In 2018, the global gender equity initiative Keychange announced a landmark pledge calling for 50% representation of women and gender minorities in the live industry, both on and offstage, by 2022 — and over 100 festivals around the world signed on. Cut to two years later, and the coronavirus pandemic brought the live industry to a screeching halt just as festival season was about to start. At around the same time, the United Kingdom-based Music Venue Trust had just completed its second Fightback:Grassroots Promoter program — which preps young women and gender minorities to become independent venue promoters — when all those venues temporarily closed their doors.
Both initiatives had emerged as leaders at a time when frustration with the lack of gender equity in the live sector (particularly on festival lineups) had hit a peak. Major companies joined them: In the summer of 2018, the Live Nation Women Fund — a global early-stage funder of female-founded live-music businesses — launched; the following year, Live Nation Urban kicked off Femme It Forward, a women-led concert/event series. But in the midst of the pandemic, they have faced disparate fortunes. As Keychange has strengthened its efforts and managed growth, Fightback has, much like the indie venues it focuses on, struggled to stay the course.