45 music festivals vow gender equality

Forty-five music festivals pledged Monday to ensure a gender balance in their programming by 2022 amid a growing spotlight on the lagging recognition of women in entertainment.

The festivals across Europe and North America, which include several known as music industry tastemakers but few mega-events, said they would give women at least 50 percent of opportunities on their lineups, panels and commissions.

“I hope that this will be the start of a more balanced industry which will result in benefits for everyone,” said Vanessa Reed, the CEO of PRS Foundation, the British charitable fund for music initiatives that spearheaded the campaign.

Thirty-eight festivals newly signed up to the initiative including Midem, the leading music industry trade fair in the south of France; the BBC Proms, the closely watched summer season of classical music in London; and A2IM, the independent label festival in New York.

Seven festivals had already made the commitment including Iceland Airwaves, the indie rock-heavy festival in Reykjavik, and The Great Escape, which takes place in small venues across the English coastal city of Brighton.

Canadian events were especially prominent in making the pledge including Canadian Music Week, the industry get-together in Toronto, and North by Northeast, the showcase for new art and media billed as Canada’s answer to South by Southwest.

The so-called Keychange initiative on gender equality did not include many of the most prominent music festivals, which often have male-dominated lineups that reflect rock music’s long history of testosterone influences.

Coachella, the biggest-name US festival, has one woman — Beyonce — among its three headliners in April. Glastonbury, the grandaddy of British festivals, is taking a regularly scheduled break this year but in 2017 had no women among its top three names.

The festival initiative comes as the entertainment industry and the broader culture confront institutional sexism in the wake of allegations of widespread sexual abuse by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Several female artists voiced outrage after the latest Grammy Awards when the head of the Recording Academy, asked why more women were not winning the top US-based music industry prize, said that women needed to “step up.”

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