Fresh from a busy Iceland Airwaves Festival, we catch up with Keychange sponsor STEF to find out more about their work and their support for the Keychange project.

Since its inception, the Keychange initiative has received invaluable support from a number of partners and sponsors within the music industry, including a number of collecting societies in Europe. One such collecting society is STEF, based in Reykjavík, Iceland, so we spoke to Chief Executive Officer Guðrún Björk Bjarnadóttir to find out more about the organisation, and their thoughts about the Keychange initiative.

For those who are unaware of the organisation, could you please give us a quick overview of STEF and the work that you do? And what are some of STEF’s main priorities and projects at the moment?

STEF is the Icelandic Collective Management Organisation whose main aim is to collect royalties for composers and songwriters. At the moment, one of STEF’s main priorities is to increase overseas collection and in order to do that, we do what we can in promoting our members’ careers outside of Iceland. In this regard, we work in close cooperation with the Icelandic Music Export Office. The Keychange project falls right within our aim, as it enables our talented women members to showcase their music to new audience and opens doors to festivals that otherwise would perhaps not be available to them.

It’s fantastic to have STEF as a sponsor of the Keychange initiative – why did the society decide to become a part of the project? Could you share some thoughts on Keychange, and STEF’s involvement so far?

STEF decided to become a sponsor to the Keychange initiative as it was one of the few programmes available at the time to collecting societies to tackle the gender imbalance in the music industry (which is staggering by the way). Not only does it do that, but it does it in a very positive way, emphasising the talents of women singer/songwriters. Irrespective of the gender angle of the project, it is a very exciting programme which helps emerging artists to develop and break territorial borders. Since the programme started, it has developed in a fantastic way and had an impact in numerous other ways to were initially intended, such as to get more than 140 music festivals to sign a pledge on a gender balanced line-up and has impacted policy making within the EU institutions.

There are some brilliant Icelandic participants highlighted as Keychange innovators and creators, and Iceland Airwaves has achieved the 50:50 gender balance set out in the Keychange festival pledge. So how do you see the future for Icelandic women in the industry? 

Even though Iceland Airwaves has already achieved 50:50 gender balance and in general it can be said that the Icelandic society is in many ways more gender balanced than other societies, the music industry in Iceland is still a very male dominated one – as in the rest of the world. Of course we would like to see some progress made in the near future towards a more gender balanced music industry in Iceland as well as in other countries, and to see that women in the industry have equal opportunities compared with their male counterparts. The future for Icelandic women in the industry is certainly brighter than before with the help of the Keychange project.