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The Dragons’ Den: Women in Live report

Three senior female business leaders in live music joined host Marie Lindqvist to discuss their career progression in a unique ILMC session

By James Hanley on 08 Mar 2023

image © Alexis Dubus Photography

Three senior female business leaders in live music discussed their lives in music, career progression and learnings along the way in a unique Dragons’ Den session at ILMC.

Lucy Noble of AEG Presents (UK), Jacqueline Zich from DEAG (DE) and Jolanda Jansen from Rotterdam Ahoy (NL) sat down for an up-close conversation with host Marie Lindqvist of ASM Global.

Noble, who was hired as AEG’s first ever artistic director last year following a two-decade stint at London’s Royal Albert Hall, discussed some of the challenges that have shaped her career.

“I look back and I can’t think of any major hurdles to get where I’ve got today,” she said. “I think that all the experiences you have are learning experiences and I wouldn’t change anything.

“But I remember over over a decade ago, there was a director position at the Royal Albert Hall. And the chief executive took me into the office and said, ‘Look, I don’t think you can do this job as a mother.’ I should have said, ‘You can’t say that.’ But I was in this position where I was saying, ‘No, I really can, give me a chance.’ But that was a moment where I realised that people do make judgments because you’re a mum.

“We have a very good relationship now, but he just had that very old school way of thinking around these matters.”

“Lots of people moved out of our industry because they wanted a better work-life balance”

She continued: “Being a working mum with three young children is not easy when you’re working in our industry. We saw during the pandemic that lots of people moved out of our industry because they wanted a better work-life balance.”

Jansen said she agreed with a comment from CAA agent Emma Banks that there is “no substitute for hard work”.

“It’s great to be hardworking because you also get the results,” she said. “It is not about working three, four, five, six or seven days a week, it’s about how you balance your own life and what you get your energy from. I think that is what makes it healthy. The kind of old school working mentality that you need to be on your phone responding to emails 24 hours a day is perhaps not healthy for anybody in the end. But it’s also not bad to work hard.”

Linqvist recalled a stressful period in her career during the last decade prompted her to make positive changes.

“I was getting all the signals of having too much negative stress: I had horrible headache, difficulties in sleeping, and was always tired,” she said. “I just came to the conclusion that, ‘Something needs to be changed here.’ And it was quite difficult because when you’re used to working very hard and it’s a passion, it sometimes puts you in a position where you forget about your own welfare. So I had to take a serious review of how I spent my days and my energy.

“I delegated more responsibilities to people that could do much better than I, and also looked through my calendar and went through meeting-by-meeting: ‘Do I need to be in this meeting? Am I adding any value?’ And being more conscious about my own time.

“The positive effect of that was not only my health getting better, but also that it made people around me feel better and gave them the opportunity to grow and take more responsibility.”

“We came up in the business at a time when there were fewer females in senior roles. Hopefully, that is beginning to change”

The panel also discussed the importance of strong role models and mentors, with DEAG’s Zich complimenting the company’s founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow for his support in the early days of her career.

“Of course, you have to work hard and make sure you work on your own position,” she said. “But he gave me the chance and the trust and the feeling of, ‘You can do that,’ and being confident enough to do it. I think women tend to be not too confident on things and that was very helpful, and still is to be honest. That played a huge role in my path.”

Noble namechecked live music veterans such as Phil Bowdery, Neil Warnock, Dennis Arnold and Paul Crockford.

“I’m very aware that there are no women [on that list], probably because we came up in the business at a time when there were fewer females in senior roles,” she acknowledged. “Hopefully, that is beginning to change a bit. Now, I definitely think there is more of an even split at the entry levels. At the senior level, there are still more men than women, but I do think the industry has done a great job in recent years to improve those figures.

“I’m a mentor for two young women and I like to think that I’ve helped and given guidance. I really love doing that and it’s really fulfilling for me to be able to give back in that way.”

She added: “There shouldn’t be a difference between men and women…. I am very supportive of women in the industry, and at the Hall, we did a Women in Music Day, which had hundreds and hundreds of young women and other people along. I’ve had people like Emma Banks, Lucy Dickins and Becky Allen from EMI speak at that.

“All the people I know at that level really do champion women in music, and it’s about doing that and making sure we bring them up along with us.”


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