Natasha Bent leaves Paradigm to launch new venture
Paradigm agent Natasha Bent is leaving the agency after four years to launch a new independent management and agency business with her brother, Mother Artist Management (MAM) boss Mark Bent.
Bent, who works with acts including Idles (managed by MAM), Chvrches, First Aid Kit and Amy Macdonald, joined Paradigm (formerly Coda Music Agency) in 2016.
Prior to that, she spent eight years at The Agency Group (later UTA). She joined in 2006 from her own company, The Village Agency, and became VP of the business in 2014.
Over the course of the last decade, Bent has worked with Foals, The Knife, Chvrches, Foster the People and Amy Macdonald and has become well known for her commitment to fair working practices across the business.
Over the course of the last decade, Bent has worked with Foals, The Knife, Chvrches, Foster the People and Amy Macdonald
She is also an Arthur Award recipient, scooping Agent of the Year (aka the Second Least Offensive Agent) in 2018, and was named Tomorrow’s New Boss at ILMC 22 in 2010.
“Regretfully, we are announcing that Natasha Bent has resigned from Paradigm after four years of service to form an independent management company with her brother. We wish her the best of luck in her new venture,” says Paradigm’s Tom Schroeder.
Bent is the most recent Paradigm agent to go independent, and the first in the UK, with former employees from the US offices breaking off to establish Arrival Artists, Mint Talent Group and TBA Agency.
The past few months have seen a flurry of activity in the agency world on both sides of the Atlantic, with the likes of Route One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK, and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain all having launched this autumn following cutbacks at the major agencies.
Most recently, Ed Sheeran agent Jon Ollier announced his new booking agency One Fiinix Live, following his recent departure from CAA.
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Neil Warnock talks 150 years of Royal Albert Hall, 2021
Neil Warnock MBE, global head of touring for United Talent Agency, has said he’s cautiously optimistic about the potential for the impending Covid-19 vaccine to get the industry moving again after a “disastrous” 2020.
Speaking after today’s virtual Royal Albert Hall 150th anniversary press conference, Warnock – who is chairman of the London venue’s 150th anniversary committee – described the impact the pandemic has had on both artists and fans.
“This year has been an absolute disaster for the whole world and affected every strata of everybody’s lives,” he said. “The music element – of not being at a show and fans not being able to interact with performers – has, especially, been so harmful to everyone’s health. Music is such a key component in so many people’s lives.
“I’ve talked to artists who have been going up the wall, some of whom normally play 150 shows a year. It’s been such a loss for them, and so hard on everyone.”
Warnock said while some musicians have been able to take advantage of live music’s year off, it depends on the artist and their attitude towards touring. “Some of them have looked at it and said, ‘I should be working on music, I should be writing a book,’ or whatever it is they’re working on, and used  extremely well, artistically,” he continued. “Whereas other artists have said, ‘No – just want to get out there and perform.’”
The Royal Albert Hall today unveiled the programme for its 150th anniversary celebrations, which kick off on 29 March 2021 – exactly 150 years to the day of its opening – and extend into 2022.
The arena’s chief executive, Craig Hassall, announced the plans, which include concerts, festivals, dance shows and more, at a virtual press conference streamed live from the 5,200-capacity venue this morning (3 December).
“Being involved in the 150th anniversary is such a fantastic honour”
“Despite the devastating impact of the pandemic, which has closed our treasured building to the public for the first time since the Second World War, we are determined to host a full celebration of our 150th anniversary,” he told journalists.
“Since its opening, this extraordinary venue has borne witness to, and played a central part in, seismic cultural and social change. The interests, manners and social mores of the people may have changed, but this beautiful building and what it represents remains the same a century and a half later: a meeting place, a reflection of contemporary Britain, and a home for exhilarating live performance and events of international significance.
“I want to thank the whole creative industry, our dedicated staff and all of the artists involved for their support in announcing this programme today.”
The hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, and named in memory of her late husband, Prince Albert. Closed since March, it will reopen to fans for a programme of carol concerts over the Christmas period, with capacity limited to 1,000.
