Music industry urged to join campaign for gender parity

Orchestras, opera companies, concert halls and record labels are being urged to join a campaign for gender parity in the music industry.

The PRS Foundation on Tuesday announced an extension of its Keychange pledge, in which music festivals, so often dominated by male performers, have committed to a 50/50 gender balance by 2022. Since its launch early last year, more than 180 festivals across the world, including BBC Proms, Kendal Calling and Tallinn Music Week have signed up.

Vanessa Reed, founder of the campaign, said its success had surpassed expectations. “We were really reassured and excited by the fact that we were approached by so many people. Fairly quickly and with no particular marketing investment we reached a 100 signatories by last June and now we are almost at 200 festivals.”

Reed said the gender gap was an industry-wide problem and it was a logical step to extend the campaign to organisations that would also include conservatoires, broadcasters and agents.

“The music industry can’t work in silos. Every part affects the other so we want to join the dots and ensure that everyone is working together towards a shared goal, which will ultimately strengthen the music industry as a whole.”

The foundation said 50 organisations had so far signed up for the extended campaign after a series of behind-the scenes talks ahead of the launch. They include the Barbican, Royal Opera, Opera North and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).

The CBSO music director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, said the orchestra was proud to sign up to the pledge. “I’ve probably heard the question ‘how is it to be a female conductor?’ more than any other question during my life so far so I’m absolutely aware that as a society we still do have the work to be done for the right balance.”

Festivals which signed up committed to programming gender-balanced lineups by 2022.

Signatories to the extended scheme will have targets relevant to their set-ups. That could mean for orchestras a 50/50 target of commissioned composers or balance of players; or broadcasters using the pledge to keep tabs on who they use as presenters or guests on programmes.

Reed, chief executive of the PRS Foundation, said it was intended as a “very practical” campaign with organisations signing up to what they could specifically achieve between now and 2022.

Some areas are more challenging than others, she said: “The feedback we get from orchestras is that the gender balance among performers is not so hard to achieve. Where it gets more tricky might be with principal players.”

She said the campaign was about voluntary targets and not quotas. “The targets are enabling them to think about all aspects of their organisation, where they can make most progress now and what would be the next stage in the journey,” Reed said.

The full list, which also includes the Sage Gateshead, Leeds College of Music and English National Opera, will be published on Tuesday with many likely to tweet what their specific target is.