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US agencies merge to form Independent Artist Group

US-based talent agencies APA and Artist Group International (AGI) have merged to form Independent Artist Group (IAG).

New York’s AGI was founded in 1986 by Dennis Arfa and is owned by the Yucaipa Companies, the private-equity group controlled by billionaire investor Ron Burkle, which also made a strategic investment in LA-headquartered APA (Agency for the Performing Arts) in 2021.

The merger announcement sees Arfa appointed chair of IAG’s music division, with AGI president Marsha Vlasic named vice-chair and APA president Jim Osborne becoming CEO. The new full-service agency promises to intensify competition in the international live music agency landscape, which had been largely consolidated by just four companies – CAA, Wasserman, UTA and WME.

“This was the natural next step in our evolution and made in the best interests of our valued artists,” says Arfa. “We have admired how Jim Osborne and their colleagues have been market leaders in creating brand expanding, non-touring revenue opportunities for their clients and we are excited to build on that success with them and look forward to integrating under the Independent Artist Group banner.

“We are excited to grow our music touring footprint especially with APA’s roster of urban and comedy artists, which augments what we have built at AGI. The combination of artists, agents and offices provides us with a tremendous platform with exciting growth possibilities in the touring and crossover space, which is our plan.”

“This new partnership with AGI and our rebrand to Independent Artist Group is another major step that elevates us within the agency landscape”

The deal brings APA clients such as 50 Cent, 2 Chainz, Fetty Wap, Deep Purple, Mary J Blige and Lauryn Hill, and AGI’s roster, which includes the likes of Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Smashing Pumpkins, Linkin Park, Metallica, Noel Gallagher, Motley Crue, The Strokes and Iggy Pop, under one roof.

“Dennis Arfa and his exceptional colleagues at AGI are revered in the industry, having built a spectacular artist roster and a sterling reputation,” says Osborne. “The great news is we have already established a tremendous working relationship with them through shared representation on some of their most valued artists. This new partnership with AGI and our rebrand to Independent Artist Group is another major step that elevates us within the agency landscape.”

Deadline reported last week that APA head of music Bruce Solar would be departing the agency alongside a number of other agents. Paquin Artists Agency announced the acquisition of APA’s Canadian business earlier this month.

Yucaipa also has interests in London-based agencies X-ray Touring, ITG and K2, US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents and agency Day After Day Productions, and Spain’s Primavera Sound festival, as well as management company LBI Entertainment and sports agencies ISE and Steinberg Sports.

 


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US agencies play down merger talk

APA (Agency for the Performing Arts) has played down talk of a merger with fellow US talent agency Artist Group International (AGI).

New York’s AGI is owned by the Yucaipa Companies, the private-equity group controlled by billionaire investor Ron Burkle, which made a strategic investment in Los Angeles-headquartered APA in 2021.

Celebrity Access reports that rumours of the merger have been circulating in the business. However, an APA representative denied a deal was taking place at this time, but noted that the two companies collaborate closely.

The report notes that any agreement would be complicated by AGI’s relationship with other firms such as London-based X-ray Touring

The report notes that any agreement would be complicated by AGI’s relationship with other firms such as London-based X-ray Touring. X-ray extended its joint-venture partnership with the Yucaipa Companies in 2021, and formed a new strategic alliance with AGI, which was founded by Dennis Arfa in 1986 and is part of Yucaipa’s Y Entertainment Group.

APA represents clients such as 50 Cent, 2 Chainz, Nickelback, Belinda Carlisle, Fetty Wap, Billy Talent, Deep Purple, Manic Street Preachers, Lauryn Hill and Brian Wilson, while AGI’s roster includes the likes of Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Linkin Park, Metallica, Noel Gallagher, Motley Crue, The Strokes and Iggy Pop.

Yucaipa also has interests in two other London-based agencies, ITG and K2, US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents and agency Day After Day Productions, and Spain’s Primavera Sound festival, as well as management company LBI Entertainment and sports agencies ISE and Steinberg Sports.

 


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APA boosts touring division with six promotions

APA (Agency for the Performing Arts) has ramped up its touring division with six promotions.

Jon Moss and Griffin Perkiel have been upped to music agents while Becca Wilson becomes head of tour marketing.

In addition, Paul O’Loughline, Max Rosenfield and Nina Swift were named to music department coordinator positions.

The promotions come as APA continues to grow its music department since CAA’s acquisition of ICM Partners.

