UK live industry cautiously welcomes £1.57bn aid
British live music industry leaders have said they stand ready to work closely with government on the details of its £1.57 billion culture rescue fund, but cautioned that the whole live music ecosystem must be protected.
The financial aid package of emergency grants and loans must also be complemented by an exemption in VAT for the sector, a government-backed insurance scheme for shows and a conditional date for reopening, they say.
Sunday’s announcement about the support package followed the hugely successful #LetTheMusicPlay day, which saw 1,500 artists write directly to culture secretary Oliver Dowden and tens of millions of fans posting online about the importance of live music, a £4.5bn sector that employs 210,000 people.
The campaign, coordinated by members of the UK Live Music Group and Concert Promoters’ Association (CPA), with additional support from UK Music, trended at No1 globally on Twitter and attracted media coverage around the world.
“Thousands of artists, venues, festivals, managers, agents, promoters and production crew came together for #LetTheMusicPlay, and we must ensure that all of them receive the support that they so desperately need,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the CPA.
“We stand ready to work closely with the government to ensure that this world-class industry survives”
“We stand ready to work closely with the government to ensure that this world-class industry survives.”
Live music was one of the first industries to close as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and concerts are not expected to return in full force until well into 2021. According to member research compiled by live music associations over the six month period between October 2020 and March 2021, the operating costs of the broader live music sector will be £298.8million. This figure is in addition to the £47m required by grassroots music venues, called for by Music Venue Trust.
“The government’s £1.57bn package for the arts is welcome, but we lack detail of how funding will be allocated for music,” comments Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the Music Managers Forum. “The thousands who work and perform in our sector desperately require comprehensive support if their jobs and livelihoods are to be sustained.”
Kilimanjaro Live MD Stuart Galbraith, co-chair of the CPA, adds: “We are ready to work on the details of the scheme, and our other requests – a VAT exemption for the sector, a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead, and a timeline for safe reopening without social distancing – at the government’s convenience.
“We look forward to this ongoing discussion shortly.”
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#LetTheMusicPlay: UK biz mobilises to call for aid
The leading lights of Britain’s live music industry – including some of its biggest touring talent – have today (2 July) issued an urgent plea for government aid to the sector, warning that a lack of support and continued uncertainty around reopening is having a “devastating” impact in one of the world’s biggest live music markets.
The appeal is centred on a letter to the UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, signed by 1,500 artists and bands, including Ed Sheeran, the Rolling Stones, Dua Lipa, Sir Paul McCartney, Skepta, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sir Rod Stewart, Liam Gallagher, Florence and the Machine, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi and Little Mix.
In the joint letter, the artists say: “UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.
“Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.”
New research shows the live music sector added £4.5 billion to Britain’s economy in 2019, and supports 210,000 jobs. While the UK is the fourth-largest music market in the world by value of ticket sales – and the second-biggest per capita – the appeal notes that state support for live music lags behind other countries, with other European governments such as France and Germany using public money to kickstart their concert industries post-Covid-19.
“Government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry”
To coincide with the letter, hundreds of artists will today begin posting films and photos of their last live show using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay. Fans will also be encouraged to post about the last gig they went to, in a mass show of support for the UK’s on-pause live business.
“It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK,” says Dua Lipa. “From the very start, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career. I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels: small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms, and into arenas, and, of course, festivals in between each touring cycle.
“But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much-needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again.”
The UK live music industry is asking for:
- A clear, conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing
- A comprehensive business and employment support package and access to finance
- Full VAT exemption on ticket sales
The business and employment support package should include, they say, a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead; an extension of the furlough scheme and help for the self-employed to prevent mass redundancies; rent breaks for venues to allow them to reopen; an extension of business-rate relief to the entire live music supply chain; rolling over fees for single-premises event licences for festivals; and financial support for lost box-office income.
“Every day, literally, I hear of another friend in music losing their job, shutting up shop or switching careers. This pandemic has affected everyone; it has taken many lives and forever changed many more,” says Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and Venue Group. “Live entertainment has not been the headline, nor do I believe it should’ve been – at least until now.
“We really have to pay some attention to what our cultural landscape is going to look like on the other side of this, and we’re hoping that #LetTheMusicPlay will pull some of this into focus for a minute.”
“If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever”
Other artists to have signed the letter to Dowden include Take That, the Stone Roses, Foals, James Bay, Genesis, the Chemical Brothers, Johnny Marr, Slade, Biffy Clyro, Bastille, Muse, Sir Tom Jones and Manic Street Preachers.
