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Best of 2022: Lucy Dickins – A tale of two cities

This festive period, we are revisiting some of our most popular interviews from the last 12 months ahead of the return of our daily IQ Index newsletter on Tuesday, 3 January. Here, WME’s global head of contemporary music and touring Lucy Dickins reflects on her path to the top…

Having left ITB just three years ago, Lucy Dickins’ rise through the corporate ranks has been extraordinary. Looking back on her first 25 years in the music industry, she tells Gordon Masson about her path to the top, transforming WME, the philosophy behind her clients’ triumphant return to touring and splitting her time between London and Los Angeles.

As the newly appointed global head of contemporary music and touring for WME, Lucy Dickins is one of the most influential people in the global music business. At the time of speaking to IQ, she has just relocated to Los Angeles and is sitting in her new Beverly Hills office suite, complete with a generously stocked bar. “I’m not going to lie, I’ve made a fair old dent in that already, and I’ve only been here a week,” she states, revealing the irreverent, self-deprecating charm that has helped her amass an army of allies throughout the music industry, as well as a steadily growing list of A-list talent.

Her impact on WME has been transformational. Having been appointed to head the company’s music division in London in June 2019, her leadership during the initial months of the pandemic prompted the corporate giant to promote her, one year later, to co-head of the company’s music division globally, alongside Kirk Sommer. At IQ’s press time she was elevated again, taking on the global head of contemporary music and touring role.

And while her confidence and skills as one of the world’s foremost talent agents are undisputed, there’s one significant person who questions her rapid ascent up the corporate ladder. “I’m my own worst enemy,” she admits. “I just get mad imposter syndrome. But then I start actually doing the role and I realise I’m really good at it.”

One long-term admirer is former WME chief Marc Geiger who reveals his campaign to lure Lucy to the company took patience. “To me, the available choices to helm WME in the UK were very low when considering the people who could rise up the ranks,” he says. “I was looking at who I thought had the upside potential to be both an executive and a super-uber signer.

“It’s like being a sports coach: you look at potential, and Lucy was the best choice in the world. I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be to convince her to leave ITB – that legacy and that family business. But I also felt that situation was holding her back from being one of the biggest agents in the world.”

“Everyone else saw my roster, but Marc saw something in me that I didn’t even know existed; that I could be a great leader”

Lucy contends, “The whole process of leaving ITB took about a year. WME approached me first, and then when the rumour got out that I might be looking elsewhere, everyone else came knocking at the door. But I really liked Marc Geiger. Everyone else saw my roster, but Marc saw something in me that I didn’t even know existed; that I could be a great leader. But to achieve that I needed to prise myself away from ITB, and he gave me the confidence to do that.”

Stating that she wanted to make her mark in any new workplace, she continues, “WME’s London office wasn’t necessarily in the best of places – it was a bit of a satellite operation, and if there was a scramble to sign a new act, you’d be up against CAA, and you’d be up against Coda, but you’d never hear the name WME. I wanted to change that and put my imprint on it, and while I didn’t quite know if I had that in me, Marc Geiger believed in me, so I just bit the bullet and trusted him.”

Now WME’s London operation is a very different place with Lucy helping to attract a number of high-profile agents to join the company, as well as a growing number of headliner clients. “It’s thankfully gone brilliantly well, and now everyone wants to be at WME,” she states.

Early days
Although the Dickins family is a rock & roll dynasty, Lucy reports that the no-nonsense way in which parents Barry and Gill raised her and artist manager brother Jonathan kept things grounded. “They were really humble and never made it feel that we were different to anyone else,” she recalls. “When we went to gigs, we never went through the front doors, but it wasn’t made out to be something special. Everything was always really pushed under the radar.”

Lucy’s recollection of her first gig was going to see Abba. “I cried because it was too loud,” she says. Dad Barry remembers it slightly differently. “The kids wanted to meet the band and were really excited. The band themselves could not have been nicer, but Jonathan and Lucy just went quiet – they couldn’t say a word. It’s probably the last time either of them was speechless.”

Another meet-and-greet involved a life-changing moment. “I wanted to be a boy when I was little, so insisted on my hair being cut really short,” says Lucy. “We met Bucks Fizz backstage, and they said, ‘Oh what a cute little boy’ because of my hair and the fact I was wearing these velvet pedal pushers and a little frilly shirt. And I had to tell them, ‘I’m not a boy. I’m a girl!’ And then that changed who I wanted to be.”

“She’s genuine, generous, and funny, and she can spot that sparkle in people that they often cannot see themselves”

Despite her parents’ attempts to normalise their lives, their popularity among childhood friends had a lasting impact. “All the kids wanted to come to our house because mum and dad were really cool – so my brother’s mates would always be around at our house, and my mates would always be around because it was just a cool house,” says Lucy.

While countless people in the live music industry want to be Lucy’s best friend, that accolade goes to Kim Ratcliff, who met Lucy in infant school. She attests to the family’s down-to-earth vibe but has countless tales of meeting artists.

“They treated me like one of their own and took me on holidays and to loads of concerts,” she says. “I remember meeting Claude Nobs in his house in Montreux in 1988 and having lunch with Tracy Chapman who was admiring the Swatch watches Lucy and I had bought. It was another world, but it was all very matter of fact, rather than made out to be special. And there were lots of surreal moments like that.”

Godparent to Lucy’s children, and the Barbara Dickson to Lucy’s Elaine Paige, Ratcliff contends that their friendship affords Lucy one of the few places where she can switch off from the industry and be herself. “She’s the best friend I could ask for – in more than 40 years we’ve never had a cross word. She’s genuine, generous, and funny, and she can spot that sparkle in people that they often cannot see themselves.”

But sometimes that sparkle just isn’t Lucy’s cup of tea.

When her teenage friends queued to meet 80s heartthrobs Bros at a record store appearance, Lucy found herself alone chatting to Aswad, whose promo session was a little less frenetic. “I just didn’t like Bros,” she says. “I always sort of went against the grain of what you’re supposed to like. So I had this long chat with Aswad and ended up going home with their record.”

“Between the ages of about 15 and 30, Lucy and I didn’t have much in common. But from 30 onwards, we’ve become really close”

With less than three years separating them, Lucy admits her brother influenced her musical tastes. “I have a strong memory of Jonathan playing music really loud in his bedroom. He did a Doobie Brothers remix, and I remember him playing them for ages before he came up with that tune. He’d play a lot of Neil Young, and then he’d go into Keith Sweat: he’d just play all different types of music. So that influenced me. But courtesy of my parents, I also grew up on a lot of Dylan and Diana Ross and Paul Simon, so I have pretty good breeding.”