In the last six months, a number of senior music agents from the latter two companies have moved to APA, bringing extensive rosters with them.

Mitch Blackman, Mike Hayes and Chris Smith switched from ICM, Steve Kaul from CAA, as well as Josh Lanham and Sam Sauerhaft who came over in comedy touring from ICM and from management, respectively.

Those agents brought with them more than 200 artists including, Aly and AJ, Jon Bellion, blackbear, Belinda Carlisle, Cypress Hill, Go-Go’s, JAX, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Theory of a Deadman, Kamasi Washington, and comedy touring acts including Martin Lawrence, Mike Epps and Felipe Esparza.

“We have greatly enhanced our music touring footprint over the past six months, by signing over 200 exciting artists who come to us through the many established agents from major agencies that we brought to APA,” says Bruce Solar, APA’s head of music.

“We have greatly enhanced our music touring footprint over the past six months”

“The promotions today of Jon and Griffin to agents, Becca to Head of Marketing and Paul, Max and Nina to coordinators, are richly deserved and gives us the added people power we need to smoothly handle our growth, while rewarding a strong group of diverse young executives who have earned their promotions by making it happen for our clients.”

Moss began his career in 2015 in management at Frank Salomon Associates in New York. He joined APA in January 2020, assisting Christianne Weiss, VP & head of adult contemporary and later Craig Newman, VP & head of performing arts.

With Weiss and Newman, Moss worked with clients such as Smokey Robinson, Frankie Valli, Micky Dolenz, Marie Osmond, Bachman Cummings, STARSHIP, The Fab Four and more. Moss is responsible for booking Fairs and Festivals for the Concerts Department, and currently works with clients Al Olender, Isabel Pless, and Mikaela Davis.

Perkel, upon graduation, was hired into the mailroom of APA, where he worked for Guy Richard. Perkiel briefly moved to Live Nation but quickly returned to the agency world at ICM Partners to work in the contemporary music department.

As an assistant to Mike Hayes, Perkiel focused on developing younger artists, coordinating tours for national artists and handling festivals. During the ICM/CAA [Creative Artists Agency] merger, Griffin joined Hayes at APA as department coordinator. Now promoted to agent, Perkiel is heavily involved developing his own clients while supporting a wide range of businesses within the APA Music Department. He currently works on BabyJake, Riz La Vie, Ayleen Valentine, The Lagoons and Skizzy Mars, among others.

 


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Mitch Blackman latest ICM vet to join APA

APA (formerly the Agency for the Performing Arts) has recruited veteran talent executive Mitch Blackman.

“Mitch is a one-of-a-kind person and agent, who relates so well to artists because he is one himself. He brings a terrific group of artists across many genres that we are very excited to represent,” say APA CEO Jim Gosnell, APA president Jim Osborne and APA’s head of music Bruce Solar in a joint statement.

An accomplished trumpet player, Blackman began his career as an artist before making the jump to the agency world.

He joins Los Angeles-based APA after a 15-year stint at ICM Partners, where he served on the agency’s leadership committee.

“I love what’s happening at APA and am excited to join the team which now includes many great friends from ICM”

Joining Blackman in the transition to APA will be his entire client roster of more than 40 artists, including Blackbear, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Music Soulchild.

“I love what’s happening at APA and am excited to join the team which now includes many great friends from ICM, which makes this transition very comfortable for me and my artists,” says Blackman.

He joins a growing list of former ICM Partners agents who have made the jump to APA, including Andrew Rogers (global head of talent), Mike Hayes (senior vice-president, global concerts) and Chris Smith (senior vice-president, concerts and talent).

The list also includes talent agent Phoebe Burnham, chief communications officer Brad Turell, and three new agents in the alternative and factual programming department: senior vice-presidents Seth Lawrence and Ryan Wackerman and agent Katie Kolben.

In June it was announced that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) completed its acquisition of ICM Partners.

 


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Steve Martin and Andy Somers launch Paladin Artists

Another new independent agency, Paladin Artists, has made its debut after former APA staffers Steve Martin and Andy Somers gathered a team of nine other agents to launch offices in Los Angeles, New York City and London.

Paladin has also created a strategic partnership with Wayne Forte of Entourage Talent Associates and Karrie Goldberg of The Kagency in a deal they say will re-envision the agency business, looking at artist and brand representation, touring and live events, literary representation, theatre production, touring exhibitions and estate management.

