UTA duo reveal Take That touring masterplan
UTA agents James Wright and Olly Ward have spoken to IQ about their ambitions and touring strategy for British pop icons Take That.
The duo began working with the beloved group – Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen – last year, and have a huge year planned ahead.
This Life on Tour kicks off in the UK in Sheffield on 13 April, promoted by SJM Concerts, and includes six nights at The O2 in London, six at Birmingham’s Utilita Arena and seven shows at Manchester’s new Co-op Live, as well as multiple dates in Leeds and Dublin, with support from Olly Murs.
It will also take in stadiums in Middlesbrough, Nottingham, West Bridgford, Norwich, Bletchley, Southampton, Plymouth, Swansea and Bristol, followed by outdoor concerts in Cork, Dublin and Belfast.
“I think it’s fair to say that anyone in the industry would bite their arm off to work with Take That”
“I think it’s fair to say that anyone in the industry would bite their arm off to work with Take That,” says Wright. “We have great existing relationships with their manager Chris Dempsey and SJM, so when the opportunity arose to work with them and we got to know Gary, Howard and Mark as well, it felt like a great fit from the off.
“Take That’s legendary status in popular culture, as well as their enduring prominence and value to the music industry over the years made this such an enticing prospect.”
The band, who were previously represented by Wasserman Music, were joined by original members Robbie Williams and Jason Orange on their 2011 Progress Tour, which sold more than 1.8 million tickets to become the biggest in UK history. Barlow, Donald and Owen have continued as a trio since Williams returned to his solo career and Orange retired from the spotlight ten years ago.
Their 2024 European tour, which is being staged in support of their ninth studio album This Life, will go on to visit Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal in June/July. A slate of dates in Australia and New Zealand have also been added for October/November.
“When it comes to touring, the band are hard working, committed and eager to break new ground”
“The new album is something special, such a positive record that adds to their impressive catalogue of hits, and feel like the group are in a great place right now,” adds Ward.
Here, Wright and Ward delve further into their plans for the group both at home and abroad…
What can you bring to a legendary band like Take That at this stage of their career?
OW: “From our initial meetings, it didn’t take long to establish a multitude of tangible things that we could bring to the project, and add to the wider narrative as they build into their fourth decade together. It also became clear that UTA are best placed to deliver the band’s creative and business ambitions; to represent them as a band and as individuals.”
JW: “As a band we can really service them well at UTA, and given the various interests of Gary, Howard and Mark our full service agency can add value to them all as artists at every turn, and we can help craft their careers across a range of industries. When it comes to touring, the band are hard working, committed and eager to break new ground. Our team is here to realise an ambitious creative strategy which is driven by the band and management as much as us, to take them into new territories and explore their global reach.”
OW: “UTA is truly global, so this is something we know how to drive forward and deliver in terms of touring. Then we have the full breadth of our departments, including but not limited to Music Brands Partnerships, Corporate and Private Events, Music Marketing, Music Crossover, IQ, UTA Foundation and Ventures, which are already bringing exciting conversations and opportunities to the table.”
“We’ve detected particular demand from German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese-speaking countries”
What is the strategy behind their upcoming tour?
OW: “There’s been unprecedented demand for the upcoming This Life on Tour, with same-day sell outs and new dates added to the UK run, which now has 41 arena and stadium dates in 17 cities. Plus we have 20 dates in eight European countries already announced, including two countries the band have never been to before.”
What are your plans for the group internationally?
JW: “Using the data and analytics of UTA IQ we’ve identified audiences for Take That in places they didn’t believe they existed. By pairing this incredible tool with the experience of the team we’re quickly building valuable insights into new primary markets. For example, digging deeper than streaming and social media metrics, we’ve detected particular demand from German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese-speaking countries. Given they hadn’t visited places like Spain since the 2010’s, the strategy is to build in those burgeoning territories and more. There’s a whole host of new countries for us to explore, which we’ll be announcing in 2024.”
OW: “Gary recently visited Australia to announce their Australian tour for the end of the year to a great reaction, and we have Sophie Ellis-Bextor as main support.”
What sort of demand are you seeing and how does their popularity abroad compare with the UK?
JW: “Domestically, they are as popular as ever – the new album saw the strongest week one sales of any British act in 2023 as it landed at No.1 – and what is especially exciting to see is the growing popularity around the world and the potential that brings.”
Ultimately, what do you hope to achieve with the band?
OW: “Take That possesses a curiosity and genuine appetite, and UTA are here to match it. We want to see the biggest and best shows of their career, open doors globally and help inspire the next step in Take That’s incredible career. The band are excited about the prospect of reaching such significant new audiences for the first time, and we want to nurture that growth and sustain the enthusiasm. Whilst we’re excited and proud of how the new team have hit the ground running with these major announcements for 2024, we’re already plotting years beyond that. There’s a long term vision at UTA for all the members of Take That which we can’t want to see unfold.”
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Wasserman Music adds executives to agent team
Talent agency Wasserman Music has announced the addition of four executives to its worldwide agent team.
Josh Dick and Jonathan Insogna join as VPs, based in New York and Nashville, respectively, while Rebecca Prochnik joins as a director based in London and Gideon “Shay” Royale joins as a director based in New York.
In a career spanning more than 20 years, Dick began as a booking agent at The Agency Group, working with artists including A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Yelawolf. He then switched to artist management, guiding the careers of acts including Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Flatbush Zombies.
In his new role, he will continue to represent Flatbush Zombies as their agent for North America, among other clients.
Country and Americana specialist Insogna joins after 17 years at WME. His clients include Morgan Wade, Yola, Cam Whitcomb, Drew Erwin, Joshua Quimby, Max McNown, and Theo Kandel. He is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music and served on the founding board of advisors for the To Nashville, With Love Fund.
