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Agency giants get political

The dawn of the Trump era has spurred WME, UTA and Paradigm into action, with the former moving into lobbying and the latter two donating to those fighting the travel ban

By Jon Chapple on 10 Feb 2017

Halsey, 2016 American Music Awards, Paradigm Talent Agency, Disney–ABC Television Group

image © Disney-ABC Television Group

Three of the world’s largest booking agencies, WME-IMG, United Talent Agency (UTA) and Paradigm Talent Agency, have waded into the political arena as controversy continues to rage in the entertainment industries over US president Donald Trump’s controversial ‘Muslim ban’.

UTA, whose roster includes Guns N’ Roses, Muse and Mariah Carey, as well as a host of film and TV stars, has cancelled its traditional pre-Oscars party in favour of a rally “to express the creative community’s growing concern with anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States”.

The agency will also donate US$250,000 to the International Rescue Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – the latter also a beneficiary of a donation from D2C platform Bandcamp – in protest against the ban’s “potential chilling effect on the global exchange of ideas and freedom of expression”.

“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness,” UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer said in a statement. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”

“If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease to be America”

(Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino shares Zimmer’s sentiments, telling his staff last week he is “fundamentally opposed to an immigration policy that divides us along religious lines or borders”.)

IQ has also learnt Paradigm is participating in a fundraising concert at the Staples Center (21,000-cap.) in LA on 3 April, all profits from which will be donated to the ACLU. Paradigm artists playing the show include Zedd, Halsey (pictured) and Imagine Dragons.

A spokeswoman tells IQ Paradigm is in “full support” of UTA’s efforts. “Sam Gores, our chairman and CEO, is himself an immigrant [from Nazareth, Israel] – I think he is the only agency head who is one – and we fully support all of our colleagues’ good work across the entire industry,” she says.

WME-IMG, meanwhile, whose roster includes Red Hot Chili Peppers, Drake, Arctic Monkeys, The Weeknd and Biffy Clyro, has announced the formation of a national political action committee (PAC), a form of lobbying group in the US that raises money to influence elections or legislation.

“We fully support all of our colleagues’ good work across the entire industry”

While UTA’s rally sounds to be distinctly anti-Trump, WME-IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel is known to be close to the president, and the PAC will reportedly connect the agency’s staff and clients with politicians on both sides of the political divide.

In an internal memo, co-signed by fellow co-CEO Patrick Whitesell and seen by Variety, Emanuel says his goals are “convening internal and external forums with politicians and allied stakeholders; connecting our clients with elected officials; introducing company-wide matching policies to support donations of time and money; and developing actionable public policy solutions”.

A source tells the magazine WME-IMG’s financial commitment will include “substantial” donations to causes and candidates the agency’s employees agree to support.


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