Welcome To Pollstar’s Salute To The Women Of Live

Welcome to Pollstar ’s first Salute to the Women Of Live, the start of what will become an annual franchise, alongside a slate of other Pollstar editorial and events geared to recognize achievement and excellence in the live entertainment industry. This, as far as we know, is the only recognition specifically dedicated to honoring the women of the touring industry, and we are very proud to present this inaugural issue. To best describe what Pollstar ’s Women Of Live edition is all about, perhaps it is best to lay out what it isn’t about. 

The Pollstar Women Of Live feature is not about power, influence, financial success or total tickets sold, although many of these women in our inaugural list have earned achievement in all of these areas. Women Of Live is not a ranking or competition; the list is most definitely not to be considered all-inclusive, or totally representative of the “best” or most successful women in the live entertainment industry. Rather, what this Salute to the Women Of Live is, is exactly that: a celebration of the hundreds of awesome women who are making a mark in this exciting industry. 

The women on this list are examples of the sort of women who are making a difference in this industry, based on a wide range of criteria. To be sure, there are many, many other women from all sectors impacting live who are doing impactful things and having broad and specific success across the industry. These are only 25 of them (plus cover focus Ali Harnell of Women Nation), selected based on many factors, including music genres, individual clients they work with, the balance of how they fit together as a group, and what they specifically do, have done, and will do in live entertainment. 

Again, a carefully selected, highly debated (but, certainly, not debatable as to each woman selected), list of representative women who are to be admired for their overall success and elevation of women in this industry through their competence, professionalism, ethics, and dedication to their chosen field of endeavor. Many of them began their careers when they were the only woman in the room; others are only now making their mark in an industry long dominated by men. 

Given there are so many women who are doing exemplary work in this industry, we necessarily had to set parameters within which to narrow the field. As such, the attempt was made to limit the list to women directly involved in the business of live, namely presenting shows, booking and routing tours, and representing and strategizing the live sector for artists and tours across North America. 

For our purposes here, that means we did not include those at the executive level not directly involved in staging shows (think CEOs, CFOs, COOs), as well as marketing executives, brand/ sponsorships, tech, international, and many other sectors. We understand that women in these areas are critical to the success of live, especially now when so much live activity has ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 virus. We simply had to narrow the field, and we have other lists that recognize these women, such as our Impact 50 list. 

We also opted to move the many successful women of the venue industry to consideration for our sister publication VenuesNow ’s annual Women Of Influence honor, which will take place this summer and recognize an expanded group of highly successful women in the venue industry, from club to stadium level. To sum up, the overwhelming number of epic women who work in and around the live entertainment industry necessitated us putting together a list of primarily managers with a strong live component, agents, talent bookers, and promoters/producers. We simply had to stop somewhere. 

We recognize that this is an imperfect science and not above reproach or critique. Because of that, we considered not even attempting to put together such a list, or making it a huge list that encompassed all sectors of the industry. Ultimately, we decided against either course of action: we wanted to showcase these examples of great women in live, and we wanted to make it special in its scope. We hope you can appreciate the challenge this presented. For next year’s list we will listen to our readers and consider many options going forward.  

We even considered whether women should be singled out at all, given the ubiquitous nature of women in leadership roles and impactful positions throughout our industry. We listened to what women had to say about this. 

While some women do not want to be singled out, and others feel like it’s wrong to recognize women in such a way, the overwhelming response from women in this industry was that this was an exercise worth taking. 

We still have a ways to go to make this industry as diverse and inclusive as it should be. So we jumped in. In the meantime, we ask that you take this list in the spirit that it was put together. We hope you find the stories and profiles in this issue as inspiring as we did. 

As many of you know, our intention was to salute these Women Of Live at a special luncheon on March 26 in Los Angeles. We all know why that is not happening – at least for now. In fact, we debated postponing the issue entirely, given the seriousness of the situation. 

Ultimately, while COVID-19 remains at the forefront of all of our thoughts and covered exhaustively from Pollstar and  VenuesNow , we decided that it would still be fitting to salute these women and the positive force they represent in our industry, as well. We hope you agree. We know this industry is hurting right now, but we will all have a key role to play in the world’s healing. And we fully intend to make this Women Of Live face-to-face event with these well-deserving honorees happen as soon as possible, and we also look forward to honoring the women of the venues industry with the upcoming Women Of Influence reception this summer. 

There are not many reasons to celebrate right now, but  we do ask you all to take a moment and raise a glass to  Pollstar ’s Women Of Live – and all the women of live. Also be sure to check out our social profiles and Women of Live page at Pollstar.com. 

Let’s be safe, take care of each other, our fans, our artists and our industry. We’ll be back soon!

Ray Waddell
President, OVG, Media & Conference