“We are excited to welcome Josh, Jonathan, Rebecca, and Shay to our growing global team of outstanding agents and career strategists”
Prochnik founded the London-based boutique Earth Agency in 2014, before moving to UTA in 2021. She will represent artists including AJ Tracey, Black Lips, Calibre, CASISDEAD, Decius, Fat Dog, Frost Children, Ghetts, Jme, Kode 9, Mala, Paranoid London and Warmduscher.
Royale began his career as an advisor under the umbrellas of Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch and MJ Capital Partners, later joining the Global Sports and Entertainment Division at Morgan Stanley. He has since worked with music artists as a manager and A&R consultant, most recently leading the indie incubator and artist development company, All Season. He also co-founded the community-based ticketing platform TBA.
At Wasserman, Royale will lead the agency’s growth in the Afro-music space, with clients including Victony, Black Sherif, Gabzy, Blxckie, melvitto and WurlD.
“We are excited to welcome Josh, Jonathan, Rebecca, and Shay to our growing global team of outstanding agents and career strategists,” says Lee Anderson, Wasserman Music EVP and managing executive. “Their unique backgrounds and experience will help to drive Wasserman Music’s accelerating growth across global territories, emerging genres, and innovative new ways to serve our valued clients around the world.”
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Wasserman operates globally across 27 countries and more than 62 cities, including New York, London, Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Madrid, Mexico City, Toronto, Paris and Sydney.
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A.S.S. Concerts hires agent Luca Selbmann
A.S.S. Concerts & Promotion has added Berlin-based Luca Selbmann, founder of boutique agency Pigalle, to its team.
Selbmann, who will work as an A&R and booking agent, promises to bring expertise in the emerging domestic and international talent fields to the German promoter.
Pigalle’s roster, which includes the likes of Traumatin, Urbannino and Gast, will be incorporated into the A.S.S. business.
“I am very pleased that Luca Selbmann has joined our team and is therefore one of the new and younger bookers in the house,” says MD Florian ‘Böde’ Böhlendorf. “We are at the beginning of a transformation process that is very important to us and will continue. This also includes rejuvenating the roster.”
Part of the Mehr-BB Entertainment Company, A.S.S. has operated as a booking agency and tour promoter for German and international rock, pop, folk, jazz, and world music artists since 1979, presenting up to 1,200 concerts a year. It also operates in Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux, and represents various artists throughout Europe as an agent.
The company works with acts such as 10cc, Bob Geldof, Crash Test Dummies, Donovan, Jack Savoretti, The Stranglers and Wishbone Ash.
A.S.S. Concerts opened a new branch office in Dusseldorf in 2018, located at the headquarters of Mehr-BB, which specialises in promoting and producing theatrical shows. The move expanded A.S.S.’s network beyond its headquarters in Hamburg and an existing branch office in Berlin.
Böhlendorf, who joined the firm in 2019, has led the company since succeeding veteran executive Michael Bisping in July last year and works in collaboration with A.S.S. Concerts founder Dieter Schubert and director Dirk Gehrmann.
Former Smiths agent Mike Hinc dies aged 70
Former agent Mike Hinc, whose client roster included the likes of The Smiths, Morrissey, Primal Scream, The Birthday Party, and The Sisters of Mercy, has died at home in France. He was 70.
Fiercely proud of his father’s Polish ancestry, Hinc studied Sociology and English literature at Bedford College, University of London, before finding himself a job at the Roundhouse as head of security. He next moved to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, where he launched the legendary ICA Rock Week programme.
In 1981, he joined Rough Trade Agency, which under his leadership evolved into All Trade Booking a few years later. He subsequently went on to co-head Cloud Music Agency with Richard Cowley.
Always interested in art, Hinc studied for his MA degree at Hertfordshire University, where he also lectured on the music industry. Upon his retirement as an agent, he became an accomplished artist and split his time between Ware in Hertfordshire, England, and France, where, in 2003, he relocated to the city of Carcassonne, where he also cared for his ailing mother until her death a year ago.
Despite enjoying a successful new career as an artist, Hinc also continued to represent The Sisters of Mercy as their agent.
“Mike was grizzly, curmudgeonly, but most of all cuddly”
“Mike was grizzly, curmudgeonly, but most of all cuddly,” says long time friend Eric Longley, former MD of Factory Records. “He was always a gentleman and when Morrissey’s new management advised a change of agents, his response summed him
up: ‘If that’s what Morrissey wants, that’s what he should have.’ To be fair, Morrissey was equally gentlemanly and both acted very professionally toward each other.”
Upon learning of Hinc’s death, Morrissey wrote, “Mike was The Smiths live booking agent… very funny and very irreverent in the spirit of the Blenheim Crescent age. He was also very intelligent whilst being next to incomprehensible… which was perfect for the exciting psychic disorder of Rough Trade.
“Along with Geoff Travis, Scott Piering, Jo Slee, Martha DeFor, Richard Boon and Pat Bellis, he worked very hard for the Smiths from the very beginning, and his cramped All Trade hut within the record label was a hideaway sanctum of busy blackboards and choking cigarette smoke. He was much admired by John Peel and John Walters, and this certainly helped the Smiths to move quickly. I was thankful then, and I’m thankful now.”
Hinc is survived by his brother David, and half sister, Anna.
Agent productivity tool Surreal launches globally
After success in the UK, Australia & NZ, Surreal, the Australian live entertainment tech company, today announces that it is launching its Booking Agent Productivity Tool globally.
This launch marks a significant step forward for Surreal in its mission to enrich local live entertainment scenes.
Empowering Agents, Enriching Local Scenes
Built on years of research and insights gained from their former product ‘Muso’, Surreal’s team identified a crucial gap in the market: a specialised tool for booking agents operating predominantly in pubs, bars and nightclubs.
“We discovered just how important this tier of agents were to the ecosystem,” says Alan Jin, COO of Surreal. “They play a pivotal role in keeping thousands of venues alive and buzzing every night. But most of these agents were using inefficient solutions that weren’t purpose built for their workflows.”
Understanding the challenges faced by booking agents in local venues, Surreal’s new tool aims to re-invent their workflows.
