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UK festival bosses react to gender balance report

UK festival promoters have responded to a BBC study which revealed that only one in 10 headliners at this summer’s leading festivals are female.

The study, which focused on 50 of the biggest festivals in the UK, found that, out of 200 headline acts, 13% were an all-female band or solo artist, 74.5% were either an all-male band or solo artist, 12% had a mixed line-up of male and female performers and 0.5% identified as non-binary.

The figures come despite a series of gender balance initiatives being rolled out over the past few years. More than 550 music organisations across six continents have signed up to gender equality initiative Keychange‘s pledge to achieve a gender-balanced programme by 2022, while Festival Republic announced three-year funding scheme Rebalance, supported by PRS Foundation. Equality campaigner Vick Bain also launched the F-List, a directory of UK female and non-binary musicians.

Becky Ayres, MD of Sound City, the UK’s lead festival partner for Keychange, tells IQ the findings are “sad to see”.

“As an industry, we have to look at what the issues are for female artists coming through”

“Festivals have got a big part to play because they are very visible – their line-up is on a poster that everyone can see – so it’s important to be attentive to what artists are out there,” she says. “Female artists like Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo are doing their own tours rather than festival headline sets, so there are quite a few different things at play. But, as an industry, we have to look at what the issues are for female artists coming through.

“Festivals will probably be scrutinised more, but if you look across the music industry as a whole last year, only 15% of the best selling songs were by female artists, so it is [an issue] across the recorded music industry as well. And a lot of the time it’s not just about who books the artists, it’s about who’s developing them.

“It’s about gender diversity as a whole and gender minorities are still not being represented either. So it’s important to look at every aspect of it, but festivals have a key part to play because they are so visible.”

Ayres suggests the reason some of the biggest events are yet to adapt their booking policies is because the controversy has not adversely affected their ticket sales, but expects that to change in the years to come.

“Over time, I think that people will vote with their feet”

“Audiences are more savvy and more critical of things than ever,” she says. “There’s more choice out there than there ever was with live music, especially since the pandemic, so I think people will vote with their [feet] and over time you would expect to see that.”

For Sound City Liverpool’s 2022 edition, which was held from 30 April to 1 May with headliners The Lathums and Self Esteem, Ayres expanded the event’s gender equality pledge to include the conference as well as the festival.

She adds: “I know that if we just had a completely male dominated line-up one year, we’d really see an impact. People expect us to now have a very gender balanced lineup because of us being a UK Keychange Festival, and I believe that that is something that is really important for us to uphold.”

Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) chief Paul Reed agrees the matter is a symptom of a wider issue.

“While gender inequality in music is often easiest to see on festival line-up posters, this is a problem that exists right across the talent development pipeline, with festival main stages at the very end of that process,” he says. “It is an issue that the entire industry must take responsibility for. There are a number of initiatives, including Keychange and The F List that are having an impact here, as well as festivals such as Standon Calling and Strawberries & Creem who have achieved 50/50 line-ups and set a good example for others to follow.

“It’s also really positive that our latest member demographic survey suggested that 49% of AIF festivals are run by promoters who identify as female, so we have come a long way in that regard. We hope that this kind of progress and continued efforts under the Keychange initiative will soon translate to greater representation on festival stages.”

“We felt it was important that our programming was representative of society as a whole”

Standon Calling, which runs from 21-24 July, achieved gender parity by booking more than 50% female and non-binary artists across all of its stages this summer, including main stage headliner Anne-Marie, Laundry Meadows second stage headliner Self Esteem and electronic headliner Annie Mac. The festival signed up to Keychange in 2018.

“At the time, I think probably about 30% of our line-up was was female/non-binary and so it did feel like quite a mountain to climb,” says Standon Calling founder and director Alex Trenchard. “But we felt it was important that the programming was representative of society as a whole – not just lads playing indie music, but a full spectrum of what UK music has to offer. That was our goal and this year we’re at 53% female/non-binary artists. We’re delighted to become one of only three festivals – and the only mainstream, multi-genre music festival – that has achieved the target.”

Trenchard says the latest UK-wide statistics did not come as a particular surprise.

“But I would also say that the UK music industry has been working hard, particularly over the last sort of five to 10 years, at producing incredible new acts,” he adds. “And I do think that perhaps focusing on headliners doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s still work to be done, particularly at headliner level, but festival bills are becoming more diverse and gender balanced across the whole line-up. And initiatives like Keychange have really helped drive that progress.

