Live music giants move to bolster operations
Live Nation, UTA, WME and AXS have all moved to bolster their ranks with a series of notable appointments.
Dan Wall, who retired from global law firm Latham & Watkins earlier this week, has joined Live Nation as EVP for corporate and regulatory affairs.
Wall has been a key advisor to Live Nation for more than 12 years, previously providing guidance as lead outside counsel while a partner at Latham & Watkins. His new role will enable him to continue providing strategic counsel to the firm.
“Live Nation has been a special client to me, so about three years ago I floated the idea of this continuing relationship,” says Wall. “I am grateful to Michael [Rapino, CEO] and Joe [Berchtold, CFO] for allowing me to continue our work together and I am excited by the challenge.”
“Dan has been a trusted advisor and partner and he will no doubt continue to be a valuable asset to the team,” adds Rapino.
“The addition of Paul and Ceci, with their web of expertise… is another powerful signal about the trajectory of our company”
Elsewhere, leading talent agency UTA has added Main Street Advisors CEO Paul Wachter and Nexus Management Group founder Ceci Kurzman to its board of directors. Wachter will serve as the board’s chairman.
“The addition of Paul and Ceci, with their web of expertise in entertainment and technology, finance and corporate governance, is another powerful signal about the trajectory of our company and the work we are doing on behalf of our clients,” says Jeremy Zimmer, UTA co-founder and CEO.
The appointments support the recent growth and diversification of UTA’s business, including its acquisitions of UK talent and literary agency Curtis Brown Group and entertainment and marketing advisory firm MediaLink, as well as the strategic partnership forged with global private equity firm EQT.
“When we brought in EQT last summer as UTA’s largest minority investor, we together recognised the value of adding experienced outside voices to the board to help us continue to pursue our goals,” adds Zimmer. “Both Paul and Ceci are passionate about artists and culture and recognise the importance of how UTA can continue to lead into the future. We could not be more fortunate to have them stepping into these roles.”
“These promotions showcase the breadth of our client roster and how far we can go in servicing our artists”
Rival agency WME, meanwhile, has upped seven partners and 12 agents in its music division across its global offices in the US, UK and Australia.
Jared Rampersaud, Levi Jackson, Doug Singer, Henry Glascock, Dave Bradley, Brendan Long and Bradley Rainey are promoted to partners, while Henry Delargy, Kidder Erdman, Phillip Richard, Josh Sanchez, Anna Horowitz, Tom Larger, Brendan Moylan, Becca Chisholm, Caleb Fenn, Carter Green, Kanan Vitolo and Morgan Carney are elevated to agents.
“These promotions showcase the breadth of our client roster and how far we can go in servicing our artists,” says Lucy Dickins, WME’s global head of contemporary music and touring, and Becky Gardenhire, co-head of WME’s Nashville office. “We are so proud of the leadership and ingenuity each of these individuals has demonstrated, and we look forward to what they will achieve.”
Finally, The Music Network reports that AEG-owned ticketing company AXS has hired Andrew Travis to run its new Australia and New Zealand JV with Frontier Touring. Travis is a former CEO of Australian rules football club Gold Coast Suns, and was most recently COO of Melbourne & Olympic Parks, home to Rod Laver Arena, AAMI Park, John Cain Arena and Margaret Court Arena.
“I am delighted to be joining the team at AXS and to have been given the opportunity to lead this exciting expansion into the Australia and NZ market,” says Travis. “I look forward to super serving venues to optimise their ticketing operations and drive improved customer outcomes and satisfaction.”
“We are thrilled to have Andrew lead AXS’ entry into the vibrant Australian and New Zealand live event market,” adds AXS CEO Bryan Perez. “His extensive experience as an industry leader in sports and entertainment venues gives him a keen insight into their goals and ambitions and the challenges they’ve had realising them. He is the right person to help AXS address those challenges in a new and innovative way to the benefit of fans, artists and team throughout the region.”
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CAA signs Web3 entertainment company Hume
Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed Web3 entertainment company and record label Hume as it bids to encourage growth among virtual artists in the entertainment industry.
CAA, which hired Joanna Popper from HP as its first chief metaverse officer last August, will help Hume identify and create opportunities across areas including licensing and merchandising, brand partnerships, live events, and film and television.
“Hume is fundamentally changing the way fans interact with their favourite artists, experience their music, and benefit from their loyalty,” says CAA agent Phil Quist.
“Together, we believe we can help usher in a new era of musical talent and artistry,” adds CAA agent Jonathan Rodrigues.
A Web3 record label and an in-house entertainment studio, Hume remixes community-building with music creation, digital identity, and storytelling to “redefine the way fans engage with their favourite virtual artists”.
“Working with CAA presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between traditional media and Web3 to bring metastars into the mainstream”
Hume raised $11.7 million (€10.7m) in 2022 from investors such as TCG Crypto, Gmoney, Aloe Blacc, Cooper Turley, and Evan Bogart.
Angelbaby is the first in the firm’s roster of “metastars” – virtual music artists who blur the lines between the digital and physical worlds – and has performed at Art Basel, Fluf Haus LA and SXSW, and opened for both Chromeo and Dillon Francis. All 300 of the NFTs for his latest single All Gold Spaceship sold out within 10 seconds.
“By combining the latest technology with artful storytelling and music, we’re redefining what it means to be an artist,” says Hume co-founder and chief artist officer Jay Stolar. “Working with CAA presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between traditional media and Web3 to bring metastars into the mainstream.”