“By freeing agents from time-consuming tasks, we’re not just boosting their productivity; we’re enabling them to focus on growth”
“Our goal is to eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens that agents face daily,” explains Jin. “By freeing agents from time-consuming tasks, we’re not just boosting their productivity; we’re enabling them to focus on growth. This shift in focus is crucial – as agents grow, they create more events, bringing vibrancy and richness to the live entertainment scene globally.”
Real Stories, Real Impact
The productivity tool has been in beta testing with 10 local agencies across the UK, Australia and NZ. With great early results, for this reason Surreal is now launching the product globally.
Mesalagroove, a Wellington-based agency run by Petera Johnson and Neru Mesala, has experienced this transformation first-hand. “Before Surreal, we were drowning in admin and confined to Wellington. Now, we’re planning national expansion.” they share.
“Surreal’s tool has been a game-changer, enabling us to shift our focus from juggling multiple systems to having one consolidated tool”
James Ware, director of WAT Artists in Australia, echoes this sentiment: “Surreal’s tool has been a game-changer, enabling us to shift our focus from juggling multiple systems to having one consolidated tool for our venue bookings.”
Surreal has already brought on their first agency in the US with Backline Partners, an agency that operate across three states, joining as their first customer in the country.
A Global Vision for Local Music Scenes
Surreal’s global launch is a major step in Surreal’s vision to create a globally connected live entertainment industry, allowing agents and artists to work across borders seamlessly.
To mark the launch, Surreal is offering the first 20 agents in each country a risk-free trial. Agents who aren’t completely satisfied after three months will receive a full refund.
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Agent Bex Wedlake joins One Fiinix Live
Independent live music agency One Fiinix Live has announced the appointment of seasoned live music professional Bex Wedlake as its newest agent.
Wedlake, whose appointment is effective immediately, is based in the US but will work closely with company’s UK team.
Her roster includes Black Stone Cherry, Dance Gavin Dance, Dayseeker, Des Rocs, GWAR, Halestorm, Haru Nemuri, Hoobastank, K.Flay, New Years Day, SkyeChristy, The Subways and Tiny Moving Parts. She will represent these artists in international territories outside of North America.
“We are delighted to welcome Bex to our company,” says One Fiinix Live founder and CEO Jon Ollier. “Not only does she bring with her an incredible wealth of experience and a fantastic roster that aligns perfectly with our aspirations, but Bex has time and again spotted and developed new talent with a remarkable hit rate.
“We see Bex as a valuable addition to our team, someone who is incredibly well connected and whose skill set complements that of the existing team very well”
“We see Bex as a valuable addition to our team, someone who is incredibly well connected and whose skill set complements that of the existing team very well. We really feel like we are building something very special here and we are all so excited for Bex to be a part of that.”
London-headquartered One Fiinix Live, which added veteran US agent John Pantle to its ranks last month, was launched by Ollier in November 2020, following his departure from CAA. The UK-based global booking agency represents acts including Ed Sheeran, Ms. Lauryn Hill, 2Cellos, Calum Scott and Hauser.
“This industry is based on human connection and innovation, qualities embraced and celebrated by Jon and the progressive team at One Fiinix Live,” adds Wedlake. “In just three years they have built an agency that embodies expertise, professionalism and respect. I am thrilled to be joining such an exciting and forward-thinking company and I look forward to immersing myself and my clients in a culture of inclusivity and elevation.”
CAA announces 16 promotions
Leading agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has announced a flurry of promotions across multiple departments.
The company has elevated 16 staff members to agent or executive, including Megan Glendinning, Evan Greenberg, Alex Hubert and Ashley King, who have each been promoted to agent in the music touring department. They will be based in Los Angeles.
Glendinning, Greenberg and Hubert all began their careers as clerks in CAA’s mailroom, while King started out with the firm as a receptionist.
Glendinning later served as an assistant to Jared Martin, Andrew Simon, and Ryan Harlacher before being upped to booking professional in 2022. She was accepted into CAA Elevate – the agency’s training and practical development curriculum – in July 2023, alongside Greenberg and Hubert.
Greenberg was an assistant to Alex Becket, Matthew Kingsley, and Hunter Williams, before being elevated to coordinator in 2022.
Hubert, who previously assisted Lee Goforth, Brett Steinberg, Jared Martin, Brian Greenbaum and Ken Ashley, and King, who had a stint as assistant to Cameron Kaiser and Marlene Tsuchii, were both promoted to booking professionals in 2022.
CAA is headquartered in LA, and has offices in New York, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago, Miami, London, Munich, Geneva, Stockholm, Shanghai and Beijing
In London, Gabrielle Fetters and Peppa Mignone have also been promoted to agent, and Khalil Roberts to executive, within CAA’s books department, while Sarah Phillips is appointed executive in CAA Search, which specialises in recruiting C-level and senior executives, non-executive directors, and board-level executives around the world.
Based in New York, Justin Gorkowitz has been promoted to agent in the comedy touring department, with Leilani Houston promoted to agent in the commercial endorsements division and New York-based Kyle Margolis upped to agent in television news.
In addition, Los Angeles-based Hannah Kaiser has been promoted to agent in the television scripted department, Max Miller is appointed agent in the motion picture talent department and Cami Potter is named agent in television talent.
Finally, New York-based Jack Upton has been promoted to agent in the Talent department and Los Angeles-based Connie Yan is elevated to agent in the motion picture literary department.
Founded in 1975, CAA is headquartered in LA, and has offices in New York, Nashville, Memphis, Chicago, Miami, London, Munich, Geneva, Stockholm, Shanghai and Beijing, among other locations. Artémis, an investment vehicle led by billionaire French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, acquired TPG’s majority stake in the agency in September.
Alex Bruford: Transforming the industry landscape
Having toured globally with indie-electro headliners Infadels, Alex Bruford has first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a working musician and has used that experience to establish and develop ATC Live as an agency that puts its clients front and centre. Gordon Masson speaks to Bruford as he celebrates 20 years in music…
When ATC Live launched in 2011, its founder and managing director Alex Bruford set out to create an agency that would be markedly different from existing companies. And 12 years later, that goal continues to be central to the London-headquartered operation.