For his part, Jonathan says, “Between the ages of about 15 and 30, Lucy and I didn’t have much in common. But from 30 onwards, we’ve become really close.” Indeed, when IQ speaks to Jonathan, he’s in the process of relocating from New York to Los Angeles into a neighbourhood near his sister – a move that he notes will also allow their children to spend more time together.

Accidental career
Despite music being the family business, Lucy initially railed against the idea of following those footsteps. “I didn’t want to go into music because all the men in the family were in it,” she declares. “I wanted to go into film. I wanted to be a distributor or a film agent.”

Dad Barry says, “When she finished school, I told her she had one week to find a job. When she didn’t, I brought her into ITB to help out, and she worked for me for a while before becoming David Levy’s assistant.”

However, the pressure of the family business could be overwhelming. “Jonathan was like a breed of racehorse because he had to be the next person to keep the Dickins name up there, which was shit for him because there was so much expectation on him,” says Lucy. “But that meant there was very little expectation on me. So while Jonathan might have been the thoroughbred, that allowed me to kinda quietly creep up on the outside.”

“I’d tell her that I wanted her at ITB because she was good, not because she was my daughter, so I was pretty tough on her”

With music running deep in the veins, pursuing other career paths soon became a fleeting distraction, but not before she explored other pathways in the business.

Her years at ITB were punctuated by a brief sojourn at record label PWL. “I vividly remember the job interview,” she tells IQ. “It was my first lesson in how to wing it.

“They put me in this boardroom and gave me a scenario where I was a product manager. I didn’t even know what a fucking product manager was. But they were obviously impressed by whatever bullshit I came up with, as I started out as a junior product manager and just kept getting elevated – label manager and then head of international.”

A wave of consolidation in the label business closed that chapter in Lucy’s career when she was made redundant. “I was back into the realms of ‘what do I want to do?’ Some people wanted me to move into management, and lots of people were knocking on my door saying ‘we want you to do this’ and ‘you should do that,’ but I wasn’t sure.”

A somewhat reluctant return to ITB led to some testing times. “I’d tell her that I wanted her at ITB because she was good, not because she was my daughter, so I was pretty tough on her,” confesses Barry. “For instance, I taught her how to promote a show, knowing that she might never use it but that it would help her when it came to negotiating deals.”

“I heard her yelling down the phone at a promoter ‘Woah woah woah! I don’t get paid enough to take this shit!’ At that point, I knew she was going to make it”

He adds, “It’s difficult being a Dickins – people used to say I only got acts because of my dad, Percy, even though he wasn’t an agent. And then they’d say I’d get them because of my brother [Rob] who ran Warner Music. So I can sympathise with the same accusations that get thrown at Lucy and Jonathan.”

Increasingly frustrated with the menial tasks delegated her way, Lucy finally confronted her father. “He told me, ‘If you’re such a fucking know-it-all, here’s a map: go and route a tour.’ And I was like, ‘Fuck you. I will.’ I sat there for about three hours, didn’t know what I was doing. But when I delivered my plan, he was pretty impressed. And that was the start of it.”

Asked when he knew that Lucy could make the grade as an agent, Barry recalls one key moment. “I heard her yelling down the phone at a promoter ‘Woah woah woah! I don’t get paid enough to take this shit!’ At that point, I knew she was going to make it,” he laughs.

Building a roster
Having taken on a couple of baby acts, Lucy says that the foundations for her entire career boil down to one band, Hot Chip, whom she still represents 20-plus years later. Recalling her introduction, Lucy points to record label executive Ferdy Unger-Hamilton. “He told me to check them out. They were supporting Athlete, I think, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and I just loved them.”

After meeting co-founders Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor, they asked her to sit down with the rest of the band. “We met in a pub – the Newman Arms – and they were all lined up like at a fucking job interview,” says Lucy. “I didn’t have a roster, and I knew other big agents with rosters who were battling to sign them. But I’d really done my due diligence and thought about the strategy of how I’d do things for them. So when Alexis called later that day to say they’d chosen me as their agent, I just remember being beyond delighted and promising that I’d never let them down.”

That studious approach to signing acts, says her father, is a particular forte. “She puts together brilliant strategies and plans and has creative ideas that I’d never come up with, such as using unusual venues and stuff,” says Barry.

“When you’re an agent, you just need that one act that’s going to actually believe in you and give you a chance”

Lucy notes, “When you’re an agent, you just need that one act that’s going to actually believe in you and give you a chance. Hot Chip were that band for me. They have a very, very special place in my heart because they’re the band that basically made me who I am.”

Indeed, the act is giving Lucy one of her first transatlantic dilemmas. “I’m desperately looking at how to get back for their show on 23rd September, when I’m supposed to be in Aspen, because I’ve never missed a London show by Hot Chip. I even went to their Brixton show the day before my son was born,” she reveals.

Artist relations
Look down the names on her roster and it’s apparent that most clients have been with Lucy since the beginning of their careers, highlighting a trait that breaks one of the unwritten rules of the music business: don’t believe you can be friends with the artist.

“She’s friends with lots of her clients,” observes Barry. “She’s amazing at networking, she’s fiercely loyal, and people genuinely like her– she’s even remained the agent for some acts when they’ve decided to change manager, which is unheard of,” he adds

That doesn’t mean to say that Lucy Dickins hasn’t been dumped by clients.

“I lost a band called Tilly and the Wall,” she says. “They fired me because they wanted to play the Scala, and I didn’t think they were there yet. I’m in the game of selling shows out, but I’m not someone who pushes my artists to take out every single ticket in a market for the sake of playing a bigger venue. I want to play a venue that we’re going to smash because I want an artist to have a career. And I’m always quite vocal on that. Tilly and the Wall disagreed.

“I also lost Vance Joy, who had that one big song, Riptide. But I’m not crying over either of them, and I genuinely don’t think there’s been anyone else I’ve lost, so it’s not the worst record over 25 years.”

“It’s not about family: it’s about the best people. I work with Lucy because she’s one of the best, not because she’s my sister”

Rather than naming a side-of-stage moment, Lucy contends her “made it” moment covers a particular period in time, during the early noughties, when immersing herself in an emerging underground scene started to reap dividends.

“It was around that kind of Jamie T, Laura Marling, Blueflowers, Jack Peñate, Mumford and Sons time… there was a whole scene, and I was just very lucky to be in it, signing the acts who were just getting bigger and bigger. I had that entire scene sewn up, and that was a real ‘wow’ moment in my career.”

