'It's creating a big debate': PRS Foundation's Vanessa Reed talks ambitions for Keychange campaign

'It's creating a big debate': PRS Foundation's Vanessa Reed talks ambitions for Keychange campaign

PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed has told Music Week she has targeted a total of 100 festivals to sign up to the Keychange initiative on gender parity in 2018.

The Keychange scheme, which is supported the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, is encouraging music industry conferences and festivals to achieve or maintain a 50:50 balance by 2022.

Speaking at the industry launch event at the Canadian High Commission in London, Reed said the unveiling of the initiative with 45 music industry festivals and conferences on board already had grabbed people’s attention.

“I’m very happy that it’s creating a big debate and that’s what we want to do,” she told Music Week. “Keychange is not just about the festivals who are making the pledge, it’s about raising awareness of the imbalances, and I think the very widespread press coverage has done that.”

Reed said there are “big international festivals” set to add their names to the list of supporters.

She added: “I hope to try and get 100 festivals on board within a year. There is a lot of interest and the more you broaden things out and talk to different kinds of festival - whether it’s classical, jazz or indie - everyone would like to be part of it in some way. So I’m pretty optimistic about the results we’ll be getting with this.”

The launch was staged at Canada House, partly in recognition of the efforts made by prime minister Justin Trudeau on gender parity in his administration, as well as the government’s funding models for music programmes.

I’m pretty optimistic about the results we’ll be getting with this

Vanessa Reed

Reed announced the inaugural Keychange Inspiration Award was going to Dua Lipa in recognition of her efforts including a memorable BRITs acceptance speech - to speak up on representation of women in music.

“It’s something I would love to see a lot of festivals champion,” said Dua Lipa of the Keychange initiative in a video message.

“Dua Lipa was incredibly supportive of Keychange when we told her all about it,” said Reed. “I think for younger women, it’s even more clear that things need to change and now is the time.”

While some festivals have been publicly shamed for their lack of female performers, Reed said that would not be the approach of Keychange.

“I prefer personally to focus on the positive results of this campaign, which is shining a light on the fact that many people are thinking about this,” she said. “There are lots of other initiatives that complement ours - but we know that there are quite a number of festivals who do want to do it this way. So this is a great way to promote the fact that it is possible to have a balanced festival because some of those festivals have already made the 50:50 gender balance.”

Reed added: “Our way is not the only one way to do it, we’re also very supportive of Melvin Benn’s ReBalance initiative, which is supporting women in the recording studio.”

The launch event included speakers and a performance by Canadian artist Iskwe.

MEP Mary Honeyball got a cheer for speaking up in favour of the EU’s backing for cultural programmes such as the Keychange initiative.

Describing the initiative as “very important”, she said: “Music and popular culture does very much shape how people view the world.”

Dame Helena Morrissey, head of personal investing at Legal & General Investment Management, also gave her support to Keychange. As well as establishing the 30% Club to campaign for greater representation on company boards, she has just published the book A Good Time To Be A Girl.

Morrissey also revealed she had a personal reason for backing the campaign: her daughter, singer-songwriter Flo Morrissey, was discouraged from entering the music business by teachers.

“To all the talented young women out there thinking of a music career - think big,” she said.

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