“Our number-one priority is delivering for our artists. That’s why this company started, and it will continue to be the case,” states Bruford. “We’re not interested in volume. We’re focused on ensuring we can provide our artists with everything they need to build the career they desire. We’ve proven that we can take artists from small clubs, like [London’s] The Shacklewell [Arms] or the Hoxton [Square] Bar & Kitchen and turn them into festival headliners.”
While the agency started out with one employee and just five client acts, today there are 35 staff across offices in London, Glasgow, and Paris, representing close to 500 acts. Bruford’s personal roster includes Amyl and The Sniffers, Baxter Dury, Black Pumas, Fontaines D.C., Metronomy, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Julia Jacklin, Sleaford Mods, and The Lumineers, among others.
“The goal is to continue to grow ATC Live but at the same time to make sure we have the infrastructure, capability and services we need to deliver for our artists,” adds Alex.
“When we created ATC Live, we wanted to do something different, and I think we’ve achieved that. Historically, a lot of the agency landscape was dominated by a small number of men who wanted to retain control over the industry, whereas I’m much more in favour of supporting the next generation to come through and be successful, as well as introducing more diversity into the music industry – diversity of thought, diversity of background, diversity of people – and just trying to make it a more representative place.”
“When you’re growing up going to big arenas and on American tours, it obviously has an influence on your path in life”
His journey to this point has been a storied one, but with his father, Bill Bruford, acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest drummers and percussionists, a career in the music business always seemed a likely path for Alex.
Born in London, Alex grew up near Guildford in Surrey and from the cradle was surrounded by music, often being taken on the road to see his father performing with the likes of King Crimson and Yes.
“When you’re growing up going to big arenas and on American tours, it obviously has an influence on your path in life,” notes Alex. “At school, I was definitely into music – I did my piano theory and learned the drums. And in my early teen years I started getting into bands and playing outside of school.
“My parents very much tried to persuade me not to follow in Dad’s footsteps, but I specifically remember a day when I said to my dad, ‘I think I know what I want to do: Iwant to be a drummer,’ and him turning around and saying, ‘Well, you better start practising because you’re not very good.’”
Unperturbed, Alex threw himself into his music. “My first gig was in 1996 at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden,” he recalls. “But it took about seven years from then to get it right and for it to become something that I did professionally.”
“A lot of the festivals and promoters that I met through the band, I still work with today”
In 2003, Bruford found himself behind the skins for newly formed quintet Infadels. “Our first gig was at the Betsey Trotwood [pub] in London, and while we only got paid £40, it felt good – we knew we were onto something. We got signed to Wall of Sound and then PIAS and Sony fairly soon after that. We were championed by Eddy Temple-Morris who hosted XFM’s The Remix Show. Eddy was really the man – he put us on his club nights and played us on the radio all the time.
“It was an exciting time. […] We were going out on tour as support for bands like Prodigy, Faithless, Chemical Brothers, all those kinds of acts, which was great: we learned the ropes through them before eventually doing our own headline tours.”
As a group of lads in their mid-20s, Infadels made the most of their moment in the sun and enjoyed close to a decade of making music together. “We went everywhere,” says Bruford. “We toured around Europe multiple times, as well as America, China, Australia, Russia, South America. In total, we played about 500 gigs around the world.”
Bruford contends those experiences were a fundamental learning curve for his future career as an agent. “I understand what it’s like to be on the stage as an artist; what it feels like to be driving in the wrong direction on your day off, and things like that. These are the memories that I look back on and use every day to try to make life for my clients as easy and comfortable as possible.”
Being on the road with Infadels also introduced Alex to a wide range of industry personalities – many of whom he still works with in a professional capacity, two decades later. “A lot of the festivals and promoters that I met through the band, I still work with today. I remember Barnaby Harrod in Spain coming to meet us at the Moby Dick in Madrid, where he promoted our show – and I still work with Barnaby now. That goes for a bunch of other people as well.”
“I remember teching for Calvin Harris at V Festival when the backing track went down. The trauma of being partly responsible for that technical failure was absolutely horrendous”
Recalling how he first became involved backstage, Bruford tells IQ, “The band was quite successful, and we had our own crew. But when things started on a downward spiral, we couldn’t afford the crew anymore, so I took over a lot of the tour managing side, and I’d be settling the shows. That’s how I met the network of promoters that sort of kicked off what I do now.
“Infadels did three albums – all great in their own right. The first record was when it was really hot and going really well. But by the time that we got to the third album, I was thinking, ‘Okay, what are we going to do next because I don’t think I’m going to be doing this in 15 years’ time.’”
Having tour-managed Infadels, Bruford explored that side of the business with a number of acts. However, he was soon looking for another avenue. “I remember teching for Calvin Harris at V Festival when the backing track went down. The trauma of being partly responsible for that technical failure was absolutely horrendous. So, I realised that was not the path for me. But as a result, I have huge respect for the production crew and professionals that put our shows together. Witnessing how they assemble and tear down shows with military precision is incredible.”
Looking back at his time in the band, he confesses, “I loved being on the road, to start off with anyway. The first time around, visiting all the cities and the festivals is incredibly exciting and a wonderful experience. But when you go around again and there’s a few less people at the gig than last time, then it doesn’t feel so great.”
Nonetheless, Infadels enjoyed some stellar highlights. “Playing Glastonbury, Coachella, playing shows in Moscow and then going straight to touring Australia. China was a highlight as well, as was playing great European festivals like Roskilde and Eurockéennes and those kinds of events. We were lucky that we got to do most of them.”
“I was an agent with no experience and no roster, and I worked at a DJ company, so persuading live acts to join my roster was a bit of a tough sell”
And it could have been even better but for the intervention of Belgian festival gremlins.