Jonathan also looks back on that time as key to his working relationship with his sister. “It really started with Jamie T,” he says. “He was looking for an agent. I recommended Lucy, but told him that if he only met her there would be a load of people in the business who would say she only got the act because of me. So I advised Jamie to go and meet a few agents on his own – I didn’t need to be there – and then he could come back to me and tell me who he wanted to hire. And he loved Lucy. So the choice was his, although you’re always going to get fuckwits who say otherwise.”

And addressing charges of nepotism, which he too has suffered, Jonathan adds, “It’s not about family: it’s about the best people. I work with Lucy because she’s one of the best, not because she’s my sister. If people don’t believe that or don’t get it, I don’t fucking care. We don’t run our lives based on other people’s opinions or prejudices.”

One and only
Her friendships with artists have delivered numerous additions to Lucy’s roster over the decades, thanks to word-of-mouth and her professional achievements, and it was a Hot Chip connection that led to her finding her most famous client.

“I had Hot Chip playing at King’s College, and Jack Peñate asked if he could come along and bring his friend, Adele, a singer. She sat on the steps at the back of the stage ordering Jack to run around and do things for her. She was hilarious, and I just really warmed to her.

“At the end of night, I said: ‘You’re a singer,’ and she asked if I wanted her CD. Then she literally tapped this bloke on the shoulder and said, ‘Excuse me, you know that CD I gave you? Give us it back, I need to give it to her.’ It was hilarious, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

“Actually, when I think back to a lot of the artists I’ve signed, it’s really vivid – I remember the tiniest details of meeting Mumford & Sons; I remember the minutia of speaking to Jamie T. Those moments are really stuck in my head. And now, when I meet new artists, I look for that kind of mad connection. And if I get it, I’m all in. It’s a gut thing.”

She continues, “Anyway, the day after that Hot Chip show, I was doing some housework, and I thought I’d give the CD a listen. Hometown Glory came on. ‘Fuck off, what is this?’ It was insane. Then Daydreamer came on and then My Same. I’d never heard a voice like it, so I rang my brother to let him listen, and he told me he’d already had meetings with her.”

“People don’t remember but it took a while with Adele – it wasn’t an overnight thing”

The rest may be history but it hasn’t all been plain sailing.

“People don’t remember but it took a while with Adele – it wasn’t an overnight thing,” she states. “The press were appalling, and I heard some really shitty comments, all about the way she looked. Thankfully, the world is changing now, but it’s Adele and people like Ed Sheeran who paved the path for everyone else.”

Her relationship with Adele has led to some incredible career highs.

“There was the 2011 BRIT Awards when Adele sang Someone Like You; Mumford and Sons won best album; and Laura Marling won best female. It was the best night of my life. I felt like I owned the BRITS,” she beams.

Other significant moments include: “Hot Chip playing the Astoria; Adele on the Australian stadium tour, and this year’s BST Hyde Park shows; James Blake winning the Mercury Prize; Mumford & Sons on the Gentlemen of the Road tour and also when they played my 40th birthday.

“And lately, this Jamie T thing. I think it’s pretty fucking impressive 15 years into his career that he lands his first number-one album, and now we’ve announced this huge London show for next summer, so I’m super-excited about his career going forward.”

Flying the nest
Having built such an impressive roster at ITB, the offers were never going to be lacking when Lucy Dickins decided to look to pastures new.

But it was not a simple decision.

Brother Jonathan opines, “Leaving ITB took a lot of courage. It was a big deal to come out from my father’s shadow. And it also took great humility for my old man to allow her to spread her wings without playing any kind of emotional card – it showed really great characteristics in both of them.”

“The old boys’ club meant promoters were always calling up dad about Adele, and that really pissed me off. ‘Barry didn’t sign Adele. I signed Adele. Why are you asking him if she’s available for things?’”

As difficult as the decision was, Lucy believes the timing was spot on. “I’m not sitting where I’m sitting today without being taught by the best person there is in the business. Dad is my absolute idol, and to learn from him was an absolute blessing.

“But I realised that I needed to move on. The old boys’ club meant promoters were always calling up dad about Adele, and that really pissed me off. ‘Barry didn’t sign Adele. I signed Adele. Why are you asking him if she’s available for things?’ It was really undermining.

“It’s definitely a misogynist thing because Jonathan doesn’t get the same shit. And it’s a major reason why I moved to WME – I had to show people that I’m not doing what I’m doing because I’m Barry’s daughter. I’m doing what I’m doing because I’m really good at it. And the proof has been in the pudding. I left ITB and I’ve gone from strength to strength.”

Commenting on Lucy’s new role from his artist manager perspective, Jonathan states, “WME’s a giant, but there was a lot of room for improvement, and that’s nothing against some very good agents who were in the company – stellar people, especially in the UK. But Lucy has given it an energy and a youthful focus that I think it needed.”

“Lucy is one of the only British people to run a global agency, and I know she’s going to be spectacular”

Recruiter Marc Geiger, whose departure as WME’s head of music facilitated Lucy’s latest promotion, was never in any doubt she would flourish. “The first time Lucy interrupted me five times in a conversation, I knew she was the right person – she took the verbal wrestling match and slammed me to the ground like a WWE champion,” he tells IQ.

“Lucy is one of the only British people to run a global agency, and I know she’s going to be spectacular. She has all the tools, it’s her time, and it’s incredible to watch where she and Kirk are going to take this thing. They get to run the world, and I think they’re going to be amazing.”

WME co-head Kirk Sommer is similarly enthused. “I’ve known Lucy a long time. I don’t know exactly how many years it’s been, but we always seem to have similar interests and admiration for the same people – we’ve shared Adele as a client for many years,” he says.

And reporting on the working relationship they’ve now established, he adds, “I don’t think I could hope for more. I don’t think it could go any better. You know, we laugh very hard. And we work a lot harder.”

Californian dreaming
Having enjoyed a whirlwind 2022 that has included Rex Orange County selling out Gunnersbury Park in London, and in the same city, Adele’s massively successful hometown return – headlining a female-only line-up at BST Hyde Park – Lucy has never been busier. “I’ve signed something nearly every week for the last three months,” she tells IQ. “I’m not going to be someone who just sits back and rests on their laurels because if I’m not relevant to my artists, or the people that I’m mentoring, I’m not relevant to the company.”

She cites Loyle Carner, and Max Richter as well as grime superstar Stormzy as new signings that prove the new WME regime’s plans are working well. “I’ve also got this new girl, Ruti, who I’m excited about. And since I landed in the States, I’ve had some meetings that hopefully will result in a few more new signings. I love music so I’m never gonna stop.”

