VIDEO: Festival boss launches ReBalance scheme to get more girls into music industry

Melvin Benn launching his ReBalance plans with Lande Hekt from punk rock band Muncie Girls, PRS Foundation chief executive Vanessa Reed and Lucy Wood, also from Festival Republic.
Melvin Benn launching his ReBalance plans with Lande Hekt from punk rock band Muncie Girls, PRS Foundation chief executive Vanessa Reed and Lucy Wood, also from Festival Republic.
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Girl power got a helping hand today when one of the world's biggest music promoters launched an initiative in to encourage more female UK led bands, solo acts and sound engineers.

The so-called ReBalance scheme aims to address the gender imbalance in the music industry, says the man behind it, Reading and Leeds Festival boss Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic.

He also recently produced the One Love Manchester benefit concert, which raised over £10m, in response to the the terrorist attack - bringing together artists including Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Take That.

His ReBalance project follows criticism that his year's Reading and Leeds festivals - both on August 25 to 27 - did not have enough women in the line-ups, headed by the likes of Eminem, Kasabian, Muse and ex-Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher.

Festival Republic, supported by the PRS Foundation, replied today with a plan which they hope will revolutionise the music industry.

FACEBOOK LIVE: Watch the full ReBalance press conference which was streamed live on the Yorkshire Evening Post Facebook page - CLICK HERE.

The three-year project - which will be based at the Old Chapel Music Studios in Leeds - aims to provide a step-up for UK female led bands and solo artists.

Successful candidates will receive a week's studio time, travel, accommodation and mentor access - plus a performance slot at a live nation or Festival Republic Festival.

There will also be a new apprenticeship scheme launched for studio engineers with an emphasis on encouraging female applicants. Two will be chosen apprentices over the three year programme. During the first 18 months they will work with engineers in-house at Old Chapel Music Studio and will then be the lead/co- engineers on the project.

TICKETS: For festival tickets, updates, safety information and more visit www.leedsfestival.com and www.readingfestival.com
In a recent Women Make Music Evaluation carried out by PRS Foundation, it was highlighted that women represent 16 per cent of UK songwriters and composers and that there is a lack of women in other roles across the industry.

Engineering, in particular, is viewed as an almost entirely male ‘closed shop’.

ReBalance responds to this by supporting both artists and up and coming female engineers in a programme which offers valuable studio time and industry support.

The aim of the project is to strengthen the talent pipeline and progression routes for female artists and engineers, said Melvin, at a Leeds Festival media day held outside the Old Chapel Music Studios in Leeds

He said: “Something needs to be done about gender equality in the music industry. It’s a wider issue that involves us, the live industry, but the solution doesn’t rest only with us. I have decided to be proactive in changing and working towards this no longer being an issue in the future, and that’s what this project is about.

"We’ve been working closely with PRS Foundation and their Women Make Music programme, alongside Old Chapel Studio in Leeds to pull together this exciting new initiative. ReBalance will enable future, and current female musicians within the industry, to have the support they need in order to be recognised.

"There is a significant lack of female acts with recording contracts, and indeed airplay – it’s quite astonishing.

"This is a project that gives a step up from start to finish. I am also committing to a performance slot on a Festival Republic or Live Nation festival, for each of the acts who come through the ReBalance programme”

Artists and engineers will be nominated by industry experts, including labels, managers, streaming services, publishers, promoters, agents and journalists, who will be invited by Festival Republic and PRS Foundation to nominate their choices.

A selection panel will then shortlist and select the successful artists and engineers from this nominated shortlist. The selection panel will change over the year in line with availability and demand.

Vanessa Reed, CEO of PRS Foundation said: "We look forward to helping Festival Republic to deliver this important and exciting programme and to following the results of the monthly studio sessions planned. We need more male leaders like Melvin Benn to recognise the ongoing gender gap in music and to use their position to do something about it. Coming up with campaigns and initiatives like ReBalance, will ultimately strengthen our industry and be of benefit to us all.”

Natti Shiner, of Fickle Friends, said: “Being a woman in a band ain't easy. Let’s face it, guitar music is male-dominated and it seems like the wider music industry is hardwired towards men - even the fact that people often feel they have to refer to our band as being 'female-fronted' feels wrong - who ever referred to Arctic Monkeys as a 'male-fronted' band?..

"ReBalance is important because it looks to tackle this issue in a long-term way. Rather than just sticking a few female artists on some bills as a token gesture, it will provide support for the things that actually matter to an emerging artist - studio time, travel, accommodation, practical advice etc.”

Chris Guerin, Chair of Leeds Music Trust said: “This is a wonderful initiative and all of us at Leeds Music Trust are really excited and proud to be a part of this fantastic and much needed programme."

TICKETS: For festival tickets, updates, safety information and more visit www.leedsfestival.com and www.readingfestival.com