“We had a memorable show on the main stage at Pukkelpop, where it was the biggest show of our career – 40,000 or 50,000 people there to see us. And all the power went down in our second song. It was the show that was supposed to be the one to break us in Europe, but sadly, no. We managed to get the power back, but it took a long time and the momentum had gone.”
Searching for a long-term career solution, in 2010, Bruford applied for a role at Reprise Agency, which specialised in the electronic and DJ world. “I saw they had an admin position, and I needed a job and thought I could probably do music admin. The company founder, Howard Gray, gave me the job, but he pretty quickly asked if I’d like to work as an agent and try to bring some live acts to the roster.”
The switch was challenging. “I was an agent with no experience and no roster, and I worked at a DJ company, so persuading live acts to join my roster was a bit of a tough sell. But a couple of people took a bet on me: Johnny Pinchard, the founder of music collective Off Modern, was managing a band called Fiction. And Stephen Bass at Moshi Moshi had signed a band called Teeth. And for whatever reason they chose me as their agent, for which I will always be grateful. Years later, Stephen appointed me agent for Metronomy, and we’ve had a great time working with them over the last couple of records.
“But that’s how I started my journey as an agent. I managed to get a few acts on board, and then I signed an artist called Ali Love who was blowing up at the time. We did some good work together, and he was managed by Jean Coffey, who was at ATC management.”
“A number of established agents told me that it was impossible, but that only made me more determined”
Having impressed Coffey with his carefully crafted strategy for Ali Love, Bruford was invited to meet ATC founders Brian Message and Craig Newman, and that conversation planted the seed for an ATC agency division.
Bruford reveals, “It turns out that they had been trying to persuade established agents to join them in some capacity for a while, but no one was crazy enough to do it. However, I just thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’ So, in 2011, it was agreed that I would launch a new agency – ATC Live – in partnership with ATC.”
With an initial headcount of one and a roster of five acts – Ali Love, Fiction, Teeth, The Duke Spirit, and Treetop Flyers – Bruford set about creating and building the kind of agency that he, as a former artist, would like to have been represented by.
“It was interesting,” he notes. “A number of established agents told me that it was impossible, but that only made me more determined. Immediately after the deal was done, I got on a plane to South by Southwest to start telling as many people as I could that there was a new agency called ATC Live.”
One of the first new acts to enlist Bruford and ATC Live as his reps was Baxter Dury. “He was the first artist I signed up where I thought we could have a long-term relationship,” states Alex. “He is a brilliant artist, but he was such a rough diamond at the time and was not close to being fully formed. But we supported each other as we learned our respective trades, and now, 12 or 13 years later, he’s about to play a sold-out Roundhouse – his biggest show to date. It’s been a fantastic journey with him. Those are the kinds of relationships that I love and exactly what I wanted to achieve when we established ATC Live as a home for career artists.”
“I believed there was a space in the business for an agency that was focused on artists rather than volume”
Given a blank sheet to create the type of agency he perceived was missing from the industry landscape, Bruford tells IQ that his years of being a touring musician, coupled with his experience of working on the crew side of things, helped shape a doctrine that exists to this day at ATC Live.
“I believed there was a space in the business for an agency that was focused on artists rather than volume,” he states. “For me, the music and the artists are at the heart of everything that we do. They have to come first.
“An artist can walk onto a stage and deliver that unique, magic moment that you get from a brilliant live performance. The whole live music industry and its infrastructure exists because of artists who are able to create those incredible moments, but I think people sometimes forget that. A major part of our job is making sure that when the artist arrives on stage, they are in the best possible frame of mind to create something special.”
He continues, “I wanted to have an agency that wasn’t high volume, high turnover. I wanted it to be focused on artists that we really believe in and who we’re going to support over their entire careers. I also felt like there was a space for an agency that wanted to create collaborative relationships with promoters and managers and artists: relationships that were much more based on partnerships working together, rather than the traditional old-school agent/promoter power dynamic.”
Delving into detail, he adds, “I wanted to have partnerships with our promoters in a way that we could talk and collectively decide the best way forward for artists to build their careers.”
“Taking on-board local advice is really important for an artist’s career”
And the result? “It’s been good, because historically, agents just told people what to do and when to do it. But actually, taking on-board local advice is really important for an artist’s career.”
While Alex’s ATC ethos was – and is – to target quality over quantity, in those early days, he was aware that his personal roster needed to grow. “I needed something that was going to really make a mark,” he admits. “At South by Southwest in 2012, Henning Ahrens, who was at Four Artists at the time, tipped me off about The Lumineers. I went to see them playing in a church, and it was an unbelievable show: the song writing, musicianship, everything about the performance – the way they engaged the crowd – it was knock-out.
“I knew that nobody in the UK really knew about The Lumineers, but they would very soon. So as soon as I got home, I jumped back on a plane to Boston to see them at a regional show where they were touring with the Kopecky Family Band. They were kind enough to give me some time backstage to chat, and I shared my vision for them. And soon after they joined the roster, which was a turning point because their album came out in April of that year, and it was just a rocket ship journey.”
Indeed, as The Lumineers’ popularity grew, Bruford had to upgrade venues four times on their debut record cycle. “Within 18 months, in London alone, we played Koko, Shepherd’s Bush, two nights at Brixton Academy, and Alexandra Palace. It was a real calling card for the agency,” he states.
“Since then, the band has gone from strength to strength and are now a stadium band: this summer they played their biggest-ever outdoor shows in Europe, headlining the 20,000-cap St Anne’s Park in Dublin and the 20,000-cap Crystal Palace Park in London.
“For a long time, it was just a case of working all the hours there were to keep up with the growth of our artists”
“It’s been a brilliant journey, but for a long time, it was just a case of working all the hours there were to keep up with the growth of our artists. When they played Alexandra Palace, I came back to the office, slept on the sofa, and got up a few hours later to crack on with the next day’s work because that’s what I had to do at the time.
“But after The Lumineers’ success, it was clear things were happening here. And that’s when other people started to get onboard and join ATC Live.”
