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Six of the best from Alex Hardee & John Giddings

Heavyweight agents Alex Hardee and John Giddings served up a treat for ILMC delegates by starring in one of the most entertaining panels yet seen at a music business conference.

Coda Agency co-founder Hardee, now of Wasserman Music, and Isle of Wight Festival promoter Giddings, of Solo Agency, sat down in front of a standing room only audience to review their respective career paths and retell some of the many stories of their lives in the concert industry.

Here are six of the best tales (that we can print) from the double act’s ‘Dragons’ Den’ masterclass…

Why they became agents…

John Giddings: “I couldn’t get a real job. When I was 14 at school my mate said his group had split up and why didn’t I learn to play bass and pull a few chicks, so I thought it was a good idea. But then we were playing Harpenden Youth Club and a skinhead came and stood in front of me and said, ‘If you don’t stop playing now, I’m going to hit you,’ which was the end of my musical career. But I was better at booking the gig than being in it and my mate was social sec at the local college and he got a job in the music business. So I knew if you went to university and became social sec, you’d meet people in the music business and get a job. I got offered a job… Barry Dickins couldn’t decide between me and Paul Loasby, so he employed both of us.”

Alex Hardee: “Believe it or not, I actually was doing aeronautical engineering at university. My brother [the late Malcolm Hardee] was a comedian and he introduced me to lots of other comedians like Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard… And I started booking them while I was a student. Then I got a 2:2 in my second year in aeronautical engineering and [careers’ advice] said, ‘If you work really hard and get a 2:1 then you will be able to work in Enfield Aerodrome and get £16,000 a year.’ And I went, ‘Fuck no, I’m already earning £25,000 a year!’ So I left university the next day and that’s how I became an agent. I mean, some still say I am a comedy agent…”

“Groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn money”

Changing client relations…

JG: “When you start, you’re petrified about losing an act because you need to earn the money to pay your mortgage. And then finally, when you earn some money and you buy your house, the relationship changes. If a group comes to you and says, ‘We want to do this tour of beaches and rent a big top and go around the UK.’ And you can tell them it’s a fucking stupid idea which you couldn’t tell them before because you’re worried about losing them. But then when acts get to a stadium level, it’s a different level of representation. I’ve always thought groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn more money, but… it doesn’t work like that. Try telling a group they should pay you more money when they get bigger. And the poor little group has no money to pay you in the first place.”

AH: “As soon as you’re worried about losing an act, you’ve already lost them. What’s quite interesting is when an artist starts to become unsuccessful they can’t fire the record label. So probably first thing they’d do would be to fire the agent, because they don’t have a contract. But it’s interesting in Covid… I thought there’d be a lot more change. But the agents couldn’t get blamed for nothing happening for the last two years so they couldn’t get fired!”

“The middle is being squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer. A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point”

The ’22 summer season…

JG: “Shows that went on sale before Christmas have done quite well, but shows that have gone on sale since then are beginning to struggle and it’s becoming soft in the market, because there’s three years’ worth of touring in one year. So we’ve all got to watch out. I don’t think it’s going to come completely back to normal until the start of ’23. Everybody’s putting on a brave face, but there’s a lot out there and it costs a third more to fill up your car, or your electricity bill now… If you’re a punter, you’re going to worry about your food bill, as opposed to buying a ticket for a festival.”

AH: “This year, there’s too much on, there are too many shows. There’s more tickets on sale, but the P&Ls for the individual shows aren’t making profits. So it’s a good year to be an agent or a ticketing company, but the promoters are going to suffer and that will have to get readjusted the following year. The middle’s been squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer I think… A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point.”

JG: “The kids are still going out. I mean, the Little Mix tour we keep releasing production seats and they sell like hot cakes. Harry Styles sells out.”

AH: “Billie Eilish… The top never gets squeezed but the middle acts, the middle festivals, the middle events, there’s a lot of trouble there. it’s going to be hard.”

“I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer”

Best festival memory…

JG: “Jay-Z was playing [Isle of Wight] and the audience of going wild. I thought, ‘An audience can’t go more wild than they are now,’ and then Kanye West walked on behind him… I turned around to my left, and there was Beyoncé standing next to me and I thought, ‘This is worth it.'”

