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Continuing a series of interviews with the 2023 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Jamie Shaughnessy, a music touring agent at CAA
By Lisa Henderson on 11 Sep 2023
The 16th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 121 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 2023’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous interview with Holly Rowland, an agent at Wasserman Music (UK) here. The series continues with Jamie Shaughnessy, a music touring agent at CAA.
Jamie joined CAA in 2015, where he served as an assistant to several agents in the company’s music touring division in London, across a variety of clients and acts. He was promoted to coordinator in 2020 after completing CAA’s trainee programme in Los Angeles. Despite the trials brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically within the live touring space, he was promoted to agent at the end of 2021 and has since built a roster of exciting artists from genres across the globe.
Jamie’s first stint in the music industry came after completing his A-Levels, when he secured an apprenticeship at Channel 4 working across music licensing and sync alongside their in-house agency, 4Creative. He then held a similar role at Princess Productions/Shine TV before joining Warner/Chappell as a music consultant within their production music team.
When did you first realise you wanted to have a career in the music industry – and is anyone else in your family involved in music?
No one else in my family is involved in music in a professional capacity but my earliest and fondest memories comprise of my parents playing the records of artists from all over the world – from reggae to rock and Motown, to acts like Orchestra Baobab and Bueno Vista Social Club. I think this is what really fired up my initial interest and passion in music. My family all have such a varied taste which really fed into the music I’d then go on to love.
Looking back…burning CDs, watching music videos over and over again when you could text in to make a request (shout out and R.I.P to Channel U) and weekly trips to HMV is when I really began to spend the majority of my time consuming music. When I discovered YouTube and iTunes it was a wrap, I’d be scouring the web for my next favourite artist for hours on end (but had to stop when my mum needed to jump on the phone and disconnect from the dial-up internet). At this point, the idea of working around something I love sounded great but I had no idea if it was possible or what roles were actually out there. For a long time, I thought being the tour manager meant you were just hanging out with the artist and partying all the time, not actually managing a tour…
Most teenagers probably don’t know that jobs in music licensing and sync, as well as booking agents exist. How did you find out about these career paths?
I think it was a combination of a little bit of luck and being inquisitive. My first job at Channel 4 as an apprentice came as a bit of a surprise. I was applying for any internships that had ‘music’ in the description via Gumtree and then looking for opportunities via the apprenticeships database. There was a role listed at a ‘National Broadcaster’ which involved ‘sundry tasks’ working with music rights and clearances. In all honesty, I had no idea what it meant and it didn’t sound the most exciting. I applied for the role, forgot I had done so, then had a phone call a month later asking to come in for an interview at Channel 4. I couldn’t for the life of me remember applying for the position so asked for them to resend me the job description so I could prep. I was rattled! Somehow, I landed the apprenticeship, it was one of the best experiences of my life and the perfect entry role into the industry. From there I moved around in similar positions within sync and licensing. I then realised I wanted to be in a role that felt a bit more hands-on while working closer to artists, I wasn’t sure exactly in what capacity that would be – the areas of A&R, management and live all sounded interesting and engaging to me. I then saw an assistant role at CAA advertised online – again, I had no idea who CAA were or what the role of an agent entailed but I thought I’d give it a go. There was definitely an essence of fake it until you make it…
“Having strong relationships across all sectors is integral to being able to do the job well”
In terms of expanding your network of contacts, are there any conferences, events, platforms or forums you attend that you would recommend to others?
Over the years I attended events that The Young Guns Network organised and always found them super useful for making meaningful connections and getting insights into different areas of the business, especially for anyone just starting off in the industry and who needs a bit of a guiding light. The Ultimate Seminar was really helpful for that too. Events like The Great Escape, ILMC, IFF, Venues Day and Eurosonic are always really beneficial to be at, especially for anyone in the live space. Other than that, I’d recommend getting down to gigs and showcases for new artists at the smaller independent venues.
Your path to CAA included stints in broadcasting and at a music publisher. Does that experience help shape any of the work you do as an agent?