Having taken his time to establish the agency as a bespoke home for talent, Bruford’s first employee was assistant Josh Adley. “He was really important in helping me to get things going,” says Bruford. “In 2013, we were joined by Colin Keenan and shortly afterwards Will Church, Stuart Kennedy, and Bertie Gibbon came along.
“The fact that Colin, Will, Stu and Bertie are still at ATC Live ten years later is testament to the way we all worked together to establish a new approach. They are cornerstones of what we do here: Colin brought Passenger with him, an established artist; Will had the experience of being at Elastic and Mainstage and had a cool electronic-leaning roster; Stu was assisting Colin and has since become an agent in his own right; and Bertie joined us to help shape the roster from an A&R perspective.
“We’ve since added agents Clemence Renaut, Sinan Ors, Alice Hogg, Marlon Burton, Skully Sullivan Kaplan, Graham Clews and Ed Thompson, and internally promoted Sarah Joy, Roxane Dumoulin and Caitlin Ballard to the role of agent.”
“It’s those people that pick up the phone and give you the support when nothing’s going on that really stick in your mind”
Key to those appointments was Bruford’s growing reputation among industry colleagues who supported the culture he was trying to establish at ATC Live. He tells IQ, “I put the word out that I was looking for the right people and promoters and other people connected the dots and said, ‘You should speak to Colin’ or ‘You should speak to Will.’ That’s the pattern of how things happened with everyone that joined in the early days of the agency.”
Among those early industry supporters, says Bruford, were the likes of agent Natasha Gregory and promoter Steve Tilley. “Natasha was always a big support to me. She helped me a lot when I didn’t know whether someone was trying to rip me off or not. Also, very early on, Steve Tilley came and met me for a cup of tea. It’s those people that pick up the phone and give you the support when nothing’s going on that really stick in your mind.”
Another tenet of the ATC Live philosophy has been to allow agents to work outside of the traditional agency locations. “We have offices in Glasgow and Paris, and we’ve been very keen to facilitate flexible working for people and allow them to live and work wherever they needed, even before Covid made that more common.
“My attitude has always been that as long as people can do the job and we can support what they need, then we can make things work no matter where they are based. For us, having people on the ground in Scotland and mainland Europe has been a bonus because they know about what’s going on in those scenes more than we ever would in London.”
Another expectation at ATC Live is that agents will not simply sign up as many acts as possible in the hope that one or two of them will break. “Having a personal roster with 100 acts doesn’t seem fair on the clients, to be honest,” says Bruford. “I don’t think you can effectively service an artist if you have that many acts on your roster.
“We want to ensure that we have the time to build unique touring plans for every artist”
“We want to ensure that we have the time to build unique touring plans for every artist: whatever is right for them, for their album, for their journey, their music, their career path. Some of our artists want to play 300 shows a year, others want to play one show a year. And others want to tour skate parks. We want to be able to facilitate all those different wishes, and our job is to help artists build something unique around them every time they play live.”
Regarded as one of the agency world’s deep thinkers, and described by peers variously as “level-headed,” “sensible,” “intelligent,” and “approachable,” Bruford himself states that when it comes to the bad times, he tries to focus on the positives.
“We all make mistakes, and of course I’ve had moments where negative things have happened, but I’ve always just tried to put that behind me, learn from it, and move on,” he tells IQ.
But he is still deeply affected by the 2019 death of ATC agent Chris Meredith, aged just 37. “Losing Chris was the toughest time that we’ve had here as a business. He was such an incredible agent and beloved friend and colleague. Losing Chris was hard on everyone at the company.”
Attention to detail has served Bruford well, as he can only recall losing one act from his roster over the years. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the job, and it just comes with the territory, but I would like to think that other agents are fairly respectful. But, of course, if there’s an opportunity, they’ll go for it,” he laughs.
“We’ve had a lot of knocks at the door, but we’ve been following our path for all this time, and we will continue to do so”
The ATC Live ethos, devised by Bruford, has also attracted acquisition interest from rival agencies. “We’ve had a lot of knocks at the door,” says Bruford, “but we’ve been following our path for all this time, and we will continue to do so.”
To that end, Bruford brokered a partnership deal with Arrival Artists when the latter launched as an agency in 2020. “Erik Selz, John Bongiorno, Ali Hedrick, Karl Morse, and Ethan Berlin all came out of Paradigm in America during Covid and were setting up an agency. Erik, in particular, wanted to find an international partner, and at the same time, we wanted to have a partner in North America as well.”
Reporting on the success of the tie-up, Bruford says, “It’s three years now, and it’s going really well. Collectively, we’re the only independent agency to be able to offer global booking, which is great for us and the acts we represent. We communicate clearly, and we just provide a very dedicated and experienced service with agents in each market. We’re able to offer a personalised approach to global booking, so it’s been very satisfying to have found the right people to work with and to whom we’re very aligned in terms of the roster.”
Looking to the future, he does not rule out ATC Live satellite offices in other continents, especially as he believes that music coming out of the likes of Africa and Asia will see the emergence of new artists from those regions.
“We’ve got people in the building that represent clients from all around the world, but I think having agents that are more specialised in some of those territories will be certainly something for the future,” he comments.
“I feel very strongly that the artists need to be paid a fair share of the gross of the show, rather than just the small portion that they’re getting at the moment”
As for personal plans, Bruford tells IQ, “I’m very ambitious to continue improving our industry. I really feel as though there needs to be more transparency. We’ve had an industry that [for] too long has revolved around backhanders and rebates, and I feel very strongly that the artists need to be paid a fair share of the gross of the show, rather than just the small portion that they’re getting at the moment.
“I’d like to see serious dialogue about how we divide the revenues associated with live performance. When you get into ticketing, F&B, merch, and all the different revenue streams, we need to find a way for that to be split more fairly.”
And Alex is confident others in the industry agree. “Generally speaking, people are moving towards a more transparent business,” he says. “We’re seeing that in the States, especially with ticketing, where people want to understand where the money is going. But there are also a lot of people who like things the way they are.”
