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Canadian festivals aim for gender balanced lineups

Gender balanced lineups a goal for Canadian festivals
Alessia Cara was the only woman to win in one of the major categories at this year's Grammy Awards

The fight for gender equality, increasingly being taken up by governments, activists and experts, is rightfully becoming a growing point of action within the music industry.

The Grammys were heavily criticized this year for a lack of female performers and representation. A prime example being Lorde, who was nominated for Album of the Year, but not offered the same solo performance opportunity as the category’s other nominees, who were male.

As The Star reported back in January: “Canadian singer Alessia Cara was the only woman to win in one of the major categories at this year’s Grammy Awards, and less than a quarter of the 84 trophies handed out Sunday went to either a woman or group that included a woman.”

Lorde’s mother, of all people, shared some Grammy facts of her own via Twitter: “Of the 899 people to be nominated for Grammy awards in the past six years, only nine per cent were women.”

Meanwhile, the JUNO Awards have also seen criticism for a lack of female representation, whether it be the amount of female performers, or the amount of nominations.

Tegan and Sara reacted to last year’s nominations by making a public statement expressing their disappointment:

“It is with tremendous respect and absolutely no judgement of each nominee’s well-deserved accomplishments that we take this moment to address the disappointing number of women nominated in many of the various categories.”

Recently a UK talent firm named PRS Foundation made a promise to empower women “to transform the future of the music industry.” They’ve launched a new program called Keychange that has gender balanced festivals and conferences as its goal.

At a recent event which took place at the Canadian High Commission in London, UK, Keychange announced 45 global events that had made a promise to implement change by 2022, including four major Canadian festivals. They include Canadian Music Week, North by Northeast (NXNE), BreakOut West, and Montreal-based electronic music festival, Mutek.

“At Canadian Music Week, we have always strived to create diverse programming that is reflective of both audience interest and the current landscape of the industry. We are proud to partner with Keychange in an effort to strive for the excellence that our community deserves,” noted Canadian Music Week president Neill Dixon.

And BreakOut West executive director Robyn Stewart made a detailed statement about her organization’s position:

“Though BreakOut West festival is curated through an impartial jury process, we do and will continue to focus our outreach to a wide scope of the industry, supporting a balanced genre base in the submission process. We see this resulting in a balance in the selected showcasing artists year to year. With respect to music entrepreneurs engaged in the conference programming, we have a balance of diversity at front of mind throughout the programming process to ensure a representative balance of leaders and mentors from which new industry and artists can learn. We find maintaining this balance to be incredibly important in ensuring the artists and industry involved felt relatable and included and found that achieving this balance to be a natural fit and not to affect our goal to produce the highest level programming in any way.”

You can find more information on the official site, Keychange.eu.

This milestone moment at the Canada High Commission is only the beginning for the Keychange initiative as it strives to engage further festivals in the gender balance pledge in the coming months.”

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