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Midnight Mango further grows agency team
Booking agency Midnight Mango has continued to expand its ranks by adding Duncan Chappell to its team of agents.
Chappell started out booking gigs as a hobby and has gone on to build a roster including the likes of Ranagri, Fred’s House, Annae Renae, Calum Gilligan and The Dunwells, among others.
“Frankly I’m both delighted and amazed to have been asked to join the Midnight Mango family as an agent as I haven’t been in the music business that long,” says Chappell. “I’m looking forward to providing some great opportunities for my wonderful roster of artists and to introduce the rest of the MM team to some of the venues and promoters that I’ve worked with.
“It will be a bit of a step change for me, going from a retiree with a hobby to being back in full time employment again”
“It will be a bit of a step change for me, going from a retiree with a hobby to being back in full time employment again, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Chappell brings Midnight Mango’s number of agents to 13 as it continues to grow its agent freelancer platform, launched in 2020 to bring new agents to the company on a freelance basis, supporting them financially through the pandemic period while allowing them to retain control over their rosters and income..
He becomes the second agent to join the UK-based agency this month, following the hiring of Barry Stewart, who represents acts including The Undertones, Skipinnish, Shooglenifty and Sharon Shannon.
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Sold-out ESNS draws 44,000 visitors
The 37th edition of ESNS boasted 44,000 visitors, 315 emerging European artists and more than 150 panels, keynotes and networking opportunities, according to organisers.
The showcase festival and conference returned to Groningen, the Netherlands, last week for the first in-person edition since 2020.
The conference programme included keynotes from Scott Cohen, Dugi and Dua Lipa, Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Everrett (Sub Pop), as well as panels on hotly debated topics including diversity and sustainability in the music industry.
During the festival, 40 awards were presented, including the Popprijs 2022 which went to Goldband and Dua Lipa receiving The ESNS Excellence Award, celebrating her success as an ESNS Exchange artist. The MME Awards were presented to Schmyt, July Jones, Oska, Kids Return, and Queralt Lahoz are the winners of the Music Moves Europe Awards 2023. The prestigious MME Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Sans Soucis and the MME Public Choice award was won by Jerry Heil. At European Festival Awards, The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Atlas Festival & Music Saves UA.
“This edition addressed so many related topics and presented such a diverse and outstanding line-up of European talent”
This year also saw ESNS take significant steps towards increasing sustainability, diversity and inclusion, such as introducing an advisory board for diversity and inclusion, launching ESNS Green Touring support and a partnership with green travelling start-up Choo Choo.
“The past week has been exceptional,” says Dago Houben, director of ESNS. “The sector has been struggling and is still recovering from the pandemic, and we see our role as the platform for the European music sector as more important than ever. This edition addressed so many related topics and presented such a diverse and outstanding line-up of European talent. We came back stronger than ever with so many first-time visitors and a sold-out edition of the festival and conference.”
Robert Meijerink, head of programme, on ESNS Exchange, adds: “Looking at the first bookings results of ESNS Exchange, the European Talent Exchange Programme, we are seeing a beautiful country spread. With most mentions for artists like Bolis Pupul, Deki Alem, Heartworms, Aime Simone, Club Makumba, eee gee, Monikaze, Alina Pash, Gurriers, Duo Ruut and Marina Herlop. We look forward to seeing how emerging European acts show up in the coming festival summer.”
Décibels Productions acquires French talent agency
Warner Music France’s live entertainment and concert production company Décibels Productions has acquired a majority stake in French talent agency Les Visiteurs du Soir.
Founded by Olivier Gluzman in 1991, Les Visiteurs du Soir produces and promotes shows by domestic and international artists including Jane Birkin, Rufus Wainwright, Agnès Jaoui, Imany, Paolo Conte, Caetano Veloso, Angélique Kidjo, Pink Martini, Benjamin Millepied and the MC Solaar New Big Band project. It also works with artists in development, acts as a consultant to festival organisers and mounts theatrical productions as well as other live shows.
Paris-headquartered Décibels was established nine years ago and organises concerts, comedy shows and musicals.
“I’ve known Olivier for many years,” says Décibels Productions president Pierre-Alexandre Vertadier. “His relationship with artists, his passion for quality shows and his commercial sense, enabled him to create Les Visiteurs du Soir. Now we will work together and the synergies between our two companies will help us support the creation of even more innovative artistic projects both here and around the world.”
“We’ll be harnessing new synergies in this deal with Décibels. It’ll enable our artists tap into its production skills and global network”
Audiovisual company and festival organiser Morgane Production, which first invested in Les Visiteurs du Soir in 2011, will remain a key shareholder.
“Les Visiteurs du Soir is more than 30 years old,” adds Gluzman. “We’ve continuously evolved – notably when Morgane Production invested in us with the aim of creating bridges between our artists and its excellence in producing festivals and the wider audiovisual sphere.
“Now we’ll be harnessing new synergies in this deal with Décibels. It’ll enable our artists tap into its production skills and global network. I’ve always appreciated the stress Pierre-Alexandre places on the importance of relationships as part of doing business, so we are well suited to working together.”
Midnight Mango hires agent Barry Stewart
International booking agency Midnight Mango has added Barry Stewart to its team of booking agents.
Stewart brings a roster of acts including The Undertones, Skipinnish, Shooglenifty and Sharon Shannon to the UK-based firm.
“I’m delighted to be a member of the MM team; it’s been a breath of fresh air to join such a supportive and dynamic group of very talented people,” says Stewart. “I have spent many years working as a freelance agent, artist manager and tour manager so I’ve had the opportunity to see the business from many sides.
