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Off-script: Project Music's Heather McBee joins Pandoland moderators
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Heather McBee

Updated 2:11pm June 15, 2015: The EC announced today McBee has been promoted to Program Director of Project Music.-Ed.

HEATHER MCBEE, the industry lead for Project Music at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, is now on the program for next week's Pandoland 2015.

McBee "will be leading a break-out discussion on the 'hacks' professional women have learned to thrive/win in male-dominated industries," according to Paul Carr, editorial director of sponsoring Pando Daily.

McBee will thus rekindle and focus a discussion that erupted this past week amid LaunchTN's strongly attended 36|86 conference, which was more regionally focused than Pandoland, sponsored by national tech/venture media outlet Pando Daily. Pandoland's executive speaker roster, schedule and other information has been updated here. [Please see McBee's comments, received after original publication 13 June, below in this story.]

McBee accepted an invitation extended by Pando Founder-CEO Sarah Lacy, said a decidedly upbeat Carr, who also extolled the virtues of Nashville, particularly the energy and helpfulness of locals.

McBee, only 43-ish, has worked decades in the Music-Entertainment field, much of that in close proximity to the man who is arguably the leader of Music's entrepreneurial ecosystem here, Joe Galante, who's also a mainstay of Project Music. McBee's LinkedIn is here.

Pando's Sarah Lacy

In the wake of 36|86, as previously reported, Pando threw-open the doors of its June 15-17 event to women, who may register at zero charge, by using the code 'Nobro'. All others may register with a discount by using the code we previously announced -- VTC -- or, by using other promotional codes for the event. Pandoland is being staged at Marathon Music Works, in Marathon Village.

Last Wednesday, the 36|86 conference -- smartly executed til that point -- hit a couple of speed-bumps, one of them laid-down by McBee, herself.

At some point ahead of an initially all-male panel discussion that was to center of "Live Music & Tech," McBee texted her close friend and moderator Mark Montgomery, pointing-out there were no women on the panel, which included Montgomery, Country artist John Rich, AC Entertainment (Bonnaroo) Founder-CEO Ashley Capps and Bon Jovi Management's Anthony Piedmonte.

Montgomery took the 36|86 stage after an on-stage warning from LaunchTN CEO Charlie Brock that with Montgomery's arrival there were likely to be some "F-bombs," though Brock said there probably wouldn't be as many as during the 2014 conference, which he had co-chaired with Pando's Lacy. Brock later told VNC he had no warning as to what Montgomery would do next.

Immediately, Montgomery announced harshly that anyone who didn't like the word "fuck" should leave the room.

With apparent vehemence, Montgomery then cast aspersions on Lacy and the competing Pando event, saying, "Sarah Lacy does not give a shit about this market," a reference to Nashville. He then ordered, "Do not support her," an apparent reference to attending Pandoland. He gave no indication this outburst stemmed from anything other than his personal views.

Mark Montgomery

Then, moving right along, Montgomery told the throng before him about McBee's text message, and invited her to rise from the audience to join the panel on stage, which she did, greeted there with a warm "darlin'" by Montgomery.

Upon being seated, McBee got Montgomery's attention and, in keeping with the tone established by Montgomery, proclaimed in even tones, "The fucking women of the Music industry are now represented."

Nonetheless, the original omission of a woman on the panel and perhaps Montgomery's personal shot at Lacy seemed to resonate with some in the audience and the Twittersphere who are concerned about reports of discrimination against women, particularly artists, in Music, Tech and other industries. The result has been a tempest that is, thus far, far less than F1 magnitude.

Helmed by Montgomery, the panel segment, itself, ultimately seemed very long on friendly chatter and relatively short on substance about Music and Tech. Beyond adding McBee -- who some thought did not get her share of panel airtime -- there was little further energy around women's issues, per se.

In very clear terms, McBee later commented on the matter, via Facebook on June 11. An attempt to reach McBee for comment earlier this morning was unsuccessful. This story will be updated, as warranted.

Update 3:04 p.m.: McBee received the story earlier today, and wrote VNC this afternoon to say that in joining the Pando program she is not rekindling the previous debate. She referred to her Facebook entry, mentioned originally in the preceding paragraph. She also emphasized, "My goal and hope is to change the conversation to a constructive dialog that helps women and anyone working to be successful in business." In her Facebook post, she notes her participation in the Music industry's 'Change the Conversation' movement.-Ed.

Though clearly irritated by Montgomery's broadside, in public comments Lacy has essentially characterized his behavior as typical of him and segments of this and other communities that are, according to some, under pressure to evolve.

Fresh debate of all this is believed by some to have cast a cloud over Nashville, and that has been met with dismay by many observers.

Lacy, herself, faced criticism in 2014 for some of her own conduct on- and off-stage. To some extent, that comes with the territory. She and Montgomery each seem at times to take such criticism as an inevitable, even affirming reactionary response to the ways in which they each 'speak truth to power' and pursue their business priorities.

Montgomery and some others say the whole thing stems from flawed assembly of bits taken out of context.

Reached for comment for this story, Montgomery said only that he would now stand on his "record of progressive thinking and do'ing in this community," adding that, for whatever reason, the latest controversy has in his view been manufactured out of "whole cloth," with panel comments "juxtaposed against unrelated issues." He said he has returned his attention to very serious family medical challenges and other matters.

Montgomery is well-known in Nashville entrepreneurial circles as having cultivated in a seemingly disciplined way a personal brand that often seems a mixture of acumen, alchemy and sometimes mercurial behavior. He is co-founder of Echomusic (absorbed by Ticketmaster in 2007 for a reported $25MM), and is co-founder of Nashville-based FLO {thinkery}, a marketing and development firm owned by FLO.co. He is known for surrounding himself with strong teams that include, for example, FLO EVP JD May, also his former Echomusic partner.

Pando's Paul Carr

Carr said yesterday he didn't have a current figure on how many women have used the Nobro code, but said that a day or so earlier the tally had passed 200.

He added that his crew were furiously working yesterday to add seating for the event, which begins Monday with entertainment, followed by two days of startup competition -- with three of ten startups from Tennessee -- plus one-on-one interviews, panels, breakout sessions and other components.

Asked whether Pando plans to keep the conference in Nashville after this year -- which marks Memphis-reared Sarah Lacy's third consecutive annual appearance for similar proceedings -- Carr said in an e-mail, in part: "In terms of this year, we're absolutely thrilled -- as we always have been -- to host the event in Nashville. It's one of my favorite cities and there are so many great entrepreneurs (and people generally!) here."

However, Carr added, "Nothing to say about future years, yet -- we're all totally focussed on this year." VNC


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Tags: 3686, Charlie Brock, entertainment, entrepreneurs, Heather McBee, investors, Joe Galante, LaunchTN, Marathon Music Works, Mark Montgomery, media, Music, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Pando Daily, Pandoland, Paul Carr, Project Music, Robbie Goldsmith, Sarah Lacy, Stuart McWhorter, technology


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