“I’m an absolute nightmare for people in corporate – I swear like a trooper, I’m opinionated, I’m loud, but I’m 47 years old so that’s not going to change. My dad says I’m like a van driver”

Having only been in her new L.A. home for a few days, she understandably is reticent to start publicly naming areas where she thinks WME needs strengthening. Instead, she is scathingly honest about her own shortcomings. “I’m an absolute nightmare for people in corporate – I swear like a trooper, I’m opinionated, I’m loud, but I’m 47 years old so that’s not going to change. My dad says I’m like a van driver,” she laughs.

“But I think that’s probably refreshing in the corporate environment. Someone at WME asked me recently what is the one thing that I want everyone to know about me. It’s what you see is what you get. I’ll tell you straight. I’ll be upfront, friendly, and I’ll treat everyone the same. There is no other side of me.”

While the step-up to the top job at WME obviously entails a heavier workload, the relocation to Los Angeles has, she says, given her more of a life/work balance than she latterly had in London.

“Being a mum is the hardest bit with a job like this,” she states. “My kids are seven and nine and it’s, ‘Mommy, you’re always working.’ That was a major reason for moving to L.A. because the 17-hour days in London were brutal – when my kids were sitting having dinner, I’d be in another room on a Zoom call, and then I’d miss bedtime. It’s hard for kids to understand.

“Swapping the days around is a bit of a challenge. I start very early in the morning with the London side, but then my day finishes with everyone else in L.A., which means I can actually go out and have a normal life in the evening. It’s much better.”

“Even if I’m in London one week per month, I can be really productive”

Despite the improved home life, there are no immediate plans to make the Californian residence permanent. “I don’t want to feel that I’m not in London,” she pleads. “The bottom line is that I’m going to stay in Los Angeles for as long as I feel I’m needed and as long as they want me around. And in the meantime, I’m going to flip flop between L.A. and London – I’m flying back for my shows all the time this year. Even if I’m in London one week per month, I can be really productive.”

Pandemic planning
While many peers endured a tough time during the pandemic, Lucy used the time to concentrate on revolutionising WME’s London operations and, having been promoted to the top job globally, formulating plans for the company’s future.

“I was very lucky that a lot of my big acts were writing records,” she reveals. “I didn’t want to be one of those agents that was constantly rescheduling dates – none of us knew when Covid was going to be over, so I saw little point in rescheduling or rerouting until we knew things would be ok.”

She continues, “The fact my artists were not touring gave me the ability to structure my thoughts: that ‘why?’ and ‘where?’ and ‘when?’ stuff. And there were, of course, lots of conversations with promoters, because Covid was shit for everybody, and we’re determined to be the best partner to everyone we possibly can.”

With business now picking up, that calm, considered approach is continuing. “I’m always upfront with my acts, so I’ve been warning them about the bottleneck of shows at the moment. And if they want to tour, they need to look at what’s going to make them stand out from every- one else. And they need to think about the size of venues they’re going into because what they were worth pre-Covid versus post-Covid could be very different.”

“Part of my job is making acts aware that in different places there are different issues – you need to brief clients as thoroughly as possible before deciding on a tour”

She highlights the cost-of-living crisis and ticket prices as another concern. “Part of my job is making acts aware that in different places there are different issues – you need to brief clients as thoroughly as possible before deciding on a tour. But some acts are having a great time: Jamie T flew out the door, while Marcus Mumford ticket sales have been brilliant, for example.”

Business prospects
On a day-to-day basis, Lucy relies heavily on her core team, including assistant Phoebe Holley, Whitney Boateng and long-term colleagues James Simmons and Chris Payne, who also made the move to WME from ITB.

Simmons tells IQ, “You enter Lucy’s office with a dilemma, an issue you’ve been stressing about for days and you need her help, but in actual fact you spend 25 minutes in there, both chatting about everything other than the subject you had planned to talk about. Then, as her mobile rings (‘I’d better take this, babe’), she’ll solve your problem in 15 seconds flat, and you’ll leave the room far wiser than when you entered. In summary, she’s constantly good fun, it’s never boring and her advice is always spot on.”

Payne agrees, “Lucy is a force. Working with her for the last decade or so has been an exercise in keeping up with an unreal pace and breadth of ideas. There’s no problem that can’t be fixed, and her energy and positivity can make you think anything is possible.”

“I’ve never known anyone as fiercely loyal as Lucy”

Her assistant, Phoebe Holley, notes, “I’ve never known anyone as fiercely loyal as Lucy. We joke a lot that I’m her carer, and I regularly catch myself putting on an Essex accent and saying ‘babe’ at the start of every sentence. The way she has supported, pushed, and mentored me throughout my time working with her, is something I’ll never take for granted. Such a creative mind that runs at a thousand mph but never misses a trick. No problems, just solutions (and a few tequilas). There is absolutely no one like Lucy Dickins.”

That’s something that the newest member of her team, Whitney Boateng, is learning quickly. “To say it is a blessing to work with Lucy is an understatement, she is exceptional beyond words,” says Boateng. “Lucy’s work ethic, her drive, her ideas, and her ability to make sure everyone can still access her support are unmatched, and these are just a few things that make working for her so easy.”

Having assembled such a tight unit to run her operations, Lucy successfully integrated her mantra companywide in London and is now focussing on plans to do the same globally.

“We’re having an incredible year,” she reports. “We’re on course to where we were in 2019, which is pretty outstanding given what we’ve all just come through.”

“It would be remiss to say that I don’t think there’s going to be some hurdles next year. The cost of living and the sheer number of acts going out in the market is going to affect things”

However, she’s a realist when it comes to targets. “It would be remiss to say that I don’t think there’s going to be some hurdles next year. The cost of living and the sheer number of acts going out in the market is going to affect things. There’s going to be some bumps in the road, 100%. But I’m a massive believer that you just attack those when they come along.

“The bottom line is that people still want to go out and see live music, which is very refreshing. As long as the appetite is there with the fans, things will be good.”

Enthused about the future they can deliver for WME’s music division, Sommer says, “We’re just generally very excited about our plans. Obviously, it’s been a very difficult couple of years for the industry: nobody has been immune to this thing, but we’re back, and business is great.”

Keeping specific strategies close to his chest, Sommer adds, “We all know it’s a dynamic marketplace, and it’s always evolving. Thankfully, we have the support to kind of lean into different areas that we think are important to our clients.”

Noting the multiple avenues that WME can exploit, Lucy comments, “It’s not something that happens overnight, but the ability to be able to tell an artist that at WME there’s a million things that we can set up for them is massively exciting.”

“We’re trying to encourage younger talent to come through so we can develop new superstars in this agency”

Indeed, looking ahead to the next 25 years, it’s obvious that Lucy Dickins will be piloting an agency business that would have been unimaginable when she first cut her teeth back in 1997. “There are so many different areas where artists can grow their careers now, and at WME we’ve got experts in all of those areas. So we’ve got people working on Web3, and we’ve got people looking for opportunities in the metaverse, for example.