“My roster has benefited from our synergy, and it gives me the opportunity to take on more acts and develop new relationships within the industry.”
“We’re very excited to be working with Barry and see our roster of both agents and artist continue to grow”
Led by MD Matt Bartlett, Midnight Mango launched an agent freelancer platform in 2020, which aimed to bring new agents to the company on a freelance basis, supporting them financially through the pandemic period while allowing them to retain control over their rosters and income.
“We’re very excited to be working with Barry and see our roster of both agents and artist continue to grow,” says a company statement. “Midnight Mango continues to expand its agent freelancer platform and is continually looking for new agents to join its roster. We are committed to delivering the highest level of support to both our agents and artists.”
The Gaffer: Nicole Massey
As the production manager for Billie Eilish, Nicole Massey has become one of the most high-profile roadies in the world, thanks in no small part to presenting the young star to an audience of millions at The Grammys this year.
Her résumé includes working with some of the biggest stars to ever grace the stage – Coldplay, Beyoncé, Madonna, Prince, Rod Stewart, and Van Halen, to name but a few. But it was the Divine Miss M who first ignited Nicole’s passion for touring, while her insatiable desire to learn new skills has seen her seamlessly switch roles from performer to production guru. Unlike some of her peers who fell into the production sector, Nicole’s fate seemed sealed from the start. “My parents met while working on a theatrical production, so you could say it’s in my blood,” she reveals. Indeed, the smell of the greasepaint has never been far away. “I was a dancer and performer from a really early age – I was always being excused from school to go to New York for some audition or another,” she recalls.
Raised in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania – in the same county as global production hub, Lititz – Nicole was given free rein to exercise her imagination, as her parents could obviously see where her natural talent might take her. “They encouraged my creativity. I had imaginary friends as a child – Shamen, Camen, and Amy – who we would pick up on the side of the road on car journeys. My sister’s friends would be wondering what on earth we were doing, but it was a regular thing,” she laughs.
Growing up surrounded by adult actors and performers may have helped instil self-confidence in the young Nicole, too, because when she had the chance to compete for a dance scholarship across the country in Dallas, Texas, she persuaded her parents to let her undertake the trip on her own. Needless to say, she won the scholarship.
Having made a name for herself in theatrical circles, Nicole found herself living in Los Angeles until her first taste of life on the road on a live music show changed everything – dancing for Bette Midler on her 1999 Divine Miss Millennium tour. “It was my first rock-and-roll-style tour. And, honestly, within days I decided that I never wanted to not do this,” states Nicole.
Nicole next found herself out with Backstreet Boys, which saw her having to use her passport for work for the first time. “I remember being in Buenos Aires and just so excited that I could go see the Eva Peron balcony, because I’m a dorky theatre girl,” she says. “At any opportunity, I’d do all the sightseeing and stuff, so I got the nickname Pollyanna because I was so excited to be everywhere… I’m just a girl from little Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I’ve been to Uzbekistan; I’ve been to Prince Charles’s birthday party. I never want to take this for granted.”
“It was my first rock-and-roll-style tour. And, honestly, within days I decided that I never wanted to not do this”
Determined to keep touring, Nicole would offer artists her dancing prowess while taking on additional roles behind the scenes. “I was a professional dancer until about the age of 28 or 29,” she notes. “But even when I was on tour, I’d take jobs where I was dancing and doing wardrobe.”
Working for Rod Stewart offered such an opportunity and also allowed her to participate in one of the music industry’s favourite side-lines: nepotism. “Rod loves using people’s skills to the maximum – he has a drum tech who is also the percussionist, for instance. So, when we hired my sister, Danielle, for wardrobe on the tour and Rod discovered she was a Rockette – one of the dancing girls at Radio City [Music Hall] – he asked us to choreograph something for Hot Legs and for Sexy. As a result, we danced all of the 2008 tour. I would go from being a tour manager to dancing in the show and coming back, with full stage makeup on, to deal with promoters and stuff like that. It was funny.”
Taking on wardrobe duties for the likes of The Chicks and such costume-heavy outings as Madonna’s Re-Invention tour in 2004, Nicole’s curiosity for all aspects of production started to develop early on, but it was her long, on-off touring with Rod Stewart she points to as opening new doors.
“The first real production job was before working with Rod, when Bill Leabody asked me to be his production assistant on Enrique Iglesias,” she explains. “However, with Rod Stewart, I started out doing wardrobe, and then when the band’s tour manager was leaving, they were confident I could take on that role as well, so I was doing both for a while. And then that’s when we hired my sister.”
I didn’t change my number
Gaining a solid reputation for her can-do attitude, Nicole was on the end of a call from Craig Finley when he was planning Coldplay’s 2009 European stadium tour – drafting her in as production coordinator. And when Leabody took over for Coldplay’s 2012 world tour, the writing was on the wall. “I ended up telling Rod during a tour of Australia that I was going to work for Coldplay the following year, so I gave him about six-months’ notice.”
Rod Stewart’s influence continues in Nicole’s life, however, as his 2009 tour date in Ireland had life-changing repercussions.
“My dear friend, Tom McCarthy, who is an Irish guy that owns a couple of bars in New York, told me he’d be coming to Rod’s shows when we were in Ireland. And the night before the Dublin show, he asked if he could bring his friend, Dick Massey, who was in the movie The Commitments, to the show. Naturally, I said yes because I love that movie, but I didn’t know which one he was, and I hadn’t seen it since about 1991. In fact, one of my childhood friends reminded me that we had to sneak into the movie theatre because the movie was R-rated – up until Pulp Fiction came out, The Commitments held the record for the most F-bombs.
