Ali Harnell, President and Chief Strategy Officer, Live Nation / Women Nation

The Disruptors

The executives behind the ideas that disrupt the industry in positive ways.

Ali Harnell
President and Chief Strategy Officer, Live Nation / Women Nation

Ali Harnell’s rich and varied career prior to being announced as the first president and chief strategy officer for Live Nation’s new Women Nation division in March is worthy of notice on its own, but she’s now poised to have immense impact on the concert business in the first-of-its-kind role spearheading womens’ initiatives.

 “All my projects and initiatives will be focused on amplifying and elevating women, from research and implementation of best practices for creating equity for women in the workplace, advancing women’s leadership, and developing and producing female-led and female-driven content,” Harnell tells Pollstar.

The #MeToo and Times Up initiatives may have increased the urgent need for a program like Women Nation, but the fact that Live Nation is made up of approximately 45 percent women did, too. 

And the highly visible position may encourage other companies to elevate already existing programs to the division level as more women enter the live business.

“I’m hoping the trend of accountability and positive solutions for equity continues,” Harnell says. “It’s time for companies to be accountable for change. We still have a lot of progress to make. In particular and close to home, I want to see more women represented on country radio and more female country artists moving into headline status. I want to see more companies promote women to leadership positions.” 

She adds, “The simple act of having more women’s voices, more diverse voices, in leadership roles changes the fabric of society and culture.”

This singular position may be the most impactful of Harnell’s career. 

She notes that Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino “[showed] true leadership and put his money where his mouth is, and prioritizing change will have impact on the company and hopefully inspire others to follow suit.” 

Harnell is able to combine her passion for music with activism in moving the needle forward, dating to her discovery in college “that there was actually a music business, so I made my way one company and opportunity at a time.”

Prior to her March 31 appointment by Live Nation, Harnell had a run as AEG Presents senior VP of global touring, 14 years at AEG/Messina Touring Group, and her first gig with promoter Delsener/Slater Enterprises.

“Once I landed at Ron Delsener’s, my fate was decided,” Harnell says. 

“I caught the live bug, had a natural knack for talent buying and never looked back.”

She’s also proud of the work she did in Nashville with AEG and in the country music world generally, including her contribution to reviving the Ryman Auditorium and making it one of the premier venues to play in the world and her work in creating and developing the C2C (Country 2 Country) festival in the U.K. and Europe. 

Ron Delsener and Mitch Slater played strategic roles in mentoring the young Harnell, and she credits Melissa Miller Ormond (Chief Operating Officer of festivals at AEG Presents) with helping to guide her career.

“I learned almost everything I still use today from the three of them,” she says. “Melissa is incredibly strategic and persistent. Ron is a legend who always brought his unique entrepreneurial spirit and gift for relationships. And Mitch had a growth vision and will to win.”

Hot Takes

Your favorite laminate:

Impossible to pick. 

The show that changed your life:

Dave Matthews Band opening for The Samples at Irving Plaza on April 21, 1993. 

Best/worst career-related advice you were ever given:

Being told I should be more successful when I already felt successful in my LIFE. 

Biggest miss by you and/or the industry:

The industry is still behind in accountability towards women! 

What would you like to tell our friends at the record labels and/or radio:

Do I have to talk to them? 

Where can you be found during a show:

FOH mix, side stage, pit. 

Artist to watch – breaking in the next year:

Hmmmm, Maren Morris keeps kicking ass, steps into arenas and stadiums one day! 

Pet peeves:

Liars, inauthenticity

Technology that has most impacted your daily work or personal life:

Spotify definitely made access to music much easier as well as being an incredible discovery tool. And ugh! Instagram. I hate it and I love it. Somebody make it stop. 

Ten years removed from The Great Slump — can it happen again:

Of course it can.