Among the highlights of the venue’s 150th anniversary programme are headline shows by the likes of Patti Smith, Jon Hopkins, Gregory Porter, Tinie (Tempah), Brian Wilson, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryn Terfel and Alfie Boe, while alt-folk act This is the Kit will perform in an ongoing concert series, Albert Sessions, and run a workshop for local teenagers.
Elsewhere, singer-songwriter KT Tunstall will lead a new mentorship programme for young female artists, and Nile Rodgers will compose a “pop anthem” for the anniversary, using a full orchestra and singers from across the community.
Non-pop/rock programming includes a special concert on 29 March 2021, which will see the debut of a specially commissioned multimedia piece, A Circle of Sound, composed by David Arnold; a new piece for the hall’s famous Henry Willis organ by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Rogue One); and a new staging of Matthew Bourne’s dance production, The Car Man.
“We are determined to host a full celebration of our 150th”
According to Warnock, there will be further live music events announced in the run-up the anniversary when there is more clarity on the regulations around Covid-19.
During the press conference, Warnock relayed a memorable anecdote about the Who’s Roger Daltrey being pelted with coins by angry teddy boys in 1969, and spoke of his love for the Royal Albert Hall, whose “magic” he says is unmatched by another venue anywhere in the world, and said he “can’t wait” to be in a position to be announcing more acts.
“Being involved in the 150th anniversary is such a fantastic honour, as I’ve been involved with the hall for 50 years,” he told IQ afterwards. “We’re going to have acts from right the way across the spectrum, from every part of the world and for every age range. It’s definitely going to tick every box.”
Lucy Noble, the Albert Hall’s artistic and commercial director, confirmed that while some plans have been postponed or deferred as a result of the pandemic, there are some “very exciting events to be announced in due course.”
With a vaccine against Covid-19 now approved in the UK, and the hope that other countries will soon follow suit, Warnock added that he’s cautiously optimistic about the resumption of touring next year, with something approaching a return to normal by the summer.
“We’ve got this pinpoint of light in the [form of the] vaccine, so hopefully that can be shared with as many people as soon as possible,” he commented, “which will then give us the health ‘passport’ we need so that artists can properly react with audiences, and fans can react with those artists, again. That’s all we can hope for.”
For the 150th anniversary programme as it stands so far, visit the Royal Albert Hall website.
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Legendary agent Dick Alen passes aged 89
Dick Alen, a legendary agent who spent 39 years at what was formerly WME, has passed of natural causes aged 89 according to Variety.
Alen spent more than 60 years as an agent, representing musical icons including Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, before retiring in 2010.
The last 39 years of his career was spent at the earlier incarnation of WME, where he became senior VP and had a five-year stint as head of the agency’s music division. Alen moved to the Beverly Hills office in 1971 and also helped open the agency’s London office.
Alen was credited with bringing more country, Latin and Contemporary Christian artists to the company such as Charlie Rich and the Oak Ridge Boys as well as Williams, and into CCM with Sandi Patty.
Over the years, Alen also represented Ray Charles, James Brown, Rod Stewart, Hank Williams Jr., Tom Jones, Fats Domino, Cheech & Chong, Barry White and Juanes.
“I’ve dealt with some wonderful artists and hey, it’s just been a great run”
His early triumphs included signing Berry in the early 50s when he was still on Chess Records. He continued to represent Berry for more than 50 years and was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral in 2017 – something he also did for Franklin when she died the following year.
Alen started his career in the late 40s with a small agency run by Roy Gerber (who went on to book TV’s most popular variety shows) and Norman Weiss (who later worked with the Beatles), then in 1952 moved to Shaw Artists, working with jazz and R&B artists including Domino, Charles, the Clovers and the Orioles.
He took a break from the agency world to do a stretch as Woody Herman’s road manager before joining Universal Attractions, where he represented Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Johnny Taylor as well as Berry and Little Richard. At Universal, he worked to establish an audience and market in Europe for African American R&B and jazz musicians. He and Jack Bart eventually bought out Universal Attractions.
Alen was also instrumental in setting up the bookings that had the Rolling Stones opening for Berry and the Beatles doing the same for their idol Little Richard.