“That’s another of the many reasons I joined WME, because it allows you, as an agent, to pivot and learn different things so that you can offer your artists that full-service thing. And we’re going to use that to bring in new talent – both on the agents and the artist side.

“We’re trying to encourage younger talent to come through so we can develop new superstars in this agency. There are loads of really talented people at WME that just need that chance to prove themselves, so we’re ramping up mentorship and support systems to allow that to happen.”

With 25 extraordinary years under her belt and a job title that only a handful of agents will ever attain, Lucy’s goals for the future remain refreshingly simple.

“It’s just to be the best version of myself I can possibly be,” she concludes when asked about ambitions. “To learn as much stuff and meet as many people and make new relationships as much as I can. And that hopefully will reflect on the company, and the company will be in a great position.”

This article originally appeared in Issue 113 of IQ Magazine.


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Wasserman’s Penty talks Lewis Capaldi arena tour

Wasserman Music agent Ryan Penty has spoken to IQ about Lewis Capaldi’s 2023 European arena tour.

The Scottish singer-songwriter, whose second album Broken by Desire to be Heavenly Sent comes out next May, has announced a 31-date trek for January to March next year, with stops in the UK and Ireland (excluding London), Poland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

“We’re doing arenas right across Europe so it’s very exciting times,” says Penty, who represents Capaldi with Wasserman’s Alex Hardee.

Tickets for the UK leg cost £40-60. Capaldi broke internationally with his UK and US No.1 single Someone You Loved in 2019, while his debut LP Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent was the biggest UK album of both 2019 and 2020. His comeback single Forget Me topped the charts in the UK last month.

Back in 2020, Capaldi joined a select group of artists who have headlined arenas while still on their first album campaign. He also sold out two nights at London’s 20,000-cap The O2, which finally took place last month after being postponed twice due to the pandemic.

“I never thought I’d get to the point where I had two O2 shows and just wanted them to be out of the way so badly!”

“We announced them on the day of the 2020 BRIT Awards and sold them out in the first hour,” recalls Penty. “They were supposed to happen that year as the full stop of the campaign and they served in the end as the start of the new campaign. It was nice to tie it all up finally and have those shows done – I never thought I’d get to the point where I had two O2 shows and just wanted them to be out of the way so badly!

“The show has come on leaps and bounds. It’s gone from Lewis being on stage with great songs, a great band and great chat, to now also having really impressive production.”

Capaldi returned to the road over the summer for a string of UK festival headline shows at TRNSMT, Isle of Wight, Latitude, Lytham and Belsonic, as well as slots around the continent at Northside (Denmark), Rock Werchter (Belgium), Lollapalooza Stockholm (Sweden), Slottsfjell (Norway), Pori Jazz (Finland), MEO (Portugal), Sziget (Hungary), Live Festival (Poland), Frequency (Austria), Lowlands (Netherlands) and Zurich Openair (Switzerland).

“It was quite a struggle,” admits Penty. “We had that full festival summer, booked in for 2020, which we then moved to 2021 – which we then didn’t have the music ready for, so we moved it to 2022, which we still did that the music ready for – but we pressed on anyway and everybody was very accommodating.

“I’m just very excited about the future,” he adds. “We’ve taken it step by step, ticking off the boxes along the way, and I feel like we’re in a really, really good place.”

The full list of 2023 tour dates announced so far is listed below.


Sat 14th: Leeds, First Direct Arena

Mon 16th: Sheffield, Utilita Arena

Wed 18th: Manchester, AO Arena

Thu 19th: Liverpool, M&S Bank Arena

Sat 21st: Newcastle, Utilita Arena

Mon 23rd: Aberdeen, P&J Live

Tue 24th: Glasgow, OVO Hydro

Thu 26th: Birmingham, Utilita Arena

Fri 27th: Nottingham, Motorpoint Arena

Sun 29th: Belfast, SSE Arena

Mon 30th: Dublin, 3Arena


Wed 1st: Cardiff, International Arena

Thu 2nd: Exeter, Westpoint Arena

Mon 13th: Warsaw, Torwar – Poland

Tue 14th: Vienna, Stadthalle – Austria

Thu 16th: Berlin, Mercedes-Benz Arena – Germany

Fri 17th: Prague, O2 Arena – Czech Republic

Sun 19th: Hamburg, Barclays Arena – Germany

Tue 21st: Frankfurt, Festhalle – Germany

Thu 23rd: Antwerp, Sportpaleis – Belgium

Sat 25th: Amsterdam, Ziggo Dome – Netherlands

Sun 26th: Paris, Accor Arena – France

Tue 28th: Cologne, Lanxess Arena – Germany


Thu 2nd: Copenhagen, Royal Arena – Denmark

Fri 3rd: Oslo, Spektrum – Norway

Sun 5th: Stockholm, Avicii Arena – Sweden

Tue 7th: Zurich, Hallenstadion – Switzerland

Wed 8th: Milan, Mediolanum Forum – Italy

Fri 10th: Barcelona, Palau Sant Jordi – Spain

Sat 11th: Madrid, WiZink Center – Spain

Tue 14th: Stuttgart, Schleyerhalle – Germany

Wed 15th: Munich, Olympiahalle – Germany


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Jordan Hallpike joins WME’s UK office as agent

WME has announced that Jordan Hallpike has joined the company as a crossover agent in the music department.

Hallpike, who boasts more than 10 years of experience across the music and creative sectors, was director of music at the Ibiza Rocks Group, where he was responsible for talent booking, event programming, and creative direction. He is also co-founder of creative studio Midnight Movement, where he worked with clients including Live Nation, Island Records, Sky, ITV and Warner Music Group.

Based in London, Hallpike will be tasked with forging new creative opportunities on behalf of WME’s client roster, in addition to serving as a lead for business development projects.

Hallpike’s hire comes on the heels of several key promotions in the agency’s music group

Hallpike’s hire comes on the heels of several key promotions in the agency’s music group, including seven agents to partner and 17 staffers to agent across the Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, and Sydney offices. WME also recently announced that Dvora Englefield is joining the agency as a partner and head of music artist strategy.

WME’s music division represents a host of superstar clients such as Adele, Bruno Mars, Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, Tyler, the Creator, The Killers and Dave.


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CAA’s Paul Wilson on Sam Fender’s global breakout

Sam Fender’s agent Paul Wilson has spoken to IQ about the BRIT Award winner’s international ambitions ahead of his biggest headline show to date this summer.