“If you look at the artists who aren’t quite at headliner level, but are almost there, that’s where it’s exciting”

“It’s easy to criticise festivals at the moment and saying, there’s only 13% of headliners. But actually, I think if you look at the artists who aren’t quite at headliner level, but are almost there, that’s where it’s exciting. In our case, we’re always looking for opportunities to give artists their first headline slots. Wolf Alice did their first festival headline slot at Standon Calling and that’s something we’re really proud of. So we’re looking for more opportunities like that and it will be good to see those female artists like Sigrid coming through to headline festivals in the UK.

“Ultimately, we know that a gender balanced line-up challenges us to programme better and not always go for the easy option. We think really hard about booking the best artists in a gender balanced way across the whole festival.”

Keychange project manager Francie Gorman recently spoke to IQ ahead of the organisation’s progress report this autumn.


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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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Industry pros back Safe Spaces Now initiative

UK artists, festivals and industry professionals have signed a new pledge to improve safety for women at live music events.

Emily Eavis/Glastonbury Festival, The Eden Project, Strawberries & Creem, Dice and DJ Clara Amfo, as well as artists Rudimental, Paloma Faith, Anne-Marie, Mabel and Beverley Knight, are among the signatories to an open letter launching Safe Spaces Now, created by UN Women UK to push for a safe and inclusive concert environment for both genders post-pandemic.

As part of the initiative, UN Women UK has drawn up more than 150 solutions for ‘safe spaces’ for concerts, nightlife and festivals, including redesigning venues, addressing behaviour within them, inclusion within staff teams, and training to recognise potential abuse and respond appropriately.

The first Safe Spaces Now pilot event will be Strawberries & Creem festival from 18 to 19 September, with organisers promising festivalgoers a “safety-focused strategy in close collaboration with UN Women UK” at the Cambridge event.

Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK, part of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, says: “As live events return following the Covid pandemic, women and marginalised people everywhere are not only thinking about staying safe from the virus – they want to be able to enjoy their right to music, arts and culture without constant fears of violence and harassment.

“We have a unique opportunity as we return from lockdown to reconsider the way we construct and use our public spaces”

“We have a unique opportunity as we return from lockdown to reconsider the way we construct and use our public spaces to be safer for the long term. UN Women UK is pleased to partner with Strawberries & Creem on this first Safe Spaces Now live event, and we hope many more representatives from the music industry will follow suit and commit to helping us build a more equitable future.”

According to a 2018 YouGov poll, over 40% of women under 40 have experienced some kind of unwanted sexual behaviour at a British music festival.

“We’re passionate about ensuring our events are welcoming, inclusive and safe spaces for people to enjoy music together. Festivals should offer joy and hope to everyone, and they are absolutely no place for harassment or abuse of any form,” says Chris Jammer, co-founder of Strawberries & Creem.

“Equality and diversity are values close to our hearts, and we’re proud to have a gender-balanced line-up this year, as well as to be working with UN Women UK on this crucial initiative. We hope that together, we can set a blueprint for what safe spaces should look like for festivals moving forward – for all of our audience, as well as our artists and staff.”

Festivals, events, promoters, venues and other live music organisations are invited to sign the pledge and register their support for the Safe Spaces Now initiative, after which UN Women UK will follow up to discuss your commitments.


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Maxie Gedge, Keychange

The LGBTIQ+ List 2021 – IQ’s first annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the inaugural Pride edition (issue 101) this month.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee, have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, IQ asked each individual to share their challenges, triumphs, advice and more. Each day this month, we’ll publish a new interview with an individual on the LGBTIQ+ List 2021. Catch up on the previous interview with Chris Ibbs, agent at CAA in the UK here.


Maxie Gedge
Keychange project manager, PRS Foundation
London, UK
[email protected]

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
When I got promoted into this Keychange role, it felt like a really big step that brought all of my life experiences together for a bigger purpose. It was so rad to host a queer dance party on the terrace of the Southbank Centre pre-pandemic with Dream Wife, Romy XX, Lil’ C and more – it was hot and packed, and everyone was dancing all day. It’s a memory I’ve cherished during this event drought.

With Keychange, taking part in Women’s Hour and travelling to Tokyo to speak about PRS Foundation were both bucket-list moments. I’m very lucky that my day-to-day work is focused on supporting under-represented voices in the music industry, so seeing them triumph is the best thing.

