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Marty Diamond charms ILMC’s Futures Forum

The Wasserman agent regaled ILMC with stories of Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Barack Obama in conversation with BBC Radio 1’s Abbie McCarthy

By James Hanley on 07 Mar 2023

Marty Diamond in conversation with Abbie McCarthy


Renowned agent Marty Diamond regaled ILMC with stories of Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Barack Obama during the Futures Forum 2023 keynote interview.

Having founded the celebrated boutique agency Little Big Man Booking in 1994 and after stints working at International Talent Group (ITG), Arista, PolyGram and Bill Graham Management, US-based Diamond is regarded as one of the most forward-thinking executives in the business. His current roster includes acts such as Coldplay, Sheeran, Liam Gallagher, Janelle Monáe, Sigur Rós and Lorde.

Discussing his path through the agency world, the EVP and managing executive of Wasserman Music brought this year’s conference at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel to a close last Friday (3 March). Here are a selection of standout moments from his hour-long conversation with BBC Radio 1’s Abbie McCarthy…

“I started to have clients that meant something. But I also realised that I didn’t have the ability to service them the way that I probably should have”

Starting Little Big Man Booking…
“I either was somebody who couldn’t hold down a job, or had the attention span the span of a gnat. But ultimately I worked for a company called ITG, which was owned by Wayne Forte and Michael Farrell. Their clients were Duran Duran, Jesus Jones, David Bowie, Genesis, Phil Collins and The Cure. They were the gold standard of agencies. They were two really good people, but all good things come to an end and I was kind of at a loss because the partnership split up and I was at this crossroad of, what do I do? I was asked by each of them to come to work for them, and I realised that I probably should just go and do something on my own. I moved across the street to my friend Jim Grant’s office. The office he was giving me was a storage closet for one of his bands’ guitars. It was about 5ft x 5ft. But I started Little Big Man in [that] office. I had a handful of clients, and I originally started with one employee, a guy named Larry Webman. Larry is still with me. And then I hired this girl Tammy [Shin-Sprotte], who also worked at ITG.”

Moving to Paradigm…
“We had become a very successful little boutique agency. We moved out of that little space that was a phone closet, to Lower Manhattan on Sixth Avenue, and I started to have clients that meant something. But I also realised that I didn’t have the ability to service them the way that I probably should have. I went to work for a company called Paradigm, which I worked at for 15 years.”

“I remember Chris Martin saying to me, ‘I’m excited to be working with you. I have no intention of ever working in America'”

Discovering Ed Sheeran…
“A very good friend of mine, Scotty Brothman, told me that his label was signing this kid, Ed Sheeran, and I should be on it. I went to see Ed play in, I want to say it was Guilford, in a tiny little club. I’m not very tall, so a lot of times I go to shows and I look at the back of people’s shoulders. And I literally watched the entire show – other than the moment that Ed stood on a chair in the middle of the room – through someone’s cellphone under a dripping air conditioner. I ended up sitting on the steps outside his dressing room talking, and we became friends and I’m very happy to be a part of this team. It started in a little nightclub in Guilford, and now we’re doing 20 sellout stadiums in America.”

Working with Coldplay…
“It’s over 22 years for me and Coldplay. Phil Harvey, who’s part of the management team, was the original manager. Larry and I sat with Phil in a restaurant over by Shepherd’s Bush Empire to try to convince him to sign with us – this is when we were at Little Big Man – and we wouldn’t let him leave the restaurant until he said we represented the band. And then I went to see Coldplay at V Fest. I think it was their first round of festivals and they were on the second stage early in the day. And I remember Chris [Martin] saying to me, ‘It’s really great to meet you. I’m excited to be working with you. I have no intention of ever working in America.’ It was a moment of silence. But they’re amazing, and 22 years later, they’re in the midst of a massive stadium tour.”

“I remember President Obama bending down on his knees to talk to my daughter”

Career highlights…
“David Gray selling out Madison Square Garden during White Ladder… was an amazing moment. I actually think Ed playing Madison Square Garden might have been one of the most sensational moments in my life. I remember going to see Ed Sheeran on the first tour he did in America. He supported Snow Patrol, who were another client, and I had Janelle Monae in Washington DC the same night – she was doing the White House Easter Egg Roll when the Obamas were in the White House, so I was with my family during the day on the White House lawn with Janelle Monae. We got to meet the president, who I actually really liked – I can’t say that for many of our presidents – and I remember President Obama bending down on his knees to talk to my daughter. That was the beginning of my day. And the end of my day was sitting with Ed Sheeran, who at the time was smoking a cigarette after opening for Snow Patrol. I think we were three days into his presence in America and he’s like, ‘So when we play Madison Square Garden?'”

“I sleep three or four hours a night. My phone is next to my bed – probably not the best behaviour in the world”

What his average day looks like…
“I’ll give you my average day Los Angeles version, New York version and London version. They all start the same. The most important thing in my life is my family. My two girls are the most important thing. If I’m in LA, it’s 3am or 3.30am in the morning, I call my daughter Story to wake her. I called her at 11.30am today from London to wake up. I wake her in New York at 6am or 6.30am. That is the start of my day. Then I put my head down and I have a phenomenal team of people that I work with.”

The secret to his longevity…
“Well, I’ve been clean and sober for over 30 years. I think that’s part of it. Surrounding myself with good people is a really big part of it, and enjoying the people that I’m around. My girls are a big part of my longevity, they keep me strong, and they keep focused about being a sensitive, caring person. I fucking hate Mondays. I guess Bob [Geldof] was right when he said that, but I struggle with Mondays, I have a really hard time finding my rhythm. I don’t sleep a lot: I sleep three or four hours a night. My phone is next to my bed – probably not the best behaviour in the world. I get texts and emails from people saying, ‘When do you sleep? Why aren’t you asleep?’ A lot of times, I have no idea where I am so that sometimes plays a part!”

 


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