AH: “This isn’t my best one, but it’s reminded me of a good one: I was at Hyde Park and I managed to blag on stage to Jay-Z. There was Beyoncé, Sacha Baron Cohen, Madonna and somehow me on the side of the stage and I was fucking desperate for a drink but there weren’t any. I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer. I go, ‘Can I have a beer mate?’ And he goes, ‘Here bruv’. And I thought, ‘Fucking “bruv!”‘ I went, ‘Oh thanks. where are we going afterwards then? I hear it’s all back to yours because yours is the closest.’ That’s a true story!”

“All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word”

Least favourite thing about the live business…

JG: “When people bullshit you – it’s so boring. The easiest thing in the world is to tell the truth, because then you can at least remember what you’ve said. All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word. And it’s so disappointing when people let you down and don’t deliver… It’s rife with bullshit, that’s the thing I like least about it.”

AH: “Smoke and mirrors is much harder nowadays, everything’s a stat, you can’t say I sold out Brixton if you didn’t sell out Brixton. Within two seconds, you can find out every ticket count, everyone can find everything.”

JG: “One thing that’s changed in the music business is, when I joined it, everybody used to lie about ticket sales and say they were less than they really were. And they still lie about ticket sales, but by saying they’re more than they really are. So they’ve never actually told the truth in the whole of my career.”

AH: “The promoters used to say they were less?”

JG: “Yeah, because they didn’t want to pay you as much and now everybody’s embarrassed by it so they inflate it when they tell it to you. Unless you speak to Simon Moran, who knows every ticket sale for every show throughout the universe…”

Advice they would give their 16-year-old selves…

AH: “Don’t.”

JG: “It’s so long ago I can’t remember, seriously. I mean, to be in this business you have to work really hard. You have to work the room and you have to deliver on your word. It’s not brain of Britain stuff, but people have to be able to trust you. If people can trust in you then they’re confident in what they’re doing.”

 


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Wasserman Music acquires Paradigm’s UK business

Wasserman Music has acquired Paradigm UK’s live music business in a deal that expands both the agency’s global client roster and its European footprint.

The blockbuster deal comes a year after the launch of Wasserman Music, which itself followed the completion of its acquisition of Paradigm’s North American live music business.

UK partners Dave Hallybone, Alex Hardee, Tom Schroeder and James Whitting, who founded Coda Agency in 2002, have joined the Wasserman Music managing executive team as part of the deal, which reunites the London-based team with their North American colleagues. Coda partnered with Paradigm in 2014 and fully came under the Paradigm name in 2019.

“With this group under one banner, we now have a truly scalable and serviceable global music practice”

“I am incredibly proud to reunite Alex, Dave, James, Tom and their team with the full force of our Wasserman Music group,” says Wasserman chairman and CEO Casey Wasserman, who will deliver a keynote interview at ILMC 34 tomorrow (27 April) at London’s Royal Garden Hotel. “They not only persevered through a once in a lifetime pandemic, but prioritised their clients and partnerships in a way that is consistent with our values and commitment to talent. With this group now under one banner, we now have a truly scalable and serviceable global music practice and look forward to strengthening our platform together.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to be back under the same name as our longtime partners in London,” says Wasserman Music EVP and managing executive Marty Diamond. “We share common values and a deep commitment to artist development, and with live music coming back huge this year, we’re confident that together we can secure the health, success and growth of our clients’ careers throughout the world.

“We have persevered and continued to excel in our global efforts during this incredibly challenging time, and we have worked closely through it all to provide continuous service to our clients.”

“Casey and his team are the most ambitious we have ever met”

Wasserman Music’s roster now includes globally represented artists Baby Keem, Bastille, Billie Eilish, Brent Faiyaz, Disclosure, Drake, Frank Ocean, Fred again.., Imagine Dragons, Kacey Musgraves, Kenny Chesney, Liam Gallagher, Louis Tomlinson, Normani, ODESZA, Old Dominion, Pharrell, Sia, Skrillex, Sturgill Simpson, SZA, Turnstile, Wet Leg and Zedd, among others.

With the UK client roster merging into Wasserman Music, the agency now also handles international representation outside North America for artists including Bon Iver, FKA Twigs, Lewis Capaldi, Liam Payne, Mark Ronson, My Chemical Romance, PinkPantheress, Rag’n’Bone Man, Rita Ora, Robyn, Sean Paul, Shawn Mendes, Take That and X Ambassadors.

“The pandemic was incredibly testing for the industry,” says London partner Tom Schroeder. “It really made us all look at everything we have achieved and where we were going. What we saw in Wasserman was a company very different from others – dynamic, fast-moving, open, and honest. The commitment from our staff was incredible, and I couldn’t be more proud and determined to continue our journey.

