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ILMC 31: The Agency Business 2019

Who really has the power in the agency business, and how is joined-up career planning reshaping the sector? Five agents and one promoter weigh in

By IQ on 07 Mar 2019

The Agency Business 2019

L–R: Bunel, Ahern, Steinberg, Windish and Javor

Entertaining those in the room with his trademark wit, promoter Dan Steinberg kicked off proceedings by exploring with the agents the reasons behind the choice or certain territories and venues and how new promoters can engage with the agents and their acts.

Using to ask delegates who has the power in the business, 30% of those polled stated it was the agent, while the manager pulled in 35% of the votes, the artist 20% and the promoter 15%.

Tom Windish of Paradigm noted that the definition of what an agent does is constantly changing as a partner in developing the artist’s business. “I find my clients early in their career, often when we start from zero and I like to think they remember those difficult early days of trying to find them dates.” He observed that acts that do global deals are potentially missing out on other deals and revenue streams.

Outlining the benefits of getting on board with an act so early, Coda’s Clementine Bunel said, “Tom and I have been in positions where we have built teams around artists and that puts us in a good position to build their careers.” Quizzed on the pros and cons of global deals, she added, “It’s our job to resist [global deals] when it’s not in the best interests of our clients.”

Steinberg took on the subject of consolidation, prompting Windish to namecheck Another Planet as an amazing indie, but he conceded that there are not many good indies left to buy.

With many industry observers predicting a downturn in 2019, Bunel admitted it seems to be harder to sell tickets “at every level – we analyse those figures every week. However, It’s a bit early to say it’s an off year.” Ahern said it was perhaps because there are fewer headline acts around, but he sees that as a potential opportunity to advance other acts as new headliners.

Relationships are key to the business, whether it’s publicists, labels, promoters or whoever – it’s based on trust

X-ray’s Josh Javor stated while it might not be an off year, it’s a bit of a boring year, as the acts who are at festivals across Europe are very similar to last year. However, he said that those right-of-passage events can possibly get away with recycling the same acts because the fans are different each year.

The agents named the likes of Billie Eilish, Vulfpeck, Kokoroko, Rosalía, Frank Carter, J Balvin and others as the artists to look for over the coming year, and they agreed that relationships are key to the business, whether it’s publicists, labels, promoters or whoever – it’s based on trust.

Windish revealed that one of the reasons he sold his company was to ensure that he had the tools to offer his acts other services, while WME’s Brian Ahern said having the ability to offer all the various services means that an agency can service a broader range of artists.

Bunel spoke of her belief in using local and regional promoters to preserve that business ecosystem. However, Ahern said that sometimes a building promoting a show directly works if they are going to do the best deal for the artist.

Javor and Windish agreed that it was part of an agent’s job to tell artists to stop playing shows so that they can have a career and avoid audience fatigue, while Bunel disclosed that one of her strategies was to sell out hard ticket shows to allow her to have a sensible conversation about fees and billing with festivals, rather than simply agree lots of festival slots.


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