Empowering Women In Music

What is Keychange?

Supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Keychange is a global network and movement working towards a total restructure of the music industry in reaching full gender equality.


- An extensive programme of career development for women and gender minority artists and industry innovators. Keychange helps all participants progress to the main stages and leading positions in the industry. In 2024, 272 artists and innovators will have completed the programme.

- A pledge for festivals, music organisations and companies to achieve gender balance by 2022. Over 300 festivals and music companies have already signed the pledge.

- A second Manifesto for change that will be presented to the European Commission in the final year of the project.

Who stands behind Keychange?

Keychange is led by Reeperbahn Festival in Co-Leadership with PRS Foundation and Musikcentrum Öst, supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, in partnership with Tallinn Music Week, Iceland Airwaves, BIME, Oslo World, Linecheck/Music Innovation Hub, Ireland Music Week, SACEM, Liverpool Sound City, Way Out West, Spring Break, MAMA, Mutek, and Breakout West.

What can I do to support the Keychange initiative?

Find out how to join the movement here.

How do I sign my festival/organisation up to the Keychange pledge?

Find out more about the Keychange pledge and sign up here.

What about Transgender and non-binary performers and professionals?

Keychange includes all trans and non-binary performers in the 50% of women for each festival. This is a pledge based on inclusivity, it’s important we acknowledge and represent all genders, our aim is to address the imbalance between those who are currently represented and those who are consistently underrepresented.

How did Keychange start?

- It began at Reeperbahn Festival 2017 as a European talent development programme for female artists and innovators led by PRS Foundation.

- The 50:50 pledge was proposed by the original Keychange festival partners who wanted to show they are serious in their commitment to gender equality, in addition to offering showcase opportunities for underrepresented talent.

- In 2019 Keychange announced a new 4 year programme with new project leads Reeperbahn Festival, funded by Creative Europe. 74 participants will be recruited each year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

What’s the current gender balance across live music festivals?

- In the UK in 2017, women made up 26% of the line-up in a sample of large music festivals and less than 10% of headliners in a survey conducted in the US.

- In our Keychange network some festivals are further away from the target than others. Some are leading the way by having already achieved a 50:50 balance and are using Keychange as an opportunity to promote how they’ve reached this target.

- Reeperbahn Festival has almost achieved a 50:50 balance. In 2020 47% (festival) / 43% (conference) of the line-up was female.

What do you mean by 50:50?

- Festivals and organisations are making a gender balance commitment which makes sense to their own set up, programme and music genre e.g. major classical events like BBC Proms and Aldeburgh Festivals are looking at the number of women composers they commission, popular music festivals are looking at the number of women on their stages and industry showcases are also looking at their conference panels.
- 50:50 in line-ups of popular music festivals will be measured according to the number of acts featuring at least one self-identifying woman, transgender or non-binary individual.

Does 50:50 mean an even balance of festival headliners?

Our priority in this first phase is to ensure that 50% of acts programmed include at least one woman/transgender/non-binary person. Many of the festivals are going further than this but we want this first target to be achievable and to encourage everyone who’s working on this to be thinking about long term change.

What if one year a festival’s programme is more balanced than another year between now and 2022?

Some festivals will be aiming for an average 50:50 over the 4 years as their line-ups naturally fluctuate around the 50% mark.

And for other music organisations, in which areas are they being asked to apply the 50:50 target?

- Orchestras could use the 50:50 target for composers commissioned and/or number of players, no. of principal players, balance of senior staff
- Concert halls could look at line-ups on stage (as our Keychange festivals have) or other aspects of their organisation eg. senior staff, backstage staff
- Conservatoires could look at students, lecturers, senior staff teams, live music programmes, visiting musicians
- Agents, publishers and labels may want to look at the balance of artists they sign
- Other charities or trade bodies could also consider the make-up of their Board and staff whilst pledging to encourage its members to sign up to Keychange as well
- Broadcasters could use the pledge to look at the guests they invite onto their shows or presenters and music broadcast
- Publications and those employing editorial staff could apply the Keychange pledge when commissioning writers, editors, photographers etc.
- Organisations with youth groups or education programmes may also want to apply a Keychange pledge to this area of their workWe strongly believe that the target needs to be defined and owned by the festivals and organisations themselves and we will collate data annually to help measure progress.

Why aren’t you demanding exactly the same data from everyone?

- Because every festival and organisation is different, and depending of the festival or organisation in question, our signatories have made different pledges concerning a variety of areas within their set up.
- We are aiming to increase the number of women performing at festivals and working in the music industry at every level, rather than creating restrictive or off putting guidelines. Keychange is about celebrating the efforts being made by music organisations who sign up rather than naming and shaming those who don’t.

How do we go about collecting all of this data?

All of the Keychange signatories are joining a pledge and providing data through a central database which we will keep track of over the next 4 years.

Why now?

- The momentum building around gender equality across the creative industries at the moment gives us a great opportunity to start pushing for real change.
- There’s much more recognition of the gender gap in music than there was before. That’s the first step in this journey; now it’s about men and women in positions of influence promoting role models, investing in emerging talent, recognising the barriers for women in a male dominated industry and leading change that will benefit everyone. Current Keychange partners are encouraging more festivals to join the gender equality pledge in order to create sustainable change in the music industry and to show that it is possible for festivals to successfully achieve this balance.”

What happens after 2022?

- Based on the interest so far, this looks like it’s a programme that will build momentum over time and will last as long as it takes.
- We’ll use the data we gather and the feedback from the participating festivals to guide any further steps the programme might take, whether that’s continuing to focus on festivals or other areas of the music industry.
- Success will be the moment when Keychange isn’t needed any more, but until then we will do what we can to promote positive action in the music industry.

Why is Keychange needed?

Representation of women in the music industry remains very low in all European countries. Across the participating countries’ collecting societies, women represent 20% or less of registered composers and songwriters. Earnings for women are even lower and women are under-represented in leadership roles across the industry and on stages at festival programmes.


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