The singer-songwriter tours venues such as Halle 62 in Zurich, AFAS Live in Amsterdam and Zenith in Munich in May, and also has festival slots lined up at Southside, Hurricane and Rock Werchter, prior to headlining London’s 40,000-capacity Finsbury Park on 15 July.

“We managed to get in a small Berlin show and an Amsterdam show before the end of last year, and then we were going to do more shows in Paris and Holland in December, which had to be cancelled because of Covid,” CAA’s Wilson tells IQ. “And we had some festivals at the end of last summer.

“We’re going to do shows in May which, fingers crossed, will happen. Then we are playing a whole bunch of key festivals, which were booked on the first album campaign two or three years ago, but never happened, so he’s now going back but he’s returning in a much better position on the back of two albums.”

Originally set for 2020, Fender’s first UK arena run in support of his debut LP Hypersonic Missiles finally took place in autumn 2021.

“He’d sold 60,000 tickets and that was too big a tour just to lose,” explains Wilson. “Obviously, those were people who were super-excited to see him the first album campaign, so we had to see that through. The challenge then was trying to get those shows done as soon as things opened up, but with nobody knowing when that would be, we had to keep moving the dates.

“We ended up doing some of the smaller shows from that tour around some festival runs in August/September, and then we moved the bigger arena shows to November last year.”

“We were into the second album campaign before the first album campaign had played out”

Fender’s acclaimed second album, Seventeen Going Under, was released last October, topping the charts in the UK and reaching the Top 10 in Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. Its success, and the reception to Fender at his festival shows, persuaded Wilson to put the star’s spring 2022 arena tour on sale before the rescheduled 2020/21 dates had taken place.

“We were into the second album campaign before the first album campaign had played out, but it sold out straight away.” he says. “Then, when we were looking at Finsbury Park, for example, the conversations were, ‘Sam’s got to play two nights at Alexandra Palace [10,400-cap] and he’s got to play two Wembley Arena [12,500] shows, that’s too many tickets in order to do Finsbury Park. But a lot of the tickets were sold a long time ago and there was renewed excitement around Sam and the new album.

“We put his arena tour on sale and it sold out straight away, so there were no new tickets. So we thought that Finsbury Park made sense.”

Fender, who also tops the bill at UK festivals Tramlines, Truck and Victorious this July, won the award for Alternative/Rock Act at last week’s BRITs. And after trending on TikTok, he scored a Top 3 hit single in the UK – a rarity for a rock song in the streaming age – with Seventeen Going Under‘s title track.

“It’s opening him up to a whole new audience because that’s come through TikTok and he’s getting really big streaming numbers,” suggests Wilson. “In terms of his live work, all of that single success has been since we put all these shows on sale and sold out, so we haven’t really seen whether that’s had an impact on his crowds yet. We will see that with the shows to come.”

“He’s now moving quite quickly to headline festival status. The key now we’ve reached that point in the UK is to try and achieve that in other territories”

Fender’s long-held ambition to headline St James’ Park in his hometown of Newcastle remains “on the bucket list”, reports Wilson, while his shows supporting The Killers on their 2022 UK stadium tour, originally scheduled for 2020, will be honoured.

“They’re probably going to be slightly different shows now, because there’s going to be a whole stadium who knows who he is, which wouldn’t have been the case when we booked them a couple of years ago,” notes Wilson.

“When he moved up to arena level at the end of last year, that was a big step. That tour was originally going to be a couple of years ago, so it was probably a positive thing from the pandemic that, when they actually happened, he’d played a whole bunch of big festival shows. He was in a position where he was ready to play arenas and he put on a fantastic show.

“It was partly seeing the reaction to those shows that made us think we could go and do something like Finsbury Park – the bigger the show, the better he gets. He enjoys playing for big crowds, which is not the same for every artist, and he’s now moving quite quickly to headline festival status.

“The key now we’ve reached that point in the UK is to try and achieve that in other territories. We need to get back to Europe; he is going to America in August to try and get that started. Then we’re going to try and get into Australia before the end of the year. As the world opens up, we have to get that message internationally so people can see just how good Sam is.”


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Rebecca Nichols joins Mother Artists as agent

Rebecca Nichols has departed FKP Scorpio’s UK business to join artist management and live agency Mother Artists as an agent.

Former CAA agent Nichols will build her own roster at Mother and be charged with growing the live side of the business alongside co-founder Natasha Gregory and agent James Tones.

Nichols was most recently head of live coordination at FKP, where she helped set up multiple UK shows and tours for artists such as Ed Sheeran, The War on Drugs and Self Esteem. She also worked on special events and festivals for the European promoting giant as it established a footprint in the UK.

“I’m really grateful to FKP Scorpio for the fantastic year I’ve spent with them but very excited to be returning to the agency side where my passion for working with artists and being a part of building their careers can flourish,” she says.

Mother Artists was founded in late 2020 by ex-Paradigm agent Gregory (nee Bent) and her brother, Mother Artist Management boss Mark Bent.

“I have huge respect for what Natasha and Mark are building at Mother Artists, their commitment to the artists is at the heart of everything they do alongside a strong company ethos of integrity, inclusivity and empowerment, which really connects with me,” adds Nichols.

It’s amazing and humbling that Rebecca is joining us

“They care and they want to make a difference whilst creating a supportive and empathetic environment which is mirrored in the culture at Mother Artists. These values are important to me and how I connect with people and are what I will offer to the artists that I work with too.”

Earlier in her career, Nichols worked for over a decade as an agent at CAA with acts such as Lianne La Havas, NAO, Villagers and Charlotte Day Wilson amongst others.

“It’s amazing and humbling that Rebecca is joining us,” says Gregory. “She is quite simply a wonderful woman; kind, smart, personable, universally liked and respected and is just going to fit into the Mother Artists ethos and culture perfectly. I have personally wanted to work with Rebecca for a while and we are all just excited to learn from her and continue building Mother Artists as a team. Let’s go!”

Kelly Chappel, Live Nation SVP, touring, international, adds: “Beck is an absolute diamond, she loves new music and has exceptional ears. Most importantly she’s very easy to deal with, she listens and has a vision of where the artist should go and you’re part of that.

“I’m so excited to see her grow and flourish as part of Mother Artists ‘family’.  They are building such an exciting culture and team.”

Mother Artists (live) currently works with Idles, First Aid Kit, Tom Misch, Cate Le Bon, Fever Ray, Foster The People, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, RY X, CMAT, Thomas Headon and Do Nothing, while Mother Artists (management) represents the likes of Idles, Heavy Lungs, Mouth Culture and Blair Davie.


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Wasserman hires veteran agent Shannon Casey

Wasserman Music has appointed Shannon Casey as SVP of fairs and festivals, to expand the agency’s reach in the business area.