In addition to the principals, the Paladin Artists team will include agents Magaly Barone, Kath Buckell, Chyna Chuan-Farrell, Christian Ellett, Steve Ferguson, Seth Rappaport, Sara Schilevert and Zach Silva.

According to Celebrity Access, the turmoil caused by the Covid pandemic allowed Paladin’s founders time to assess the overall industry landscape and devise a more evolutionary approach to the agency side of the business.

Somers says, “Paladin, Entourage and The Kagency share similar visions and will each benefit by the sharing of information, experiences, and common goals; exploring new means of improving the future of artist and brand representation while remaining independent at a controllable scale of operation.”

“The industry is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic world”

Martin adds, “The world has been through hell for the last 18 months with many places and people still struggling. I’m simply grateful to work with people I like and artists that I respect, enjoy and have fruitful relationships with. Many were able to take a step back during the shutdown and evaluate what is important, be it personal or business. The industry is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic world.”

Both veterans of the independent scene, Martin and Somers have worked together for decades as their careers saw them both instrumental in the growth of Neil Warnock’s The Agency Group.

For his part, ILMC stalwart Wayne Forte says, “This pandemic has highlighted how short life truly is. So, why not work with people and clients one genuinely likes and with whom one shares similar visions and philosophies. The establishment and building of yet another successful business is a bonus! After all, success is not simply a destination, it’s a constant journey.”

The Kagency, founded by Karrie Goldberg in 2004, built one of the first venue representation businesses in North America focused solely on handling the corporate/private event, film and photo bookings for their clients. The company portfolio currently includes more than 500 traditional and non-traditional venues in the US and UK, while its talent roster includes artists and brands such as Nike, Givenchy, Duran Duran, Beyonce, Cartier, Under Armour, Maserati and Vogue.

 


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PE firm Yucaipa invests in APA

Less than a month after buying into UK metal agency K2, the Yucaipa Companies, the private-equity group controlled by billionaire investor Ron Burkle, has made a strategic investment in Los Angeles-based APA.

APA, the former Agency for the Performing Arts, is headquartered in Hollywood and has offices in New York, Nashville, Atlanta, Toronto and London. Its roster includes Blondie, House of Pain, Fetty Wap, Nickelback, Azealia Banks, Rodriguez, Lil Xan, Gang of Four, King Crimson, Nick Carter, Doves and 50 Cent.

Yucaipa, meanwhile, has stakes in Paradigm’s European business (including X-ray Touring), Spanish festival Primavera Sound and US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents, and owns Artist Group International.

“Ron Burkle and Yucaipa share our philosophy for disciplined growth”

According to Variety, which first reported on the deal, Burkle’s investment in APA is a non-equity arrangement that sees Yucaipa take on APA debt in exchange for cash. Variety’s sources say the cash influx will allow APA to recruit agents and clients at a time when its corporate agency rivals are furloughing and laying off staff.

“With so much uncertainty in the entertainment industry, we’re very pleased to be collaborating with a person and a company so in sync with our vision for the future of our business,” says APA CEO Jim Gosnell. “Ron Burkle and Yucaipa share our philosophy for disciplined growth, and are 100% behind our strategy to expand upon our core business across all media platforms.”

In other APA news, the agency’s head of talent, Jim Osborne (pictured), has been named president, taking over the role from Gosnell.

 


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CAA latest agency to dock pay amid Covid-19 crisis

Creative Artists Agency (CAA) announced it is implementing salary cuts of up to 50% across the agency yesterday (8 April).

The salary reductions, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, follow similar pay cuts made at fellow agencies UTA, Paradigm, APA and WME parent company Endeavor.

The pay reductions will be company wide and calculated in proportion to wages, with higher earners taking bigger cuts. Co-chairmen of the agency, Richard Lovett, Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvana will forgo the remainder of their salaries for the year, in a step also taken by heads of Endeavor, UTA and Paradigm.

“In this time of tremendous uncertainty we must look closely at what measures help ensure CAA always remains the strongest company for our employees and clients”

“In this time of tremendous uncertainty for individuals, businesses, governments and communities, it is incumbent upon us to look closely at what measures help ensure CAA always remains the strongest company for our employees and clients,” reads a statement issued by the agency.

“We deeply appreciate not only the understanding that employees across the company have demonstrated since this unprecedented global crisis began, but also the remarkable support and compassion colleagues have shown one another, clients and many in the community in need.”