“But anyway, Dick came to the Rod Stewart show, and three months later I was living in Dublin. And three years later we got married.”
“I would go from being a tour manager to dancing in the show and coming back, with full stage makeup on, to deal with promoters”
Immersing herself back in the production side of touring suited Nicole perfectly. “I just fell in love with being part of the crew,” she tells IQ. “I truly love taking care of the crew and being the mama. When you’re the production coordinator or production manager, half of the job is just dealing with people, personalities, and managing their expectations.”
My strange addiction
Prior to her long stint with Coldplay, which took her from 2012 to 2019, many of Nicole’s jobs involved fulfilling more than one role – a work ethic driven by her determination to learn as many disciplines as possible.
“From the time I was on the road with Backstreet Boys, 24 years ago, I’d travel on the audio bus and ask, ‘How do you guys know whose cables are what?’ And they’d say, ‘Why don’t you come load PA with us to find out!’ And so, I started loading in and out PA on Backstreet with the Clair audio boys. That’s how I learned where everything was going and started to feel more comfortable on the floor, rather than hiding back in those offices.”
She continues, “I found out very early on that it’s good to push your cases to the truck: you have to find the things that actually help the whole tour, rather than just thinking of yourself.”
Eager to learn about different roles, Nicole would consistently volunteer for other production-related tasks. “I helped with confetti on lots of tours,” she reports. “I did confetti on The Chicks, on [Michael] Bublé, and I used to call the confetti cues on Coldplay.”
Her natural curiosity made every day an education process. “I just asked the questions. I realise that there’s no way that anybody can know everything, especially with how technology changes so quickly. But I guess it comes back to me being bold and not afraid to say I have a different idea about how to do something.”
Certainly, her work on arena and stadium tours offered countless moments to build her knowledge base, which for one of those rare people who can boast a photographic memory, has resulted in an encyclopaedic skillset. “Being a part of such big, heavy productions, you almost have to possess the knowledge just to operate,” says Nicole. “As the [production] coordinator, I had no freight knowledge until Bill [Leabody] let me be a part of the email chains, which really allowed me to learn.”
“You have to find the things that actually help the whole tour, rather than just thinking of yourself”
Citing other colleagues who nurtured her, she continues, “On Enrique, I had a tour manager called Jerry Levin, who encouraged me and made me his assistant. Through him I learned a lot about dealing with the artist directly in the sense of their needs, hotels, and flights, and all that stuff. Cary ‘Slim’ Ritcher was a production manager who I worked with on smaller shows, and he explained why we’d run the cables a certain way because we were near the [loading] dock, and you didn’t want to be rolling road cases over the top. There are a ton of dumb little nuances of touring, whether it’s in a theatre or whether it’s in a stadium. But if you treat every day as a learning experience, it all mounts up.”
Everything I wanted
As one of the most popular characters on the global tour circuit, it’s somewhat astonishing that Nicole’s work with Billie Eilish marks her debut as a production manager. Indeed, if she had not been vocal about her ambitions to become the boss, it’s conceivable she might still be waiting in the wings.
The magic moment came in South Africa on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s 2018 world tour. “Bill Leabody and I were in a runner van, and I just said out loud that I wanted to be a production manager. I put it out into the universe, and less than four months later, Bill recommended me for the Billie job,” says Nicole.
Taking up the story, Leabody tells IQ, “I first met Nicole nearly 20 years ago on a tour with The Chicks when she was in charge of wardrobe. We shared an irreverent sense of humour and hit it off straight away. Nicole was always in a good mood and was wonderful at her job.”
Reunited on the next Chicks’ tour, Nicole became Leabody’s production coordinator. “Other tours followed and, when Coldplay came around, I of course took Nicole with me,” continues Leabody. “We did two stadium tours together, which Nicole handled effortlessly.
“When the OTR2 tour, with Beyoncé and Jay Z came in, Carmen Rodriguez was already in place as coordinator. However, there was an opening for someone to go in advance to deal with steel crews and make sure production needs were all ready for us coming in hot. Nicole took on this challenge and did an amazing job.
“To say that Nicole has excelled is an understatement. She is now universally accepted as one of the best”
“[When] Nicole [subsequently] asked me if I thought she could step up to be a production manager, I had no doubt at all that she could do it, and I told her so.” Within weeks, Leabody was made aware that Billie Eilish needed a new production manager. “Unfortunately, I had other commitments, but when Billie’s manager, Danny Rukasin, asked if I could recommend someone else, I immediately thought of Nicole.” Leabody adds, “To say that Nicole has excelled is an understatement. She is now universally accepted as one of the best, and I am so honoured to welcome her into the community of ‘Gaffers’: the first woman to be invited to join and a fabulous role model.”
Nicole comments, “I’m very proud to be the first female Gaffer, and more so because of the company I’m keeping. I’m just so honoured to join Bill and Jake [Berry] and Chris [Kansy], and all those guys. I’ve known them all for a long time.”
Turning to her first official PM job, Nicole states, “Having the backing of a Gaffer – Bill – on speed dial has been a blessing. I’m so fortunate that I can call upon all kinds of people who I’ve worked with over the years to ask their advice about something. But sometimes I’ll say, ‘This might seem like a stupid idea…’ And it turns out it’s a winner and the feedback is ‘Why didn’t we think of that?!’ So, I’m definitely putting my own stamp on being a production manager.”