Casey will start at Wasserman on 1 October, based in the agency’s Nashville office.

The veteran agent joins Wasserman after more than two decades at CAA in Nashville, representing some of the most notable live performance talent in the music business.

“I look forward to working with some of the most passionate and respected agents in the business,” says Casey.

“I can’t wait to reconnect with all the fair and festival buyers, with whom it has been my pleasure to work over the years”

“I can’t wait to reconnect with all the fair and festival talent buyers, with whom it has been my pleasure to work over the years, and I’m excited about creating new touring opportunities for a dynamic roster of talented artists.”

Wasserman SVP, Lenore Kinder, added: “The addition of Shannon to Wasserman Music brings irreplaceable experience and expertise in a rapidly evolving economy in fairs and festivals.

“She has cultivated decades of meaningful relationships with her buyers, and I have no doubt they’re just as eager to get back to business with her as we are!”

Today’s news follows the appointment of veteran agent Brent Smith as executive vice-president and managing executive, in July, and five new agents, earlier this month.

The appointments follow Wasserman group’s acquisition of Paradigm’s North American live music business.


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Leigh Millhauser, Wasserman Music

The LGBTIQ+ List 2021 – IQ’s first annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the inaugural Pride edition (issue 101) this month.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee, have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, IQ asked each individual to share their challenges, triumphs, advice and more. Each day this month, we’ll publish a new interview with an individual on the LGBTIQ+ List 2021. Catch up on the previous interview with Guy Howes, music partnerships executive at CAA in the UK here.


Leigh Millhauser
Coordinator, Wasserman Music
New York, US
[email protected]

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
I spent many years leaving a lot of myself at the door when I walked into the office or a show. While far from easy, deciding to walk 100% of myself through the door has been a profound relief and quite rewarding – both professionally and personally. Now I feel a strong sense of responsibility to use my voice to push for more opportunities for trans and gender-nonconforming people, both onstage and backstage.

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
Be yourself. No career opportunity is worth compromising your identity for. One of my favourite words of wisdom came from Lenore Kinder – “There’s going to be very few people that hold the door open for you in this business, so you just gotta swing the fucker open and walk through.”

“No career opportunity is worth compromising your identity for”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
Going to shows and meeting people face-to-face for the first time can be a wildcard scenario: sometimes I’m not quite what they imagined on the other end of that email address. While some moments have stung, I move right along and let my work speak for itself.

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
We still have a long way to go when it comes to truly including and uplifting marginalised communities. How many queer people of colour work at your company? The answer is usually not great.

Causes you support.
Trans Lifeline and The Okra Project. Personally, I’m committed to donating to trans people who need financial assistance with healthcare via crowdfunding websites and cash apps. The financial barriers the trans community faces when it comes to healthcare is astonishing.

“Promoter versus agent mentality has to go out the window…”

What does the near future of the industry look like?
Promoter versus agent mentality has to go out the window. Currently, in the US, the floodgates have opened but in a patchwork way, making it trickier to route a several-week tour months in advance. We’re responding to differing local regulations in real-time, putting shows on-sale with much shorter windows and facing avails that are few and far between. At the same time, live music has never felt more precious and meaningful.

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
Sustainable touring and climate change need to be at the forefront. No one needs to be an expert to make an impact. Carbon offsetting has never been made easier and there are many exciting new ways to approach concessions, catering, merch, fuel and so much more. Shout out to Reverb for leading the charge on this!

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Why artists need an agent

The focus of my work as an agent is on territories outside of the USA, especially in Europe, Latin America, Australasia, Japan/Asia etc. Many large acts do sell the ‘Whole World Tour’ to LN or AEG. However all tours still have to be routed and there are places where the ‘big’ promoters do not have companies or local relationships.

Often, with tour routes that we have helped to create (many times with those ‘big’ promoters), we include additional and useful ‘sell off’ shows. We also act as a buffer between the Manager/Artist and the Promoter. There are often difficult decisions to be made on logistics, local compliance rules, movement of equipment, local tax issues, currency fluctuations, insurance for pandemics and much more to make a tour run smoothly.

We also check the books (although vanishingly few promoters are dishonest). The point I’m making is that [contrary to the claim that, “to a great degree, the agent is an antiquated concept”] we agents have always provided good ‘old fashioned’, time-honoured service. Here are some of the reasons I say this:

We have geographical understanding gained from years of experience. Local ‘on the ground’ issues are informed and resolved by a wealth of knowledge about locality, culture, company, client, that we have accumulated over time.

We store fundamental information such as how long it takes to overnight from A-B (drive times), the network of ferry links, transport restrictions, crew swaps, air-freight of equipment, charter flights and the many behind-the-scenes activities that collectively make a tour work (we do all this in association with artist production managers and transport companies)

Sure you can leave much to promoters but an AGENT fighting for the artist in their corner provides a crucial and significant service. We’re a vital cog in the overall process. As well as handling regular fee negotiations, much else of what is done by the agent maximises earnings for the artist. At a basic level, the premise that the manager just calls Michael Rapino and makes the global deal (thereby cutting out the agent) could be perceived as short term saving. But believe me, in the longer term, this ‘by-passing’ of our role and function would be more costly because of the reservoir of accumulated knowledge and pivotal insight an agent is able to bring to the party.

An agent fighting for the artist in their corner provides a crucial and significant service

The artist relationship with a bigger promoter is partly founded on big bucks advances and guarantees. Undoubtedly this alliance has a role to play as financial certainty helps to keep the world running. Nevertheless, and for reasons I have indicated above, the contribution of the agent remains critical to the success of the enterprise. I would also add that territories outside of the USA represent about half the touring world and an agent ‘on the ground’ with local knowledge is an indispensable element in the equation.

The concept of ‘agent’ is not antiquated and the function is much more than paperwork. We help break talent by assisting younger acts to get a leg up. We foster record label, radio, tv and social media liaisons. We also have excellent relationships with all the top managers. Those guys appreciate the added value and hard work that an agent invests in their artists’ success. The strength and depth of the relationships that we have forged with a number of strong headliners has also been influential when it comes to negotiating with promoters, festivals and other venues. The presence of an agent will be significantly more consequential to an artist, adding value and helping to build or sustain their career in such an uncertain world we now face.

The desired end result of an agent’s presence is to allow the artist to concentrate on their performance and give of their best to their audience, free from any external concerns which may have arisen.

The holistic nature of the agent’s relationship with an artist/manager means we’re always there for them, supporting, protecting, nurturing through thick and thin. Our agency representation list and enduring artist bonds speaks for itself.

