Learning & growing: 12 key lessons from the corona crisis
The latest issue of IQ Magazine features a bumper coronavirus special report that delves into the lessons learnt from the crisis, various governments’ responses to the pandemic, and predictions for the shape of the industry’s post-Covid-19 recovery.
Here, we look at the key business takeaways from the global concert business shutdown, with a little help from Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, Echo Location’s Obi Asika, Yourope’s Christof Huber and more…
1. Entrepreneurialism and creativity remain at the heart of the industry
While much of the debate in the live music sector in recent years has centred around independent versus corporate approaches, when the shit hit the fan the spirit of entrepreneurialism has shone through.
Artists around the world have been streaming live shows and content to maintain their relationship with fans, while companies big and small are thinking outside the box and going above and beyond to help out employees, crew and others in the business, financially and though other support packages.
“We adapt fast and we can deal with the curveballs,” comments Live Nation Belgium’s Herman Schueremans. “We are resilient and artists and fans will always find a way to connect.”
2. Technology makes mass home-working a possibility
The use of Zoom, Houseparty, Skype, FaceTime and other video conferencing platforms has helped millions of employees around the world to effectively communicate with colleagues, peers and clients in a way that many would have thought impossible a few months ago.
“Anyone who said home-working doesn’t work was wrong,” says Live Nation chairman of international music, Thomas Johansson.
3. The appetite for risk needs revision
The very nature of the live music industry had historically relied on a cash-flow wing and a prayer, with everyone in the chain relying to some extent on future earnings to pay for their latest projects. The sudden cessation of the business has put this situation into sharp relief, as thousands of event postponements and cancellations have highlighted that the global business could collapse if refunds were mandated internationally.
“You have to have reserves,” states Obi Asika of London-based agency Echo Location. “A lot of this business focuses on the future, prospecting and possibilities. We make bookings really far in advance and now this has shown that anything can happen.”
“This crisis has shown that anything can happen”
4. Every day brings new challenges
It seems that as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, uncertainty will be the new norm. Agents, promoters, artist managers, venue operators and everybody in the production supply chain are working incredibly hard to make sure things are ready for business to resume, but with no concrete dates to work toward, the planning process is never-ending.
“We make plans and strategise and then overnight something happens and the next day we have to start all over again,” says Paradigm’s Alex Hardee. “When I’m doing my P&Ls at the moment, they are all Ls.”
5. Government intervention is crucial
The live music business has a long and proud tradition of policing itself and trying hard to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to issues like health and safety and self-regulation. However, it has become apparent in the coronavirus environment that businesses involved in the live entertainment sector need the co-operation of government and local authorities to survive.
At the time of writing, summer festivals in some countries are still waiting to announce 2020 cancellations because they have not been told by government that they cannot hold this year’s events, meaning that promoters could be liable to pay artist fees if they take that sensible decision themselves.
“There’s a fear among promoters when it comes to announcing festival cancellations, because nobody wants to lose the momentum when difficult decisions need to be taken,” says Christof Huber of European festival association Yourope.
6. One rotten apple can spoil the barrel
The domino effect of a cancelled show has never been more apparent than during the economic shutdown. Artists often rely on the revenues from certain key festival or headline dates to pay for visits to less lucrative markets, and the cancellation of one or more of those key dates can put the whole tour – and, therefore, other festival shows – in jeopardy.
With the pandemic amplifying this situation more than ever before, festival organisers who perhaps previously viewed each other as rivals have been working closely on key announcements and strategies.
“We make plans and strategise and then overnight something happens, and the next day we have to start all over again”
7. Honesty is the best policy
With millions of people suddenly and unexpectedly facing redundancy, business owners and senior management around the world have never been under greater scrutiny. However, early and continued communication has proved invaluable during the halt to commerce and, by and large, people who have been included in the hard conversations have accepted that everyone is in the same boat because of this global crisis.
“If you are transparent, honest and upfront with people, then when you have to make difficult decisions the reaction of people can pleasantly surprise you,” reports Paradigm’s Hardee.
8. There goes my hero, he’s ordinary
People that society has taken for granted are stepping up and putting the health of themselves and their families at risk to make sure the rest of the world’s suffering is minimised. Health workers, carers, supermarket employees, teachers, sanitation staff, pharmacists, truck and delivery drivers and many more ‘ordinary’ people are the true heroes of the hour.