In an interview with Billboard earlier this year, Alen said: “When I’m asked about my career, my answer is that I thank my lucky stars for it. I’m old and a little shaky, but still upright. I’ve dealt with some wonderful artists and hey, it’s just been a great run.”
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IQ launches new digital subscription
Starting today (2 December), IQ is asking its most loyal readers to help keep making our work possible by joining our new digital subscription service.
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Femnøise launches map of female and non-binary pros
Femnøise, a digital platform aimed at fighting the gender gap on a global level, has launched a new map feature to help locate and connect women and non-binary professionals in the industry and empower them to monetise their skills.
The map allows users to find other music professionals by filtering geographical area, type of activity and musical genres. Profiles can request to connect to each other, send and receive private messages with other users, and participate in forums and discussion groups.
The platform already boasts 2,000 registered users ranging from tour managers to artists, photographers to designers, conductors to bookers.
“Our idea is to serve as a bridge between different needs, and profiles that fit the demand,” says Natalia San Juan, founder and CEO of Femnøise.
“Our idea is to serve as a bridge between different needs, and profiles that fit the demand”
“For example, if you are preparing your tour and need a guitarist or tour manager; if you want to look for a photographer to renew your book or find a designer for the cover of your next album, you can find her on Femnøise. The connections are as diverse as the profiles that connect.”
Users will also be able to create and monetise small courses using the platform’s nano learning functionality, in turn, helping others on the platform to strengthen their skillsets.
Alongside helping professionals to connect and skillshare, the platform will also give visibility to associations around the world which are promoting women and non-binary professionals in the industry and encourage collaboration to find solutions to diminish the gender gap.
Similar initiatives serving women and non-binary people in the music industry have popped up across Europe, including Helvetiarockt’s one-stop shop for festivals, promoters, bookers, producers, musicians and more in Switzerland and Vick Bain’s F-List directory of UK female and non-binary musicians.
Agents of Change: The agency business in transition
On 20 October, five US agents, all formerly of Paradigm Talent Agency, announced the formation of Arrival Artists – a brand-new booking agency with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, a roster that includes the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Khruangbin and BadBadNotGood, and a partnership with European agency ATC Live for global representation of acts shared across both rosters.
Following the termination of hundreds of jobs by the Hollywood-headquartered global agencies since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the kind of news observers of the agency space have come to expect – a group of agents from one multinational join forces and go independent – and follows the launch of two other new US indies, TBA Agency and Mint Talent Group, in late August and mid-September, respectively, and the likes of Route One Booking and Jon Ollier’s One Fiinix Live in the UK earlier this month.
The resurgence of the independent agency, and the apparent fracturing of the corporate giants following years of consolidation, is being watched closely in the broader live music world, where rumours abound of further agency launches and rebrands – including in Europe – in the months ahead.
Nowhere is this more the case than in London, where recent mergers include Primary Talent with ICM Partners and K2 Agency with Artist Group International. And while uncertainty reins, takeovers, strategic pacts and new ventures will all be under consideration for every business.
“It’s clearly a very challenging time for anyone working in live music at the moment,” says ATC Live’s Alex Bruford, whose roster includes Nick Cave, The Lumineers, Metronomy, Black Pumas and Fontaines DC. “No matter the size of the business, if your company relies on live touring, and there is no touring, it’s very difficult.”
“The idea in agency culture has long been geared towards an idea of ‘the bigger the better’”
“Clearly, we all have had to face major challenges in 2020, and we will continue to have significant challenges thrown at us for some time,” agrees Angus Baskerville, partner at 13 Artists, who works with artists including George Ezra, Brittany Howard, Jamiroquai, Michael Kiwanuka, Benjamin Clementine and Paolo Nutini.
But are ATC Live, 13 Artists and other UK-based indies such as ITB, Asgard, Midnight Mango and smaller boutique firms, better placed than their corporate cousins to survive, and even thrive, during the current crisis? With concert activity on hold, is it actually a blessing to be free of the structure of a large company – and are we witnessing a new era of independence in live music booking, the likes of which we haven’t seen for the best part of a decade?
