Keychange Presents Steps From Pledge to Action on Gender Balance

Keychange at Reeperbahn Festival Pic: Robin Schmiedebach

Today, Keychange the pioneering international initiative for gender equity in the music industry, shares an update on the progress of the Keychange Pledge and reveals its Pledge Action Plan outlining next steps. Featuring feedback provided by more than 200 global pledge signatories over 5 years, the Pledge Action Plan has been created by Keychange based upon data analysis provided by Erasmus University Rotterdam. The action plan highlights progress made, challenges faced, and the next steps required for Keychange to continue its work in reaching gender equity in the music industry.

2017 saw the launch of the Keychange Pledge and its flagship “50/50 by 2022” campaign. Music festivals and conferences were invited to take a pledge to achieve 50/50 representation across their stages by 2022. The Pledge evolved in 2018 with an invitation to all music organisations to pledge to achieve at least 50% representation of women and gender expansive people in one or more area (s) of their work, by 2022 or in a self-determined time frame.

Over 5 years, Keychange has been engaging with global music organisations on gender balance frameworks, some key takeaways from that engagement are:

  • What gets measured gets done. 2021 – 64% of signatories already achieving or surpassing their pledge targets. More than 200 signatories from around the world shared data around their pledge progress, demonstrating that by the end of 2021, 64% of reporting pledge signatories had already achieved or surpassed their pledge of at least 50% representation of women and gender expansive artists and professionals. Further signatories are working to self-defined timeframes (all within 5 years of signing the pledge) and making significant advances towards achieving their pledge targets.
  • More than 600 music festivals and organisations around the world have now taken the Keychange Pledge implementing sustainable structures and practices to provide more space and more opportunities for women and gender expansive creators and professionals throughout the music industry than ever before
  • Keychange is a Global Movement: Gender inequity is a global issue which requires action on a global scale. The Keychange Pledge is open to signatories from all countries, and with 222 out of 613 signatories, the UK currently has the highest number of Keychange Pledge signatories. Germany follows with 57, and Canada with 41 signatories. Over 160 signatories have joined the movement in Keychange’s further partner countries of Sweden, Estonia, Italy, Norway, Iceland, France, Spain, Poland and Ireland.
  • The global network expands its reach as big players continue to sign up to the Keychange movement. SACEM (Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music) in France is the latest high profile signatory.
  • The Keychange movement is increasingly attracting engagement from around the world, with signatories from Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hong Kong, India, Lebanon, Nigeria and beyond now contributing to the international Keychange Pledge network, each taking individual actions to address gender inequity within their work.
  • Targeted Action Works. Diverse gender representation is key to creating a sustainable future for the music industry, and with greater diversity comes greater success. Keychange Pledge signatories, EFG London Jazz Festival, Eurosonic Noorderslag, EBU Music, SACEM, Tunecore and Wide Awake Festival share their perspectives on the benefits of prioritising gender-balanced workforces, rosters and line-ups and why it’s good for business.
  • While Keychange Pledge signatories are taking huge strides forward in creating representative workforces, rosters and line-ups, women and gender expansive creators and professionals remain vastly under-represented throughout the music industry.
    Find out more about gender inequity statistics in the music industry and the challenges faced by signatories in achieving their pledge goals (on pages 8 & 9 of the Keychange Pledge Action Plan)
  • Further signs of progress: the expansion of the Keychange Pledge to the wider music industry is the right direction and the next priority for the movement. As of 2022, 40.5% of the 613 Keychange Pledge signatories are festivals, 9.1% are Associations (organisations, trade bodies), 8% are management and/or booking agencies and 6.9% represent concert halls and venues.
  • Keychange now operates in all corners of the music industry but in order to create authentic lasting change, gender equity urgently needs to be deepened in every sector. Actors from the broader music ecosystem for example agents, managers, publishers and labels, conferences, concert halls, conservatoires, universities, schools, charities and trade bodies, broadcasters, publications, organisations with youth groups and education programmes, awards ceremonies and beyond need to embed a culture of gender equality in their specific areas of work.

Next Steps

Keychange will develop new frameworks, targeted campaigns and global reach to support its signatories in achieving their pledged ambitions via a new 4 point plan focussed on development and an industry-wide call to action under the following headings:

Beyond Gender: Working towards gender balance within the music industry requires actions that represent women and gender expansive people from all under-represented backgrounds. This requires a strong focus on intersectionality when creating pledges and monitoring progress, ensuring representation of and direct input from women and gender expansive people of all races, ethnicities, (dis)abilities and social classes, throughout all of Keychange’s activities.

Urgent Action: Encouraging the global music industry to create detailed, time-focussed, intersectional pledges to proactively bring about sector-wide change.

Global Community: Creating roundtables, workshops and conversation spaces for different sectors of the music industry to share best practices, information, and tips for development and progression.

Education & Activism: Keychange will develop new guidelines, best practices and monitoring support to individual signatories.

The launch of the Pledge Action Plan, at partner venue Ancienne Belgique. coincides with a busy schedule of Keychange activity in Brussels on Wednesday 15th February. The Keychange Advocacy Event will be held at the Grands Carmes community space followed by a special Keychange Presents live event featuring alumni from the Keychange Talent Development Programme: British alternative-soul singer, Tawiah and Swedish dream rock quartet, The Hanged Man.

Commenting on the pledge, Jamal Guthrie, Partnerships & Marketing at Wide Awake Festival said: “Gender representation has been a core part of the Wide Awake booking process ever since our debut. We want our festival to become a home for young people with a range of progressive outlooks and the Keychange Pledge keeps us aware of our responsibility to make gender diversity a fundamental pillar of Wide Awake. A more diverse line up leads to a more diverse and ultimately larger audience and we’re extremely proud to have Caroline Polachek headlining this year along with more female artists high up on the bill. We’re aware we still have many areas in which we can improve and we’ll continue to do that year on year but we hope that by supporting Keychange we can help to make its agenda commonplace across the industry.” 

Read the full Keychange Pledge Action Plan