9. Insurers need to take a long hard look at themselves
There’s no need to mention any names, but for reference have a look at Hellfest’s website about the small-print cowardice that has been manipulated to shirk responsibility. To quote our French comrades: “Fuck you!”
10. Coronavirus is kryptonite to the super-touts
As much as the legitimate live music industry is reeling from cancellations, postponements and having to deal with refunds and other unexpected costs, the situation for the secondary ticketing business is even more dire, as many super-touts have to deal with inventory they can no longer shift.
Having agreed a highly controversial $4 billion deal that would see it merge with Viagogo, in late March, StubHub announced it was furloughing two thirds of its staff, and company policy on refunds would change, whereby purchasers of tickets to cancelled events in North America would now be offered vouchers, rather than refunds. Cue class-action lawsuits.
With StubHub now reportedly struggling hard and Viagogo saddled with debt, the future for the world’s biggest secondary ticketing platforms looks precarious to say the least. “In the context of the unprecedented crisis being played out in all our lives, this could well be one the most poorly timed acquisitions in recent corporate history,” says Adam Webb, campaign manager for FanFair Alliance.
2021 could prove to be live music’s most important year ever
11. Trade associations and industry collectives are proving their worth
In days gone by – and they are not that long ago – the live music industry was a cutthroat, highly competitive battlefield where often ludicrous deals would price others out of the game, all in the name of market share.
Coronavirus has levelled the playing field somewhat, and it’s heartening to witness just how quickly previously warring factions have come around the table to collaborate and agree sensible paths forward to try to minimise the impact on staff, suppliers and, of course, the artists. Hats off to the many trade associations and organisations who are lobbying parliaments, government ministers and local authorities on behalf of the business – you have never been so important to the livelihoods of so many people.
“[The corona crisis has] certainly made me realise the huge importance of associations and representative bodies,” says Kilimanjaro Live boss Stuart Galbraith. “Government don’t want to talk to individual commercial organisations, but they will talk to the Concert Promoters Association, AIF, UK Music, etc., and there’s been huge co-operation between [the associations] as well. Because it affects everybody.”
12. It’s only rock’n’roll… but I like it
As lucky as we are to have careers in such a great industry, at the end of the day it’s only rock’n’roll. Yes, it’s important for culture and for people’s happiness and wellbeing, but people we know are dying – relatives, friends and neighbours – and the battle to minimise that death toll far outweighs any gig, tour or event (or shareholder expectations, for that matter).
However, the hundreds of musicians and artists who are livestreaming to entertain millions of fans confined to their homes shows that the power of music is as strong as ever. Once we emerge from this dark period, people will be clamouring to get out, socialise and see their favourite acts.
Twenty-twenty is undoubtedly going to take its toll, but for those able to remain in the business, 2021 could prove to be live music’s most important year ever.
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Coi Leray continues Radar Station domination
In a Radar Station first, New Jersey-born rapper Coi Leray has topped the chart for the third time in November – and the second time in as many months, following a brief usurpation by Australian drill act OneFour in September.
Speaking to IQ last month, Paradigm’s Mike Malak, who represents Leray together with Alex Hardee, attributed the rapper’s fast-growing popularity to her reworking of the urban genre and unique style.
Leray (pictured), who is signed with Republic Records, got her breakthrough with the single ‘Huddy’ in September 2018, which now has over 3.2 million listens on Spotify. The artist’s latest track, ‘Add It’, was released last month, as Leray prepares for her first headline tour in 2020.
Climbing into silver-medal position is University of San Francisco student 24kGoldn, real name Golden Landis Von Jones, who held third place in last month’s Radar Station. The rapper is playing at Rolling Loud Los Angeles festival on 14 December, which is headlined by the likes of Chance the Rapper, Future and Lil Uzi Vert.
Nasty Cherry, the brainchild of UK singer Charli XCX, come in at third. The female four-piece made waves last month with the release of their six-episode Netflix reality series I’m With the Band: Nasty Cherry, described by the Guardian as “a riotous clash of Big Brother meets Drag Race meets Spice World”.