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
Find your community. I’ve been very lucky that through good times and bad, my wife, band, friends, family and colleagues have been a safe space for expression, inspiration and motivation.

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
My vibe is transmasculine, which is quite attached to my queer identity (For me, not for everyone!). So the unconscious bias or immediate assumptions people make are often super obvious. I’ve learned to be good at dealing with awkward moments, but the constant ‘coming out’ is challenging.

“The pandemic should be a reason to create an industry that works for everyone”

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
There should be better processes and stricter rules for both representation and inclusion, so that there are more LGBTQIA+ (and traditionally under-represented) people in all areas of the industry, as well as processes in place to make those environments safe.

Causes you support.
There are lots of amazing organisations combatting abuse and harassment in the music industry right now, like the Musicians’ Union, Safe in Sound, and the work of SwiM. Pride in Music, the LGBTQIA+ work that Come Play With Me do, plus other positive action initiatives like Power Up and Girls I Rate, are all awesome. Heart n Soul is a really important and inspiring talent development organisation too.

What does the near future of the industry look like?
I hope there’s a move towards innovation and sustainability. Creating a collaborative ecosystem is essential, so every part of the music industry is valued and supported – and where that support is based on impact not income.

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
The pandemic should be a reason to create an industry that works for everyone, not an excuse to lean on the old, exploitative, and discriminatory structures. We are losing talent and voices every day and we need to urgently work together to fix this broken system.


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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?


Marta Pallarès is head of international press & PR for Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain.

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.

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’:

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.”

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Impala hires diversity trainers Vick Bain and Arit Eminue

Impala, the umbrella body which represents music companies and associations across Europe, has appointed UK-based equality campaigner Vick Bain and Arit Eminue to provide diversity and inclusion training to its members.

Bain, who has been confirmed for ILMC session Gender Equality: The Next Level, is a diversity trainer, campaigner and PhD researcher, as well as a qualified equality, diversity and inclusion consultant.

Last year, she officially launched the F-List, a directory of UK female and non-binary musicians to be used by promoters, festival bookers, commissioners, music supervisors.

Arit Eminue of Diva Apprenticeships has also been appointed, alongside Bain, to provide diversity training for Impala’s 5,000+ members on a three-year contract.

“This is an exciting opportunity to spread awareness and knowledge on the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the music industry”

The pair have already held two training sessions for Impala’s diversity task force. The first training session for members is set for 27 January.

The appointments follow Impala’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, published last October, which lays out 12 commitments towards promoting diversity and inclusion among independent music companies. This includes making diversity and conscious inclusion training available twice a year to all members.

“Working with Impala and its membership across Europe is an exciting opportunity to spread awareness and knowledge on the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the music industry,” says Bain.

Arit Eminue added: “I look forward to helping Imapala’s members achieve their diversity and inclusion goals and providing practical tips on how they can drive change. So much can be done by making simple changes to start with.”


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LN’s Femme it Forward launches mentor programme

Femme it Forward, the Live Nation-backed, female-led live entertainment company, has announced the launch of Next Gem Femme, a new mentorship programme for young women of colour.

According to the company, which launched as female-led event series in 2019, Next Gen Femme aims to help “the many people looking for meaningful actions to improve equity in their industries and workplaces”. The programme is designed to pair emerging talent with women who are at the forefront of their fields, and includes mentors from Live Nation, CAA, Maverick Management, WME, ICM Partners, Spotify, YouTube, Columbia Records and more.

Each mentorship will start with a one-year partnership, with the opportunity to extend. The mentee experience will include both “real-time projects and scenarios” and coaching, CV-building and networking opportunities.

“If we can help more women pay it forward there’s no telling how much we can accomplish together”

“Women succeed when we support each other, and as a company dedicated to celebrating the depth, power and talent of women in music and entertainment, we have a special responsibility to cultivate the next generation of female leaders in the workplace,” comments Heather Lowery, founder and CEO of Femme it Forward. “We are at a pivotal moment for progress, and if we can help more women pay it forward there’s no telling how much we can accomplish together.”

The inaugural programme will include 200 female mentees of colour who are either pursuing undergraduate/graduate degrees or working in entry-level positions. At least 100 of the 200 mentee spots will go to students from ‘historically black colleges and universities’, while mentees will also be able to apply for scholarships, book stipends, food stipends and other financial aid.

The application process for Next Gen Femme will begin in May, in time for the programme’s August 2021 launch. For more information, or to apply, visit www.femmeitforward.com.


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