The pendulum of live music swings between the power of a) the artists and promoters and b) the public who pay good money to see the music performed. In the present climate of uncertainty, the law of the jungle applies so lets allow the market to determine “who agrees what”. You can’t blame Rapino for trying to close the gaps [by renegotiating deals for 2021]. He is a caring and intuitive man who has given up his own salary for the cause.


Rod MacSween is co-founder and CEO of International Talent Booking and IQ’s Agent of the Decade. This article originally appeared in the Lefsetz Letter and is reproduced here with Rod’s permission.

UTA announces agent, exec promotions

Beverly Hills-based United Talent Agency (UTA) has promoted nine agents and five executives across seven divisions in its Los Angeles, New York and London offices.

Tessie Lammle (pictured), James Masters (pictured), Daniel McCartney (pictured), Ron Perks, Angie Rance (pictured) and Chris Visconti are new agents in the music division.

Elsewhere, UTA gained new agents in the television talent, independent film and speakers departments.

Allyson Chung and Ally Diamond are now executives in the UTA Foundation, with Rachel Hall and Caroline Long being promoted to executive level in the marketing division and Brendan Mulroy becoming an executive in UTA IQ.

“We’re pleased that the vast majority of our new agents and executives began their careers at UTA as assistants”

UTA also announced that 12 new coordinators have been named across its Los Angeles, New York and London offices in music, speakers, fine arts, independent film, emerging platforms, video games, corporate communications, digital talent and brand partnerships.

“We’re incredibly proud of this outstanding group of colleagues,” says UTA’s co-president David Kramer. “Each of them personifies exceptional performance and commitment to client service.

“We’re especially pleased that the vast majority of our new agents and executives began their careers at UTA as assistants, which is a reflection of our commitment to developing and fostering the growth of young professionals. As we continue to grow all aspects of our business, they will all play an integral role in driving our future success.”

The promotions follow the recent appointment of former Maverick management executive Alisann Blood as co-head of music brand partnerships at UTA.

Pictured (l to r): Top – Allyson Chung, Lucas Barnes, Tessie Lammle, James Masters; bottom – Angie Rance, Daniel McCartney, Kristen Sena, John McGrath


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Paradigm’s Tom Schroeder: Captain of industry

Spend any amount of time with Tom Schroeder and you cannot help but be impressed by his cerebral dissection of the music industry and his ability to sniff out opportunities and identify changes, big and small, that can be made to improve the work/life balance for staff at Paradigm, and, crucially, the artists that they represent.

“A lot of people are shocked to hear millennials demanding a different kind of lifestyle but at Paradigm we are approaching that in another way – maybe it’s the millennials who have got the work/life balance right and we should be learning from them,” he notes at one point, when musing on how ridiculously all-consuming the business can easily become.

That empathetic, open-minded attitude was prevalent at Coda and remains evident to anyone visiting the now Paradigm UK offices in central London, where the company’s 100-plus employees enjoy a progressive environment that is a pleasure to conduct business in. But that’s a far cry from Schroeder’s own early career experiences when he admits to overworking to the extent that he is still recovering to this day.

“For the first five years as an agent, I didn’t have a holiday and I think it’s taken an additional 15 years to unpick the damage that did to me,” he says. “Stress is a very real issue as an agent and in an agency. For sure many of us are in a privileged position, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel the pressure. We have seen it at all levels of the company, and are now taking a very proactive approach to dealing with it and preventing it impacting on everyone’s well-being.”

Towing the line
That caring side to Tom’s nature is, perhaps, inherited as his mother was a social worker before going on to become the head of education for the London borough of Camden, earning a CBE for her efforts.

“For the first five years as an agent, I didn’t have a holiday and I think it’s taken an additional 15 years to unpick the damage that did to me”

Born in West London, Tom grew up in a sailing family and was a sporty child. “I wasn’t into music much at school, but I competed at national and international level as a windsurfer,” he reveals. That all ended at 17, “when I inevitably discovered the things that we all do as teenagers…”

Faced with a common teenage choice, Tom somewhat followed in his mum’s footsteps by opting to study sociology at university although as his dad worked for Guinness, he also significantly contributed to that side of family lineage during his years at the University of Nottingham.

“Most 19 year olds need a few years to work out who they are, and that’s definitely what university gave me,” he says. “Meeting people from all walks of life was really important, and I’m still friends with a lot of them. But I horsed around and probably got the lowest 2:1 in Nottingham University history because they felt sorry for me.”

He admits, “When I arrived in Nottingham, I thought about how I could become the cool kid on campus. That’s why I decided, with friends, to put on some gigs. Fortunately, for us, there was this very cool Scottish guy, James Bailey, who ran one of the city’s best clubs, The Bomb. He took a chance on us, so we put on Thursday- and Friday-night residencies and we’d go hall to hall in the university, selling tickets.”

Those early residencies also introduced him to someone who he was initially wary of but who would become his mentor and one of his closest friends. “We had a jungle night and Alex Hardee at MPI repped a few acts we wanted to book,” says Schroeder. “Alex had a bit of a reputation, so when we wanted to book DJ Krust, or whoever it was, we ended up getting really stoned and pulling straws to decide who would make the phone call. And, of course, I pulled the short straw.

“My mates warned me it would be too much about business and not about the music. But I ignored them, thank goodness”

“When I called him, he was on another call: ‘Tom, just hold for a minute,’ he said, before on the other line shouting,‘Listen, you Welsh cunt, if I find out where you live, I’ll come and burn your fucking house down.’And then I booked the act with him. That was my first experience of Alex Hardee.”

Knowing that he wanted to pursue some kind of career in music, Schroeder spent a summer in California, where a cousin owned a recording studio. “I tried making dance music but I realised I was nowhere near good enough: proper musicians were at a different level. So I came back to the UK and started thinking about the companies I’d potentially like to work with.”

Perfect Tom-ing
Dance music’s loss was definitely the agency world’s gain – and one company in particular. “It was a Tuesday morning,” says Tom. “I sent a speculative email to MPI, asking if they had any jobs. By a massive coincidence, Phil Banfield had called a staff meeting that same day where he announced that he wanted to find a young, motivated kid to look for and sign new talent. My timing was perfect.”

What wasn’t perfect was the resulting job interview. “In the room were Phil, Alex, Cris [Hearn] and Gemma [Peppé]. Within a couple of minutes, Alex said he had emails to check and walked out. Cris did the same about a minute later, followed quickly by Gemma. So I thought I’d blown it.”

However, Tom exploited the one-on-one situation to learn about the business and spent the next 90 minutes quizzing Banfield. His enthusiasm struck a chord, and a few days later, he was offered a job. “My mates warned me it would be too much about business and not about the music. But I ignored them, thank goodness, as 20 years later I’m still at the same company, albeit after a couple of name changes.”


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