The Radar Station algorithm calculates the fastest-growing new artists by combining data across a number of online platforms, including Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Songkick and Last.fm.
See below for a Spotify playlist of last month’s Radar Station top 20, plus the full chart with links to artists’ social pages and contact details.
|This month||Last month||Artist||Country|
|20||7||Sueco the Child||US|
For more details about the Radar Station, contact email@example.com.
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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.”
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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ATC Live agent Chris Meredith passes, aged 37
Chris Meredith, agent at ATC Live and festival director at Neverworld Music Festival, has passed away at the age of 37.
Lee Denny, Neverworld founder says, “Chris had a rare and wonderful character. His unwavering dedication to supporting the projects, artists and music he loved was unmatched.
“Throughout our time together as friends and colleagues, and all the highs and lows that came with them, Chris could be relied upon to be gentle, supportive and kind in every interaction.”
A much-loved member of the live music community, Meredith worked with artists including We Are Scientists, Sleeper, Fazerdaze and the Veils in his role at ATC Live.
“Chris had a rare and wonderful character. His unwavering dedication to supporting the projects, artists and music he loved was unmatched”
ATC Live’s Alex Bruford says, “Chris joined us in 2015 and brought a wealth of knowledge to the company. As well as being a talented agent, he was a wonderful, kind, funny and generous man and a good friend to many across the industry. We will miss him deeply.”
Previously, Meredith had spent time at Coda Agency and ITB, as well as working on various aspects of Nozstock: The Hidden Valley Festival, Red Rooster Festival and running his own promotions company.
Latitude festival’s Ed Lilo says, “From co-promoting DIY shows in Brighton to being a top sounding board [and sometimes agent!] for me at Festival Republic, Chris was always a smart, funny and genuine human and I miss him tremendously. Sad times.”
Paradigm’s Alex Hardee adds, “Chris was a very lovely guy who still had a lot of friends at Coda ( I know we are called Paradigm now) – it has really hit some of them hard that he is now gone and at such a young age. Condolences to the family, he will be sorely missed.”
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ILMC 31: The Open Forum: With or Without EU
Live Nation’s president of international touring, Phil Bowdery, returned as host for this year’s standing room-only Opening Forum, which saw six heavyweights gather to discuss the last 12 months in the business, hot-button industry issues and the looming threat of Brexit.
After running through some of the headline figures from 2018 – the largest tour was Ed Sheeran’s ÷, which grossed US$432.4m from 93 concerts in 53 cities, with Taylor Swift’s Reputation in second – Bowdery asked what the trend towards rising ticket prices, coupled in many cases with falling attendances, outlined in IQ’s European Festival Report 2018 means for the industry’s future growth.
Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) CMO Detlef Kornett said that while his company experienced healthy growth last year – and that sales of top-end tickets continue to grow – less wealthy fans are increasingly finding themselves priced out of shows. “Twenty per cent of the population in Germany now can’t afford to go to a show,” he explained. “The P1s keep increasing, but the lower end is a concern.”
Coda agent Alex Hardee said while he didn’t have any statistics to hand (“not that that’s stopped me before!”) he feels the overall market is “flat”. “You’re never going to have a problem selling [new, hot acts like] Billie Eilish, but it’s more difficult with bands on their second, third albums… Record labels are the strongest they’ve been since the ’80s, but the live industry feels like it’s plateauing slightly.”
Tim Leiweke, the ex-AEG CEO who now leads venues company Oak View Group (OVG) – which used the conference to launch its new London-based OVG International division – cautioned that the business “need[s] to address whether we’re pricing people out of concerts”, especially if the global economy takes a downturn.
Solo Agency’s John Giddings countered: “Every time we put a show on sale, it seems to sell out. People want to go out and have a good time.” He revealed that his Isle of Wight Festival 2019 had sold more than 30,000 tickets before it had announced a single artist.
“Fortnite is a $60bn business, and it doesn’t charge to play. … I think there’s a lot to be learnt from that”
However, he added: “We push ticket prices all the time – the artists want more money, venues want that peripheral income – so there must be a level it reaches when we say it’s enough.”