Cutting the carbon footprint of live performance is also a personal goal for Bruford. “I sit on the board of an American environmental non-profit called Sound Future, which is focused on activating tech solutions and leveraging the influence of live events to accelerate climate action.”
As a result, ATC Live provides green riders that its clients can adopt, depending how far each act wants to pursue such matters. “We want to have the tools to be able to advise them on all the possible options,” notes Bruford.
“We have to be cognisant of the wider ecosystem: we have to remember that grassroots venues are struggling, and without those grassroots venues, the talent pipeline stops”
Back To Basics Going Forward
Having successfully steered ATC Live through the Covid years, Bruford reports that the 25% of its headcount who departed during the pandemic have since returned, and employee numbers now exceed those of 2019.
“Live music is definitely back, and it’s great to see people going to shows and willing to spend money. But I think we have to be really careful about how much we charge for our tickets,” he warns.
“Lots of people are very focused on their own shows and maximising the revenue for those shows. But we have to be cognisant of the wider ecosystem: we have to remember that grassroots venues are struggling, and without those grassroots venues, the talent pipeline stops.
“Ultimately, we need to figure out a way of not just syphoning off all the money at the top but making sure that some of it finds its way into the grassroots end of the spectrum.”
That support is fundamental to the ATC Live chief, who discloses that a lot of his job satisfaction derives from breaking new talent. “Seeing an artist play their first-ever festival headline show is such a thrill,” he says. “Two years ago, Fontaines D.C. stepped on stage to headline Green Man, and the set was blistering, making it clear to everyone involved that this is a band that is going to headline many more festivals.
“Some festivals are taking risks on the next generation of headliners. Artists are getting bigger faster than they ever have”
“That moment of when you’ve taken an artist who was playing 100-capacity rooms, and you help them develop their career – the likes of Julia Jacklin springs to mind, where she recently sold-out 3,000 tickets at the Roundhouse. I started with her with 100 tickets, so it was a super-emotional evening for everyone.”
The appreciation works both ways, too. Such is Bruford’s relationship with Nick Cave that at the completion of his 32 headline festival run across Europe last summer, the artist left a signed photo album on Bruford’s desk detailing his performances with a heartfelt personal message to Alex thanking him for all he had done.
Meanwhile, the agent is genuinely excited about younger acts being given the chance to shine. “Some festivals are taking risks on the next generation of headliners,” he observes. “Artists are getting bigger faster than they ever have. Look at the likes of Boygenius who’ve gone stratospheric. So, it’s important that festivals give those artists an opportunity to headline.”
But he acknowledges that other acts – and often career musicians – are having to work hard on creative campaigns with their agents in order to entice fans back through venue doors. “If you’re hot, exciting, and new, then everybody wants to see you. But if you’re in the mid-level, where you’re used to grinding out 1,000 tickets a night, then rising costs and simply retaining the attention of fans is making life a lot more difficult than it used to be.”
Nonetheless, Bruford and his ATC Live team relish such challenges, and he concludes that he cannot imagine working in any other sector.
“It’s been a brilliant 20 years,” he acknowledges. “The interesting thing about this job is it’s all relative – a highlight can be an artist playing to 40,000 people or it can be an artist selling out to 2,000 people if that artist has slugged their guts out for ten years to get there. It’s all relevant to what that artist’s ambitions and expectations and career goals are. And we’re here to deliver on those wishes.”
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Wasserman Music unveils new exec hires
Global talent agency Wasserman Music has added four new executives to its team as it continues to grow its international workforce.
Brad Goodman and Taryn Haight join as Los Angeles-based SVP and VP of strategy, electronic music, respectively, while New York-based Sam Bartlett is named VP casinos/performing arts centres and Guy Mason is appointed as the firm’s London-based legal counsel, supporting its European Business Affairs team.
“The addition of Brad, Sam, Taryn, and Guy helps us continue to strengthen our organisation”
“Since the launch of Wasserman Music in 2021, we have always put a premium on our culture and on super-serving the artists we have the honour to represent around the world,” says Wasserman Music EVP & managing executive Lee Anderson. “The addition of Brad, Sam, Taryn, and Guy helps us continue to strengthen our organisation and solidify our place as the premier global music representation agency.”
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Wasserman operates across 27 countries and more than 62 cities, including New York, London, Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Madrid, Mexico City, Toronto, Paris and Sydney.
Goodman, who comes on board following a lengthy stint at WME, brings a roster of clients, including Melissa Etheridge, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Ziggy Marley, and Bartlett joins after a decade in the music and comedy touring departments at CAA and ICM.
In a newly created role, Haight will oversee brand-building and non-touring opportunities for the company’s roster of electronic music artists. Haight previously spent more than a decade in dance music marketing at labels including Ninja Tune, Warner Records and Ultra Records, and most recently served as head of strategy for creative incubator HIFI Labs.
In addition, Mason joins from VCCP Group LLP, where he served as a commercial and intellectual property solicitor covering a multi-disciplinary international group of affiliate agencies in areas including advertising, marketing, branding and data.
IFF 2023: CAA’s Emma Banks & Mike Greek hold court
CAA UK bosses Emma Banks and Mike Greek looked back on their storied careers and gave their thoughts on the current state of the business in a joint keynote at today’s International Festival Forum (IFF).
After more than 30 years of working together, the powerhouse duo behind CAA’s London office shared the conference stage for the first time ever.
The leading agents sat down with ILMC MD Greg Parmley to discuss a host of topics on the final day of the invite-only gathering at South London’s Omeara. Here are a selection of highlights of the hour-long discussion, starting with a time-warp back to 2006…
Leaving Helter Skelter to form CAA’s London office 17 years ago…
Mike Greek: “There were moments at Helter Skelter where it was a brilliant company with a great group of people, but we were only supportive of each other to a point. Naively, I thought we were all in it together, and there were moments where I’d help people but the feeling wouldn’t be reciprocated…When the opportunity to start looking at a different business model came about, that was a factor in deciding to set up a company with a more ‘American’ outlook which was based on camaraderie, teamwork, and togetherness instead of the old-school “eat what you kill” philosophy.”
