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Continuing a series of interviews with IQ's 2020 New Bosses, we speak to Sally Dunstone, an agent at X-ray Touring in the UK
By IQ on 12 Oct 2020
The New Bosses 2020 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 93 this month revealing the twelve promising promoters, bookers, agents, A&R and production experts that make up this year’s list.
To get to know this year’s cream of the crop a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2020’s New Bosses, to discover their greatest inspirations and proudest achievements, pinpoint the reasons for their success and obtain advice for those hoping to be a future New Boss. Snippets of the interviews can be found in the latest IQ Magazine, with all interviews being reproduced in full online and on IQ Index over the coming weeks. Catch up on the previous New Bosses interview with Artur Kasper from Der Bomber Der Herzen here.
Our next New Boss is Sally Dunstone (30), an agent at X-ray Touring in the UK. Admitting to a lifelong passion for live music, Dunstone moved from Barnsley to London to study music and events management at university. After completing many short-term internships and spells as a casual broadcast assistant across various BBC programmes, she joined Live Nation as a receptionist. After working a year at Live Nation, she moved to X-ray six years ago and has been building an impressive roster ever since.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on implementing live strategies for my roster at X-ray. I am grateful to work with a broad spectrum of artists including but not limited to, Jack Harlow, Rina Sawayama, Kelly Lee Owens, Places+Faces, Roosevelt, Maxo Kream, Walt Disco & many more. A part of my job that I love is having a varied roster and I take pride in catering to the differing needs of my clients.
What are some of the highlights of your career to date?
It’s tough to ring-fence specific moments as there have been so many incredible experiences throughout my career so far. The shows that mean the most to me are the ones which feel like a significant turning point in an artist’s career.
A few that immediately come to mind are Places+Faces at KOKO, Rina Sawayama at Heaven and Kelly Lee Owens’s late-night set at End of the Road 2019.
Kelly’s show at End of the Road was the final live show of her first album campaign. The set was flawless, and the crowd had incredible energy. It felt like a celebration for all the team’s hard work on the first album and the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the next album.
Walt Disco’s show at AMP Presents in March also has a poignancy for me as it was the last gig I went to before Covid-19 took hold and venues closed.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt working in live music?
Never be afraid to ask questions or take advice. Learning from my colleagues has helped benefit my clients greatly throughout my career.
“Right now, I’m concentrating on ensuring that all bases are covered for my clients in all eventualities”
Did you always want to be an agent?
I have been passionate about music for as long as I can remember. From attending Leeds Festival and seeing The Strokes for the first time aged 11, I knew that live music was my vocation. As a teenager, I would often attend three or four shows a week and did whatever I could to get my foot in the door within the industry.
What impact has Covid- 19 had on your job?
The impact of Covid-19 across the entire industry has been profound. It has been heartbreaking to see the rug pulled from under the live sector and very little financial support to help venues and businesses continue operating.
From a business perspective, there is a lot of uncertainty in the industry right now, so I am concentrating on ensuring that all bases are covered for my clients in all eventualities. I am also focusing on being proactive and continuing to keep the long term goals and vision for each artist at the forefront of everything.
Do you have a mentor in the industry?
I am grateful to Beckie Sugden who has provided endless support to me throughout my time at X-ray and taught me a lot about being an agent and the wider industry landscape in general. Beckie’s determination continues to inspire me every day. I have also learned a lot from Josh Javor at X-ray whose encyclopaedic knowledge of venues, capacities and festival routings never ceases to amaze me. Both Beckie and Josh have done a lot to shape my career and I appreciate that greatly.
“I have had many doors slammed in my face over the years and have always found a way to get myself in the room”
What does the live music industry do well, and what can we do better?
The live music industry still has a long way to go in terms of equality and diversity. There have been improvements in recent years however there needs to be more inclusion and opportunities for BAME and LGBTQ+. There is also space for attitudes towards women in the workplace to improve and I would welcome seeing more women in senior management positions.
What advice would you give to someone who’s new to the business?
Ask questions and take advice. Believe in yourself and be determined. I have had many doors slammed in my face, figuratively and literally, over the years and have always found a way to get myself in the room. Where you can, surround yourself with people you enjoy working with. To build a viable business for yourself, you are going to need to work a lot of hours and this is so much easier when you like the people you work with.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing currently?
Much like all the live sector, navigating Covid-19 and the unchartered territory is currently the biggest challenge I face.
Where would you like to see yourself in ten years’ time?
I plan to continue expanding and building my artists’ careers and still see myself working as an international touring agent.
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