“The UK’s venues, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country’s culture and economy, but they are now facing desperate financial challenges,” says Emily Eavis, organiser of Glastonbury Festival. “If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”
“July would normally see the UK embarking on a world-famous summer of live music, but this year the lights are switched off and the microphones unplugged,” adds Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters’ Association. “Live music has sought to play its role in helping tackle coronavirus, with many artists providing entertainment for people from their homes. But our shutdown is likely to go on for much longer than most, with many concerts and festivals unable to operate until 2021 at the earliest.
“Without rapid government support, the long-term impact will be devastating, with the loss of hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled jobs and billions of pounds from the UK economy.”
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UTA commits $1m to social justice causes
United Talent Agency (UTA) has announced a series of internal initiatives aimed at further increasing diversity and inclusion across the agency globally.
The actions – which are accompanied by a donation of US$1 million to organisations fighting for social justice – are the result of “efforts in recent weeks, led by leaders, colleagues of colour and allies across UTA, to have candid and thoughtful dialogue about the internal steps necessary to make meaningful and sustainable progress toward a more equitable community”, according to the agency, which has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Nashville and Miami.
Referencing the recent movement towards greater ethnic diversity in the music industry, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer explains: “The past few weeks have shown that we must address the pace in which we’ve approached our diversity and inclusion efforts. It’s our responsibility to move forward with immediacy to ensure change happens, as a company and as individuals.
“I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues who stepped up and spoke truth to power. They are making UTA an even better place to work and helping drive true and meaningful progress well beyond our four walls.”
The $1m financial commitment will be provided over four years, and overseen by the nonprofit UTA Foundation.
“We are putting our stake in the ground publicly to hold ourselves accountable”
The new internal initiatives, meanwhile, include:
- Observing ‘Juneteenth’ as an annual holiday and closing all US offices on that day
- Increasing representation of people of colour throughout UTA, including senior-level positions (as demonstrated by the recent promotion of agents Chelsea McKinnies and Emerson Davis to partners)
- Unconscious bias training for all UTA employees
- A commitment to increasing wages for assistants and other entry-level staff, to be implemented over time
- Actively pursuing and considering candidates of colour for every available position
- Creating a specialised, identity-based mentoring programme for employees of colour
- Reshaping the agent training programme to focus on increasing retention and promotion of employees of colour and other “underrepresented” colleagues
- Creation of an internal leadership council comprising a “diverse coalition of colleagues from all levels” to influence company culture and policy
Additionally, Project Impact, which sees the agency close for a ‘day of action’ on community projects, will this year focus solely on issues of social justice and racial inequality.
UTA’s executive director of inclusion, Shanique Bonelli-Moore, says: “We believe diverse backgrounds and life experiences influence positive perspectives and great storytelling, yielding broader opportunities for our clients. Much of this work is already underway.
“It won’t all happen overnight. But we are putting our stake in the ground publicly to hold ourselves accountable and are implementing systems to sustain urgency as we pursue lasting change.”
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New signings and rising stars (July 2020)
UK four-piece Lime, a new signing for Pitch & Smith’s Duncan Smith, and US pop-poet Taylor Castro, newly repped by John Giddings at Solo, are among the latest acts to have been added to the rosters of international agents.
Find out more, and check out the full list of new signings for June–July, below. Plus, if you haven’t already, make sure to listen to IQ’s latest New Signings playlist, which complements the page in the magazine and features even more up-and-coming talent…
Agent: Duncan Smith, Pitch & Smith
Brighton quartet Lime jump over genre boundaries with an energy that oozes from every corner, weaving post-punk foundations with earworm melodies and razor-sharp, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
With debut single ‘Surf N Turf’ already passing 30,000 streams and landing a spot on the BBC 6 Music playlist, the band are set to follow up with new music in late summer and a busy live schedule (fingers crossed!), including supports with Happyness, Junodream and more.
Taylor Castro (US)
Agent: John Giddings, Solo Agency
Poetic lyrics, such as those on ‘Abyss’, is one sure-fire way Taylor Castro sets herself apart from the oversaturated market of pop music. The instrumentation indicates Castro as someone with a keen eye on the trends of the music industry, with her outstanding lyrics tucked away in a package disguised as the hit of the summer.
The fairytale-like ‘Abyss’ is one of the finest feats of storytelling you will see in the charts. This is a talent caught right at the beginning of her journey, and we are privileged to share it with her.