She continues, “I’m sure I annoy some crew members because I’m very positive and try to constantly motivate them. I was so involved in dance teams and sports teams growing up that I thrive on the camaraderie. Nobody on tour does this for the crazy hours and the stressful times. They do it because of the people. I look out into that crowd every night. And I look at those kids. And I’m like, ‘Oh my god…’ That’s why I do it!”
As for Happier Than Ever, The World Tour, Nicole has nothing but praise for artists Billie and Finneas after the lengths they went to in order to make sure the crew were kept as active as possible when Covid shut things down very early in the original tour schedule. “We got three shows in, and then the pandemic happened,” says Nicole. “It was pretty scary, and I felt very responsible, trying to make sure that everyone was okay.”
“I look out into that crowd every night. And I look at those kids. And I’m like, ‘Oh my god…’ That’s why I do it!”
Two of the crew were easy enough to keep an eye on – husband Dick, who is Nicole’s production coordinator, and four-legged, tail-wagging production chief, Reggie, whom Mr & Mrs Massey chaperone around the world. “Dick and I worked together on Coldplay, but we were in different offices: he was doing VIP ticketing when I was production coordinator. So, we’ve been out together before, but when Billie was about to go out in 2020, I asked him if he’d come and join me and Reggie in the office.”
Come out and play
Despite the moratorium on live music, Eilish’s core crew were only side-lined for a matter of weeks before a plan was actioned to keep them busy. “We actually started going to LA in July of 2020 because Billie created a whole bunch of different live projects, such as an Amazon project and a Disney project at the Hollywood Bowl,” reveals Nicole.
“Then, when her documentary came out, we did a little video release party. And for all the stuff like that, she used her touring crew: the backline guys, audio control… A small group of us would fly to LA, where we’d quarantine for the first few days, then we’d all test and stay at a hotel that had an outdoor firepit so that, after work, we could sit outside and have a beer, like you would normally, and hang out, distanced but safe. We even agreed that nobody would eat indoors to minimise the chances of catching Covid: those were the rules if you wanted to keep working.”
While the postponed tour dates remained on hold, the various other projects eventually rolled into Eilish’s festival season. “And then that rolled into the tour for this year,” smiles Nicole. “We loaded in for rehearsals in Los Angeles on January 2, so we were pretty fortunate in terms of work compared to a lot of our touring colleagues.”
While Nicole admits she has worked on more fraught tours, the production on Happier Than Ever, The World Tour is a complex affair.
“This show is a beast,” she tells IQ. “Normally, a show comes in, the stage is built at the other end, lighting goes up, stage rolls in. Bam! You have a show. Billie’s production involves lighting coming in, then some of the staging, then lighting deals with some of the moving trusses, then we roll in the diamond part of the stage, then we finish the lighting, then we have the lighting on the sides, then we roll in the thrust. It’s like an onion that you have to just keep peeling, layer on layer.
“This show just shows what is capable with an amazing team. I relied on my stage manager, Jayy Jutting, and then he relied on the crew chiefs, who were so dedicated – if we didn’t have Mattie Rynes, my head rigger, Jack Deitering, my head carp, Wayne Kwiat on lighting, Scott ‘Bull’ Allen from Strictly FX, Matt McQuaid with audio, Dave Keipert and Racheal Hudson from Team Video, Brian Benauer with Tait Automation… every department needed a strong leader or else we were just going to fail.”
“This show is a beast… It’s like an onion that you have to just keep peeling, layer on layer”
That respect is patently mutual, as Nicole has been affectionately nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ by Billie’s crew members, impressed by the way that the PM quietly goes about making sure her plan is adhered to, without having to raise her voice. “I hate shouters; it’s my pet peeve,” she says. “If you keep it internal and then use your loud voice when you need to, people know that you’re serious.”
Indeed, despite the North American dates requiring crew to wear full PPE to mitigate against Covid-19, Nicole’s strategy for that leg set the benchmark for the entire tour, with zero dates being lost to the virus.
Moving to Europe where restrictions were more relaxed should have been a relief. However, while the majority of American venues have loading bays, the opposite is true in Europe, where new driving regulations further complicated being on the road.
“I had a little breakdown in Dublin,” confesses Nicole. “I was very nervous about a few of the overnighters and worried we weren’t going to make it. So, I got all the crew chiefs together and told them that I needed help. It turned out to be a good moment for me as a production manager – just to gather all the people who I know are really good at their jobs, so we could figure it out together.”
One of the major headaches for the daily routine was dealing with the B stage: a crane that takes Eilish far and wide around venues so that she can literally be just a few feet from fans, even when they are seated in arena balconies.
“That arm weighs 8,000 pounds,” states Nicole. “We took it from the US to Europe to Australia, and it’s now enroute back to Los Angeles for Billie’s December shows at The Forum.”
Explaining the intricacies of dealing with such a massive piece of equipment, she says, “To load the turret you actually have to tilt it on its side because the containers are not wide enough. We even took it to festivals a couple times, like at Austin City Limits. It just makes such a cool impact because the people that Billie is looking right at never thought that they could get the chance to be that close to her. But it’s complicated. In Dublin, for instance, we had to change the orientation of the arm so that it was parallel to the audience because of how short it is inside the 3Arena. Each venue had to be approached on a case-by-case basis, and every day was different because of the elevations of where the seats were, etc. Our programmer, Pat King, did a great job.”
“I got all the crew chiefs together and told them that I needed help. It turned out to be a good moment for me”
As for the tour’s trickiest shows, Nicole cites the visit to the Accor Arena as a date that literally led to sleepless nights.
