Conventions & Awards

Let’s Kill the “Manel” for the Sake of the Music Business

image from upload.wikimedia.orgThe preponderance of all male panels – “manels” – at leading international music conference MIDEM last week were easy to mock. But they’re keeping the music business from moving forward, writes music industry consultant Cortney Harding.



Last Friday, a photo started circulating of a MIDEM panel about the next fifty years in the music business. At first I thought it was a joke — all the people on stage were male, white, and middle-aged; not at all representative of what the next fifty years will look like in an ever-more diverse and global industry. But alas, it was all too real, and now joins the infamous “all male panel on gender equality and tech” and “all male panel at an international women’s summit.” The trend has even sparked an all male panels Tumblr page.

Cgl6UOuU0AIoAaXAt least one person at MIDEM noticed that preponderance of all-male panels; unfortunately, he did so by stating that he hoped there would be “more girls on panels” the next time around. For accomplished women who were shut out, this was quite possibly the biggest slap in the face of all — booking all male panels could have been seen as an oversight, but that sort of attitude from the stage just drove home that women weren’t welcome. 

I was once told I was

“too cute to be a panelist."

I’ve been on the conference circuit long enough to have dealt with plenty of sexism. Usually it’s the “softer” sort – I’m the only woman on the panel, yet again. But often it’s more overt – I was once told I was “too cute to be a panelist;” another time an organizer indicated a male colleague was only including me in his panel pitch because he and I were dating (we weren’t). I skipped out on a conference this year because another male organizer responded to constructive criticism with threats and intimidation. And that doesn’t even count the times I’ve been talked over, dismissed, or had the business man-splained to me.


Eventually, it wears you down. You get sick of being ignored and dismissed, so you stop going, and then you wind up with all white men discussing the future of the business. Being in a space where you feel excluded sucks. It reinforces all the old, gross, negative stereotypes of the music business, a business many of us love and want to make better for artists and creators. But you can only push a boulder up a hill for so long before you finally want to bail. 

I’m not going to bail, but I am going to offer conference organizers a challenge. In order to move the business forward, we need to eradicate the all-male, all-white, all-Western panel. No more manels, and if you see a manel, call it out. This means that women, people of color, people from the global South, and allies need to offer solutions, recommend people, and in some cases step aside and let someone else take the mic. It means conferences need to offer more financial support to make sure those people can make it in the first place. It means calling out sexism when you do hear it on panels. 

A Wake Up Call

MIDEM should serve as a wake up call to those of us who want to make sure the music business moves forward and includes diverse voices. The more people events include, the more different perspectives are shared, and the more creative solutions can be reached. This is good for everyone. Join me today in ending the manel.

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  1. mmm…. I went to see the Midem website and the list of speakers, and there are a lot of women in there, starting from the first page ( ) to the last one. ( and incidentally, there are some ravishingly “cute” women in the list, so the whole “I-don’t-get-invited-because-I’m-too-cute” theory seem to only apply to you )
    It looks like this rant is really about your own bruised little ego for not being invited than about women and “colored” people as you call them ( what a stupid term…If we really want to use that word, white people are actually the colored ones, because mankind started originally as black from the african continent before migrating around the planet and getting whiter in the northern hemispheres. So the original color of the human race is black.)
    Have you considered the idea that perhaps you weren’t invited because you were simply deemed less interesting than other speakers ?

  2. You didn’t see the link , that’s the list of speakers ( panelists ) PLUS the list of artists. You really have no idea ( or don’t know how to read )

  3. @barbnerdy : This is just from the first two pages of the list of MIDEM speakers :
    AGEE Kristen (Founder & CEO 411 Music Group )
    ALLEN Karen ( President Karen Allen Consulting )
    ANDREWS Sammy (Music Industry Strategic Advisor & Director Entertainment Intelligence )
    ASKIN Ricki (Head of Music Licensing & Music Supervisor Vice Media )
    BALDWIN Natasha (Group President, Creative and Marketing Imagem )
    BARGES Elisabeth (Senior Public Policy ManagerGoogle )
    You consider these women as artists ???? I’m sure they would be delighted to know you’re dismissing them as not panelists. ( Is it perhaps because you were also not invited to the conference and your ego is also bruised like the original writer of this post ?)

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