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Top agents call for action on diversity

Top agents called for a more diverse, inclusive and equitable industry during last week’s ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag).

Hannah Shogbola (UTA), Natasha Gregory (Mother Artists), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent International) and Whitney Boateng (WME) came together for the all-female Agents Panel – hailed as “a long-overdue milestone” by moderator Maria May (CAA).

“We are representing the change we want to see,” said May during her opening gambit for the digital session. “I believe the music industry has a duty to continue to strive forward post-pandemic be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in.”

However, WME’s Boateng says there’s a “lot more work that needs to be done in the industry”. “It is still predominantly old white male and it has been for years,” she added. “Change has to come from the top-down and it has to be more than black squares.”

UTA’s Shogbola agreed: “If you are looking around your office and it does not reflect the society that you live in and the roster that you look after, then there is something categorically wrong.”

Black squares were posted on social media as part of the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday movement, a protest against racism and police brutality in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

“As a black woman within this industry, it’s frustrating that even 15-20 years into my career, it takes the death of somebody like George Floyd for our industry to finally open its eyes,” said Shogbola.

“The industry has a duty to be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in”

Boateng pointed out that it’s not just racial inequalities that the industry needs to fix but also disparities around sexuality and gender, with the panel unanimously agreeing that diversity on line-ups is still “not good enough”.

“It’s so important that when anybody is going to a show, they feel like it’s a safe and inclusive space for them,” said Dunstone.

Elsewhere during the panel, Mother Artists’ Gregory says that flexibility towards employees’ work hours will also be a key feature in a more equitable post-pandemic industry.

“Working 9–5 is not equality because everybody has a different situation, a different experience and different needs,” argued Gregory. “Being an agent is not a 9–5 anyway so just put trust in your team – working hard is a given in this industry.”

Dunstone agreed: “Adaptability and flexibility are massive takeaways from the last two years. Hopefully, we’ll pick and choose the bits of [pandemic life] that worked for us.”

The 36th edition of ESNS took place under the banner ‘Building Back Better, Together’ and focussed on getting the industry back on its feet after two years of the pandemic.

The hybrid conference and festival wrapped on Friday (21 January) and Dago Houben, director of ESNS said that “despite the fact that there is definitely screen fatigue, we were able to perform our platform function for the national and international music industry.


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Friday round-up: World news in brief 24/12/21

Welcome to IQ‘s weekly round-up of news from around the world. Here, in bite-sized chunks, we present a selection of international stories you may have missed from the last few days…


The UK government has doubled the emergency funding for arts, culture and heritage organisations made available through the Culture Recovery Fund to £60 million. The initial £30m top-up, unveiled earlier this week by chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of a £1 billion support package for hospitality and leisure businesses in response to the impact of the omicron variant, was criticised as “woefully inadequate” by live music trade bodies. The government is also extending the application window by a week until 18 January. “This new funding, alongside the new grants of up to £6,000 we announced earlier this week, will support the sector as we together face this difficult time,” says Sunak. The Music Venue Trust described the development as “very positive news”. “This second measure makes a real difference, providing grassroots music venues with time to submit,” it tweeted.


European Commission EVP Frans Timmermans will give the opening keynote speech at ESNS 2022. Timmermans, who is responsible for the Green Deal, will dive deeper into taking green steps going forward for the music industry. Other newly announced speakers include Mark Mulligan (MIDiA Research), Colin Benders (Kyteman), Pepijn Lanen (Faberyayo of De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig) Helen Smith (IMPALA), Marta Pallares (Primavera), Codruta Vulcu (ARTmania), Paul Reed (AIF), Christof Huber (Yourope) and Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio). The event has moved entirely online from 19–22 January 2022 due to Covid-19. Due to the continued uncertainty, some of the panels and keynotes have been moved to ESNS 2023, including interviews with Sub Pop’s Pavitt & Poneman, Peter Weening (Vera), Matt Schwarz (DreamHaus) and André de Raaff, as well as the country focus on Spain.


ASM Global has appointed Nate Whitman as chief strategy officer. In his new role, Whitman will be tasked with developing new business opportunities, investments and strategic partnerships, as well as new initiatives to deliver revenue growth for the company’s clients. Whitman most recently served as head of strategy and finance for Pac-12’s media division.


Paloma Faith will headline the Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza concert on Saturday, 6 August, 2022. Also performing will be the Black Dyke Brass Band, with a further special guest still to be announced.


Madison Square Garden Entertainment MSG Entertainment has named seasoned executive David F Byrnes as EVP and CFO, effective January 24. Byrnes will work closely with MSG Entertainment’s executive management team to support the long-term direction of the company. He will provide strategic financial insight on all facets of the business and oversee the firm’s financial matters. MSG Entertainment’s current EVP and CFO, Mark H FitzPatrick, will remain with the company through April 1 to assist with the transition.

The Lunar Electric music festival, due to be held in Newcastle on 18 December, was cancelled under a public health order. NSW Health said the record number of Covid-19 cases in the region presented too great a risk for the festival to take place.


House of Vans Mexico City officially opened its doors with performances by Japanese Breakfast, Noa Sainz and Girl Ultra. Molotov and Hot Chip also played headline shows during its opening weekend. Located in Col. San Juan, House of Vans Mexico City is billed as “part skatepark, part music venue, part theatre, part art gallery”, and adds to the brand’s existing hubs in London, UK and Chicago in the US.


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ESNS announces Spain focus for 2022

Spain will be the focus country for Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) 2022, the Dutch conference and showcase event has announced.

Eurosonic typically puts the spotlight on a single European nation each year (Switzerland was the focus country in 2020) but opted instead to focus on Europe as a whole for this year’s virtual edition, which took place in January. In partnership with Live Nation Madrid and export initiative the Spanish Wave, ESNS 2022 will highlight the diversity of musical talent in Spain.

César Andión of the Spanish Wave/Live Nation says: “We are thrilled to bring to ESNS 2022 a great roster of panels and artists that will showcase the strength, quality and diversity of the Spanish music industry and future stars. For years Spain has had artists performing in Groningen, and professionals attending the conference, so it was about time that we became the focus country to show how professional, large and diverse Spain is for touring, releasing music and trade.

“We look forward to getting started on bringing an eclectic selection of new music to Groningen”

“The Spanish focus will join forces and work together with labels, promoters, media, festivals, artists and private and public agencies to make this special spotlight a success in business, networking and talent. The Spanish Wave showcase will bring a wide palette of young, emerging and talented acts from all over Spain to show what fresh, alive and exportable artists we have in our country. Thanks to ESNS for giving us the support and opportunity to do so.”

“The Spanish music scene has a lot to offer for the international market,” comments Robert Meijerink. “While there is a growing interest in music in the Spanish language in Europe and beyond, we’d like to focus on all its different regions and lively scenes, from emerging electronic acts to the new wave of indie bands hailing from the big cities, the islands and everything in between. Together with the Spanish Wave and Live Nation Madrid and their partners, we look forward to getting started on bringing an eclectic selection of new music to Groningen.”

Eurosonic Noorderslag 2022 takes place in Groningen, Netherlands, from 19 to 22 January. Artist applications open on 1 May; registration for delegates will open later this year. To pre-register, sign up here.


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