IFF 2022 launches with new central hub, agency partners
The eighth edition of the International Festival Forum (IFF), ILMC’s invitation-only event for festivals and bookers, is now live.
More than 800 delegates are expected to attend this year’s gathering of the international music festival business, with many of the world’s leading booking agencies signed up as partners.
Wasserman Music, WME, CAA, UTA, ICM Partners/Primary Talent, ATC Live, X-Ray Touring, One Finiix Live and Earth Agency are among the first to back the 2022 edition and many of whom will present showcases featuring the hottest new talent.
Alongside the showcases, IFF 2022 will offer the usual plethora of networking, showcases, panels, and parties – all taking place between 27 and 29 September in London.
In addition, IFF has announced a new central hub, the Holiday Inn in Camden, which will be transformed into IFF Central for three days.
IFF has announced a new central hub, the Holiday Inn in Camden, which will be transformed into IFF Central
IFF Central will be exclusive to delegates and will host all conference sessions, complimentary delegate lunches, a late-night bar that’s open until the early hours, and ample space for private meetings.
The hotel also features 100 rooms for delegates in a range of categories, which can be booked at the same time as registering your pass. Room rates are discounted for IFF delegates but there’s a limited number available. Click here for more details.
Since launching in 2015, IFF has gained a reputation for showcasing the most talented emerging artists at early stages of their careers, including Idles, Slaves, Loyle Carner, Public Service Broadcasting, Lewis Capaldi and Shame.
Last year, IFF enjoyed a successful return to a physical event, with a programme that featured a double keynote interview with Melvin Benn and Folkert Koopmans.
More details of IFF 2022, including the provisional schedule, will be announced in due course. If you have an idea for a panel topic, speaker or presentation, please email Ruud Berends.
A limited number of super discounted earlybird passes are now available for just £345 (saving £150 on the full rate). Each pass includes access to all sessions and showcases, lunches, dinners, and some drinks. Click here to register.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Earth Agency and Evolution Artists join forces
Evolution Artists, a UK-based international agency for DJs and MCs, is joining forces with London-based Earth Agency.
Under the partnership, Evolution founders Clive Mill and James Smith will bring their roster of revered drum & bass acts – live and DJ – to Earth.
2Shy, Emperor, DJinn, Fabio & Grooverider, Jubei, Monty, Annix, Hadley, Foreign Concept, Simula and Skantia are among the artists represented by Mill and Smith.
The pair are the latest agents to join Earth following a raft of recent hires including Sam Gill and Angie Rance from UTA, Serena Parsons from Primary, Ben Haslett and Alba Martin from Stepping Tiger and Jan Bouwhuis from BLip.
“We are all really happy to welcome these wonderful agents to our team at Earth”
“We are all really happy to welcome these wonderful agents to our team at Earth,” reads a statement from Earth.
“They each bring real specialist knowledge and experience, and all share the same independent ethos and values that we created Earth Agency to support and be a home for.”
Earth Agency was founded in 2014.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Agent Rebecca Prochnik switches to UTA
Senior music agent Rebecca Prochnik has joined UTA as director of creative strategy, UK music.
At Earth Agency, which she co-founded in 2014, Prochnik represented a roster of independent artists including Skepta, AJ Tracey, JME, Deerhunter, Vanishing Twin, Kode 9 and Black Lips.
“The times we’re living through have expanded all manner of approaches and perspectives across the board,” says London-based Prochnik.
“I’m delighted by this unique opportunity to combine energies with the incredible, in-depth universe of UTA to lift the roof and broaden the pathways in what is an immensely transformative time for artists and agents alike.”
“Rebecca has an unparalleled reputation for helping independent talent break into the mainstream music landscape”
“Rebecca has an unparalleled reputation for helping independent talent break into the mainstream music landscape, and she has demonstrated exceptional creativity and entrepreneurship throughout her career,” says Obi Asika, co-head of UTA’s UK office.
