Monday 23 October 2017

Concert promoter puts success down to 'drive'

INFLUENTIAL: Caroline Downey
INFLUENTIAL: Caroline Downey
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Caroline Downey, co-owner and director of MCD, Ireland's largest entertainment promoter, which sells 1.2 million tickets a year, has landed a place on the Sunday Independent's list of most influential businesswomen.

And although she might be best known as the tough-talking boardroom boss on 'The Apprentice', in reality she laments how a woman's firm but fair approach can be taken up in a different way than if she were a man: "I have an issue when a woman is assertive in business and she is referred to as a 'bitch', but men who have to make the same stand are called 'tough'," she says.

Still – with a shareholding in the Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and a number of other large festivals in the UK and Europe – her approach has served her well.

"I am extremely competitive. While concert promotion to everyone on the outside of the business appears to be very glamorous, the reality couldn't be further from the truth. It is seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year. The only day off we [Caroline and her husband Denis] get is on Christmas day.

"What drives us, like all other successful companies, is the desire to remain on top of our game and continue to come up with different events, bring in exciting bands, move with the times but also be aware of trends. We are doing well now. MCD sells over 1.2 million tickets in Ireland alone each year; we have a joint venture with Live Nation in the UK, but the recession has hit all businesses, and ours is no exception. It's certainly not the end of festivals. What I say is, the more the better. I love them all – from the major events to the little ones scattered around Ireland."

She singles out 'maternity leave' as the single biggest challenge for women on their career path.

She also believes parenthood should be shared out, but says the reality of it for some couples means that it will happen at different stages over a lifetime:

"I worked from home when my children were small and concentrated on the fundraising end and producing TV programmes, while Denis worked in the MCD office on promotion. So I did the lion's share of raising the children. He did bring them to school, but the nature of our business means it is not nine to five. Zach is now in the business and Jett, when he finishes college, will also join MCD, so Denis' role [in their lives] will become even stronger."

"I believe women can have it all, but not necessarily at the same time. Right now I am managing an up-and-coming artist called Hozier, so I can go on the road much more now that all of my children have grown up. I would never have done it when they were younger. At 51, I am loving it. So I have it all, but it has been spread out over a lifetime." She strongly disagrees with Sheryl Sandberg's theory that an ambition gap between men and women exists, and rubbishes the idea that there is an imbalance between men and women's professional aspirations to reach top-level positions.

"This is not a sex issue, I think it all comes down to the individual. Some people have less ambition than others and Sheryl Sandberg has written an entire book based on the fact that men and women look at the world from differing perspectives. But I believe simply that, whether you are a man or a woman, everyone has the tendency to approach work differently."

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