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Manifesto Pledging to Address Gender Imbalance in Music Business Arrives in European Parliament

A manifesto to tackle gender inequality in the music business has been formally launched at the European Parliament in Brussels.

A manifesto to tackle gender inequality in the music business has been formally launched at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The manifesto has been produced by the United Kingdom’s PRS Foundation’s Keychange scheme, which launched in 2017 with the aim of increasing representation of women in the traditionally male-dominated music industry.

The document outlines four main areas that Keychange participants have identified as urgently need addressing. They include working conditions and a lack of senior role models, investment in targeted programs to empower female artists and executives, and independent analysis of the gender gap. The fourth core area identified is education and promoting positive role models in schools who tackle gender stereotypes.


Specific recommendations in the report — unveiled Tuesday (Nov. 20) at an event hosted by the European Parliament — include establishing pay grades across the industry and increased transparency around artist fees.

Music companies are also asked to anonymize recruitment processes, invest in mentorship training for mid-career female professionals and adopt health and safety policies that address sexual harassment and support employees reporting discrimination or assault.

“Launching this manifesto at an event which brings together Keychange participants, MEPs, the European Commission and music industry bodies is an important way of demonstrating how far we’ve come since we launched Keychange,” said PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed, who presented the proposals at Brussels.

She said the manifesto “highlights the valuable contributions Keychange artists and innovators are making to the wider reaching debate about what needs to change in the industry.”

Keychange’s manifesto cites previously published research that found female employees at major music companies in the U.K. earn 30 percent less on average than their male counterparts and that males represent 70 percent of people working in the global music industry. It also cites data from Pitchfork finding female artists made up only 14 percent of acts at U.S. festivals in 2017, compared to 76 percent male.


Since its formation just over a year ago, Keychange has signed up over 140 festivals and conferences from 23 countries to its 50/50 program, pledging to achieve an equal gender balance across their line-ups by 2022.

Backers include A2IM Indie Week, Bestival, Norway’s by:Larm, Canadian Music Week, MUSEXPO and New York’s Winter Jazzfest, while Keychange’s festival partners number Reeperbahn Festival, Iceland Airwaves, Tallinn Music Week, Way Out West and Liverpool Sound City.

“The future success and relevance of the music industry depends on innovation and our ability to collaborate and adjust to a fast changing environment. That will only come from diverse teams,” said Tallinn Music Week director Helen Sildna, welcoming the manifesto launch. She said Keychange was helping foster “a new generation music industry, fit for the 21st century.”

Reeperbahn festival director Alex Schulz added, “I hope the manifesto’s recommendations will stimulate further collaboration between the industry, governments and the European Commission, and that we start to see more companies nurturing and benefiting from the full breadth of talent which could be contributing to music in Europe.”