Singular Arts Group launches with Mykki Blanco
Berlin mainstay David Swartz has launched a new artist management company, Singular Arts Group, following his departure from !K7 Music in early 2019.
Swartz brings with him US ‘queer rapper’ Mykki Blanco, who has previously collaborated with artists including Kanye West, Madonna and Charli XCX, along with Blanco’s executive producer FaltyDL, who also performs under his own solo guise.
Making up the rest of the initial roster is British indie stalwart Patrick Wolf and emerging singer-songwriter Finn Ronsdorf from Germany.
Swartz has partnered with creative director Matt Lambert on the new venture, with a view to bringing a ‘holistic, full-service approach to artist management’.
“Our ethos is centred on a passion for fostering the development, growth, and sustainability of truly singular artistic voices,” says Swartz.
“We are dedicated to putting forth the most significant level of love and effort that we can in the name of their artistry”
“We aim to serve as a vital source of guidance in navigating the path for each of our artists and we recognise our role to support and facilitate the realisation of their creative visions. Beyond just ambitiously working to advance the interests of the careers of our artists, we recognise a key principle must be to unconditionally respect the unique elements of their personal identities and lived experiences; as such, we strive to do all that is within our power to support the wellbeing and mental health of each of our artists.
“We do not take lightly the weight of the responsibility which artists place in us as their management team. There is a special intimacy between artist and management unlike any other professional relationship within the music industry, it is a delicate balance of honesty and trust that must exist in a mutual way within our relationship to enable us to thrive. When we commit to representing an artist, we are dedicated to putting forth the most significant level of love and effort that we can in the name of their artistry,” he concludes.
Swartz, originally from LA, has been based in Berlin since 2015 and has worked in the industry for over two decades as a promoter, agent and manager.
Prior to his role at !K7, Swartz founded Kosher Management, which he ran for nearly a decade, managing a variety of domestic and European acts from across the genre spectrum including Villains, Steed Lord, Pop Levi, El Ten Eleven, Taymir, Kid Karate, and Slow Magic.
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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.
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.
The Black Lives Matter movement and Black Out Tuesday galvanised many teams to reflect, connect with Black communities, and come together as a global music industry in solidarity against anti-Black racism, bigotry and prejudice. And the momentum for change kept up in the UK through Black History Month celebrations.
It is also great to hear a groundswell of ‘building back better’ discussions to ensure that the industry’s Covid-19 recovery allows the music community to act on systemic injustice, inequitable financial benefit and the many barriers that prevent underrepresented creators and professionals from fulfilling potential and forging long-term successful careers.
We know the pandemic disproportionately impacts underrepresented groups and we must counteract that with a greater sense of urgency. At PRS Foundation, we know we will play a vital role in recovery and in shaping the future of music to build a stronger, connected and sustainable music community.
We have made much progress to address gender inequality, launching Women Make Music in 2011, achieving gender balance across our grants programmes in 2018, and co-founding the global Keychange movement, which has over 370 music companies working together towards achieving gender balance by 2022.
“Goodwill amounts to little more than window-dressing if not followed up by commitments, action and accountability”
And we are building on our strong track-record for inclusivity and industry collaboration to develop a long-term ambitious programme to power-up Black creative and executive talent.
To bring about meaningful and lasting change, public solidarity is not enough. Goodwill amounts to little more than window-dressing if not followed up by commitments, action and accountability.
So, what does action and change look like? And to paraphrase the ever-inspiring Keith Harris, OBE, how do we seize the momentum to avoid this becoming “another false dawn in terms of equality in the industry”?
If you don’t know where to begin, you are not alone. Perhaps you feel that personal action may not be enough. Or that the pandemic means you or your company cannot contribute financially.
Or perhaps you’re one of the hundreds of first-time organisation grantees receiving lifeline support from the Culture Recovery Fund or similar Arts Council funds across the UK. You might not know where to start when it comes to the crucial commitment you have made to increase organisational diversity and the diversity of audiences, visitors and/or participants.
I want to stress that there are already very clear pathways to meaningful change. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can connect with the many who have worked tirelessly for decades on diversity and inclusion, or to brand new collectives and initiatives launched this year. And there has never been a bigger opportunity (and responsibility) to come together to address social injustice.
“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Connect with the many who have worked tirelessly for decades on diversity and inclusion”
Below are some individuals, initiatives and organisations whose work might inspire you:
Black Music Coalition (BMC) – launched by senior music execs following Black Out Tuesday, the BMC set out five priorities to tackle discrimination in the UK music industry, followed by a must-read manifesto that includes the creation of a resource pack available to music companies.
Nadia Khan – the Women in CTRL network has 800 members and its Seat at the Table report sparked considerable commitments to improve board representation at UK trade bodies.
Michael Rapino – the Live Nation CEO set global commitments and ambitious targets to build diversity by 2025. Crucially, he is committed to holding himself accountable – something our Keychange pledge has been encouraging for years.
Oslo World – have adapted to the pandemic with an innovative 3D virtual festival and, acting on their ‘Solidarity’ theme, have made all tickets free, with optional donations going to the Beirut music scene.