For full artist listings, including new signings for ATC Live, UTA, Paradigm, Primary Talent, ITB, Cabin Artists, Fmly, Pitch & Smith, Progressive Artists and the Lullabye Factory, see the digital edition of IQ 90:
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Booking agent Kara James joins ITB
Booking agent Kara James will join ITB on 1 July, Rod MacSween, co-founder and CEO of the London-based agency, announced today (26 June).
Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, James – a respected agent who has worked with acts including Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Red Fang, the Kills and the Pretty Reckless – was with WME, having been promoted from assistant to agent in 2015.
“I look forward to her joining our agency team,” says International Talent Booking (ITB). “Kara will be working closely with me, as well as developing her own roster.
“We are building for the future, and we feel Kara will be a valuable member”
“In spite of the problems caused by this disaster to live music [Covid-19], with so many shows being postponed or cancelled, we are building for the future and feel Kara will be a valuable member.”
WME is known to have laid off a number of staff earlier this year, with a number of agents affected by recent cuts to 20% of its workforce globally.
Its worldwide head of music, Marc Geiger, announced his departure yesterday, in a reshuffle that also saw UK agent Lucy Dickins appointed co-head of music.
Beyond Rhetoric: BAME execs on boosting diversity in live
The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, looked at the lack of racial diversity in the live music business, as well as practical steps the industry can take to begin turning the tide.
Hosted by Live Nation International diversity lead David Carrigan, the session welcomed UK Music’s Ammo Talwar, Metropolis Music promoter Kiarn Eslami, ICM agent Yves Pierre, ATC Management’s Sumit Bothra and Earth Agency’s Lucy Atkinson to discuss the overwhelming whiteness of the concert industry, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter and #TheShowMustBePaused campaigns for racial equality.
Talwar, who leads UK Music’s diversity and equality taskforce, said that while the industry’s front-facing components are hugely diverse, its workforce is not.
In London, for example, over 40% of the population are non-white, he said, compared to around 18% in the UK music industry. At the executive level, he added, companies are still overwhelmingly staffed by “middle-aged, white heterosexual males”.
Comparing her own path into the business, Atkinson said she speaks to a lot of white men “who say they just kind of fell into this job, and that hasn’t been my experience at all. Even now, I still feel like I have to fight to get taken seriously as an agent.”
“A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”
On the artist side, Pierre pointed out that lot of artists aren’t allowed to “live” in traditionally white spaces – they have to start in a black/“urban” genre and then go pop or rock when they are already established. “We have to acknowledge that these artists exist and that there’s space for them,” she said.
Looking at practical measures to promote a more representative industry, Atkinson said: “A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”: for example, the ‘Rooney rule’ in the NFL that requires at least one ethnic-minority candidate be interviewed for a job.
Speaking from a promoter’s point of view, Eslami described another simple change he has made on his shows – which, while not costing his employer any more, allows for greater investment in ethnic minority run businesses. “Every show we have has a budget, and one of those costs is catering,” he explained. “[I asked] why do we spend all our budget in supermarkets, when there are so many other caterers our there?
“It’s about looking at how we change the cash flow for these shows, whether it’s in catering, marketing or elsewhere.”
Pierre said it’s up to everyone in the industry to hold their own employers accountable when it comes to employing a diverse workforce.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation. We have to make sure that the companies we’re working for live up to those standards when it comes to racial diversity and gender equality,” she explained. “A lot of the time nothing gets done because you think someone else is doing it.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation”
“If I want to see the change, I have to be part of that change. I have to hold my colleagues, and my bosses and partners, accountable.”
“It’s time to do things differently,” agreed Eslami. “People often think, ‘If something’s not broken, why fix it?’, but we’ve all had a three-month time out and realised that now is the time to think about how we can do things differently in future.”
Bothra said ATC is looking at changes it can make to hiring processes to promote greater diversity. “For us as a management company, for example, we have to be aware that it’s incumbent on us to look in new places to find people,” he explained. “We can’t just go to the same recruitment agency, the same school, and do the usual thing, because that’s not going to make any difference at all.”
“The professionals are out there,” added Talwar. “We’re just not looking in the right places.”
“There are tons of kids who don’t know that an agent exists, or that there’s a management position, or a social media aspect of this,” said Pierre, emphasising the importance of getting the word out about the live industry to underrepresented groups.
“I think we have to expose people to these things, so they can understand there’s a whole workforce behind these artists and something for them to do beyond just being an artist or a producer or writer.”