“My scariest day was back-to-back Cologne then Paris,” she reports. “On that overnight, a couple of us jumped ahead on the catering bus and were in the venue in Paris to start just dumping things as they came in.
“The planning worked well, though. We did a pre-rig and motors were in the air when we got there. But it took a lot: I had the video crew chief walking around checking on all the other departments to see where he could help – people just stepped up to go that extra mile for Billie. I mean, at 5:45pm, I was on my hands and knees doing barricade because I was determined we were not going to be late for doors.”
She adds, “We had to come up with an A, B, and C show because of timing. We knew that it would take minimum two hours and 11 minutes to complete the building of our automated video tile ramp once the main stage was in place. But I have the most amazing head [carpenter] Jack Deitering. If it was not for that man, I really don’t know if the show in Paris would have happened.”
With the spectre of Covid requiring the services of EMT (emergency medical technician) Gordon Oldham, trying to keep crew healthy was a fulltime task. “I’m not gonna lie; I don’t think I ever want to do a tour without some kind of medical person on tour, now,” says Nicole. “Gordon did a great job and proved invaluable for all kinds of things outside of the Covid situation.
“The crew was very international,” she says of a crew that sometimes had to be patched together to deal with Covid absentees. “We had Lithuanians, Polish, Ukrainian drivers, so we had a lot of language and communication issues, but Robert Hewett at Stagetruck was beyond helpful throughout the whole thing.
“In Ireland, we had riggers from Budapest, I believe, and there were one or two places in Europe where we struggled, but surprisingly we were never more than 20 short, so we managed to deal with it.”
“I don’t think I ever want to do a tour without some kind of medical person on tour, now”
Such issues were a piece of cake compared to Australia. “In Sydney, we had only 45 people out of 110 on the load-in,” Nicole says. “Luckily, we had a full load-in day and we organised accordingly: we talked to the crew chiefs and said when they officially really needed the hands, then great. But otherwise, these guys would break off and give lighting six hands, and then the special effects hands would go straight to audio, and we just had to juggle around like that. Sydney and Perth were the only ones where it was a little crazy.”
Having made the grade as one of the world’s top production managers, Nicole is determined to encourage other women in the business that they have the skills to do likewise. Not that everyone universally recognises her as the production chief, yet. “As a woman, people come up and start to talk to the stage manager before me, because they just think I’m a girl standing there,” she tells IQ. “It happens all the time in the office, where Dick has to say, ‘Have you met Nicole, our production manager?’ It’s ridiculous, but I’m lucky that I have really wonderful people around me that support me in that sense.”
She also namechecks some of the many women who have helped her on her journey and inspired her to aim for the top job. “Working with Marguerite Nguyen on Coldplay, I was given so much of an opportunity to do different things that most coordinators would never do on a tour. So, I feel like I was prepared to take the step up to PM, more than most, because that tour is just so massive.”
Advocating that more tours consider elevating women to production chief, Nicole observes, “We’re multitaskers and organisers. There are lots of amazing female leaders out there – we have Emma Reynolds-Taylor running the production for Glastonbury; Duchess [Sue Iredale] has been running productions forever; Bianca Mauro runs a stage at Austin City Limits. So, we have all these women that are running big festivals and stages and events, and while it just hasn’t happened as much on the road, there are still plenty of amazing women out there, day after day, delivering shows to fans. There just needs to be more, in the crew chief roles and upwards, but also just more women in touring, in general.
“What I think needs to happen is that women need to be trusted with management positions in touring and throughout the music business. We need to start pushing more of these strong-willed women, like myself, forward a bit more. There are lots of them out there who have been working their ass[es] off for years and feeling very good about what they do but who do not necessarily know or believe that they can do what I’m doing. But they can, and it’s a situation that we can all work on together to provide more support and encouragement to drive the change.”
“Women need to be trusted with management positions in touring and throughout the music business”
Indeed, citing one example of where her own personal experience as a dancer came to the fore, Nicole remembers a dilemma ahead of Eilish’s February 2022 concert at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena. “Billie’s toaster had a power issue,” states Nicole. “It’s the mechanism that allows her to pop-up onto the stage at the start of the show, and we all worked hard to try to fix it, but I finally knew it was time to go and tell her. But before I did that, I went out with the carpenter; we looked at putting a set of stairs in place and a bunch of different things so that I had three options for her to make her entrance.
“I’m not gonna lie; I really was proud of myself in the sense that it was my dance background that made me figure out the best way for her to enter. That was the first time I had that realisation that I can bring things to the table that a male production manager wouldn’t necessarily come up with.”
Breaking such news to the artist may be daunting, but Nicole’s bond with Billie is strong. “She’s an amazing artist,” states Nicole. “The thing that makes Billie so special is she doesn’t need the bells and whistles. So as the tour progressed and that muscle memory, night after night, developed, it was so good to just see her so happy and having so much fun out there.”
Indeed, that respect goes both ways, when Billie asked Nicole to introduce her Grammy performance when the Academy wanted to feature women in touring.
“The Grammy thing was an amazing moment; I had so much fun,” she smiles. “My friend, Patrick Logue from the Rod Stewart Camp, once told me that chewing gum was easier to get off the stage than me – and it’s kind of true; I’m such a ham! But I didn’t realise the impact it would have. Two weeks after The Grammys, when we were at Coachella, I had people I didn’t know coming up to me and thanking me for being the voice of our industry; speaking out for women. So, a really proud moment turned into this thing where I just had people stopping me left and right. And I was so honoured that it was perceived that way because I truly, truly love this industry.”
