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Runway Artists: ‘Popular culture isn’t shaped by ageing white men’

Founder Matt Hanner discusses the UK agency's future-proof strategy to invest in young and emerging executives

By Lisa Henderson on 21 May 2024

L-R Emer, Louise, Amy, Matt

L-R Emer, Louise, Amy, Matt


Runway Artists founder Matt Hanner has told IQ about the agency’s strategy to invest in the next generation of agents.

Hanner (formerly of ATC Live, Coda) launched the London-based independent booking agency in the spring of 2020, against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Notably, the agency’s first hires included emerging executives Amg Greig and Dotun Bolaji (now at Primary Talent), with Greig set to move from a freelance role to a full-time position in June.

Indeed, Hanner says recruiting and training young and diverse agents is baked into the firm’s game plan.

“I want to build a talented team that represents the artists we work with and society as a whole,” he tells IQ.

“Younger, digital native agents will definitely have the upper hand when it comes to identifying and nurturing new artists”

“Popular culture is not shaped by aging white men and as something of an underdog in the agency landscape I want to give Runway a fighting chance when we’re up against the competition – if artists can look across the table and see a company that reflects and understands them then hopefully they’ll give us a shot.”

In fact, Hanner believes that having young agents on the team is an advantage when it comes to scouting talent.

“Someone in their early 20s has only ever consumed music in an ecosystem in which DSPs are a major player; the associated shift in consumption habits has massively altered how people approach genre and that feeds into talent development and discovery,” he explains.

“Personally when looking at new artists I feel I can’t stray too far from my ‘lane’ as I don’t know the tastemakers outside certain genres but streaming has moved the goalposts completely and younger, digital native agents will definitely have the upper hand when it comes to identifying and nurturing new artists.”

The younger generation of Runway recently expanded with Louise McGovern (an agent who has previously worked for Midnight Mango and DHP) and intern Emer Marcus, who joined Heather MosselsonSteve Backman, Zac Peters, Craig Wylie, Georgia Chrysanthopoulos and Karen Murray.

“The shift in age and gender balance of the company should bring a new dynamic”

But Runway’s commitment to diversity isn’t just reflected in its team. Having partnered with gender-equality initiative Keychange, the agency has pledged to maintain a minimum of 50% female-led or majority-female artists across the agency’s roster.

“Additionally, we are looking to address the racial imbalance across the artists we represent,” reads a mission statement on the agency’s website.

McGovern – who represents KEG, Alien Chicks, Spyres, Toby Sebastian, Jaws The Shark, Cable Street Collective, Dutch Criminal Record, Jade Helliwell and Kima Otung – says Runway’s DEI strategy is partly what attracted her to the company.

“They invest a lot into grassroots artists and venues and have a people-first approach, and equality, diversity and inclusion are important concepts to me, so I was thrilled to see them sign up to the Keychange pact,” she says. “In terms of their roster, they have a diverse range of artists, and I could see my roster and my future roster fitting in well there.”

Meanwhile, Marcus has been interning at Runway for nine months now and says her experience at the agency has been “crucial” in an industry that can be “daunting for young people to enter”.

“Talent and aptitude for the role are more important than experience, so assuming we’re getting that bit right once the doors are open we want to see people running through them,” says Hanner.

As an independent agency, Hanner believes Runway can give less experienced executives broader exposure to agency work and progress them quicker into an agent role.

“I think, in general, agencies have been hiring as young and cheap as they can for years with very different motivations,” he says. “You could argue it would be more financially prudent and less work to bring in experienced staff and those with a proven roster but one of the advantages to being an independent company is that we can be idealistic and take a gamble because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

“The shift in age and gender balance of the company should bring a new dynamic and I am hoping we empower our newly expanded team to drive Runway forward in an exciting direction,” Hanner says.

 


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