“The professionals are out there. We’re just not looking in the right places”
“Before I started at Metropolis I didn’t even know a promoter was a job,” added Eslami. His advice, he said, is that “it doesn’t take long” to offer advice and mentorship to young people from disadvantaged groups. “There are 365 days in a year, and if you spare one or two” of them you can really make a difference, he said.
While the current zeitgeist feels like a “watershed moment” for diversity, real change needs to be about more than words – it’s got to be a “root-and-branch approach” that tackles “systemic” issues, said Talwar.
He added that he’s “just as interested in the block in the middle” – the one that stops industry professionals of colour attaining leadership positions – as the one that stops ethnic minorities getting into live music in the first place. “Where are the next CEOs, the next chairmen?” he asked.
Carrigan concluded by saying the conversation had been “a long time coming” and expressed his wish that debate will go on in future. “These conversations about race in the live music industry are not common, which illustrates the need to continue the conversation,” he explained.
Given the importance of the conversation continuing, future IQ Focus panels will revisit the topic in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can watch back yesterday’s session on YouTube or Facebook now.
Lucy Dickins named WME co-head of music as Geiger exits
Following months of speculation, WME’s worldwide head of music, Marc Geiger, has confirmed he is leaving the agency after 17 years.
Under the leadership of Geiger, who joined the then-William Morris Agency in 2003, WME’s music division has “become a global powerhouse,” comments Lloyd Braun, president of representation at parent company Endeavor. “During his tenure, Marc led countless agency initiatives and firsts for the music industry, including the creation of festivals and EDM divisions and building out WME’s leading London and Sydney music teams.
“We thank Marc for his countless contributions to WME and wish him all the best going forward.”
Also out is co-head of music Sara Newkirk Simon, who moves into a consultancy role in the wider Endeavor business. She is replaced as WME’s third music co-head by Lucy Dickins, head of the agency’s UK music division, who joined WME last year.
“The past 17 years have been an incredible ride”
Other co-heads Scott Clayton and Kirk Sommer remain in their current roles.
“The past 17 years have been an incredible ride, and I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the world’s best artists and colleagues,” comments Geiger, whose Breakfast Meeting interview was a highlight of ILMC 28.
“I’m proud of all that we accomplished, most especially the team we built during my time with the agency. I know they will achieve great things in the future.”
Geiger’s next destination is unclear, though speculation has linked him to an executive role at streaming giant Spotify.
This story will be updated.
Lockdown listening: IQ New Signings playlist returns
IQ’s New Signings playlist, featuring a selection of tracks curated by major international booking agencies, returns today, providing the perfect soundtrack for those long summer afternoons in lockdown.
Launched last month, the playlist complements IQ Magazine’s popular New Signings page, which keeps the live industry updated about which new, emerging and re-emerging artists are being signed by agencies.
The June edition features contributions from CAA, ITB, X-ray Touring, UTA, ATC Live, Primary Talent International, Paradigm, ICM, 13 Artists and Pitch & Smith, each of which have picked up to five tracks apiece featuring some of their most exciting new talent.
Listen to the latest selection using the Spotify playlist below – or click here if you missed May and need to catch up first.
Separated by agency, the full track list for June’s New Signings playlist is:
|ATC Live||Moscoman||Eyes Wide Shut|
|Egyptian Blue||Nylon Wire|
|Christian Lee Hutson||Lose this Number|
|Black Pumas||Fast Car|
|Avenue Beat||I Don't Really Like Your Boyfriend|
|Freddie Gibbs||God Is Perfect|
|Dan D’Lion||Pull Me Under|
|Mimi Webb||Before I Go|
|Nation of Language||The Wall & I|
|October Drift||Forever Whatever|
|Samuel Jack||Gotta Be Alright|
|The Estevans||Wrong Idea|
|Paradigm||Bakar||Hell N Back|
|Denzel Curry||Pig Feet (feat. Kamasi Washington, G Perico and Daylyt)|
|Mariah the Scientist||RIP|
|UTA||Che Lingo (UK)||My Blok|
|Frankie Beetlestone (UK)||HMU Again|
|Evann McIntosh (US)||What Dreams Are Made Of|
|Silly Boy Blue (FR)||The Fight|
|X-ray Touring||Yumi Zouma||Cool for a Second|
|Kris Barras Band||What a Way to Go|
|The Chats||Pub Feed|
|Broken Witt Rebels||Running with the Wolves|
|Lovelytheband||I Should be Happy|
|Primary Talent||Biicla||No Place|
|Thick||5 Years Behind|
|Baby Queen||Internet Religion|
|Luke Elliot||All on Board|
|Courtings||David Byrne's Badside|
|13 Artists||Josh Vine||How Many Times|
|The Mysterines||I Win Every Time|
|Nito NB||L’s Down|
|Caro||Figure Me Out|
|Orlando Weeks||Blame or Love or Nothing|
|Pitch & Smith||Lime||Surf N Turf|
|Jess Williamson||Infinite Scroll|
|Drab City||Troubled Girl|
|Marie Davidson||Work It|
|Le Ren||Love Can’t be the Only Reason to Stay|
Tales from Covid: Yves Pierre, ICM Partners
As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert its impact on the live industry, IQ builds on its Tales from Covid series to discuss the opportunities for change that have started to emerge from lockdown life.
