Introducing Pollstar’s 2024 Women Of Live And Inaugural Hall Of Fame

IT’S A WOMAN’S WORLD: CAA’s Jacqueline Reynolds-Drumm, Live Nation’s Alex Maxwell, I.M.P.’s Jen Hass, AEG Presents’ Brittanie Delava and moderator Starr Butler-Jemison of Oak View Group discuss “Booking/Artist Development: Names To Watch” at Pollstar Live! in Los Angeles on Feb. 7.

March is Women’s History Month and this issue of Pollstar, along with sister publication VenuesNow, honors the Women of Live for the fifth year. It also introduces Pollstar’s inaugural class of the Women of Live Hall of Fame, consisting of 12 inductees – many of whom have been honored as Women of Live multiple times or included on the Impact 50 list, and two additional trailblazers in whose footsteps they follow.

It’s a testament to the industry’s commitment to equity among its ranks. Not that many years ago, we’d be hard-pressed to populate a group of as many as 25 women to honor, as we did for the first Women of Live selections in 2020. Now, the hardest part of the process is narrowing an ever-growing cohort down to what we have today: 80 women, selected by Pollstar and VenuesNow staff, including the first-ever International Women of Live and our dozen Hall of Fame inductees.

One of those, Barbara Hubbard, Executive Director of American Collegiate Theatrical Showcase (ACTS) tells Pollstar there may have been no more than five women active in the live entertainment business when she first joined the Pan Am Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 1968.

Now at age 96, Hubbard continues to teach a class in venue management at NMSU, and remains executive director of ACTS, providing opportunities and hands-on experience to young people across the industry, from taking tickets to doing settlements to contracts and far beyond. And she’s not done yet.

Barbara Skydel was likely one of the five women to whom Hubbard refers and joins her in the inaugural Hall of Fame. Skydel’s illustrious career began in 1968 as an assistant to the great Frank Barsalona of Premier Talent, whose platinum roster included Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, U2, Tom Petty and Van Halen among many others.

Skydel burnished her legend climbing a ladder no woman had ever before scaled, from assistant to agent to VP to the first-ever woman principal of a major talent firm. Her death in 2010 was a massive blow felt around the world and inclusion in the inaugural Hall of Fame is undisputed.

Joining Skydel and Hubbard in the Women of Live Hall of Fame’s first class are Ali Harnell, President and Chief Strategy Officer, Live Nation Women; Jenna Park Adler, Co-Head of CAA’s Global Hip-Hop/R&B Touring Group and music agent; Amy Corbin, promoter, C3 Presents/Live Nation; Carole Kinzel, CAA music agent; Sam Kirby Yoh, Partner and Co-head of Global Music, United Talent Agency; Cara Lewis, founder and CEO, Cara Lewis Group; Judi Marmel, Founding Partner, Levity Live; Marla Ostroff, Managing Director North America, Ticketmaster; Debra Rathwell, Executive Vice President of Global Touring & Talent , AEG Presents; and Marsha Vlasic, Vice Chair Music Division, Independent Artis Group.

The Women of Live represent every facet of the concert industry and even beyond – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) made the list in 2021 for her efforts during the COVID pandemic to pass legislation creating the Shuttered Venues Operating Grant, helping to save countless independent businesses from going under after they were forced to close their doors completely four years ago.

Klobuchar was educated about the plight of such venues by many but in particular by constituent and First Avenue owner Dayna Frank, one of the indefatigable small venue owners who went from pouring beer to lobbying Congress to keep live music venues open and creating the National Independent Venue Association.

But fast-forward to the 2024 Women of Live, and they cross the industry from production crews to presidents and company owners. They also look forward to an even more inclusive concert industry than that experienced by their foremothers.

First-time honoree Yvonne Donnelly Smith is Director of Music Lighting at PRG and rose to the position from her first job with the production giant as a receptionist.

“Back then, behind the reception desk was – almost – the only place you might see a woman in the industry,” she tells Pollstar. Things are different now, she says, with women everywhere from the warehouse to the corner office, though she says it can always get better.

“I’d be disappointed if, in five to 10 years’ time, there isn’t significant improvement in representation at top tables,” she says.

Misty Roberts got her start in the business riding in the back of regional tour vans and worked her way up to Tour Coordinator for “The Trilogy Tour” featuring Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin and Pitbull and is currently Tour Manager for the three sisters of HAIM, who played select dates on Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour.” Her work with HAIM led to having 50% women on their crew when the “One More HAIM Tour” launched in April 2022. But she admits staffing more women remains a challenge.

“I would like to see hiring parties not just giving up when it’s hard to hire inclusively,” Roberts says. “I’m the first to say it takes more work. You have to do more research on people when you are looking through resumes. I often have to branch out myself and disregard the resumes sitting in front of me and go on a hunt. … When you look out and see that you have partnered with your artist and provided opportunity and inclusivity to everyone, it’s a pretty incredible feeling.”

Outback Presents Senior Booking Manager Fallon Nell is something of a prodigal daughter. She was hired as the Nashville-based company’s first intern back in 2003. She returned to Outback in 2022 and the following year put together the first 312 Comedy Festival in Chicago. She did so with a team of women at the comedy-heavy independent promoter that checked in at No. 8 on Pollstar’s 2023 promoters’ rankings.

“When I was getting started I was in many ways unaware of how being a woman could prevent opportunities from coming my way because I was developing my skills under the wings and respect of Mike Smardak, who has always been a champion for women,” Nell tells Pollstar.

She’s found a better balance, including more respect and support for working moms.
“I have working-mom friends who feel pulled between home and work,” she says. “Over half of my colleagues at Outback Presents are women. I work in an environment where my talent and ability to be fully engaged in my work while balancing time with my family is prioritized and valued. Women have proven that we can win at work and at home.”

The 2024 Women of Live stand on the shoulderpads of giants, without a doubt, and deserve all the flowers for their achievements. They’ll also stand as the examples for generations of women to come.

Skydel once said, “My career was never a woman’s issue to me. … Unquestionably, a woman still has to be so much better at her job than a man to fight through the ranks. But I retain a belief that this industry, more than others, offers the opportunity for success to anyone with enough ability and ambition.”