IQ’s New Bosses 2018 goes live today, with agents dominating the winners shortlist – no fewer than six bookers make our annual top ten
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Continuing a series of interviews with the 2022 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Seny Kassaye, agent at FORT Agency (US/CA)
By IQ on 03 Nov 2022
The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.
To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Resi Scheuermann, promoter and organiser at Konzertbüro Schoneberg in Germany. The series continues with Seny Kassaye, agent at Fort Agency in US and Canada.
After hosting bi-monthly radio shows at university, Seny Kassaye joined FORT Agency (a female-driven and Brown-owned boutique talent agency) during the pandemic. Starting off as an intern, just months later she stepped into a coordination role and brought exponential success through her marketing prowess leading to two sold-out tours in Europe/UK and North America for FORT clients.
Recognising her keen A&R ears and her marketing adroitness, FORT made Kassaye an agent after just a year and a half. She now represents UK group Children of Zeus for North America. Additionally, she has contributed on projects with clients such as bbymutha, Fly Anakin, Lex Records, SXSW, Adult Swim, DICE, NTS, and more. She continues to be committed to developing the future generations of innovative artists.
Meanwhile, Kassaye has taken on a second role in digital marketing at WAVO, where she has already worked on global marketing campaigns for Central Cee’s single Doja; Megan Thee Stallion’s album Traumazine; Tyler, the Creator’s album Flower Boy 5th Anniversary, and 22Gz’s single Sniper Gang Freestyle Part 2, to name a few.
Lots of people are trying to find a job in the music industry. What advice would you give to anyone trying to get a foot in the door?
My advice would be to get involved in everything music as early as you can. For instance, in my case, I joined my university’s radio club and got to host my own radio show. I’ve also been curating and sharing playlists on social media purely out of passion for years now. By doing so, it opened the doors for me to work on some small-scale projects, connect with other creatives locally and even internationally. Little did I know, I was developing my experience and acquiring skills that are in high demand for entry-level jobs. It’s those passion projects and hobbies that may eventually set you apart from others and help you land that coveted job!
You were recently promoted to an agent role. What is your process in trying to find promising acts who need representation?
I usually approach artists that I am a genuine fan of and who I believe bring something different to the table. Working at an agency like FORT is great because we truly value creative ingenuity and diversity in our roster, and so it has allowed for better flexibility and control on who I decide to sign. On the other hand, within that pool of artists, I do have to consider their streaming numbers; whether they’re signed to a label; social media presence/engagement; live show experience and ticket history; and whether or not their overall branding as an artist is strong and cohesive. Although I choose those that I know I can develop for the live stage in the long run, at the end of the day, it’s still a business and I need some type of foundation to make them as palatable to promoters and buyers as possible.
“It’s those passion projects and hobbies that may eventually set you apart from others and help you land that coveted job”
Do you have any mentors you can turn to for advice?
Absolutely. Mira Silvers, the founder of FORT, has been my go-to person from the moment I started, and I know I’ll still turn to her for advice even ten years from now. We have very similar backgrounds and upbringings and coming from marginalised communities, working in an industry that historically has pushed women like us to the side, it’s been refreshing and amazing to learn the ropes of the business from someone as knowledgeable and dedicated to the craft as Mira is.
You have a second role in digital marketing. Is there any crossover between your two jobs, or can your agency work benefit from the skills you are learning at WAVO?
My knowledge as an agent has undoubtedly better informed and influenced my decisions when strategising and creating marketing campaigns for artists and major labels. On the other hand, working at WAVO for just a few months now, I’ve learned to create and set up proper ad campaigns for clients’ projects and releases. When sending artists on tour, successful and effective promotional campaigns can have a real impact on turnout at shows, ticket sales, and overall revenue for my clients and even promoters, and it’s definitely a skill that has made a somewhat arduous process so much smoother for me.
You’ve found a role at a Brown-owned business, which hopefully gives you a support mechanism. But are you finding yourself having to take on any frustrating battles simply because of your gender and ethnicity?
Unfortunately, yes. I think I’ve faced more challenges when dealing with individuals outside of North America, and I mainly believe it’s because of the small differences in culture that, sometimes, brings about some pushback or some sort of misunderstanding from the other end. However – and this is something that I think a lot of working professionals of colour across industries can relate to – most times, when facing those microaggressions, all we can do is “charge it to the game” and find a way to not let it affect us. It’s mainly out of fear that it may not only reflect badly and disadvantage us, personally, but other individuals in the industry or those who will enter it in the future who are part of a visible minority. It’s probably the most frustrating thing out of all this because I’ve never shied away from speaking my truth in my everyday life.
“Just like we have A&Rs to scout and develop emerging talent, I believe it could be greatly beneficial in having the same for live”
As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
Just like we have A&Rs to scout and develop emerging talent, I believe it could be greatly beneficial in having individuals do the same for the live scene, and I would want a more diverse group of agents and promoters entering this industry for that. This means we need more accessibility generally, through outreach and education and sharing of knowledge, and that is something I would champion over the course of my career as I feel most people don’t necessarily think of being an agent/promoter when trying to break into the industry, even less so for people of colour, in my opinion. I think the trickle-down effect from opening up this tightknit community (because the live industry is actually smaller than one might think) can help break down the monopolisation of emerging artists solely for profit and refocus resources to independent agencies who value the process of developing talent in the long run.
Being a young agent in the tough North American market must have its challenges, but have you found any events or industry forums that are helping you to network and find new allies/partners for you and your clients?
As a young professional who just started in the music industry not too long ago, I’ve sometimes felt out of place and out of touch with the veterans that have held it down for so long. Attending SXSW for the first time has been quite beneficial (and fun!) in all aspects, especially for networking. I was able to meet some powerhouses in the business but also a lot of young professionals like myself who share and understand my vision of music in its current state and musical taste. It’s been easier to have that breakthrough and forge those long-lasting and important relationships that have served me and clients well.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Honestly, this is a hard question for me to answer. Only because there’s so much I want to do in this industry, and the way that time keeps passing by, five years feels like five months! But definitely, within the next five years, I could see myself as a promoter and producing live shows and showcases, as I’ve already dabbled in it. I think it’ll be another creative way for me to highlight new talent, and I would love to do so in Europe and the UK (many of my favourite discoveries – including my first signee – are from there, so I definitely got a soft spot for the continent). On the other hand, working at a major label like RCA, in the marketing department, is one of my ultimate goals. We’ll see which one I’ll get to accomplish first!
See the full list of 2022 New Bosses in IQ 114, which is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.
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