Creative responses – Native Instruments’ Covid-19 response saw them collaborate with artists to launch a donation-based charity sound pack, benefitting initiatives including Keychange and Heart n Soul. And we’ve had two indie companies donating in-kind support (e.g. residencies/marketing campaigns) to grantees of our Sustaining Creativity Fund.
Personal commitment – countless thousands have been donating to vital causes to support the music ecosystem during the pandemic. Beggars CEO, Paul Redding, swam for 16 hours across the English Channel to raise over £120,000 for a new racial inclusivity programme and for Sweet Relief’s Covid-19 fund in the US.
Joe Frankland is CEO of PRS Foundation.
Tap Management launches sports venture
Artist management company Tap Music has launched Tap Sports, a new business offering athlete management and branding and entertainment services to the sports industry.
Established by Ben Mawson, co-founder of Tap, whose music roster includes the likes of Lana Del Rey, Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding and Dermot Kennedy, Tap Sports will focus on two main activities: offering consultancy and creative marketing services for sports clubs and sports entities, and brand and commercial management for athletes.
Initial Tap Sports clients include English football club Leeds United and Leeds/England player Kalvin Phillips, while Del Rey will record ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ for an upcoming documentary on Liverpool FC’s title-winning 2020 season.
Leading the new company is managing director Zoe Prothero, formerly of Coca-Cola (where she worked with Fifa and Uefa), Fuse (FA Premier League) and Formula E, with Carl Fysh, Lottie Lander and Thom Denson handling publicity.
“I am excited to launch Tap Sports with an incredible team alongside me, who all lead their respective industries,” comments Mawson.
“There is much synergy between entertainment and sports and an often-missed opportunity to grow audiences”
“We hold the belief that there is much synergy between entertainment and sports and an often-missed opportunity to grow audiences worldwide. We want to work closely with the best agents and best players and help them build their profile and commercial value.
“We will work strategically on the brand endorsement side, rather than just transactionally, and help players become cultural icons, building brands with a reach far beyond the pitch. I’m especially excited to be working with Kalvin Phillips, an incredible player at such an exciting time in his career.”
Angus Kinnear, chief executive of Leeds United FC, adds: “Following our promotion to the Premier League we have many new and exciting opportunities to engage and grow our fanbase across the UK and internationally. We look forward to working with the team at Tap to help us deliver against these off-field ambitions.”
In addition to Tap Management and Tap Sports, Tap Music comprises a record label, digital and publishing divisions, and a specialist electronic business, launched last year.
Keychange expands in Canada with Tegan and Sara
Canadian indie-pop icons Tegan and Sara have been appointed as the country’s ambassadors for gender equality initiative Keychange.
The Creative Europe-funded campaign encourages festivals, conferences, music organisations and institutions to sign a pledge to include at least 50% women and under-represented genders in their programming, staffing and beyond by 2022.
“We encourage members of our industry who have tremendous power to sign, fund, promote, nominate, support, acknowledge, and celebrate the diverse population working in the arts today,” say Tegan and Sara.
“The demographic breakdown of awards nominations and festival lineups reflects the structural confines of our society and industry. We must do better, as it sends an outdated message to the next generation about whose art and voice and message is valuable.”
The appointment is part of Keychange’s gradual expansion in Canada, this year an official country partner in the movement, which now includes two lead festival partners, eight participants and seven new signatories.
Breakout West, the annual conference and music festival, and Mutek, a Montreal-based electronic music festival, are lead festival partners and will host four international Keychange participants each, as well as the Canadian participants in 2021.
“We must do better, as it sends an outdated message to the next generation about whose art and voice and message is valuable”
The Canadian participants include: artist manager and talent buyer Rebecca Szymkow at Birthday Cake Media; music composer Kroy aka Camille Poliquin; Katrina Lopes, president of KL Management; Savannah Wellman, co-founder of Vancouver record label and management company Tiny Kingdom Music and Mar Sellars, an artist manager and radio host with her own company Mar On Music.
Artist participants are former Keychange ambassador Iskwē; Kimmortal, a queer Filipino nonbinary musician from Vancouver and Dana Beeler, frontwoman of Hello Delaware.
The seven new Canadian organisations which have signed the Keychange gender pledge include the Polaris Music Prize, a not-for-profit organisation that annually honours and rewards artists who produce Canadian music albums of distinction and MMF Canada, a non-profit trade association that offers education, networking and advocacy on behalf of its members, their artists, and the wider Canadian music community.
Other new signatories include music festival Folk on the Rocks; association Musique NB (MNB); record label and publisher Birthday Cake Media; Kaneshii Vinyl Press; and radio station n10.as.
Robyn Stewart, Breakout West says: “BreakOut West is committed to highlighting the diverse voices or our artists and industry. Our commitment as Keychange partners is one part of this as we strive to support female and non-binary leaders and the incredible mix of talent in Western Canada.”
Marie-Laure Saidani, Mutek Montreal says: “Gender equality is one of Mutek’s core values. Joining the Keychange movement in 2018 has definitely acted as a catalyst as we have achieved parity in our programming since. We are proud to belong to this international network which advocates positive change in the music industry.”
