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WME gears up for huge return to live

Powerhouse agency WME is expecting a boom period for the company as live entertainment resumes, with bookings well above where they were even in the pre-coronavirus era, CEO Ari Emanuel has said.

Speaking yesterday (16 August) during parent company Endeavor’s Q2 2021 earnings call, Emanuel, who took Endeavor public earlier this year, explained: “Our WME bookings for the second half of 2021 are double digits over where they were at the same point in 2019, the most recent non-Covid-impacted year.”

Endeavor CFO Jason Lublin said country music is “leading the way” for a rebound in live music in the US in the second half of 2021, with highlights including sold-out tours by Garth Brooks and Eric Church. “As Ari mentioned, we’re pacing ahead as relates to WME booking for the second half of the year, and we’re booking clients for dates much further into the future,” he added.

Endeavor increased revenue to US$1.1 billion in the second quarter of 2021 – up around $650 million on Q2 2020 – and expects adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) of $765–775m for the whole year. The company paid $600m worth of outstanding debt in Q2, reducing its total debt to $5.351bn (compared to $5.872bn in Q1 2021).

In its representation unit (comprising WME, IMG and Endeavor Content) specifically, Endeavor reported revenue of $328.2m (up from $192.8m year on year) and adjusted ebitda of $61.7m (compared to $52m in Q2 2020).

“We have experienced recovery in our business happening slightly faster than we had originally anticipated”

“We have experienced recovery in our business happening slightly faster than we had originally anticipated,” Lublin continued. “And although we continue to closely monitor the delta variant, bookings, ticket sales and other indicators remain positive for the balance of the year.”

According to Emanuel, Endeavor’s strength lies in its diversity, with the business also including sports properties including Ultimate Fighting Champtionship (UFC) and corporate hospitality businesses such as On Location Experiences.

“If you want to think about the whole picture, when you look at the other companies that trade in our space – whether it be WWE, Formula 1, Live Nation – they’re all one-trick ponies,” he told analysts. “We have multiple facets, whether it be sponsorship or sports properties, representation, On Location – there are multifaceted aspects of our business, and we have gone through the pandemic, and we’re raising EBITDA, we’re raising guidance…

“I think you guys are going to learn that we’re a multifaceted business that we get to pivot back and forth from. […] The company has multiple different aspects of our business that protect us against anything in the future.”

Endeavor’s latest quarterly report can be read in full here.

 


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WME ups pay for assistants

Talent agency William Morris Endeavor, together with the film-focused Endeavor Content, has announced a raft of measures to improve working conditions for assistants in the agencies’ Los Angeles, Nashville and New York offices.

IQ can confirm that assitants in WME’s UK offices are also receiving a pay rise, of £3,000, with an annual base increase of £1,000. For all new hires, the starting salary will be between £23,000 and £28,000. Changes are also to be rolled out shortly at WME’s Australian offices too, according to Deadline,.

Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel laid out the new plans in a company email last week, raising minimum pay for new hires and assistants in the US from $15 an hour to $18 an hour. Assistants will receive a further $2 an hour after completing their first year at the agencies.

The company also announced plans to further increase the minimum salary for all to $20 an hour by August 2021.

Assistants will also now be eligible for ten hours of overtime a week without pre-approval and will be considered for “discretionary bonuses”.

In addition to the pay rise, all WME and Endeavor Content assistants in the US will be eligible for two years of monthly medical premiums paid by the company. Assistants and coordinators will also have access to student loan relief of $1,000 after the first anniversary of hire, with an additional $2,000 after the second anniversary of hire.

“We congratulate WME on joining the growing ranks of entertainment companies committed to improving pay and work conditions for support staff”

The agencies are also making $50 a month available as reimbursement towards mobile phone expenses and, in a more symbolic move, inserting assistant names into email addresses, which previously were nameless.

According to the agency, the changes were planned to be announced sooner – fellow agencies CAA, ICM and UTA raised assistant pay in early 2019 and early 2020 respectively, in response to the #PayUpHollywood movement – but were pushed back due to the financial implications of the Covid-19 crisis.

WME is among major talent agencies to implement cost cutting measures in the past few months due to the pandemic, with around 20% of its global workforce subject to lay-offs, furloughing or pay and working hours reductions.

“While #PayUpHollywood is not privy to the contents of the WME email that was sent, the initial news announcing pay increases and additional benefits for support staff is heartening,” comment the movement’s founders, Liz Alper and Deirdre Mangan.

“We encourage WME to continue monitoring support staff workload and treatment to ensure the wellbeing of their most vulnerable employees.

“We look forward to the details of these initiatives and congratulate WME on joining the growing ranks of entertainment companies committed to improving pay and work conditions for support staff. It is proof that change, though slow, does happen, as long as allies and assistants continue speaking out.”

 


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