretty normal”
“Not only did they need to be competent at their role, they also needed to be able to look after their trainees for the festival.”
Commenting on reactions to the all-female crew, Malle continues: “What was super great was that none of the artists or their crew and managers seemed to be thrown off by us. It all felt pretty normal. Some of them would come up to us after the show saying that they thought it was really cool to see an all-female crew.
“In contrast, the local crew did not seem pleased to see us at the start – but then at the end of the festival, even they came over, asking if they could drink beer with us. So the festival ended with after-show beers for all, good laughs and lots of hugs, just like it should do.”
Spot 2019 took place from 2 to 4 May in Aarhus.
WILM held its inaugural awards last December, honouring Kilimanjaro Live’s Siobháin Brackenridge, Beatbox’s Xenia Grigat and the Eventim Apollo’s Alice James, among others.
Pictured: Stage manager Yu Lu (UK), sound trainee Josephine Mahler (DK), stage trainee Hannah Elmgreen (DK), light trainee Louise Bagger (DK), monitor engineer Lisa Affenzeller (AU), light designer Heida Ragnarsdottir (IS) and FOH engineer/crew chief Malle Kaas (DK)