In my earlier positions, I had to make sure I was always up to date with new artists and releases and have an understanding of what music would work to a certain brief, so I definitely think those honed skills and having that awareness have helped me as an agent. Another huge component of those previous roles and in my current role is relationships, as it is across the industry. Having strong relationships across all sectors is integral to being able to do the job well.
You had the chance to work in Los Angeles as part of CAA’s trainee programme. What lessons did you take from that experience – and is working at one of the company’s other offices something you’d like to do in the future?
I learnt to appreciate the London Underground! I had an incredible time in LA and forged some strong relationships with colleagues over there who are now close friends. I was reminded just how small the planet was and how important it is to not just build but maintain the new connections you form as you never know when you’ll need to call on them. I learned how to embrace challenges and new experiences that might seem intimidating at first but inevitably help you to become a more proficient person. I love travelling, meeting new people and seeing new places so would never say no to the opportunity of spending time in one of our other offices around the world.
Where is your favourite venue for checking out emerging talent?
I’ll always keep an eye out for the showcases and multi-act line-ups at the smaller intimate venues like The Lower Third, The Social and Paper Dress Vintage. Jazz Café always do a wicked job with their programming, especially with acts from around the world who might be playing their first show in the UK.
“[The industry] still doesn’t feel anywhere near enough reflective of both society and the music output we see”
How would you encourage other young people to pursue a career in the music industry?
For young people just getting started in the industry I’d always recommend trying out different areas within the sector. Even if you have the smallest inkling or interest towards one of the areas – whether that’s live, radio, A&R, management, PR, legal etc. – be curious and work out how you might be able to get some exposure within that space. I think it’s always better to try something out and find out it might not necessarily be for you, as opposed to looking back and wishing you’d given it a go. Work experience and networking are key to building a career within the music industry so I’d suggest trying to gain an understanding and familiarity of each field while meeting as many people as you can along the way as this is what will help you grow.
You have a growing roster of talent who you represent. Which acts do you think people should be keeping a close eye upon in the year ahead?
I feel extremely lucky and privileged to be working with an incredible roster who are all working really hard to hone their craft and breakthrough. SuperJazzClub are a collective from Accra and had a great run of shows earlier this year, their show at The Great Escape was absolutely rammed and a bunch of people couldn’t get in, which almost included myself – a good problem to have! Maeta is an amazing R&B act from the US and if you haven’t heard of Durand Bernarr please check out his Tiny Desk Concert, it’s incredible. Ama Lou, Cruza, Somadina and Femi Tahiru all have new music on the way which I can’t wait for people to hear. Yazmin Lacey is absolutely killing it, you have to check out her performance of Late Night People at Glastonbury. BXKS is making real waves in the UK rap/Grime scene. I’m really excited too about Naomi Sharon who is from Holland and recently signed to OVO. JACOTÉNE is from Australia, has an unreal voice (to put it lightly) and is ready to take on the world. Keep your eyes on LULU too…
As a new boss, what would you like to change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I’ve read this segment of this series for the last several years and I would’ve hoped I wouldn’t have needed to say what’s been said previously on improving the diversity of the workforce behind the scenes but there’s still so much work that needs to be done. It does feel in some regards that things are slowly getting better and that within some parts of the industry, you’re seeing more people from ethnic minority backgrounds in roles. However, it still doesn’t feel anywhere near enough reflective of both society and the music output we see across the board. If companies and institutions are actually serious about changing the industry in this way, I feel that a whole lot more needs to be done when it comes to outreach to schools and communities that might not be aware of the inner workings and opportunities within the industry. This would only be one part of making meaningful and positive change, there’s so much progress yet to be achieved in eliminating racial inequality within the sector and beyond.
I definitely don’t have the answers, but I feel collectively we all sincerely need to be working towards a more sustainable and greener way of operating otherwise we won’t have a live entertainment industry to improve. As the saying goes, there’s no music on a dead planet.
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