“She has achieved great success in her leadership of Earth Agency, and we are thrilled to welcome her to UTA.”
Earlier this year, UTA acquired Echo Location Talent Agency, which was founded and led by Asika. The deal brought artists including Diplo, Major Lazer, Marshmello, Alesso, Wizkid into the UTA fold for international representation.
Asika now leads UTA’s UK office alongside Neil Warnock.
Agents of Change: The agency business in transition
On 20 October, five US agents, all formerly of Paradigm Talent Agency, announced the formation of Arrival Artists – a brand-new booking agency with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, a roster that includes the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Khruangbin and BadBadNotGood, and a partnership with European agency ATC Live for global representation of acts shared across both rosters.
Following the termination of hundreds of jobs by the Hollywood-headquartered global agencies since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the kind of news observers of the agency space have come to expect – a group of agents from one multinational join forces and go independent – and follows the launch of two other new US indies, TBA Agency and Mint Talent Group, in late August and mid-September, respectively, and the likes of Route One Booking and Jon Ollier’s One Fiinix Live in the UK earlier this month.
The resurgence of the independent agency, and the apparent fracturing of the corporate giants following years of consolidation, is being watched closely in the broader live music world, where rumours abound of further agency launches and rebrands – including in Europe – in the months ahead.
Nowhere is this more the case than in London, where recent mergers include Primary Talent with ICM Partners and K2 Agency with Artist Group International. And while uncertainty reins, takeovers, strategic pacts and new ventures will all be under consideration for every business.
“It’s clearly a very challenging time for anyone working in live music at the moment,” says ATC Live’s Alex Bruford, whose roster includes Nick Cave, The Lumineers, Metronomy, Black Pumas and Fontaines DC. “No matter the size of the business, if your company relies on live touring, and there is no touring, it’s very difficult.”
“The idea in agency culture has long been geared towards an idea of ‘the bigger the better’”
“Clearly, we all have had to face major challenges in 2020, and we will continue to have significant challenges thrown at us for some time,” agrees Angus Baskerville, partner at 13 Artists, who works with artists including George Ezra, Brittany Howard, Jamiroquai, Michael Kiwanuka, Benjamin Clementine and Paolo Nutini.
But are ATC Live, 13 Artists and other UK-based indies such as ITB, Asgard, Midnight Mango and smaller boutique firms, better placed than their corporate cousins to survive, and even thrive, during the current crisis? With concert activity on hold, is it actually a blessing to be free of the structure of a large company – and are we witnessing a new era of independence in live music booking, the likes of which we haven’t seen for the best part of a decade?
Bigger: not always better
The past seven months have done much to expose some of the myths of pre-Covid thinking within the business, according to Earth Agency’s Rebecca Prochnik, who represents artists including Skepta, JME, AJ Tracey and Nines. “The idea in agency culture has long been geared towards an idea of ‘the bigger the better’,” explains Prochnik. “For a long time, the structural strategy of the larger agencies has been upscaling teams around artists, to provide a more intensive job. While I understand the reasoning, the model creates a lot of employment volume, and in fact the potential for disconnection that has never made full sense to me.”
“Sometimes I look at some of the bigger agencies, and you have too many agents or bookers squabbling over every artist that comes in,” echoes Obi Asika, founder and CEO of Echo Location Talent (Marshmello, Da Baby, Wizkid, Chase & Status, Pendulum, Major Lazer, Giggs). “Many artists have multiple agents, in part to ensure no one agent has too much power over the wider agency. That’s not workable anymore. There’s no guarantee this [a concert-stopping pandemic] won’t happen again – you’ve got to be careful of your overheads.”
“Some large businesses will have been better protected than other large businesses going into this, and I’m sure it’s the same for the smaller ones,” adds Baskerville. “Saying that, I do believe the independent sector has the possibility of thriving in 2021 and beyond, as we’re required to modernise and refresh approaches to the way we work – and do that quickly.”