And having attained the top job, Nicole concludes that it’s given her a newfound understanding of her peers and former PM bosses. “I have so much more respect for all the production managers that I’ve worked with, because I used to keep my inbox as a to-do list, while I’d look at the likes of Bill’s email and think, ‘Oh my god, how can you let get it that way?’ But now I understand – I have 64,000 messages in my inbox now. It’s never-ending.”
“The thing that makes Billie so special is she doesn’t need the bells and whistles”
As for what’s next, Nicole reveals that industry nepotism has benefitted her once more, while the enforced time off that she and Dick enjoyed at the start of the pandemic has made her a little more relaxed about looking at next year’s employment contracts.
“After Billie’s hometown shows in December, the crew will all go our separate ways, but we’ve also got a little Finneas tour in Australia starting in January, where he’s doing the Laneway Festivals. So, we’ll get back together for that. And then we’ll come back to do some rehearsals before Billie heads to Latin America, then have a break in April.
“After that… I don’t really know, there’s nothing 100% confirmed, so I’m just going to play it by ear. Everybody keeps asking me what I’m going to do when The Happier Than Ever Tour ends, but I don’t stress about stuff like that anymore.”
Unsurprisingly, remaining in the camp for whom she described at The Grammys as “The best 20-year-old boss in the world,” would be top choice for Nicole, who concludes, “When it comes to work, I trust my gut and am hopeful that it means we’ll get to continue working with Billie.”
Wasserman reveals Music Mudder return date
Talent agency Wasserman Music and UK music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins have announced the return of cross-industry competition Music Mudder for 2023.
Taking place on Friday 15 September in the woodland of Dorking, Surrey, the music-inspired endurance event will see teams from across the industry take on Camelot Events’ ‘Nuts Challenge’ obstacle course to raise funds for Nordoff Robbins.
The 2022 edition of Music Mudder raised more than £55,000 for the charity, with Jelle Schotanus, competing on the UROK team, completing the 7km course in the fastest time of 52 minutes 18 seconds, while Atlantic Records took home the prize for the fastest team, with an average time of 1 hour, six minutes and seven seconds.
Teams of 10 cost £1,000, plus a minimum of £500 fundraising per team and can be booked by emailing [email protected] or via music-mudder.com.
“Sign up now and join us for some more mud, sweat and cheers, all for a hugely worthy cause”
“Music Mudder is a great opportunity for colleagues from across the music industry to hang out, beat the post-festival season blues, get muddy and raise money, with a little friendly competition thrown in for good measure,” says Wasserman agent Lucy Putman. “We raised over £55,000 for Nordoff Robbins last year, which is an incredible achievement, but we’re hoping to smash that total in 2023. Sign up now and join us for some more mud, sweat and cheers, all for a hugely worthy cause.”
Teams will tackle challenging obstacles including the Commando Assault, Tunnel Rats, A Bridge Too Far and a whole host of new obstacles for 2023. Alongside the main event, there will be live music, a selection of food vendors, refreshing drinks and raffle prizes, with a medal, showers, changing facilities, lockers and shuttle buses from Dorking station provided for all team members.
The UK’s largest music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins’ music therapists work with over 315 schools, hospitals, hospices and care homes, as well as providing sessions from the charity’s centres across the UK.
“We’re so excited to be putting on Music Mudder in partnership with our friends at Wasserman Music for the third time,” says Nordoff Robbins’ head of partnerships Sandy Trappitt. “It was fantastic to see so many familiar albeit muddy faces on the course in 2022 and this year we want to go even bigger and muddier, aiming to double the number of teams taking part. All funds raised will go directly towards providing music therapy across the UK, helping people to connect and communicate through the power of music.”
ESNS detail long-awaited in-person return
The final touches are being added to this year’s Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS), which will be the first in-person edition since 2019.
The showcase festival and conference returns to Groningen, the Netherlands, from 18 to 21 January, with a line-up of 290 emerging European artists.
“After staring at cold glassed screens for the last two editions of ESNS it is like a dream come true to finally organise an irl edition and to welcome delegates from all over the world to beautiful Groningen to celebrate our return with great European music and fantastic networking,” says Ruud Berends, head of conference & ESNS Exchange.
“I am looking forward to many essential panel discussions and keynotes about the complex issues we and our world are facing.”
The ILMC and IQ teams will be present at ESNS and lead several of the conference’s main sessions.
ILMC head Greg Parmley will moderate the ever-popular Festival Panel on Thursday (19 January), during which Thomas Sonderby Jepsen (Roskilde, DK), Fruzsina Szép (Superbloom, DE), Kem Lalot (Eurockéennes) and Pavla Slivova (Colours of Ostrava) will outline just what makes their festival so unique and how they weathered the last few years.
The following day, Parmley will steer The Agents Panel, featuring Adele Slater (Wasserman Music), Jess Kinn (One Finiix Live), Summer Marshall (CAA) and Andy Duggan (WME).
“I am looking forward to many essential panel discussions and keynotes about the complex issues we are facing”
The assembled agents will discuss how they have survived Covid-19, what strategies they’re putting in place for their artists in 2023 and beyond, and how they’re continuing to grow their client’s live careers.
Elsewhere, IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson will conduct a keynote interview with Robert Grima, president of Live Nation Spain, on Thursday.
The conversation will delve into Grima’s 30 years’ worth of experience in the industry, discovering what still drives his passion for live music; his unfaltering determination to care for his artists; and his unique vision that has helped Live Nation Madrid become a powerhouse promoter in the global business.