Emma Banks: “We didn’t feel like we were being seen. And to follow up on what Mike said about America, which had just woken up to the fact that there were other places outside of New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles, they were taking our clients because, by and large, there’s more money to be made in America. All of those things together paved the way for us to talk to some of those US-based companies, and ultimately set up a CAA office in London.”
“If we can make money out of it, we can do it, and if we’re not already covering something, we’re thinking about doing it”
CAA UK’s growth…
MG: “When we started, we had around four or five people.”
EB: “Nowadays, we have various offices in London that cover different areas of the business. I think there’s around 380 people now in London that look after music, TV, sport — specifically football. We’ve got an executive search business, which is an emerging market, as well as podcasts and brand consulting. It’s grown massively to the point where we have offices in places like China and Singapore that look after a lot of things, despite our individual offices’ relatively small sizes. The domestic and international growth has been exceptional, and I can’t see it slowing down anytime soon.”
The 2023 festival season…
MG: “As we’re based in Europe, we do think a lot about European festivals. But our job starts at the Laneway Festival in Australia that happens every January or February, then we move towards festivals in Mexico and South America that normally begin around springtime before we enter the busy summer period. There’s a constant festival opportunity, and it’s not always concentrated on the May to July months. You see all these festivals changing and evolving alongside their host countries, and despite audiences wishing for better facilities or bigger lineups, I see huge growth across different territories all over the world.”
“I think we all get caught up in the idea that the industry revolves around the biggest festivals in the world, but it shouldn’t be”
The trend of A-list acts playing in more stadium shows than festivals…
EB: “Going forward, some of them will do that, but crucially not all. However, there are legitimately some artists you can’t put on a festival bill because, from a production and backstage facility standpoint, their demands can’t generally be achieved at a festival. As we’ve seen throughout the year, some of the biggest stadium shows featured megastars such as Beyoncé, Harry Styles, and Taylor Swift. It’s not just about the money they can take out of multiple sold-out stadia, but also the additional revenue generated from platinum ticketing, VIP ticketing, and their complete control over the artwork and the billing. There’s so much more control for them, and the money they can make from all the incidental stuff blows festivals out of the water.”
Festivals’ responsibility towards creating headliners…
MG: “It’s really a loaded question for the bigger festivals, but I think the opportunity for real artist growth and career development comes from their mid-size counterparts. I think we all get caught up in the idea that the industry revolves around the biggest festivals in the world, but it shouldn’t be. I’d much rather recommend an artist headline a 20,000 to 30,000-capacity crowd than being third or fourth in the bill of a 70,000-capacity festival, because I firmly believe that mid-sized festivals are the lifeblood of the industry and we should be seriously thinking about them in a rapidly crowded and changing market.”
“It’s probably an unpopular opinion, but I think that artist fees are too low”
On artist fees…
MG: “It’s probably an unpopular opinion, but I think that artist fees are too low. We always hear complaints about how festival fees have risen, but how often do you hear agents complaining about them making so much money? There’s no transparency on what the profit margins are in festivals, and it’s clearly a huge investment. With that said, I think artist fees should be improving because there are so many different ancillary revenue streams — especially for the bigger events — and I don’t think they recompense artists properly. I think more can be done for the artists playing in those festivals.”
EB: “I agree with Mike. We actually had a discussion in the office about general ticket prices, thinking about how we don’t actually charge enough on ticket prices in gigs, and we certainly don’t put enough in the budget for support acts anymore. When Mike and I started 30 years ago, there was around £50 to £100 for the support artists. Fast forward to now, and most of the time, there’s still only £50 to £100 for the supporting acts. It’s laughable because no one in their right mind would do anything for that. When there’s no transparency, we’re going to push for as much money for our artists as we can. If the artist fees don’t go up, more and more artists will resort to simply doing their own shows.”
What they’re most proud of during their run as co-heads so far…
MG: “I look at a lot of agents that worked with us. They’ve started with us and we’ve watched their careers grow over the years. I know it’s a bit cliché, but seeing them develop has been incredibly rewarding, and it’s great to see them grow and become leaders in their own right.”
EB: “That’s what it’s really all about. Very few people leave the company unless they’re leaving the business. It’s also very important to maintain a culture amongst your colleagues and employees, which can’t be fostered through a Teams meeting online. We all spend so much time together. There’s also the fact that we do some great work with our clients, but that comes from being in a happy, positive environment.”
“Watching an artist you’ve been with for years grow is still incredibly rewarding”
What keeps them motivated…
MG: “Constantly working with new artists keeps us energised. It’s another cliché, but watching an artist you’ve worked with for years grow is still incredibly rewarding and exciting. Seeing them go through their first phase as an artist to sell out their first major headline show keeps me going.”
EB: “I’m pretty much the same as Mike. When you start working with an artist who’s playing their first gig in a tiny club, and then later get them to a point where they’re headlining arenas and festivals, is truly something special. You maintain a good relationship with them to the point where you know their families well, and as we’ve seen numerous times, record company people come and go but it’s often the case where agents are one of the very few people that remain a consistent presence in their lives. It’s great if you sign a big artist, but the good vibes really come from working with emerging talents you’ve been with from the very beginning. They’ve grown with you, and that’s really special.”
What do they admire most about each other…
EB: “It’s his dedication. He’s done an amazing job balancing his family and his job without ever taking his eye off the ball. His clients get 100% of him, but his family are also properly looked after to the point where he’s even allowed his children to have a dog, and he hates dogs! He’s always been so supportive of me, and without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
MG: “Emma’s a leader, and she’s brilliant at what she does. She’s so intuitive about the way our business should grow, and thinks nonstop about how we can develop a culture and how we can bring people on. It’s very rare in life that you have a working relationship that we’ve had that supports each other, and her leadership qualities are second to none.”