“Independent companies have been able to be more nimble and adapt faster to new ways of working”
For many of the bigger, multinational agencies, the financial impact of this “surplus” is amplified by huge levels of corporate debt, which in some cases amounts to many times their annual revenues.
According to investment banker Lloyd Greif, Endeavor – the parent company of WME – is shouldering a staggering US$5.1 billion debt, while CAA has $1.15bn coming due in 2026, in addition to a $125 million revolving credit facility. Paradigm, meanwhile, is believed to owe around $80m, following multiple debt-financed acquisitions over the past decade.
Paul Boswell, of Free Trade Agency (The National, Tones and I, Wilco, Tash Sultana, Violent Femmes), says he believes that while the live entertainment shutdown is “clearly bad for all,” it will “hurt those that practice borrow-and-buy capitalism the most.”
“As an independent business, we’ve always been careful not to fall for the seductive culture of living beyond our means: even if money is flowing, we’ve stayed low to the ground on spend,” adds Prochnik. “We’ve always had a culture of working remotely – of needing an office solely for the wellbeing and connection of our staff community, rather than for external business. Throughout my career, I’ve taken my meetings in cars, in cafes, in parks, on the phone… It’s really only ever mattered that I can relate well and do a creative job for my clients as needed.
“What Covid’s done is blow away the myth that an independent attitude is a quirk. Big offices, gleaming receptions, plaques on walls, meeting rooms, games rooms, listening rooms… At the end of the day, those things are all just optics, and ones which suddenly seem tremendously outdated. None of those things shape business in a meaningful way…”
“When the dust settles, there are going to be huge changes”
“The importance of having an office as a status symbol – that, for me, has gone,” adds Asika. “You don’t need a shiny office, and you also don’t need people coming into work every day; if you don’t trust the people working for you, that’s a problem. I’ve enjoyed being at home with my family, and I want that flexibility for my business and staff.” “This virus is terrible, but there are potentially worse ones in the future,” he adds. “And when that comes, you want to be the little speedboat nipping around, not the big cruise liner…”
Agrees Prochnik: “Independent and smaller agencies tend to have a shared personality of sourcing and creating whatever there is to do, thinking outside the box, breaking moulds in order to make business work. I think this inherent culture of flexibility, nimbleness and creating value out of thin air is invaluable in these new times.”
“We’ve seen with companies across our sector, from agencies to promoters to ticketing companies, that often the larger the organisation – and therefore the higher the overheads – the harder hit they have been,” says Bruford. “In many cases, independent companies have been able to be more nimble and adapt faster to new ways of working, new opportunities and the changing landscape.”
The great equaliser
According to Asika, “When the dust settles, there are going to be huge changes” across the agency sector as a result of the current “correction.” “From the value of artists, to where people work, what people have started in this time, what new companies pop up… there are all these things happening in the background, and it’s going to have a long-term impact,” he predicts.
Live professionals talk diversity in next IQ Focus
Continuing the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual panels, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music will look at the problems of systemic racism within the live business and discuss what needs to be done to make the industry a more diverse place.
The session, the eighth in the IQ Focus series, will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 25 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.
Earlier this month, Blackout Tuesday brought the industry to a standstill and thrust the topic of diversity in the music business back into view.
So just what challenges do black promoters, agents and managers face, and what’s needed to counter systemic racism both within the business, in performance spaces and touring markets?
Live Nation’s David Carrigan will lead this timely discussion to ask how changes can be made, and the current momentum can be maintained over the months and years ahead.
Joining Carrigan on the panel are Ammo Talwar MBE, CEO of music and arts agency Punch and chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce; Kiarn Eslami, a promoter at Metropolis Music;
Lucy Atkinson from Earth Agency; Sumit Bothra of ATC Management; and ICM Partners’ Yves Pierre.
All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including management under lockdown, the agency business, the festival summer, grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.