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Jarred Arfa talks building IAG’s ‘all-star team’

The Independent Artist Group executive speaks to IQ about the AGI/APA merger and shares his vision to take the full-service agency forward

By James Hanley on 14 Nov 2023

Jarred Arfa

Independent Artist Group (IAG) EVP, head of global music, Jarred Arfa has opened up on the company’s ambitions to establish itself as “the premier alternative agency option worldwide”.

IAG was launched earlier this year following the merger of US-based talent agencies Artist Group International (AGI) and Agency for the Performing Arts (APA), in a move that further intensified competition in the international live music agency landscape, which had been largely consolidated by just four companies – CAA, Wasserman, UTA and WME.

The deal brought AGI’s roster, which included the likes of Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Smashing Pumpkins, Linkin Park, Metallica, Noel Gallagher, Motley Crue, The Strokes and Iggy Pop, and APA clients such as 50 Cent, 2 Chainz, Fetty Wap, Deep Purple, Mary J Blige and Lauryn Hill, under one roof.

US-based Arfa, who was previously COO of New York’s AGI, tells IQ the union was a natural fit.

“We were very impressed with the work that [APA executives] Jim Osborne and Kyle Loftus had done with the film/TV careers of music clients – particularly 50 Cent and Mary J Blige – and how their success in those areas helped elevate their touring careers,” he says. “We wanted to be able to offer our artists a full suite of services beyond our touring expertise in TV, film, lit and branding in order to help facilitate their interests in other artistic outlets and further enhance the value of their brands and intellectual property.

“Our goal isn’t to become the biggest agency, but really more of a selective all-star team”

“We were coming off the best year in our company’s history at AGI so it wasn’t something that was necessary but it was certainly something that we saw as additive and complementary to our core business.”

Founded in 1986 by Jarred’s father, Dennis Arfa, AGI was owned by the Yucaipa Companies, the private-equity group controlled by billionaire investor Ron Burkle, which also made a strategic investment in LA-headquartered APA in 2021. The merger saw Dennis Arfa appointed chair of IAG’s music division, with AGI president Marsha Vlasic named vice-chair and APA president Osborne becoming CEO.

“It couldn’t have been a smoother transition as we were already working with the APA content team on a number of projects for our music clients prior to the merger and had a great deal of success with those projects,” says Jarred. “We both share a client-first ethos that I think has been lost as many of our competitors have focused on becoming multimedia companies. I believe there is still a real need for an agency that’s primary goal is to create and enhance value for its clients.

“We believe in a quality before quantity mantra and that is how we will continue to build our business. We want to continue to work with artists we truly feel can have long careers and that we can envision becoming headliners. Our goal isn’t to become the biggest agency, but really more of a selective all-star team. We will be very strategic and thoughtful in how we expand our business to align with the above mentioned philosophies.”

Although the TV and film sectors were hampered in 2023 by the Hollywood strikes, Arfa points out that the concert touring business has “never been hotter”. Singling out shows by clients Ne-Yo, Robert Glasper and the Smashing Pumpkins as “extremely inspiring”, he also cites Billy Joel’s Madison Square Garden residency and stadium run with Stevie Nicks, alongside successful tours by 50 Cent, Metallica, Def Leppard & Motley Crue, Ms Lauryn Hill & Fugees, Pantera, Rod Stewart and Neil Young.

“I expect touring to continue to thrive in the experience economy and with so many different genres of music continuing to grow”

“IAG touring had an incredible year with a number of artists headlining arena and stadium tours worldwide,” he says. “We are also very proud of Ghost becoming a bonafide arena headliner in the States and the continued growth of other great rock bands like Sleep Token and Falling in Reverse.

“In 2024, I am excited about the development of some other newer artists like Key Glock, Matt Malteese, Eem Triplin, Bigxtheplug, Téo and Freddie Dredd, amongst many others. I believe IAG will continue to establish itself as the premier alternative agency option worldwide and will attract many great clients who are looking for a more hands-on and team-oriented type of representation but still has all the services that a larger agency can provide. I expect touring to continue to thrive in the experience economy and with so many different genres of music continuing to grow.”

In closing, Arfa urges the rest of the world to adopt the tools that have been utilised to help raise artist grosses in the US, such as platinum ticketing and dynamic pricing.

“Although slowly being adopted in Europe, I believe it is very important to be embraced across the industry worldwide to help offset the rising costs of touring,” he says.


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