Marsha Vlasic of Artist Group International (AGI) said AGI had a great year, with the likes of Billy Joel, Def Leppard and Metallica continuing to sell out shows. She said her biggest concern for the future is “who are the next headliners, and how do we get the next generation of acts to that level?”.
Asked about the impending merger of AEG Facilities and SMG, and the new company, ASM Global’s, potential to rival OVG, Leiweke said he doesn’t think “two [companies] coming together is ever good”, predicting that “they’re going to get challenged in the UK, they’re going to get challenged in Germany and elsewhere in Europe…” He also revealed that OVG’s lawyers are “looking at it” on anti-competition concerns.
Returning to ticket pricing, and the value of the market, artist manager Bill Silva argued that the live music industry – predicted to top $30bn in 2022, according to the latest PwC data – is actually small fry compared to the videogames business, where many IPs rely on a free-to-access model.
“Fortnite is a $60 billion business, and it doesn’t charge to play,” said Silva. “That’s one game that’s bigger than our entire industry by a multiple [of two]. I think there’s a lot to be learnt from what’s going on there – people are spending their time on that activity, rather than music and concerts – there’s a model around engagement and experience that encourages them to spend.”
“It’s the old drug dealer model,” he joked. “‘First one’s on me,’ right? Not that I was a drug dealer…”
Kornett argued the success of games like Fornite could help open up to the live business to a wider audience, using the example of DJ Marshmello’s recent performance in Fortnite, which was seen by 10m people.
“We need to remember we work in a system where other people rely on us”
Following on from ILMC head Greg Parmley’s welcome address, when he paid tribute to the ILMC members who had died in 2018, Silva urged the industry to come together and look after those in need.
“When we watch our artists taking their own lives – Chris Cornell, Chester [Bennington] and now this week Keith Flint – as well as promoters [referencing Croatia’s Jordan Rodić, who committed suicide in January], we need to remember we work in a system where other people rely on us as well.
“I guarantee any of the people around people who have taken their lives would say they did everything they could, or that they had no idea… We all have a lot of fun doing what we do, but I like to end most interaction on a high note and let people know I appreciate and respect them.”
Inevitably, with the UK set to leave the EU (with or without a deal) at the end of this month, talk then turned to Brexit. Several people in the room said they were hedging dollars to prepare for any post-Brexit plunge in the pound. “We’re in a gambling business, and that’s just another gamble we’re taking,” said Giddings.
“We’ve been following everything on Brexit, all the scenarios,” added Hardee, “but what can we do?”
Asked the view from the continent, Kornett said: “Once in a while, it’s good to take the other side. The UK industry accounts for almost 25% of Europe’s, so if it gets harder to get to the UK from Europe our business gets harder. So there should be a vested interest to avoid that.”
Hardee warns of biz burnout as report reveals huge stress levels
Coda Agency partner Alex Hardee today warned of the dangers of a “24/7” working culture across much of the live music business, as a new report reveals more than three quarters of UK promoters and venue bosses may be struggling with continuous stress and anxiety.
Speaking during his keynote at the International Festival Forum in London, Hardee, a self-confessed “workaholic”, told interviewer Paul Crockford: “It’s too late for me – I’m fucked. I’m a workaholic. It’s shit – it’s unhealthy and I can’t get out of it.”
Hardee’s comments – a rare sober moment in an otherwise entertaining and ebullient interview, set to appear online in the coming days – come as ticket agency Skiddle releases new data which shows many UK execs are struggling with “astronomical” levels of stress on a daily basis.
“I’d like the generation that comes after me to look after themselves,” Hardee continued. “The music industry has got it completely wrong, and that [24/7 working culture] is why you see a lot of people fall over and break down. You need to have breaks, and people work better when they have breaks and they’re well rested.”
“That 24/7 working culture is why you see a lot of people fall over and break down”
A survey of more than 500 promoters, events organisers and venue owners found that 82% of industry professionals have suffered with stress, 67% said they had anxiety and 40% said they had struggled with depression. Additionally, one in ten have developed associated symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as a “direct result of their work in music”.
Some 65% of promoters said they frequently felt an “intense and unmanageable level of pressure”, while almost half (47%) said their work in the music industry often led to a constant feeling of anxiety and sadness.