Bigger: not always better
The past seven months have done much to expose some of the myths of pre-Covid thinking within the business, according to Earth Agency’s Rebecca Prochnik, who represents artists including Skepta, JME, AJ Tracey and Nines. “The idea in agency culture has long been geared towards an idea of ‘the bigger the better’,” explains Prochnik. “For a long time, the structural strategy of the larger agencies has been upscaling teams around artists, to provide a more intensive job. While I understand the reasoning, the model creates a lot of employment volume, and in fact the potential for disconnection that has never made full sense to me.”
“Sometimes I look at some of the bigger agencies, and you have too many agents or bookers squabbling over every artist that comes in,” echoes Obi Asika, founder and CEO of Echo Location Talent (Marshmello, Da Baby, Wizkid, Chase & Status, Pendulum, Major Lazer, Giggs). “Many artists have multiple agents, in part to ensure no one agent has too much power over the wider agency. That’s not workable anymore. There’s no guarantee this [a concert-stopping pandemic] won’t happen again – you’ve got to be careful of your overheads.”
“Some large businesses will have been better protected than other large businesses going into this, and I’m sure it’s the same for the smaller ones,” adds Baskerville. “Saying that, I do believe the independent sector has the possibility of thriving in 2021 and beyond, as we’re required to modernise and refresh approaches to the way we work – and do that quickly.”
“Independent companies have been able to be more nimble and adapt faster to new ways of working”
For many of the bigger, multinational agencies, the financial impact of this “surplus” is amplified by huge levels of corporate debt, which in some cases amounts to many times their annual revenues.
According to investment banker Lloyd Greif, Endeavor – the parent company of WME – is shouldering a staggering US$5.1 billion debt, while CAA has $1.15bn coming due in 2026, in addition to a $125 million revolving credit facility. Paradigm, meanwhile, is believed to owe around $80m, following multiple debt-financed acquisitions over the past decade.
Paul Boswell, of Free Trade Agency (The National, Tones and I, Wilco, Tash Sultana, Violent Femmes), says he believes that while the live entertainment shutdown is “clearly bad for all,” it will “hurt those that practice borrow-and-buy capitalism the most.”
“As an independent business, we’ve always been careful not to fall for the seductive culture of living beyond our means: even if money is flowing, we’ve stayed low to the ground on spend,” adds Prochnik. “We’ve always had a culture of working remotely – of needing an office solely for the wellbeing and connection of our staff community, rather than for external business. Throughout my career, I’ve taken my meetings in cars, in cafes, in parks, on the phone… It’s really only ever mattered that I can relate well and do a creative job for my clients as needed.
“What Covid’s done is blow away the myth that an independent attitude is a quirk. Big offices, gleaming receptions, plaques on walls, meeting rooms, games rooms, listening rooms… At the end of the day, those things are all just optics, and ones which suddenly seem tremendously outdated. None of those things shape business in a meaningful way…”
“When the dust settles, there are going to be huge changes”
“The importance of having an office as a status symbol – that, for me, has gone,” adds Asika. “You don’t need a shiny office, and you also don’t need people coming into work every day; if you don’t trust the people working for you, that’s a problem. I’ve enjoyed being at home with my family, and I want that flexibility for my business and staff.” “This virus is terrible, but there are potentially worse ones in the future,” he adds. “And when that comes, you want to be the little speedboat nipping around, not the big cruise liner…”
Agrees Prochnik: “Independent and smaller agencies tend to have a shared personality of sourcing and creating whatever there is to do, thinking outside the box, breaking moulds in order to make business work. I think this inherent culture of flexibility, nimbleness and creating value out of thin air is invaluable in these new times.”
“We’ve seen with companies across our sector, from agencies to promoters to ticketing companies, that often the larger the organisation – and therefore the higher the overheads – the harder hit they have been,” says Bruford. “In many cases, independent companies have been able to be more nimble and adapt faster to new ways of working, new opportunities and the changing landscape.”