Masson has also been enlisted for a keynote conversation with global superstar Dua Lipa and her manager and father, Dugi on Saturday 21 January. The pair will discuss their philanthropic efforts with Sunny Hill festival in their native Kosovo, as well as Dua’s style, culture, and society editorial platform, Service95, and accompanying podcast Dua Lipa: At Your Service.
Meanwhile, IQ‘s deputy news editor Lisa Henderson will chair Grassroots touring is fucked, what are you going to do about it? on Thursday with Mark Davyd (Music Venue Trust), Rev. Moose, Marauder (NIVA), Audrey Guerre (LiveDMA) and Max van Bossé (Melkweg).
Henderson will also moderate Future Fit Festival, presented by Yourope/3F, on Friday. This panel will see Christof Huber (Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG, Yourope), Pavla Slivova (Colours of Ostrava), Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio) and Maiju Talvisto (Flow Festival) discuss what makes European festivals resilient to meet the challenges of the future.
For more information on ESNS 2023 or to buy tickets, click here.
Wasserman Music announces six key agent hires
Wasserman Music has hired six agents including artist representatives Jake Bernstein, Ollie Seaman and Juan Toro, as well as booking agents Natalka Dudynsky (casinos & performing arts centres), Jesse Fayne (international festivals) and Matt Malcolm (fairs & festivals).
“Wasserman continues to be thoughtful about ways to grow our footprint in the music industry and expand our ability to service our world-renowned clients,” says Wasserman Music EVP & managing executive Lee Anderson. “It is critical that anyone who joins our team shares our ethos, and the additions of Jake, Ollie, Juan, Natalka, Jesse and Matt do just that. We are thrilled to welcome them and their clients to the Wasserman family.”
Jake Bernstein joins Wasserman based in Los Angeles. Born and raised in New York, he is a 10-year veteran music agent and comes to Wasserman from UTA, where he launched Subtronics’ branded two-day multi-stage festival “Cyclops Cove,” Jessica Audiffred’s “Mad House” festival in Mexico City with OCESA, and multiple sold-out Red Rocks concerts for Subtronics and Boogie T. During the pandemic shut-down, Bernstein helped develop a large-scale national drive-in concert model and oversaw 100+ drive-in shows that brought live music back in a safe environment.
He also pioneered the first-of-its-kind tour bringing together powerhouses Live Nation, Insomniac, and C3 Presents for Subtronics’ 2023 North American theatre, arena, and festival tour deal. Artists that Bernstein represents at Wasserman Music include Ace Aura, Black Carl!, Boogie T, BOOGIE T.RIO, Deadcrow, Dirt Monkey, G-Space, HE$H, Jessica Audiffred, LEVEL UP, MUST DIE!, Riot Ten, SIPPY, smith., SubDocta, Subtronics, TRUTH, Vampa, and VILLA.
Ollie Seaman joins Wasserman based in London. He comes to Wasserman from Earth Agency, where he spent the past seven years building the live and DJ careers of acts such as DJ Seinfeld, HAAi, Sofia Kourtesis, CC:DISCO!, and Chaos In The CBD, as well as fast-rising newcomers Skin On Skin, Anish Kumar and Mona Yim.
“It is critical that anyone who joins our team shares our ethos, and the [new] additions do just that”
Juan Toro joins Wasserman based in Brooklyn, representing artists including Anuel AA, Wisin y Yandel, and Lunay. He began his career at the legendary Latin and Tropical music agency Ralph Mercado Management (RMM), working with personalities such as Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Baretto and Tito Puente. In 1990, Toro co-founded The Relentless Agency, representing and developing contemporary Latin artists including Rubén Blades, Wisin & Yandel, Anuel AA, Marc Anthony, La India, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle, Millie Quezada, and Obie Bermudez.
Natalka Dudynsky joins Wasserman in February as a casinos & performing arts centres agent based in Los Angeles. Working alongside VP Kevin Kastrup, Dudynsky will expand Wasserman’s Casinos Department to also focus on performing arts centre bookings across North America. Prior to Wasserman Music, she worked at ICM Partners for 25 years, 21 of them in the agency’s concerts department focused on corporate and casino bookings. She is an IEBA member. Outside of work, Dudynsky coaches and referees youth soccer, and supports the Los Angeles Food Bank through donations and on-site packaging of food; she also supports Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Jesse Fayne joins Wasserman as a fairs & festivals agent based in Brooklyn, handling international festivals across the agency’s roster. In his new role, he will grow the company’s global performance scope. Previously at William Morris Endeavor (WME) for over 10 years, he grew from intern to festival department assistant to agent. Fayne played an integral role in globalising the WME festival operation, starting the international festival department in London (with a goal of building out the department’s international arm and assembling a team of agents who became experts in their territories), while concurrently working in WME’s electronic department representing artists including: Charlotte De Witte, Polo & Pan, Mochakk, and Reinier Zonneveld.
Matt Malcolm joins Wasserman as a fairs & festivals agent based in Nashville. In his new role, he will expand Wasserman’s reach and relationships, with a focus on country and Americana events. His experience includes 10+ years at William Morris Endeavors’ Nashville team, where he served as an agent for artists including Chancey Williams, Catie Offerman, Smithfield, Liv Warfield, and others. During the pandemic, he held positions at Quay Entertainment in LA and CUE Audio in Nashville. Malcolm has been an active participant in the Country Music Association, the Americana Music Association, the International Entertainment Buyers Association, and the International Bluegrass Music Association.