Ahead of this week’s IQ Focus session, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, IQ catches up with panellist and ICM Partners agent Yves Pierre (Migos, Lil Yachty, Baby Rose, City Girls), to talk about the urgent steps the industry needs to take to tackle systemic racism and the new revenue models and opportunities that have emerged from the coronavirus shutdown.
IQ:It’s been a really tough few months for the live business. What has changed from a business point of view over the past few months?
YP:My role, in its essence, hasn’t really changed. I still offer the same service – looking for new business opportunities and getting creative. It requires the same mindset. Although the format is different, we are still tasked with presenting our clients with the best information possible.
The difference is, obviously, that we are going from live models to the various virtual platforms that are coming out now. We are having to explore different pieces of technology and need to be really well versed in everything to understand what we stand to make and all the different revenue avenues, such as merch packages and other bundles.
What we need is to develop an accurate strategy with those livestreaming companies and work with different promoters on that side of things to work out what we consider the business model to be.
“We need to factor in these [virtual] opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed”
Do you foresee virtual shows becoming a revenue-driver for acts in the long term?
I think there will always be a place for virtual events after this but maybe in not quite so prevalent a way as now. There’s no denying, though, that we need to factor in these opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed.
There’s no perfect model for online events yet. YouTube and Fortnite have been an early frontrunners, but we are going to see everything level up.
I am still figuring out the basics to judge how much people are willing to pay for various online events, how many people certain platforms can withstand, which kinds of formats require large overheads. It’s all still being tweaked and we are certainly not in a position yet to say which is best.
An interesting format I have tried with one of my artists, Lil Yachty, was an online paint and chat with a group at a university. This took him out of his comfort zone and allowed one on one engagement with fans – and it proved really interactive.
When live shows do return, what do you foresee as the main challenges?
I think it is going to be the mental aspect we’re going to have to work around. As an agent, I need to try and think as a consumer and think how comfortable I’d be in enclosed spaces with lots of people.
Mentally, this situation is taking a toll and the fear of there being another wave, and what that will mean, is massive. We are really going to have to step outside of this and look at the perspective of the consumer to figure out whether they’re ready.
There’s also the economic aspect – how much are people going to be able to pay for a show? A lot of people have lost their jobs, or been laid off and furloughed. There is a big economic element to think about, but we will have to deal with the emotional side first.
“Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case”
How do you foresee the industry recovering from this?
Sadly, it’s just going to take time. You could implement all the safeguarding measures you want, but time is what we need. I believe we can look this as a chance to reset, rather than view it as a loss. We have to be willing to pivot and try and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The business absolutely will change after this. We’ve already seen the beginning of Live Nation’s plans for the future, of course. Everyone is going to have to take a step back and reevaluate what things will look like.
We have realised content is king now. More than ever, we have to focus on what the artists are going to go for.
The key will be finding a way to engage with fans that aren’t in a venue. Being there in real life is not the be all and end. There is a world of opportunity online, we’ve realised that you have to look at all possible options.
I’ve certainly found this to be a great opportunity to look at different ways of doing things. Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case.
One push for change in the industry has been highlighted in particular in recent weeks, what now needs to be done to tackle racism and increase diversity in the live business?
There is a myriad of things on several levels that must be done. Heads of departments and those with the power in this industry need to partake in actual engagement with community. There is no value in giving money when people have no clue what money is used for. There needs to be real conversations with communities or advocates for those communities to obtain real information on where to donate.
Partnering with local communities will also help people gain the understanding of what it is like to live with discrimination.
“We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable”
Within the industry there are so many examples of discrimation towards Afro-American clients and workers. For example, the security measures that are taken against hip hop artists would not be implemented for other acts. This is unconscious bias. Some venues ban hip-hop completely – it’s a bias, and allowing that to happen is a bias. There is no sensitivity to what that feels like as an agent and as a client. All these things play a part in the problem.
