PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed on her quest to make the music industry equal.
PRS Foundation CEO Vanessa Reed was this year named the third most influential woman in music by BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour Power List, after Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. Reed, who has also been inducted into Music Week’s Women in Music Roll of Honour 2018, continues to work tirelessly towards a more diverse and inclusive music industry.
Vanessa Reed joined PRS Foundation a decade ago in 2008 and in that time has had a huge impact on the range of funding available to new talent. As CEO, Reed has made sure that a focus on women in music remains top of the agenda at the Foundation. “Gender equality, and diversity in general, remain at the top of our agenda because we want songwriters, composers and artists of all backgrounds to realise their potential,” says Reed, “we believe that the future success of the music industry depends on increased participation from women and other under represented groups.” Reed has helped position the Foundation as the UK’s most successful funder of new music talent, by increasing the support available to diverse songwriters and composers at vital stages in their careers. “We’ve tackled the gender gap in music by analysing statistics and then doing something pro active about any imbalances,” says Reed, “The answer for us has been targeted funds like Women Make Music and Keychange which have been the first funding programmes of their kind, beginning in the UK and then growing into a global network.” The PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music fund was launched in 2011 to support the development of female songwriters and composers of all genres and backgrounds. The fund aims to increase the profile of women making music in the UK, raise awareness of the gender gap in the industry and ensure that women are aware that support is available to them. “These have resulted in many more women putting themselves forward for our funding and industry leaders joining us in a commitment to changing their own structures,” Reed says, on funding initiatives like Women Make Music.
Vanessa Reed founded the Keychange initiative at the end of last year, which has been a focus for her in 2018. Keychange is a talent support programme, led by PRS Foundation, which invests in women from across Europe. The international initiative has grown to support not only the sixty female artists and innovators who were originally selected to take part, but women across the whole industry.
The initiative was founded in partnership with 7 festivals from across Europe and in Canada, who set themselves the goal of reaching a 50:50 gender balance on their stages by 2022. “It’s a voluntary target, created by our founding festival partners,” Reed explains, “and 150 festivals have now signed up this pledge.” Reed presented the Keychange Manifesto at European Parliament last month, which outlines the current gender gap in music and includes suggestions from the original partners and participants in the initiative on how to achieve gender equality across the industry. “I think Keychange is a useful example of positive collective action stimulating and inspiring change,” says Reed. A year on from the initiative’s launch, it has become clear that the 50:50 pledge model could be used elsewhere in the music industry. “We’re beginning to have conversations with other organisations about how they could be involved and I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t adapt this kitemark to represent new commitments from across the industry, for example, for orchestras, promoters, trade bodies and radio stations,” says Reed, “The way they approach the pledge is likely to vary but the principles will remain the same – aiming for a more balanced industry which will be better for everyone.”
On her accolades this year, Reed is grateful to be recognised for her contributions to the music industry. “Joining the Women in Music Roll of Honour and being selected as number three in BBC’s Woman’s Hour Music Power List have been huge honours for me this year,” Reed says. Reed’s position on the Woman’s Hour Power List placed her above the likes of Adele and Dua Lipa, and commended her for “shaking up” the industry. When asked if this recognition impacts how she views her role within the music industry Reed says, “The widespread coverage of the Women’s Hour Power List has recognised and given profile to my work – as CEO of a charity – alongside global pop stars like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. This has definitely impacted how I see our potential to influence change and the importance of awards in highlighting different forms of female ‘power’.”
Reed is aware of how important it is for her, as an influential woman in the industry, to be an advocate for women’s rights, “I think anyone who is both in a position of influence and from a group which is under represented in their field has the responsibility to encourage, support and advocate on behalf of others.”
The work Reed does at PRS Foundation does allow her to see the real time benefits of continuously working towards equality. “When I was approached at Keychange events over the past year it made me realise how crucial it is to so many women in music to see that concrete steps are being taken to improve conditions for them and the next generation,” she says.
Vanessa Reed is a role model for other women in the industry. The prestigious accolades she has achieved with her hard work, passion and commitment will keep coming as she continues to influence and educate the industry to be more inclusive.