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Contacting touring bands to ask if they’d play in the sleepy town of Eureka, California, as a zine-publishing teen eventually grew into Cable establishing one of the most zeitgeisty booking agencies in the game. The Panache team is responsible for setting up Ty Segall, Bleached, The Men, Mac DeMarco, Thee Oh Sees and over 100 others on well-coordinated tours that not only run smoothly and don’t leave them abandoned on the side of the road with a broken-down van, but actually earn them money—a higher stakes game then ever before, as more bands rely on playing live for the bulk of their income.
What percentage of the people you work with on a daily basis are male, would you say?
I’d say probably 70 percent.
Do you ever feel like you have to fight harder for your bands than a man in your same position would?
Definitely when I first started that was true. That may have had more to do with my age and experience than being female, though. There is definitely a double standard for women, but I think it’s actually encouraged me to be more focused and prove myself. Over the years, especially since moving to New York, I’ve developed a confidence and manner of taking care of business where I don’t think it matters whether I’m a man or woman. It’s definitely a male-dominated industry, especially in the booking world. There are very few female-owned booking agencies out there. Hopefully that changes.
Have you ever felt like you had to prove your knowledge of music to a guy, like he was skeptical you knew what you were talking about?
Not really. I don't think most of the artists we work with have those types of old- fashioned stereotypical views of women. Part of the reason I love what I do is that I get to choose the artists we represent. It's important to me to respect and trust them both musically and personally.
Has there ever been a situation where you think being a woman helped you in the workplace?
Our artists depend on us to have their backs and fight for them—that’s one of the reasons my job exists. I think people don’t expect me to be such a hard ass when it comes to sticking up for our artists. So that actually can be beneficial, as I can deliver the unexpected. I think having that toughness while also maintaining a certain finesse and grace is a powerful combination.
How about where being a woman made your job more difficult?
I definitely have noticed in certain industry situations there’s a “bro” mentality that’s centered around drinking heavily after hours. As time passes, I veer more towards healthy living and less constant partying, which is difficult in this business. A lot of what an agent does takes place during the day in the office. But a lot of bonding and deals happen over drinks. It’s 24/7—you live and breathe it—so it’s good to take some time for yourself and nurture yourself. Which isn’t exactly the most masculine approach to the business.
Has being the only woman in a room full of music dudes ever made you feel self-conscious?
It’s something I definitely am aware of, but I think it’s happened enough times I’ve gotten used to it.
Growing up as a devoted music fan, did you have other female peers who shared your passion, or did you find yourself talking about music mostly with guys?
I was really lucky to have a close circle of female friends who loved music as well. I was 16, living in a stoner town where I didn't smoke pot and was desperate for something to do. The main objective was that I loved music and writing and wanted to combine those things so I could keep life interesting. I definitely had a really nerdy approach to music, getting obsessed with a band and collecting their records, watching countless interviews, music videos, etc. But living in a small town, I had to bring music to my community and help make things happen. If I wanted to see a band, I would write them and try to get them to come through [Eureka]. I still work with a ton of the people I met when I was in my teens: John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, Reigning Sound, DMBQ, etc.
Do you think the imbalance in the industry stems from women generally not being as big of music fans as men, or is something else at play here?
I think it’s a hard industry to break into. There are definitely way more men in power positions and maybe those men are the ones choosing their successors? In booking, I’d love to see more female agents. Panache as an agency is 50-50 when it comes to gender ratio—we work with a ton of great female artists—and that even goes down internally to our staff and interns. I think women generally are really competitive and that the women that are in these growing positions end up competing with themselves rather then forming an alliance, while men are competitive but also equally supportive of each other. Maybe I’m stereotyping here… But I definitely love when I end up working with a female manager or agent. It’s refreshing.
(Photo by Aaron Richter)
At Work with Panache Booking's Michelle Cable