Keychange recently expanded into Poland, in the midst of clashes over abortion law and LGBTQ+ rights. Read more here.
UK Music reports progress with diversity in industry
Representation of Black, Asian and ethnic minorities and women has increased at almost every level in the industry since 2016, according to a new report by UK Music.
The trade body revealed the findings of its 2020 Workforce Diversity Survey in its UK Music Diversity Report, as well as a ten-point plan to tackle racism and boost diversity in Britain’s music industry.
The survey’s most notable findings include an increase in minority ethic employees between 16-24, up from 25.9% in 2018 to a record 30.6%.
The number of people from minority ethnic professionals at entry-level has also risen from 23.2% in 2018 to new high of 34.6% in 2020, though representation is worse in senior positions at just 19.9% – one in five posts.
Elsewhere, the proportion of women has increased from 45.3% in 2016 to new high of 49.6% in 2020. However, the number of women in the 45–64 age group has dropped from 38.7% in 2018 to 35% in 2020.
“Against a backdrop of global change the diversity taskforce has been carefully listening, challenging and working behind the scenes to help shape a transformational and game-changing ten-point plan,” says UK Music diversity taskforce chair Ammo Talwar MBE.
“If our music industry is to tell the story of modern-day Britain, then it needs to look like modern-day Britain too”
“This plan is data driven and evidence based with metrics and lived experience. It’s the accumulation of nine months’ work across the whole music industry to support yet hold the industry to account. No tokenistic statements, no short-term wins but a truly collaborative long term plan that reboots the sector and ensures diversity is front and centre of all major decisions.”
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: “As an industry, we are united in our determination to lead the way on improving diversity and inclusion in our sector and across society. This report consists of a frank and candid analysis of the current situation our industry faces, and a bold and ambitious ten-point plan for how to achieve the positive change we all want to see. It’s relevant not just to the music industry, but to organisations everywhere.
“If our music industry is to tell the story of modern-day Britain, then it needs to look like modern-day Britain too. This ground-breaking report is an important step towards achieving that.”
The trade body’s ten-point plan to improve diversity makes a number of commitments including maintaining a database of people responsible for promoting diversity across UK Music; removing the word “urban” to describe music of black origin, using genre-specific terms like R&B or soul instead; and ending the use of the “offensive and outdated” term BAME in official communications.
UK Music has conducted a diversity study every two years since 2016, which collates data from across the music business including studios, management agencies, music publishers, major and independent record labels, music licensing companies and the live music sector.
Tune in to SoundCzech: Inside the Czech music scene
If you could take Czech music back to a more hopeful moment than the present one, it might be worth heading to January 2019, when the nation, alongside its former other half Slovakia, was part of the first-ever dual-country focus at Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS).
In a snapshot of a diverse, ambitious scene, 11 Czech acts travelled to Groningen, including internationally noted pop favourite Lenny, London-raised female rapper Hellwana, shoegazing indie-rockers Manon Meurt, UK/Czech electronic alliance Floex and Tom Hodge and well-travelled Glastonbury and Sziget veterans Mydy Rabycad.
“It was nice, and I think it was good for the scene,” says Márton Náray, director of Czech music export office SoundCzech. “We did that in collaboration with Pohoda festival in Slovakia, and that was fantastic – Michal Kašcák is one of the legends of live music. We got into a situation where we were brainstorming to do more than a simple country focus, and I think we inspired each other.”
The exposure from ESNS and surrounding events was still in the process of bearing fruit when the current crisis struck. But while the touring world has hit pause, the Czech Republic holds a strong hand in terms of talent these days.
Many of the ESNS delegation (which also included one-woman musical sensation Bohemian Cristal Instrument, Baltic party band the Circus Brothers, bagpipe-toting punks Pipes and Pints, acoustic troubadour Thom Artway, the self-descriptive Lazer Viking, and cinematic jazzers Zabelov Group) had begun to make international inroads at club- and festival-level and were demonstrably building momentum.
There is no shortage of homegrown, locally loved talent
“To be honest, my realistic expectation is never to get [a band] to the headline billing, because that’s not realistic for the Czech Republic,” says Náray. “It’s about, in a few years, having a lot of bands that are genuinely going out onto the European club circuit. There are several like that,” he adds, mentioning Mydy Rabycad, the Circus Brothers, Floex and Manon Meurt, as well as the currently resting Pipes and Pints, “but that’s the level we would love to raise [to].”
Talent-wise, the Czech Republic is in a similar position to many non-English-speaking territories. There is no shortage of homegrown, locally loved talent, from long-running funkers Monkey Business to newly reformed ’90s legends Lucie. But to break across borders requires rare luck, as well as a delicate balance of international appeal and something unique.
“It’s the usual problem,” says Paul Elsasser of London-based, European-focused Minimal Surface, whose artists include edgy Czech solo prospect Giudi. “If you want to make it big in a country, you have to sing in their language.”
Numerous Czech bands have taken that advice to heart…