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WME: The agency of ‘we’

It’s ten years since William Morris created its music division in London. Adam Woods talks to execs about the successes and challenges of establishing an int'l foothold…

By IQ on 22 Jun 2017

…and getting international promoters to understand their territorial approach to booking

It’s a useful demonstration of WME’s global footprint that the eight music executives who phone in to talk to IQ over the course of four days in March are scattered across the western world, in São Paulo, Mexico, London, New York, Los Angeles and somewhere on the Eurostar line to Paris.

Evidently, the company’s music division is living the sort of life it intended for itself when the William Morris Agency, then a mere 109 years old, launched its first European office a decade ago in London. Recognising that music was breaking its borders via the Internet, the essentially US-focused agency set out from Hollywood to conquer the wider world.

“We said: this is crazy, to be a huge company and not be global, and not have a network,” recalls worldwide head of music Marc Geiger, from a hotel lobby in São Paulo, Brazil.

“We said, ‘This is crazy, to be a huge company and not be global, and not have a network'”

“It’s nuts not to be able to handle artists on a global basis. When you look at everything that was happening on the Internet – Google, Amazon, YouTube – everything was global, and music fans everywhere were able to get the same content at the same time.

“It was a very different era than we all grew up in, and as music proliferated even more we were convinced music was going to be a global economy.”

Ten years on, that seems like a particularly uncontroversial conviction. WME can point to a global client list that includes Rihanna, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd and Selena Gomez. And the notion of globally booked tours – driven, in WME’s case, by specialist teams, not individual agents with their own personal rosters – looks like a logical, if controversial, departure from the traditional model practised in the UK and Europe.


Read the rest of this feature in issue 71 of IQ Magazine

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