“Casey and his team are the most ambitious we have ever met, and their reach and vision is inspiring. We have always seen ourselves as the alternative, and that fits better today than ever before.”

“The UK music partners are an exceptional group, and we congratulate them on this new chapter”

Over the course of 20 years, Wasserman has established itself as one of the world’s leading companies in the areas of brands and properties consultancy, sports talent representation and music artist representation. The addition of a London office adds to Wasserman’s network of more than 30 offices in 14 countries on three continents.

Sam Gores, majority shareholder of Paradigm Music UK, adds: “The UK music partners are an exceptional group, and we congratulate them on this new chapter.”

Paradigm will continue its collaboration with Wasserman Music through the shared representation of music clients in film, television, theatre, and publishing.

 


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Top agents discuss the war’s impact on touring

Top agents from the western world have discussed how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may impact the future of international touring.

Following Russia’s all-out assault of its Eastern European neighbours, live music behemoths such as Live Nation and OVG have severed ties with Putin’s nation.

Meanwhile, a growing number of artists are cancelling concerts in Russia including Green Day, Oxxxymiron, AJR, Imagine Dragons, Louis Tomlinson, Yungblud, Franz Ferdinand, Health, Roisin Murphy, Iggy Pop, The Killers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Bring Me the Horizon.

Paradigm’s Tom Schroeder tells IQ that the outlook for future international shows in Russia is “pretty bleak”.

“Unless there is a really significant change to the situation, I think Russia could be pushed out in the cold as a touring market for some time. It’s important to say, I have been talking to our Russian promoter friends this week, making it clear we know this is Putin’s war, not Russia’s war, and we support them fully.

“I think Russia could be pushed out in the cold as a touring market for some time”

“Sadly that doesn’t mean it is viable as a touring market, and they are very aware. After the last two years we have all faced, for these promoters to now have this – is mind-blowing, and heartbreaking,” he adds.

Solo’s John Giddings echoes Schroeder’s sentiment: “I can’t see any shows being booked there in the foreseeable future. We have cancelled Iggy Pop and we’re in the process of cancelling all of our shows there. We were negotiating other tours but never got to confirmation because of the uncertainty.

“I don’t think Putin is going to care much about having no concerts but the population will and hopefully put pressure on him to stop. The music business has to act as one – alongside all of the other sanctions”

Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, who represents Louis Tomlinson, added: “I cant see that acts would be willing to tour Russia until the Putin regime ends. Unfortunately, acts won’t be able to tour Ukraine until the same regime ends for entirely different reasons.”

But how will Russia’s isolation from the international touring industry affect artists whose income is partly made up from the private gig economy?

“This is a point of considerable concern – how much bleed there is into other countries”

For years, western artists – such as George Michael and Amy Winehouse – have been able to secure lucrative deals playing at private and corporate parties in Russia.

“[The private gig economy] is a significant market for us,” admits Schroeder, “but in reality, everyone can still rebuild post-Covid without it. I just hope we quickly get to the point where art can heal – like it has done so much in the past.”

Sadly, it’s not just Russia’s live music industry that will suffer as a result of Putin’s all-out assault on Ukraine. Both Schroeder and Giddings anticipate repercussions for neighbouring markets, such as Poland and Romania, too.

“This is a point of considerable concern – how much bleed there is into other countries,” says Schroeder. “I expect there will be concern and caution from US-based acts – we really need to see what happens with the conflict and how contained it is. It is very early days, and the priority is the safety and protection of Ukraine, not our desire to put on gigs.”

Giddings believes there will be a “heavy impact” on the aforementioned eastern European nations: “With fuel prices rising, among other costs, and probably currency fluctuations, it will be hard to make offers that are sustainable.”

“I don’t see us having to cancel dates in neighbouring countries for the time being”

He also thinks that fewer international artists, in particular those from the US, will want to tour eastern Europe because of the conflict.

“We book tours well in advance and no one knows whether the war will expand or not, so until there is some certainty, artists will not want to take the risk – financially, or for their own safety.”

But for now, Hardee says, tours previously scheduled to visit eastern Europe will remain intact.

“I don’t see us having to cancel dates in neighbouring countries for the time being,” he says. “Most tours don’t depend on Russia or Ukraine to work so I haven’t seen any tours yet fall down, due to the forced cancellation of individual dates in these territories.

“Everyone seems to be strong in their resolve against Putin and let’s be clear this is a war against Putin and not the Russian people.”