CAA has yet to announce any layoffs due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Photo: Minnaert/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

 


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Canadian Live Music Association appoints new board

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) announced a new board of directors at its fifth annual general meeting on Thursday 10 October.

The association, headed up by CEO Erin Benjamin, shared the year’s achievements, including its retirement of the former Music Canada Live brand and relaunch as the CLMA.

“Our new name and brand clearly reflect who we are and will strengthen our ability to advocate on behalf of our sector, our amazing members and deepen relationships with our many valued partners,” commented board chair Jesse Kumagai at the meeting.

The newly elected 2019-2020 board members are Sam Baijal, artistic director of Ontario’s Hillside Festival; Kerry Clarke, artistic director of Calgary Folk Music Festival; Tao-Ming Lau, founder of Blue Crane agency; entertainment lawyer Miro Oballa; and Katy Venneri, director of the Juno Awards.

“Our new name and brand clearly reflect who we are”

The CLMA thanked outgoing founding board members Jean Wilkinson (APA), Neill Dixon (Canadian Music Week), Tom Kemp (Feldman Agency) and Michael Hollett (NXNE) for their contributions.

Over the year, the CLMA engaged in issues including secondary ticketing, safety and security at live events, harassment and bullying in the workplace, artists’ career development and the future of grassroots music venues.

In March, the Canada Arts Presentation Fund received a CAN$16 million boost in funding from the federal government, in a move lauded by the CLMA.

 


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APA execs deny sexual harassment claims

Executives at Los Angeles-based Agency for the Performing Arts (APA) have denied claims made in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee, and claim evidence has been fabricated.

In the complaint, a former APA assistant – named pseudonymously as “Jane Doe” – accuses APA chief executive Jim Gosnell and other executives of nine charges, including sexual harassment and battery, gender violence, retaliation and wrongful termination.

The ex-employee alleges she was “incessantly subjected to sexual advances” and “crude and obscene comments” by Gosnell, Josh Humiston (head of music), Paul Santana (vice-president of talent) and Michael Hammond, chief operating office of APA client Collins Avenue Production.

In a statement made by APA, a spokesperson states that an independent investigation into the allegations, which were previously made internally, found claims to be false. The agency also claims sexually explicit text messages and emails, used as evidence against senior management, are fabricated.

“APA months ago sued the former employee in arbitration for extortion and defamation,” says the spokesperson. “We believe she is now retaliating against APA and its agents through this frivolous public complaint in which she hides her identity.”

“[APA] intends to take all appropriate legal action against her [the claimant] and her counsel”

The assistant was dismissed from APA in August last year, for reasons she terms “trumped up” and “pretextual” with “no basis in fact”.

The spokesperson states the agency intends to “take all appropriate legal action” against the claimant “and her counsel”.

An attorney for the claimant, Michael Popok, says he has confidence in his client’s “veracity”, stating that other witnesses would corroborate with the allegations. The attorney also backed up the validity of the text messages and other evidence.

APA dismissed agent Tyler Grasham in 2017 amid several alleged sexual abuse claims.

APA represents artists including 50 Cent, Kiefer Sutherland, Azealia Banks, Cee Lo Green, Mary J. Blige and Nickelback.

 


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Steve Lassiter named APA co-head, worldwide music

APA has promoted partner and agent Steve Lassiter, who has been with the agency since 1998, to co-head of worldwide music.

In the new role, Lassiter (pictured) – formerly senior VP and head of concerts for APA Nashville – will oversee APA’s concerts division alongside fellow co-heads Steve Martin and Bruce Solar.

At APA (Agency for the Performing Arts), Lassiter represents country, rock and Americana stars including the Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas, Travis Tritt, David Lee Murphy, Jim Messina and the Outlaws. He also sits on the Academy of Country Music board and is a member of the Country Music Association (CMA).

“Steve has done a tremendous job guiding the success of our Nashville operations”

“Steve has done a tremendous job guiding the success of our Nashville operations,” comments APA president/CEO Jim Gosnell.  “The quality of his leadership and contributions to our overall success cannot be understated, and I’m very pleased to honour his hard work and dedication with this well-deserved promotion.”

Lassiter adds: “This is an exciting chapter in my life. I look forward to creating new success stories with Jim, Bruce and Steve as our agency continues to grow and evolve in lockstep with Music City.”

In addition to Nashville, APA has headquarters in Beverly Hills (Los Angeles), New York, Atlanta, London and Toronto.

 


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