eeperbahn Festival is a partner of Keychange, a European project started by the PRS Foundation to celebrate and invest in the talent of female music creators and innovators.Vanessa Reed was part of the Keychange press conference and the "Action NOW! The Next Steps for Achieving Diversity in the Music Industry" panel, presented by Keychange and VUT at Reeperbahn Festival 2017. Along with the PRS Foundation, BIME, Iceland Airwaves, Musikcentrum Sweden, Mutek, Tallinn Music Week, The Great Escape and Way Out West, Reeperbahn Festival is one of the partners in Keychange, a project with the mission to accelerate the music industry’s recognition of women’s potential artistic and economic value. A network of 60 women (30 emerging female artists and 30 innovators/industry professionals) will be given the chance to extend their reach to audiences across Europe and connect with the pioneering work of leaders from tech, design, music, audiovisual and other sectors. PRS Foundation Chief Executive Vanessa Reed, who initiated the project, kindly answered some of our questions about Keychange.
Reeperbahn Festival: As chief executive of the PRS Foundation, you founded the Women Make Music fund in 2012. Is Keychange basically the same thing on a multinational level? What impact has Women Make Music had and do you expect Keychange to have similar impact?
Reed: We launched Women Make Music in the UK in response to the low representation of women amongst songwriters and composers in our country which today is only 16%. Our aim was to encourage more female musicians and songwriters to come forward for our support and to raise the profile of the gender gap in music which at that point was not being widely acknowledged by the industry. Our five year evaluation demonstrates that we’ve reached a large number of new female artists through this fund (86% had never applied to the PRS Foundation before) and the impact of seed funding on the women who received funding has generated a very significant return on investment, both in terms of financial impact and softer outcomes (e.g. 79% said that their Women Make Music grant had increased their confidence and 82% said they had developed creatively). Keychange was the natural next step, as we wanted to share this experience with our European partners and explore the status quo across different European countries (e.g. in Germany, where only 14.1% of songwriters and composers are women). We felt it would be empowering for more women if we could build a network of talented female music creators and industry professionals who could work together on tackling the barriers whilst also being promoted as an inspiration for other women working in music.
Reeperbahn Festival: Foundations, EU and government programmes, etc. concerned with diversity are trying to engineer change within the private sector. Would you rather see legislative measures which might bring on changes faster?
Reed: Achieving a gender balance within the music industry will require input at every level across public and private sectors. In the UK, the government’s focus on diversity over the past three years, along with widespread press and social media coverage of the inequalities that exist, has massively accelerated industry leaders’ response – e.g. UK Music and BPI now have a diversity group and the Women in Music Awards have been established. We have also been impressed with the UK Minister of Women and Women in Business Council’s work on the gender pay gap and other issues (all companies with over 250 employees will have to report on the average pay gap between male and female employees by March/April 2018). Transparency is becoming more crucial to a company’s reputation and that’s a good thing in my view. Most importantly, the people in charge (who are generally male) also need to be on board, driving change and setting the example, as the male music festival directors, like Alex Schulz, are doing in our Keychange partnership. When it comes to quotas, I think it’s important that these are dictated by the companies themselves – e.g. the General Director of the BBC has committed to a 50-50 balance in pay at the BBC by 2020. Many other organisations are following suit, and we at PRS Foundation are aiming to be funding an equal number of men and women by this date. This is where it becomes interesting, because everyone is realising that if they want to compete and survive, then their organisation needs to better reflect the diversity of its audiences and artists. We also know from other studies in the UK that having more women in leadership roles results in better business. In my opinion, one of the challenges for the music industry is that its workforce has barely changed over the past 30 years whilst our business environment has been rapidly evolving. Shouldn’t those leading the future of music better reflect the diverse range of artists and fans who are creating and consuming our industry’s content?
Reeperbahn Festival: Do you think the creative industries have a pioneering role in bringing about a more diverse society, that more female musicians, producers, filmmakers, etc. would help to strengthen the position of women in the whole of society (i.e. does the creative world have a special responsibility in this regard), or will we experience the same slow change that the rest of the professional world (and, actually, the rest of society) is experiencing?
Reed: The gender gap is part of a societal problem but some of the creative industries’ statistics are, in fact, far worse than other sectors, e.g. women make up less than 5% of music producers in the UK and 16% of film directors. Meanwhile, the number of female MPs in the UK’s House of Commons has risen to 32%. Creative industries, like film and music, promote role models for every generation and I believe there’s a responsibility attached to that. If young women can’t see or hear themselves in festival line-ups, in creative industry awards, on screen or on air, why would they believe that a career in the arts or creative industries was for them? At university level there are often far fewer female music graduates than male ones, so I’d like to see creative-industry leaders working with the education sector to encourage more girls and young women to study music and become part of the pipeline the industry can source talent from. In the meantime, I think it’s crucial for those with the most clout and influence in the music industry to do as much as they can to promote and celebrate the women who are making brilliant work, even if proportionately, across all age groups, there are fewer women to choose from.
Reeperbahn Festival: Women in executive positions – female managers, board members, etc. – are rare in the music industry, from organisations like the PRS (or GEMA) to major and independent labels to the newest start-ups. The quota is probably worse than the 20% or less of registered female composers and songwriters in the PROs of the countries participating in the Keychange programme. Do you think this is a question of needing better networks of women (to counter the old-boy networks of old), or better educational programmes and equal opportunity measures; or do you think it’s a question of overcoming traditions and mentalities that have survived from pre-emancipatory times and have just not yet gone away?
Reed: I think it’s all of those things. Women definitely need to support each other more and we’re not always very good at that. There needs to be more mentoring across generations (and this should involve male leaders too). As an independent charity, our governance requires us to rotate board members every three years. The maximum average length of time trustees stay with us is six years. I would like to see all membership/trade bodies adopting this approach so that the range of perspectives on boards is refreshed more regularly, increasing the industry’s capacity to keep up with developments in technology, business models, trends and societal shifts. How many people in 2017 consider 90-100% male boards to be acceptable? And surely this sends out the wrong message when it comes to attracting new staff/talent of diverse backgrounds. Claire Singers summed this up very clearly in a recent article for Variety: “Why isn’t this creative industry leading the way in creating diverse teams of people who will think differently, challenge the status quo and create a vibrant and dynamic business? Why does today’s music industry remain pretty much run by the same coterie as it was back in the days of Elvis?” Unconscious bias is another challenge which we all face and many organisations, including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra which I’m on the board of, are embracing training sessions which help us to understand the rationale behind our decisions and perceptions.
Reeperbahn Festival: Who is currently your favourite female artist?
Reed: Bjork – can’t dislodge the memory of seeing her at Iceland Airwaves with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra last year, and Anna Meredith, too, for her versatility and the bombastic, chunky electronic sounds of “Varmints” – we funded her through our Momentum fund. Watch out for her next album which she’s working on as we speak.