“Let’s be clear this is a war against Putin and not the Russian people”

Meanwhile, sanctions implemented by the EU, the UK and the US could have an effect on live music markets around the world – not just the neighbours of Ukraine and Russia.

UK artists are prohibited from playing at Finland’s largest arena, the Hartwall arena (cap. 13,349) in Helsinki, after two of the three owners were added to the UK’s sanctions list.

Gennady Nikolayevich Timchenko and Boris Rotenberg, who founded Arena Events Oy in 2013 and bought 100% of the arena, are among the 120 oligarchs and businesses that have wound up on the list.

Timchenko is Russia’s sixth richest oligarch and close friend of Russian president Putin. He also owns the private investment firm Volga Group, which has holdings in energy, transport, infrastructure and financial services.

Rotenberg is a co-owner of SMP Bank, which is linked to the energy firm Gazprom. Rotenberg is described as having “close personal ties” to Putin, a friend since childhood when they trained in judo together.

Arena Events Oy co-founder and brother of Boris, Arkady Rotenberg, is not on the sanctions list.

 


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Paradigm’s Alex Hardee talks 2022 ticket sales

Paradigm Agency’s Alex Hardee has spoken to IQ about how the last two years of disruption has impacted on ticket sales for 2022.

The London-based agent, who represents acts including Liam Gallagher, London Grammar, Rag’N’Bone Man and Grace Jones, says the middle tier of shows is being squeezed by the bottleneck of live events.

“Hot things are selling and some of the new things are selling, but the middle stuff is proving problematic,” says Hardee, speaking in the latest issue of IQ Magazine.

“Stuff that’s been around a bit and maybe not having reactive records, that’s where the squeeze is. That’s always been where the squeeze is, it’s just more accentuated at the moment because there is so much stuff out there. There is a lot of touring going into next year so there’ll be a few misses, I think.”

Hardee, who discusses Gallagher’s forthcoming return to Knebworth here, was gearing up for a quiet start to 2022 even before concerns over the Omicron variant threatened to complicate matters further.

Everyone has announced and gone on sale further in advance

“A long time ago, we said to leave all our tours in Europe to April/May and miss the winter out, and that probably was the right move,” he says. “We hardly have anything going out in January and February apart from one-offs, but no European touring.

“We’re definitely further ahead of booking ’22 than we would be at this point in a normal year, because most of ’22 is all booked. Everyone has announced and gone on sale further in advance so there are a lot less slots left for festivals than there would normally be at this stage.

“The tours are all booked, all avails were held, so there isn’t much left to do for ’22 now, so ’23 will start. I don’t think they’re going to necessarily start looking at ’23 festivals that early, but they’re starting to talk about the headliners.”

Asked about the likely impact the shortage of slots will have on emerging bands, Hardee adds: “There’s a myth that if you go on at a festival, you’re going to play in front of someone. You’re not going to play in front of someone unless people want to see you. It’s not like the old days where people would just wander around, everyone knows everything [now].

“For newer acts, it probably takes a year before you get to a point where you’re ready to play festivals. You need to build your streaming, your tickets and your worth up before you get on them.

“You shouldn’t be obsessed by playing a festival for the sake of it; you’ve got to be obsessed with playing the festival at the right time, when it’s going to enhance your career.”

 


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IQ 106 out now: Navigating the new industry landscape

IQ 106, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

The December 2021 edition is spearheaded by an exclusive preview of next year’s highly anticipated International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Elsewhere, IQ news editor James Hanley speaks to Paradigm Agency’s Alex Hardee and Adele Slater about Liam Gallagher’s sold-out Knebworth shows.

This issue also sees IQ editor Gordon Masson quiz venue management from around the world about their plans for arenas to reopen and stay open.

For this edition’s columns and comments, Suzanne Hunt details how Squeeze became one of the first UK acts to resume touring in the United States, lawyer Gregor Pryor notes the challenges that the metaverse could pose for the music industry, and Debbie Taylor shares her experience of Guns N’ Roses’ Covid-compliant US tour.

And, in this month’s Your Shout, live industry executives pick their three ideal guests for a dinner party.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

IQ subscribers can log in and read the full magazine now.

 


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Paradigm on Liam Gallagher’s Knebworth return

Paradigm agents Alex Hardee and Adele Slater have given IQ the lowdown on Liam Gallagher’s momentous return to the UK’s Knebworth Park.