As well as community engagement, representation of Black people at executive level is needed. Having one Black person on an executive board isn’t enough. It feels like an exception, and that’s not parity. We constantly have to raise ourselves to a diff standard to our non African-American colleagues. We have to commit to making sure there are more of us in a role and that goes for all people of colour in business in general.
We need equity in more than name and, until we get there, then there’s a problem. We are in a position where this is something that has to be led by African-Americans in these spaces, but our colleagues have to work with us. We can demand these things but, at end of the day, they are implemented by someone else. So we need a concrete commitment by these leading companies.
Are you hopeful that now is the time for long-lasting positive change?
I really hope so, but we also have to see more evidence. People have to be putting themselves on the line. This isn’t for us – in the long run, it’s not about us. It’s about the people around us and those coming after us.
We need these things to be implemented now. We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable. Not wanting to feel guilty is not enough, and we have to be clear that words and stated intentions are not enough.
We need change and we need to be part of the process we are to achieve this.
Why artists need an agent
The focus of my work as an agent is on territories outside of the USA, especially in Europe, Latin America, Australasia, Japan/Asia etc. Many large acts do sell the ‘Whole World Tour’ to LN or AEG. However all tours still have to be routed and there are places where the ‘big’ promoters do not have companies or local relationships.
Often, with tour routes that we have helped to create (many times with those ‘big’ promoters), we include additional and useful ‘sell off’ shows. We also act as a buffer between the Manager/Artist and the Promoter. There are often difficult decisions to be made on logistics, local compliance rules, movement of equipment, local tax issues, currency fluctuations, insurance for pandemics and much more to make a tour run smoothly.
We also check the books (although vanishingly few promoters are dishonest). The point I’m making is that [contrary to the claim that, “to a great degree, the agent is an antiquated concept”] we agents have always provided good ‘old fashioned’, time-honoured service. Here are some of the reasons I say this:
We have geographical understanding gained from years of experience. Local ‘on the ground’ issues are informed and resolved by a wealth of knowledge about locality, culture, company, client, that we have accumulated over time.
We store fundamental information such as how long it takes to overnight from A-B (drive times), the network of ferry links, transport restrictions, crew swaps, air-freight of equipment, charter flights and the many behind-the-scenes activities that collectively make a tour work (we do all this in association with artist production managers and transport companies)
Sure you can leave much to promoters but an AGENT fighting for the artist in their corner provides a crucial and significant service. We’re a vital cog in the overall process. As well as handling regular fee negotiations, much else of what is done by the agent maximises earnings for the artist. At a basic level, the premise that the manager just calls Michael Rapino and makes the global deal (thereby cutting out the agent) could be perceived as short term saving. But believe me, in the longer term, this ‘by-passing’ of our role and function would be more costly because of the reservoir of accumulated knowledge and pivotal insight an agent is able to bring to the party.
An agent fighting for the artist in their corner provides a crucial and significant service
The artist relationship with a bigger promoter is partly founded on big bucks advances and guarantees. Undoubtedly this alliance has a role to play as financial certainty helps to keep the world running. Nevertheless, and for reasons I have indicated above, the contribution of the agent remains critical to the success of the enterprise. I would also add that territories outside of the USA represent about half the touring world and an agent ‘on the ground’ with local knowledge is an indispensable element in the equation.
The concept of ‘agent’ is not antiquated and the function is much more than paperwork. We help break talent by assisting younger acts to get a leg up. We foster record label, radio, tv and social media liaisons. We also have excellent relationships with all the top managers. Those guys appreciate the added value and hard work that an agent invests in their artists’ success. The strength and depth of the relationships that we have forged with a number of strong headliners has also been influential when it comes to negotiating with promoters, festivals and other venues. The presence of an agent will be significantly more consequential to an artist, adding value and helping to build or sustain their career in such an uncertain world we now face.
The desired end result of an agent’s presence is to allow the artist to concentrate on their performance and give of their best to their audience, free from any external concerns which may have arisen.
The holistic nature of the agent’s relationship with an artist/manager means we’re always there for them, supporting, protecting, nurturing through thick and thin. Our agency representation list and enduring artist bonds speaks for itself.
The pendulum of live music swings between the power of a) the artists and promoters and b) the public who pay good money to see the music performed. In the present climate of uncertainty, the law of the jungle applies so lets allow the market to determine “who agrees what”. You can’t blame Rapino for trying to close the gaps [by renegotiating deals for 2021]. He is a caring and intuitive man who has given up his own salary for the cause.