In an unprecedented move, 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 recently announced an extension of its Keychange pledge, in which music festivals, so often dominated by male performers, have committed to programming a 50/50 gender balance by 2022.
Since the initiative’s launch in 2018, more than 180 festivals across the world, including BBC Proms, Kendal Calling and Tallinn Music Week have signed up for the cause.
“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.” – Vanessa Reed, founder of the Keychange pledge said, talking about its success in the industry.
The gender gap is an industry-wide problem and it was a logical step to extend the campaign to organisations that would also include festivals, concerts but also conservatoires, broadcasters and agents.
Reed who is also the 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. 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,” said Reed.
Signatories to the extended scheme will have targets relevant to their setups, which in turn, 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.
Fifty organisations have signed up so far for the extended campaign according to the foundation, after a series of behind-the scenes talks ahead of the launch including 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.”
“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.” – Vanessa Reed
The full list includes the Sage Gateshead, Leeds College of Music and English National Opera – and each company has set particular targets for themselves.