The former Oasis frontman will play two sold-out nights at the Stevenage site from 3-4 June next year, promoted by Festival Republic, Live Nation and SJM Concerts.

The concerts, which feature a support bill headed by Kasabian, were announced on the back of a new documentary marking 25 years since Oasis’ era-defining gigs at the legendary rock venue.

“I think that the idea might have been [Live Nation UK & Ireland chair] Denis Desmond’s, but we’re going to claim it as ours,” laughs Hardee. “It’s a good idea, but an obvious one.”

“With the timing of the anniversary of the film, it kind of just made sense,” adds Slater, who attended the original 1996 event.

However, Hardee reveals that demand for tickets for the 2022 sequel exceeded even his own lofty expectations.

At the outset, we thought the second show was an outside chance

“We knew it would capture the imagination and it would be a hot event, but it took us by surprise that we could do two [nights],” he tells IQ. “We always knew we’d do one, and we had a second day on hold. At the outset, we thought that the second show was an outside chance. But definitely by the announcement date – and the reaction online – we got ready, very quickly, to go for the second show.

“Selling these gigs is all about the timing, and we knew that the right time to announce these shows was before everyone else went up with their shows and also after the documentary had just landed. That got everyone excited and then we announced Knebworth – that was the skill in getting that show sold out.”

While Oasis famously sold 250,000 tickets across their two 1996 shows, each of Gallagher’s solo dates will be capped at 80,000 for logistical reasons.

“The road network around Knebworth is literally tiny little country roads, so to get another 45,000 people in would be a nightmare,” advises Slater. 

“Even though, in hindsight, people say [the original] was the greatest gig they’ve ever been to, there were massive queues for toilets and it’s a hard site to get into,” explains Hardee. “Also, we’re very mindful now that 25 years ago, you didn’t have social media. If you don’t get things right nowadays, it’s everywhere straightaway. So we’re mindful that we want to give a good customer experience. Twenty-five years ago, different things were acceptable.”

Gallagher, who played a “life-affirming” show for NHS workers at The O2 in London in August, performed a run of UK headline dates over the summer at festivals including Reading & Leeds, TRNSMT and Isle of Wight.

It was a massive statement and it resonated throughout the industry

Boosted by the Knebworth sellouts, the singer went on to announce his inaugural stadium solo headline shows at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium (1 June) and Hampden Park in Glasgow (26 June). He will also perform at Belsonic in Belfast’s Ormeau Park on 24 June.

“We didn’t want to dilute the announcement of Knebworth, we wanted to blow that out and then launch the other stadiums off the back of that,” says Hardee. “The other stadiums are going to sell out, but we wanted the statement of selling out two Knebworths [first]. It was a massive statement and it resonated throughout the industry. 

“We did a mechanism afterwards so that people in Manchester and Glasgow could change their tickets around if they wanted to and there was a bit of uptake on that. Not much, though, because I think most people wanted to go to Knebworth.”

Hardee and Slater have represented Gallagher on the live scene since his 2017 comeback, which was capped by headline outdoor concerts at London’s Finsbury Park (cap. 40,000) and Emirates Old Trafford (50,000) the following year. The frontman has appearances confirmed for Rock in Rio Lisbon, Syd For Solen in Denmark and France’s Beauregard Festival next summer and is making waves internationally.

“In some markets now, he’s bigger than Oasis were,” suggests Hardee. “He’s gone from club level to arena level now in most markets, and from headliner at secondary festivals to second on the bill at major festivals. And it’s growing – Knebworth’s had an effect.

“We don’t actually know what we can do bigger than two Knebworths next, apart from reforming Oasis. That’s the brain-teaser, but we can build his international career.”

A full interview with Alex Hardee and Adele Slater will appear in the next edition of IQ magazine at the end of this month. Click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month.

 


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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 monthLast monthArtistCountry
11Coi LerayUS
2324kGoldnUS
346Nasty CherryUK
45King CombsUS
5-Kaash PaigeUS
69Ms BanksUK
76LightskinkeishaUS
8-Baby KeemUS
955Flo MilliUS
102HP BoyzAU
1195VegynUK
1239Mae MullerUK
13-Catie TurnerUS
14292Rei AmiUS
1526LuckiUS
1618JC StewartIE
1711Sophie RoseUS
18-Greentea PengUK
19326Moby RichUS
207Sueco the ChildUS

For more details about the Radar Station, contact [email protected].

 


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Paradigm’s Tom Schroeder: Captain of industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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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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