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Jess Kinn on Years & Years, One Fiinix Live and 2022

The One Fiinix Live agent reflects on the triumphs and challenges during the last 12 months and shares her strategy for the "rough and tumble" year ahead

By IQ on 25 Feb 2022

Jess Kinn, One Finiix Live

Jess Kinn, One Finiix Live


One Fiinix Live agent Jess Kinn has spoken to IQ about her first year at Jon Ollier’s agency, her drive for a more inclusive industry and the challenges facing the agency business in 2022.

Kinn was the first agent to be hired by Ollier at One Finiix Live, who hailed her an “exciting and forward-thinking talent with a fantastic reputation and a huge future ahead of her”.

She joined the agency from livestreaming company LiveNow, having worked on some of 2020’s biggest music live streams, such as the Pete Tong Heritage Orchestra, Gorillaz and Dua Lipa’s record-breaking Studio 2054.

Kinn began her career with the Leighton Pope Organisation and worked her way up from receptionist to agent at Paradigm (formerly Coda Agency).

Her current roster at One Fiinix Live comprises more than 20 artists including Years & Years, Cat Burns, Mallrat, Tessa Violet, Beka and July Jones.

 


How did you come to be the first agent at Jon Ollier’s One Finiix Live agency?
JK: I heard really great things about Jon – everyone said he was one of the ‘good ones’. So I just called him up in November 2020 and asked for a chat – I think he thought it was about live streaming. I said, ‘Look, Jon, you don’t know me, but this is what I’m doing, this is who I am’. He invited me for lunch and we had this amazing four-hour chat about everything; our love of music, what we wanted from a company and the kind of culture we wanted to build. It just totally made sense. The next day we were both like ‘yeah, let’s do this’.

You’ve been at the agency for a year now. Tell us about some of the successes you’ve had with your roster in the past 12 months.
Olly [Alexander, Years & Years] had an amazing year. I guess it started with [Channel 4’s hit drama] It’s a Sin and then we had the Elton John performance at the Brits 2021 and the New Year’s Eve BBC show. It was amazing that we could do a 15-track show, featuring Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop Boys and queens from RuPaul’s drag race. It was a real celebration of all that we’d all done that year and that geared us up for the album [Night Call] which charted at number 1 [in January].

We have festivals coming up in the summer and our arena tour at the end of May. Cat Burns has had an incredible start to the year. We put up her debut headline show at Omeara which sold out in 30 mins so we put up another and it sold out in an hour. We’ve got a ton of exciting supports and festivals coming up this year.

“I think we’re all going to have to be malleable and adaptable this year”

Covid and Brexit are presenting huge challenges for touring, do you have a strategy to navigate the pitfalls?
Jon and I were quite sure that a lot wasn’t going to happen at the beginning of this year so we made a decision to avoid booking shows in early Q1. I’ve booked a lot of my European tours from May onwards. Especially US-based or Australia based artists I’m touring them from Q3 onwards as it still feels risky. I’m making sure my artists only play shows when it makes total sense and everything aligns. It’s about thinking: ‘why are we doing these shows? Is the world ready to hear this artist? Is the road ready to see this artist live? Is the timing right?’ This resonates more now than it ever did because every artist is out touring this year.

How are you dealing with the oversaturation of the concert market?
Venue availability is just crazy. But I think as more changes happen with, say, US acts having to push back their UK/EU dates, there will be more availability. You’ve got to be thinking so much further ahead than you ever did. I think we’re all going to have to be malleable and adaptable this year. You’ve got to be quick to change plans and try to find different ways to do things. If you can’t get the venue that you want, try and find a more unique location. If you’ve missed a certain market, try another one. It’s important to remember that things can’t be perfect, you can only do what you can do and you can only plan so much.

“I think we need to make sure that every show is special so that fans feel confident to buy and want to come to shows again”

UK promoters have reported an astounding amount of no-shows since the industry reopened. What has been your experience with this?
All of my newer artists like Ellie Dixon, Beka, Michael Aldag sold out their shows in 2021 and there weren’t many no shows. I think it was a case of good timing. Jon [Ollier’s] idea was to follow the sun around so the last show I booked was at the end of November. Post-Nov-Dec was when things started plateauing again with Covid. So, again, it’s about making sure that you only book things with intention and good reason.

