Voices From The Trenches: Ali Harnell

Pollstar’s periodic column providing snapshots of players in the industry.

Harnell’s title is “Senior Vice President / AEG Live – Messina Touring Group” but she is mostly known for, well, doing everything and doing it at the same time. We tossed her some quick questions, including defining her diverse career.

How did you get started in this business? And what led you to TMG?

My best friend from college’s uncle was Bob Krasnow, President of Elektra Records. We went to his house in Gramercy Park in the mid-’80s and I decided then and there that I needed to be in the music business (It was a phat house). So I started working in record stores, was a runner and production assistant for shows, moved to NYC out of college and worked at William Morris. I then got hired by Ron Delsener as an assistant to Melissa Miller (Ormond). I became a promoter there, then Louie Messina approached me in the mid-’90s to move to Nashville to run Pace Concerts Southeast. I never looked back.

You’re a point person for organizing festivals from here to Europe to putting together arena tours. Can you sum up your duties in a sentence or two?

I’m a concert promoter/jack of many trades. I run a regional office for AEG Live; I also run national tours out of my office; and I develop special projects like the Country2Country Music Festival in the UK, a brand we hope to expand globally.

Any particular highlight of the past summer or 12 months?

I have loved being a part of Little Big Town’s ever-evolving touring history. They are some of the best people I’ve ever known or worked with, their talent is limitless and their work ethic unparalleled.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I have no filter and kind of live out loud so I don’t think there are many surprises. Let’s see … ah, people are usually surprised when they find out I was a competitive figure skater in my youth.

If you could change one thing about the business, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to count on a little more loyalty.

So you were recently honored. Could you please explain more to our readers?

Twenty-five years into my career I’m receiving a lot of very cool accolades. In the past year, IEBA named me Promoter of the Year, Billboard named me Top 50 Women in Music as well as a Top 50 Nashville Power Player, Nashville Business Journal has awarded me with their Women in Music City Award two years running, and TJ Martell named me their Ambassador of the Year and roasted me. Getting roasted is a trip.

You’re also a band co-manager. Please explain more. Why this band? 

I am co-managing, with Carolyn Snell, an amazing band called The Shadowboxers. They are a three-part harmony funk pop band with the sickest rhythm section whom I instantly fell in love with and initially just wanted to help out. They are making incredible music, their live shows are epic, and we are going for it! Justin Timberlake is a huge fan and supporter, as well as a creative and business partner.

If you could brag about one of your accomplishments, what would it be?

It may sound cheesy but I’m really proud that I have maintained a very interesting career while raising my incredible son Eli.

Ali Harnell is honored with the 2015 “Ambassador Of The Year” award by the T.J. Martell Foundation at Zanies in Nashville May 11. Joining the senior VP of AEG Live / TMG are CAA’s John Huie, AEG / TMG’s Louis Messina and AEG’s Chuck Morris.

Here’s where you can give a big shout-out to three people out there besides Louie and Kate.

For sure Jay Marciano, for sure my mother Dianne and for sure my AEG Live Nashville team who bust their asses daily!

From high school forward: what is your most memorable concert experience? OK, three if you have to.

I hate this question. I’ve loved so many of the thousands of shows I’ve seen. But, if I must:

1) Pearl Jam / Limelight / April 1992
2) Annie Lennox / The Ryman Auditorium / October 2007
3) Nashville Rising (Nashville Flood benefit) / Bridgestone Arena / June 2010 –

And indulge me…

4) Dave Matthews Band / Vanderbilt Stadium / April 2009
5) The first time I heard Chris Stapleton sing live

One topical question: Why do you think stadium shows are increasing?  Better economy? The artists?  The venues themselves are more accommodating?  Something else?

I actually think it’s pretty simple: The caliber of artists playing stadiums is incredible and they put on spectacles of show that are true experiences for their fans and for curiosity seekers.

What say you there, fussy britches. Feel like talking?  Emal us here.