The great equaliser
According to Asika, “When the dust settles, there are going to be huge changes” across the agency sector as a result of the current “correction.” “From the value of artists, to where people work, what people have started in this time, what new companies pop up… there are all these things happening in the background, and it’s going to have a long-term impact,” he predicts.
Virtually Live: ILMC 33 launches with Azoff keynote
The organisers of the International Live Music Conference today (25 November) launched ILMC 33, the 2021 edition of the conference and the first in an all-virtual format.
Without the physical confines of a conference space, the annual event – which typically welcomes 2,000 professionals annually – will programme an expanded schedule of panels, meetings, workshops and keynotes.
Also announced today is ILMC 2021’s first keynote interview, featuring legendary music executive Irving Azoff. Hosted by Ed Bicknell, The (Late) Breakfast Meeting with Irving Azoff sees Azoff join the raconteur and former Dire Straits manager to discuss his remarkable career in music, from managing Eagles and Jon Bon Jovi to running Ticketmaster and being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Given the unprecedented circumstances, next year’s ‘Virtually Live’ ILMC will be opening its doors to non-members for the first time, allowing a wider range of live music professionals to attend.
“It’s important that the whole business is able to come together at such a pivotal time for the industry’s recovery,” explains ILMC head Greg Parmley. “With that in mind, we’ve decided to open up ILMC to the wider live music family for the first time, ensuring as many delegates are possible are able to exchange ideas and benefit from each other’s expertise.”
“It’s important that the whole business is able to come together at such a pivotal time for the industry’s recovery”
ILMC 33 also includes a fully online version of the Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s Oscar equivalents, which feature several new award categories – including Unsung Heroes and Tour of the Decade, which will be voted for live on the night. The ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) and Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI) will both precede ILMC on Tuesday 2 March.
Confirmed speakers for ILMC 2021 already include Tim Leiweke (Oak View Group), Bob Lefsetz (Lefsetz Letter), Emma Banks (CAA), Sam Kirby Yoh (UTA), Tony Goldring (WME), Tom Windish (Paradigm) and Phil Bowdery (Live Nation). The first conference sessions will be announced in the coming days.
In addition to three days of conference sessions, the digital ILMC platform will feature hosted networking lounges, speed meetings and virtual exhibition spaces, while a schedule of nighttime events also includes a series of livestream showcases from emerging artists.
Last year’s conference programme included keynotes from Peter Rudge and team Mumford & Sons, and guest speaker slots from executives including David Zedeck (UTA), Phil Rodriguez (Move Concerts), Roberta Medina (Rock in Rio), Ashish Hemrajani (BookMyShow), Detlef Kornett (DEAG), Maria May (CAA), Scott Mantell (ICM Partners) and Jim King (AEG Presents). The full 2021 agenda will be published in January.
Companies supporting ILMC 33 include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, CTS Eventim, Showsec and Tysers.
For more information, visit the new ILMC website, which invites the industry’s top gamers, avatars and cyberpunks to join us in the conference mainframe from 3 to 5 March 2021.
K2 Agency signs Bullet for My Valentine
London-based K2 Agency has signed metal superstars Bullet for My Valentine for all international (excluding North America) representation.
The signing is the first major deal struck by K2 following the agency’s partnering with private-equity company Yucaipa’s Y Entertainment Group in August.
“I have admired Bullet for many years and I am honoured to be chosen to represent such an iconic British band,” comments K2 founder John Jackson. “K2 and Raw Power Management will be a formidable force, and I look forward to working with Craig Jennings and his fantastic team.”
“I am honoured to be chosen to represent such an iconic British band”
Bullet for My Valentine, who were formerly represented by UTA’s Paul Ryan, continue with CAA in the US and Canada.
The band are currently working on their seventh studio album, the follow-up to 2018’s Gravity, with plans for a tour in 2021.
Bullet join the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, A Day to Remember, Ghost, Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Volbeat, Gojira and Mastodon on K2’s roster of rock and metal heavyweights.
Winter Wonderbands: December’s agency playlist
The December edition of IQ’s New Signings playlist, featuring a selection of tracks curated by major international booking agencies, goes live today with another serving of fresh new music ahead of the launch of IQ 95.