“After running a festival for a couple of years, the workload this year ended up depressing me to a level that I had suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self harm,” says one, speaking under the condition of anonymity. “A couple of months later I had panic attacks when thinking about starting the process again, and decided to go on hiatus instead.”
Another says: “It’s the loneliness and isolation that scares me. Anxiety and stress are just part and parcel of the job. It’s sad but true.”
Asked what causes them the most stress working in promoting, 45% said “no regular income” and 43% the “lack of support”, with unsociable hours and the effect the job has on relationships also scoring highly.
“The results of this survey do not make for an easy read”
Commenting on the results of the survey, Ben Sebborn, co-founder and director of Skiddle, comments: “The results of this survey do not make for an easy read, and it’s troubling to see that so many promoters are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. Skiddle have been working alongside independent and large-scale promoters for nearly two decades and fully appreciate how difficult the job can be.
“As well as organising a series of panel sessions to discuss the issues raised in the survey, we will also be working with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) to ensure we are industry leaders in supporting promoters and offering them the assistance they need to work happily and effectively.”
BAPAM director Claire Cordeaux adds: “It’s well evidenced that mental health problems are considerably higher in the performing artist community than in the general population, and the industry is increasingly recognising the need for support. Skiddle’s survey of promoters, one of the first of its kind, is a timely reminder that it is not just performers that need help.”
See Skiddle’s findings in full in the infographic below:
Alex Hardee announced as IFF 2018 keynote
Coda Agency partner Alex Hardee has been revealed as the keynote interviewee for the fourth International Festival Forum (IFF), taking place in London later this month.
Hardee – the subject of an IQ feature last year celebrating his quarter-century as an agent – follows in the footsteps of Isle of Wight Festival’s John Giddings, Rock am Ring’s Marek and Andre Lieberberg and Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis to take the hot seat on 27 September at the invitation-only event for festivals and bookers.
His interviewer will be veteran manager Paul Crockford, known for his work with Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler and Paul Simon.
“Thursday at IFF starts with a session that could well go down in conference history: Alex Hardee’s first-ever keynote interview,” say conference organisers. “The Coda Agency co-founder and partner boasts over 25 years in the business and a roster that includes Bastille, Liam Gallagher, London Grammar, Missy Elliott, Rag’n’Bone Man, Sia and Tom Odell. And with a family background in comedy (he was recently described by Music Week as “the business’s funniest man”), Alex is never short of an opinion.”
“Thursday at IFF starts with a session that could well go down in conference history”
IFF 2018 launched in April, with agency partners including CAA, Coda, Primary Talent, X-ray Touring, United Talent Agency, ITB, ATC Live, MN2S, Pitch & Smith and OTM Touring. IFF takes place on 25–27 September around Camden in north London, at venues including Fest (formerly Proud Camden), Dingwalls, Camden Assembly and Lockside Camden. The morning conference sessions feature a mixture of panels, workshops and the IFF Keynote, while the afternoon and evening are dedicated to agency showcases and networking.
Adding to the previously announced showcases by UTA, Primary Talent, ATC Live and Midnight Mango, the IFF 2018 conference agenda is fast approaching completion. Kicking off Wednesday’s conference schedule at 10am is the Festival Season 2018, chaired by Coda’s Clementine Brunel, which looks beyond the headlines to discover the current festival state of play, while the Generation Game sees Mojo Concerts’ Kim Bloem ask whether industry’s future bosses are rewriting the rulebook or following the lead of those that have come before them.
On Thursday, Beyond the Main Stage: Adventures in Non-Music sees PR guru Nikki McNeill highlights the new forms of entertainment we can expect to see at festivals in future, while digital evangelist Sammy Andrews’s Curation Session explores the best platforms and services available to festival bookers in an increasingly data-driven business.
Full event details, including last-minute tickets for festivals, are online at www.iff.rocks.
Kili, Glasto, Eventim and more honoured at MW Awards
Kilimanjaro Live, Glastonbury Festival, Eventim UK and Coda’s Alex Hardee were among the live business winners at last night’s Music Week Awards 2018 in London.
Kili took home the Skiddle-sponsored award for live music promoter (company), while Hardee was named best live music agent (individual). Eventim was honoured as best ticketing company, and Glastonbury as festival of the year.
