Ali Harnell Talks ‘Beautiful Noise Live’: The Power Of Music, Voting & Amplifying Women’s Voices

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

When Ali Harnell, President/Chief Strategy Officer of Live Nation Women, commissioned the song “A Beautiful Noise” – created by an all-female songwriting team and recorded by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile – to help get out the vote in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, she had hoped to put on an event to go along with it. After the pandemic thwarted pretty much all plans that year, Harnell’s vision is coming to fruition with “Beautiful Noise Live: When All Women Vote Week of Action,” celebrating the power of music, women’s voices and civic engagement.

Live Nation Women has teamed up with the United State of Women (USOW) and When We All Vote, an initiative of Civic Nation, to present Beautiful Noise Live Sept. 19-23 in Atlanta, featuring a week of panels, workshops, interviews, forums and concerts.

The event kicked off Sept. 19 with “The 19th Represents: Equality On The Ballot,” at Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre, featuring Errin Haines, the editor-at-large of independent, nonprofit newsroom The 19th, interviewing Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, along with a performance by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Allison Russell. A recording of the event will air afterward on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. ET.
And then there’s the State of Women Forum, hosted by the United State of Women, on Sept. 22 with a focus on four key issues impacting gender equity: Reproductive Justice, Economic Security, Climate Justice, and Voting Rights, along with musical performances by Russell, Ruby Amanfu and SistaStrings.

Carlile performs Sept. 22 at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre and Keys plays Sept. 23 at Cadence Bank Amphitheatre, with voter registration offered on site. Sept. 23 also features a Live Nation Women x Femme It Forward event with Keys and Carlile at Spelman College: a sit down conversation with a student moderator and student voting organizers.

USOW, which was born out of the Obama Administration’s White House Council on Women and Girls, works to drive policy and culture change on issues at the intersection of gender and racial justice through education, community and action.

When We All Vote, which was created by former First Lady Michelle Obama, is a leading national, nonpartisan initiative that aims to increase participation in elections by helping to close the race and age gaps.

Live Nation Women and its partners hosted a sweepstakes that gave fans the chance to win a trip to attend Beautiful Noise Live Sept. 22-23 including airfare, hotel stay and tickets to see Carlile and and Keys in concert.

Beautiful Noise Live coincides with National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 20 and organizers are encouraging everyone to check their voter registration status ahead of the midterm election on Nov. 8 by texting “WOMEN” to 56005. Voter registration deadlines vary by state with some as early as Oct. 9 and others allowing same-day registration.

Pollstar caught up with Harnell to learn more about Beautiful Noise Live and what voting means to her as the daughter of a civil rights activist.

Pollstar: Can you talk about the inspiration for the event, the Grammy-nominated song “A Beautiful Noise”?
Ali Harnell: “A Beautiful Noise” is really about mobilizing women and commemorating our fought-for rights. I basically commissioned that song to be written. So, I put together all of the writers and artists, and I sent inspiration for women’s suffrage – [2020] was the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And in 2020 there was a huge social and racial justice awakening in this country. [The song] was originally meant to be an anthem for a huge event I was trying to do in 2020 called All Women Vote. COVID thwarted our plans for that [but] we still got the song out in time for the 2020 election. And it really resonated and inspired a lot of people. We got so much outreach about it and then it was nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year. More than a song … it really felt like a movement. And so that’s what we’re trying to build with A Beautiful Noise Live. This year in Atlanta is our first touch point to that. Our hope and intention and goal is to make Beautiful Noise Live a platform to use in every election year to mobilize women, to vote in their interests, to be aware of the issues that affect them and inspire them to vote.

Why was Atlanta the right location for the first event?
A couple of reasons. Number one, I really wanted the first Beautiful Noise Live to feature Brandi Carlile and Alicia Keys. I have a lot of dreams about what that song can do in the future with other women’s voices, but because Brandi and Alicia are the first voices on that song I wanted to center it around them and. The universe just lined all of this up so there could be back to back concerts with Alicia and Brandi in Atlanta. And it’s within two weeks of voter registration deadlines in Georgia. Georgia is a critical state in the midterm election. And in fact, I was born and raised in Atlanta.

Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile will take part in “Beautiful Noise Live – When All Women Vote Week Of Action” with Carlile performing at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre Sept. 22 and Keys at Atlanta’s Cadence Bank Amphitheater Sept. 23.
Photo by Ramon Rivas

Oh, that’s perfect.
My parents, particularly my mother, were big civil rights activists and have been involved for many years in Atlanta. So everything about it just felt like a perfect storm.

Anything you can share about the partnerships for Beautiful Noise Live?
We created a partnership with United State of Women, first and foremost, because I think that the work they’re doing and trying to center is so aligned … [focused on how] women and all people of marginalized genders can thrive. So how do we frame our work through that lens? And USOW does that all day, every day from a policy perspective and an organizing perspective. So USOW, we started there.

And then there’s a media outlet called The 19th News that I’ve been watching for a couple of years. I love the work they’re doing. They center stories that the mainstream media otherwise does not. And so I went to them. We tried to create as many strategic partnerships with organizations that were centering this work as well.

We also wanted to keep a music focus and a women in music focus, because that’s what Live Nation Women is here to do. And so we created partnerships with She Is The Music and Femme It Forward and Gritty in Pink and Women In Music, organizations like that, trying to bring as many women and music in Atlanta together as well to celebrate and mobilize.

How’s the reaction been to the event and sweepstakes?
Great – as good as I could have expected or hoped for. Every day I’m surprised by what comes into my inbox and my text chain from people all over the place who are seeing it and responding to it and affirming it. So I feel great about it. And the sweepstakes was great. They were all freaking out the first day that the entries went live. A huge number of people [responded]. We’re trying to just make our own beautiful noise and remind people voting is important … when you get to the root of it, what are the issues that affect you and how do we help you get informed about that? And how do we remind you that voting your interest is key to our democracy?

What does voting mean to you personally? You mentioned that your mom was a civil rights activist?
We were not allowed to come to the dinner table without a current event to discuss. And she just always put it right in there for us. I remember the first time I voted … and when I had my son one of my favorite memories, from the time he was a baby, was [telling him], this is what the polling place looks like, This is where democracy lives. This is where we can make a difference. I think voting is so, so important.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Lizzo pledged to donate $500,000 to Planned Parenthood and abortion rights organizations and Live Nation matched the donation, along with promising to cover travel expenses for employees who need access to women’s health care. You must be proud to work for a company that’s so supportive of women.
I am very proud of the way Michael Rapino leads in this area and to stand up for women – it’s not lost on any of us, the disparity in the music business for women and the fact that he has invested in quite frankly, me and this division to work and try and create solutions around this issue – it speaks for itself, number one. But then the way he does show up in these moments and put his money where his mouth is and doesn’t get talk the talk, but walks the walk. I’m very proud.

Anything you wanted to add?
The thing that popped into my brain and my gut when you asked that is figuring out how to pass the torch … [how] women can pass the torch about making a beautiful noise. Coming back to my Georgia roots and my mother’s influence on me, at one point in her political career, she worked on John Lewis’ campaign. And so John Lewis has been a hero for her and John Lewis is famous for saying make good trouble. And to me, Beautiful Noise is the same thing for women. Make a beautiful noise: let’s figure out how to be loud and make it beautiful. And advance what’s going to serve us in our fight for equality and rights and autonomy. Anything we can do to say to women, make a beautiful noise, use your voice, step up!