How have you found ticket sales since the industry reopened?
Across the board, it has been hard to sell tickets. The amount of artists touring vs the amount of money people are able to spend on shows makes it super hard. Also, buyer confidence has plummeted because so many fans have bought tickets to shows that have been moved or cancelled. I think we need to make sure that every show is special so that fans feel confident to buy and want to come to shows again.

“Live streaming from an empty venue – which feels like a reminder of a time when we couldn’t attend shows – won’t continue”

With promoters having to honour line-ups that were booked two years ago, are there enough opportunities in 2022 for the newer artists on your roster?
There are definitely far fewer opportunities this year. I’m telling my artists and managers that we should aim for two or three opportunities that we really want and then try and build around that. They’re all aware of how difficult this year is – it’s going to be rough and tumble. Things will come late, plans will change. Last year, when promoters were going through the worst of it – not even knowing if they had jobs I checked in on them and made sure they were ok rather than demanding slots on festivals that might not happen.

You worked in the livestreaming business during the pandemic boom. What is your point of view on the format now?
It depends. Live streaming a concert from an empty venue is very different to live streaming a concert with an audience there. That’s why the Dua Lipa [Studio 2054] stream and the Gorillaz stream worked so well because they were hybrids between a music video and a live stream and something you could never see live. Live streaming from an empty venue – which just feels like a reminder of a time when we couldn’t attend shows – won’t continue. You just cannot replace going to a concert and being there in person.

“What I’ve realised now, at One Finiix Live, is that my main asset is being myself”

How have you found gender diversity in the industry, during your career?
It has been really hard. It’s still a very male-dominated industry. I’ve been surrounded by female assistants but few female agents or bookers and so I’ve often been the only woman in the room with artists, managers and promoters. I’ve been told I have a big personality, I’m confident and outspoken, but I feel that’s been misjudged at times and used against me, especially because I’m a woman. I used to feel like I had to dim myself down to make others feel comfortable, what I’ve realised now, at One Finiix Live, is that my main asset is being myself.

Who are some women you admire in the live music industry?
Kelly Chappell is a huge inspiration and should have also won ‘best speech’ at the Women in Music Awards! Laura Davidson who started her own company Amigas is super important to me. I try to work with female promoters like her, as well as Maddie Arnold at Live Nation, Chloe Pean at AEG and Alexandra Ampofo at Metropolis. On the agency side, I love Alice Hogg [ATC Live], Sally Dunstone [Primary Talent International] and Whitney Boateng [WME] – we worked together at CODA. There’s also an incredible team of women at One Fiinix Live – Emma Davis and Eve Thomas. Caroline Reason at Mata Agency is also an absolute queen!

“Before I confirm Years & Years for a festival, I insist on building [an inclusive] lineup together with promoters”

What are you doing to further diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry?
We’re making sure every UK festival Years & Years are playing are real inclusive spaces for everyone and the lineups are diverse across gender, race and sexuality. Before I confirm Years & Years for a festival, I insist on building the lineup together with promoters. So far, promoters – even the ones lacking in expertise in that area – are super open to it. I’m fortunate because most of the Y&Y shows are headlines so we are in a great position to enforce this.

I am also working with an incredible award-winning collective called Queer House Party which has built this insane following in lockdown by putting on safe and accessible spaces for people to come together within the queer community. The night has now made a leap from online to IRL selling out nights at iconic venues across UK. We are now bringing radical and queer excellence to festivals across the summer. I’m also speaking to the Trans Creative, co-founded by Charlie Deakin-Davies, who are working on creating opportunities for trans and non-binary production crews.

With all the issues agents are currently faced with, are you able to protect your mental health?
I actually feel that it has been harder to keep the work-life balance than it was pre-pandemic, there’s much more work but the demand is still the same. Everyone wants something now now now; dates are moving all the time. It feels way more intense than it did before. I’m hoping that the pressure dies down soon and, meanwhile, people do their best to be kind and patient because we’re all going through it. For me dancing and playing football is a great help!

 


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