Transforming the future of the music industry

Vanessa Reed, chief executive of PRS for Music Foundation, writes for IAM on making changes to the experiences of women working in the music industry.

Last week PRS Foundation launched Keychange, a pioneering European programme developed in partnership with seven international festivals and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. This ambitious new initiative, which seeks to empower women to transform the future of the music industry, will create a network of 60 female artists and innovators who will benefit from international opportunities to showcase, collaborate and test new business and creative ideas.

The panel at Keychange
The panel at Keychange

The packed panel discussion and launch of Keychange at Reeperbahn Festival, demonstrated how far things have progressed since 2011 when PRS Foundation launched its Women Make Music Fund. Back then, very few organisations were prepared to put themselves on the line by raising awareness of the gender gap and running targeted initiatives which encourage the underrepresented groups within the industry to put themselves forward.

Now, as Keychange builds on the experience of that UK programme, it feels like the benefits of gender equality are finally part of a shared European discussion that a broad range of men and women in music are eager to be part of. This was helped in Hamburg by the extremely positive response to Keychange and the endorsement of high profile artist and industry ambassadors, a group of supporters which will grow between now and March 2019.

At Reeperbahn Festival alone, artists Shirley Manson (Garbage), Emily Haines (Metric) Nadine Shah (emerging UK artist) and Tony Visconti (producer) all gave their support for Keychange’s goals and activities. Shirley Manson, who recently toured with the inspirational 72 year old “Blondie“, spoke passionately about her own experiences as a woman in the industry and the importance of role models for women at all stages in their career. Emily Haines praised Keychange for the way it has evidenced the impact of targeted initiatives through PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music Fund and the way it brings together female artists with their counterparts from within the industry – we need more women in the workforce, as well as more female artists on stage, if we want to get to the heart of the problem.

Artists and innovators selected for Keychange were announced at the launch on Friday 22 September. This network of 60 women reflects the quality and breadth of women across Europe who are on the verge of making a huge mark on the industry.

From UK DJ and broadcaster Jamz Supernova, to Estonian artist, mixer/producer and manager Thea Lillepalu, the 30 Keychange industry professionals have been selected for their interest in new ways of working. The artist line-up is equally diverse, ranging from Germany’s rising indie stars Gurr, to Swedish producers Vaz, Iceland’s Airplane and Spaceship and UK’s Suzy Wu. These 30 artists have been selected because they’re all making outstanding music and they’ve also made a strong case for why this network would make such a different to their careers right now.

An important feature of Keychange is that it goes beyond providing transformative opportunities for those taking part. This programme is also aiming for wider industry change by setting a new standard for music conferences and festivals: if the industry has changed so rapidly, disrupted by technology and new modes of distribution, why hasn’t the workforce changed to follow suit? Why do we still lack input from the same under represented groups – including women – who could be helping us to forge a more creative and entrepreneurial future for music?

In response to this challenge, Keychange partner festivals revealed at our launch in Hamburg that they are each committing to change by aiming for a 50:50 gender balance by 2022; that’s an equal number of male and female acts across the live programme as well as an even split between men and women across conference panels.

Keychange festival partners are BIME in Bilbao, Iceland Airwaves, Mutek our Canadian partner in Montréal, Musikcentrum and Way out West in Sweden, Reeperbahn Festival, The Great Escape in the UK and Tallinn Music Week. The response to Keychange at Reeperbahn Festival suggests that this is a programme set to grow, with several festivals and conferences already approaching PRS Foundation about how they can get involved.

Six out of seven of these festivals are directed by men who are using their position of influence to implement and inspire change.

To find out more and to read about all of the Keychange participants see #Keychange