I read about the european project Keychange following the profile of the musician Johann Merrich. Like the band Impero della Luce had been able to perform in the 2021, at Tallin Music Week, in Tallin, Esthonia. I wanted to know more and I got in touch with the contact persons of the project Keychange to exchange some digital chatter. Said, done, in a moment came the answers. I invite you to read the interview:
Why was the Keychange movement born?
Keychange is a Creative Europe funded 4-year project that aims to accelerate change and create a better, more inclusive music industry for present and future generations. We are doing this via a career development programme for underrepresented talent, a gender balance pledge for music organisations and a Manifesto that influences policy.
Keychange was born out of the stark reality presented by available statistics which show a severe underrepresentation of women and gender minorities in the music business. We believe this is not due to the lack of talent, but the lack of opportunities, as well as the structural barriers for these genders in our society. Keychange wants to tear down these barriers and offer talent opportunities in order for us all to enjoy a more versatile and vibrant music landscape in the future.
Keychange was initiated by Vanessa Reed, former CEO of PRS Foundation in 2015. Together with the initial partners; Musikcentrum Öst (Sweden), Reeperbahn Festival (Germany), BIME (Spain), Tallinn Music Week (Estonia) and Iceland Airwaves (Iceland), the project was developed towards its launch in 2017. By then, MUTEK in Montréal, Canada had teamed up as an overseas partner – a testament to the fast pace and urgency of the movement. In the 2019 launch, the partners of Keychange had increased and also incorporated Oslo World in Norway, Linecheck in Italy, SACEM in France, Ireland Music Week in Ireland, and Break Out West in Canada. Associated partners in the project are Way Out West in Sweden, Liverpool Sound City in the UK, MaMA Festival in France, and Different Sounds in Poland.
The Keychange 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. Keychange has — from its initial career development programme — transformed into a global movement for a profound transformation of the music industry.
Who or what was your inspiration?
Vanessa Reed, the CEO at PRS Foundation in 2015, had worked with a PRS Foundation project called Women Make Music – and this was the inspiration behind the more globally focused Keychange project. The partners behind Keychange represent various parts of the music industry and saw the need to strengthen underrepresented talent at several levels – via the individual programme for artists and professionals, the Keychange Gender Equality Pledge for the industry and the Keychange Manifesto aimed towards politicians and decision makers.
In which fields of the music industry are you in?
The individual programme that support 74 talents each year is targeted towards promoting them at our partner festivals and their genres. The Keychange pledge is accessible to all parts of the music industry and we have over 500 organizations joining and pledging for the cause.
What kind of services do you offer?
We are an EU funded project with a set agenda – in our planned activities we offer a supporting Capacity Building Programme for talents selected for Keychange by the Keychange partners. We also offer the possibility to sign our Keychange pledge and get help and support as an organisation working towards gender equality. The Keychange Manifesto has sessions at each of our partner festivals and offers a possibility for interested parties to make their voices heard in our mutual advocacy for gender equality. The Keychange Manifesto will be presented to the European Institutions by 2024.
Which social media sites do you use to promote your activities?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn
Are you open to collaborations or shared projects?
As a project with a set agenda and a set budget, we are a bit limited and cannot go beyond our project’s specific framework. That being said – we are of course open to anyone who wants to support or interact with us in the work for gender equality in music worldwide. We offer knowledge but are also eager to learn and spread great ideas. Former collaborations, for example, have been with TuneCore, the UN Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign or Ted Baker.
How have the people reacted to your project, for example in the EU?
Keychange has been very well received by both the public and the EU. The 50/50 version of the Keychange pledge was criticised for not acknowledging genders other than man /woman. In 2020 we took this out of our communication and are now talking about gender balance and underrepresented genders. The EU has expressed themselves highly appreciative towards the project and in 2021, Keychange was named one of the best culture projects in the continent by the Culture EU Funding Guide for example.
(Expected last question:) what are your projects for the future?
There has been great interest in the Keychange model for transforming the music business and although we are focused on delivering our current project for the moment, the Keychange project will live on in one way or another. The idea of working at various levels and collaborating is striking and appeals to the world – and the movement continues to spread over the world.