Launched in May for the June issue, 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 agents.
The December playlist features contributions from CAA, ICM, ITB, Paradigm, UTA, ATC and Primary, each of which have picked four or five tracks apiece featuring some of their most exciting new talent.
Listen to the latest selection using the Spotify playlist below – or click here to catch up on the November edition first.
Separated by agency, the full track list for December’s New Signings playlist is:
|CAA||YDE||Stopped Buying Diamonds|
|CAA||Priya Ragu||Good Love 2.0|
|ICM||Q||Take Me Where Your Heart Is|
|ITB||Dead Poet Society||CoDA|
|ITB||Devon||Why Do We Wake Up? (Before The Good Bit)|
|ITB||Juanita Stein||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|ITB||Lonely The Brave||Bright Eyes|
|Paradigm||Tora||Call Your name|
|ATC||Black Country New Road||Science Fair|
|ATC||Katy J Pearson||Something Real|
|ATC||Kacy & Clayton, Marlon Williams||Arahura|
|Primary||July Jones||2020 Girls|
|Primary||All Time Low||Monsters|
|Primary||Moore Kismet||You Should Run|
Jon Ollier launches new agency One Fiinix Live
Ed Sheeran agent Jon Ollier has announced details of his new booking agency, launched following his recent departure from CAA.
Headquartered in London, One Fiinix Live aims to offer both a “first-class service” to Ollier’s existing roster – which also includes Anne-Marie, JC Stewart, Lauv and 2Cellos – while also investing in new “strategies to maximise opportunities in a post-Covid-19 world”, according to Ollier.
Ollier will serve as CEO of the new venture, with Emma Davis – who served as Ollier’s assistant at CAA – also joining One Fiinix Live. Ollier left CAA after nearly six years last month, along with his personal roster.
Explaining the reason behind the name, Ollier says: “I have always been interested in spirituality and symbolism. Fiinix is, of course, a play on the word Phoenix and so, therefore, a symbol of rebirth, hope, immortality and resurrection.
“It is a word that has come into relevance for me strongly at huge turning points in my life. We gave our daughter, our first child, the conventional spelling as her middle name. She came into our lives and it was all change, a new chapter in our lives. I think we are in a similar place right now: everything we knew to be true about our lives has been tested and shaken and my response to it has been to embrace the change, have faith in the immortality of music and hope in the rebirth which will come from it.”
Ollier began his career at Helter Skelter, moving to Free Trade Agency in 2008, when he first began working with Sheeran. He moved to CAA as a senior agent in 2015.
“After almost six years at CAA, where I learned a huge amount from some inspirational colleagues, I felt it was time to launch my own venture and realise the vision I had for a forward-thinking, innovative agency that could empower artists and help them reach new audiences,” he comments.
“The idea of starting the company now is to invest in a business that can grow from the bottom of the market”
The past few months have seen a flurry of activity in the agency world on both sides of the Atlantic, with the likes of Route One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK, Arrival Artists, Mint Talent Group and TBA Agency in the US and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain all having launched this autumn following cutbacks at the major agencies.
“It may seem counter intuitive, but I think this is uniquely good time to launch a new business as we enter the next phase for live music,” continues Ollier. “There will be huge opportunities as we create new ways of thinking and I believe One Fiinix Live is poised to play a leading role in that positive disruption.”
Hinting at plans to expand the number of agents at One Fiinix, he adds: “We are keen to turn the current challenges we are all facing into possibilities, and I encourage anyone who feels they have the same kind of mindset to reach out – now is the time to embrace the change.”
He adds: “The idea of starting the company now is to invest in a business that can grow from the bottom of the market and to create a vehicle that can take advantage of the situation we find ourselves in. There are talented people out there who, for a number of reasons, may feel their situation is less secure that it was and the hope is that we can start conversations, employ, go in to ventures or just simply offer support where we can.
“I think the priority for all of us right now needs to be the survival of the ecosystem as a whole and so I think the industry will become naturally more collaborative. It is then just about seeing what opportunities come out of that collaboration.”