Ed Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp, meanwhile, took home the gong for manager of the year, while the 275-capacity Boileroom in Guildford was named best grassroots venue.
The annual event was this year attended by more than 1,200 guests at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair.
A Hardee act to follow
Notching up a quarter of a century in any profession is quite a landmark, but when you’ve also helped elevate your company to the A-list among the agency elite, then that achievement is all the more impressive. On top of that, boasting an artist roster that includes a raft of established talent, as well as some of the most talked about breakthrough acts in A&R circles, like Rag’n’Bone Man and Blaise Moore, and you’ll realise why Alex Hardee has the respect of his peers around the world.
But the man himself is in bizarre denial about clocking up 25 years as an agent. “I think it’s actually 27½ years, but I can’t remember 2½ of those,” he confesses.
Born in Lewisham, south London, Alex grew up with an older brother, Malcolm, who was a success on the comedy circuit and ran the Tunnel Club. “Do you remember the act where the guys were naked but danced with the balloons covering them up? That was Malcolm,” he says. “He wrote a book called I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake – you can still buy it. He’d been booked to perform at his birthday party but a load of paparazzi turned up and Freddie’s manager decided they couldn’t have a bunch of guys dancing naked as the entertainment, as Freddie hadn’t come out yet. But Freddie was at his party wearing a dress – and his band was called Queen!”
Unsure about what he wanted to do when he left school, Alex adopted a maverick strategy to choose his path in life. “I was really into Luke Rhinehart’s The Dice Man, so I put my faith in the dice to decide which university and which course I would do.” As a result, teenage Alex found himself in Manchester studying aeronautical engineering.
At the same time, he followed in the footsteps of his brother and started booking comedians to make some money, establishing his own agency, Hardee Arts, to brand his endeavours. “In our second year at university, the people running the course started talking about careers and said that if we graduated we could expect to get a job as an engineer for about £16k a year. At that point I was already earning £25k part-time through the agency, so I decided university was a waste of time and I left.”
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Coda forms strategic partnership with ITG
Coda Agency has formed a joint venture with London-based Independent Talent Group (ITG), one of Europe’s leading film and literary agencies.
The deal, which Coda partner agent Alex Hardee tells IQ has been two years in the making, will “enable broad cross-platform access across their respective rosters and [incorporate] capabilities in brand partnerships and licensing, digital and corporate events”, according to a joint statement from the two agencies.
ITG’s client base encompasses actors, directors, writers, producers, models, presenters, comedians and casting directors, while the company incorporates entertainment and fashion marketing firm ITB Worldwide, corporate entertainment arm ITG Corporate and voiceover agency Advoice.
Also based in London, Coda is one of Europe’s fastest-growing music agencies, currently employing 19 agents. Its live roster includes Take That, The xx, Disclosure, London Grammar, Tiësto, The Prodigy, Sia and Brits critics’ choice winner Rag’n’Bone Man.
Formed in 2002, the agency has shown robust growth over recent years, adding several high profile agents to its ranks including Cris Hearn, who joined from Primary Talent in April 2014; Solomon Parker, who moved from WME Entertainment in August 2015; and, most recently, Natasha Bent, who joined from UTA in November 2016.
The JV enables “broad cross-platform access across the agencies respective rosters and incorporates capabilities in brand partnerships and licensing, digital and corporate events”
Beverly Hills-based Paradigm Talent Agency bought a 50% stake in Coda in January 2014, enabling the two agencies to pool their expertise and resources on a global basis. Paradigm had announced a strategic joint partnership with leading EDM agency AM Only two years prior, while Windish Agency was added to the fold in July 2014.
Of Paradigm’s three ‘strategic partners’, Coda was the only not rebrand as Paradigm earlier this month.
The joint venture with ITG gives Coda the opportunity to offer non-music services to its roster of clients, in a similar vein as agency giants CAA and WME Entertainment. ITG’s client list includes actors Daniel Craig, Colin Firth and Claire Foy, director Danny Boyle and writer-comedian Steve Coogan.
The new Coda-ITG alliance has also announced the launch of a fund – believed to be millions of pounds – to invest in “innovative and future-facing live projects in Europe”. Further details will be announced in the coming months.