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Features September 16, 2022

6 Things Men Can Do Now According to Live Nation Women’s Ali Harnell

6 Things Men Can Do Now According to Live Nation Women’s Ali Harnell
Courtesy of Live Nation

What does true allyship in the music industry look like? What can men start doing now to join the fight for gender parity? And what does it mean to be an up-stander not a bystander? Those were just a few of the questions expertly tackled by Live Nation executive Ali Harnell at this month’s BIGSOUND conference in Brisbane.

In town to deliver a keynote interview, conducted by this journalist, Harnell’s inclusion at BIGSOUND was necessary and timely. It followed the publishing of the local Music Industry Review survey results the week prior, which unveiled compelling evidence’ of abuse in Australia’s music sector. One finding in the survey revealed that ‘55% have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment and sexual harm in their career’.

Ali Harnell has devoted her career to gender parity in music. As the former SVP of global touring for AEG, Harnell has had a front row seat to many of the music industry’s growing pains and culture changes. Now, as the global president and chief strategy officer of Live Nation Women, Harnell’s role centres around the advancement, advocacy, and amplification of women in each of the promoter giant’s tours, projects, and initiatives.

While the almost 60-minute chat in the big chair revealed many pearls of wisdom thanks to Harnell’s candid honesty and generosity, she had a few sage words of advice for the men in the audience, and to anyone who would like to take on or continue the role of an ally.

Recognise Your Privilege 

“Equality and equity are very big and profound concepts but truly we’re all just human beings. We all just want opportunity and access to pursue our dreams, our hopes, our goals, our ambitions, and there is a system that is in place that favours, sorry dudes, you, and sorry white people, us. 

“We’ve got to look at it. And we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable and responsible to be a part of the change so that every human being can live a life that’s purposeful and meaningful to them.”

From later in the interview…

“We can hire women all day long, but until the rooted patriarchal stereotyped things that go on are changed to make women feel that their voices are heard, and that their contributions matter, we’re not there yet. The roots of patriarchy for men, and internalised by women, is real.”

Understand the Value Proposition in Giving Up Your Power for Equality

“We can talk about all of the data that shows that business outcomes are better when you have diversity at the top. The world is a diverse place, and if you want to talk to consumers of anything you’re talking to a diverse group of people, so the people making the decisions at the top should be diverse.

“How do you get men who [by the way] are as screwed up by the patriarchy as women are? There are so many things that could be solved by us going ‘yeah that shit sucks, let’s try a different way’.” 

Have Compassion & Empathy Through Active Listening

“Storytelling in a big one. Any man in this room, my biggest piece of advice to a man is be an active listener. Seek it out. Sit down with a woman and say, ‘I want to hold a space, what has your experience been. I don’t know that I can change it, I don’t know that I can make it better. But can I listen?’

“That’s a huge huge thing. True allyship is not trying to solve, not trying to fix, but listen and then make a little space.”

Be An Up-stander Not a Bystander

“If you hear a sexist comment, within two seconds, just say, ‘Hey man, not cool’. Or, if you’re not comfortable doing that in that scene, maybe circle back around. 

“It’s uncomfortable. But until we put all hands on deck to do it, we’re not going to make a change and you’re going to have to sit through panels like this and listen to women like me go on and on…

Abolish NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements)

“I definitely do not have a company-represented talking point on NDAs, I wish I did and I might look into having one, so I don’t know what our policy is. […] What I do believe personally, as Ali Harnell, is that if we could get rid of NDAs that put women into these silent traps and pay them to go away, it would make a huge change.

“Accountability is the first step to transformation and until there’s accountability we’re not going to make change.”

Make Good Trouble

“The congressman from the States John Lewis who passed away a couple of years ago — he was a civil rights activist — his saying was ‘make good trouble’ because he was out getting arrested and making trouble, but it was good trouble. 

“I liken [Live Nation initiative] Beautiful Noise Live to that. Noise can be noisy, but if it’s beautiful, we’re making a change.”

Editor’s Note: Inspired by the Grammy-nominated song by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile, Live Nation’s Beautiful Noise Live was created to encourage more women to make their voices heard in the U.S. midterm elections.

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