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Jarred Arfa talks building IAG’s ‘all-star team’

Independent Artist Group (IAG) EVP, head of global music, Jarred Arfa has opened up on the company’s ambitions to establish itself as “the premier alternative agency option worldwide”.

IAG was launched earlier this year following the merger of US-based talent agencies Artist Group International (AGI) and Agency for the Performing Arts (APA), in a move that further intensified competition in the international live music agency landscape, which had been largely consolidated by just four companies – CAA, Wasserman, UTA and WME.

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

US-based Arfa, who was previously COO of New York’s AGI, tells IQ the union was a natural fit.

“We were very impressed with the work that [APA executives] Jim Osborne and Kyle Loftus had done with the film/TV careers of music clients – particularly 50 Cent and Mary J Blige – and how their success in those areas helped elevate their touring careers,” he says. “We wanted to be able to offer our artists a full suite of services beyond our touring expertise in TV, film, lit and branding in order to help facilitate their interests in other artistic outlets and further enhance the value of their brands and intellectual property.

“Our goal isn’t to become the biggest agency, but really more of a selective all-star team”

“We were coming off the best year in our company’s history at AGI so it wasn’t something that was necessary but it was certainly something that we saw as additive and complementary to our core business.”

Founded in 1986 by Jarred’s father, Dennis Arfa, AGI was 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 in 2021. The merger saw Dennis Arfa appointed chair of IAG’s music division, with AGI president Marsha Vlasic named vice-chair and APA president Osborne becoming CEO.

“It couldn’t have been a smoother transition as we were already working with the APA content team on a number of projects for our music clients prior to the merger and had a great deal of success with those projects,” says Jarred. “We both share a client-first ethos that I think has been lost as many of our competitors have focused on becoming multimedia companies. I believe there is still a real need for an agency that’s primary goal is to create and enhance value for its clients.

“We believe in a quality before quantity mantra and that is how we will continue to build our business. We want to continue to work with artists we truly feel can have long careers and that we can envision becoming headliners. Our goal isn’t to become the biggest agency, but really more of a selective all-star team. We will be very strategic and thoughtful in how we expand our business to align with the above mentioned philosophies.”

Although the TV and film sectors were hampered in 2023 by the Hollywood strikes, Arfa points out that the concert touring business has “never been hotter”. Singling out shows by clients Ne-Yo, Robert Glasper and the Smashing Pumpkins as “extremely inspiring”, he also cites Billy Joel’s Madison Square Garden residency and stadium run with Stevie Nicks, alongside successful tours by 50 Cent, Metallica, Def Leppard & Motley Crue, Ms Lauryn Hill & Fugees, Pantera, Rod Stewart and Neil Young.

“I expect touring to continue to thrive in the experience economy and with so many different genres of music continuing to grow”

“IAG touring had an incredible year with a number of artists headlining arena and stadium tours worldwide,” he says. “We are also very proud of Ghost becoming a bonafide arena headliner in the States and the continued growth of other great rock bands like Sleep Token and Falling in Reverse.

“In 2024, I am excited about the development of some other newer artists like Key Glock, Matt Malteese, Eem Triplin, Bigxtheplug, Téo and Freddie Dredd, amongst many others. I believe IAG will continue to establish itself as the premier alternative agency option worldwide and will attract many great clients who are looking for a more hands-on and team-oriented type of representation but still has all the services that a larger agency can provide. I expect touring to continue to thrive in the experience economy and with so many different genres of music continuing to grow.”

In closing, Arfa urges the rest of the world to adopt the tools that have been utilised to help raise artist grosses in the US, such as platinum ticketing and dynamic pricing.

“Although slowly being adopted in Europe, I believe it is very important to be embraced across the industry worldwide to help offset the rising costs of touring,” he says.

 


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Execs talk investment opportunities in live music

A trio of leading live music executives have shared their views on the areas of the business most ripe for investment.

With the market bouncing back internationally following the Covid shutdown, Mumford & Sons musician and venue boss Ben Lovett, Oak View Group (OVG) International’s Jessica Koravos and Jarred Arfa, COO of Artist Group International, weighed in on the biggest opportunities for the industry.

Speaking during the Industry Investment: Field notes panel at the recent ILMC in London, US-based Arfa suggested the concept of Live Nation’s upcoming “emo nostalgia” festival When We Were Young in Las Vegas, which has expanded to three days due to demand, pointed a way forward for the industry.

“There are obviously so many festivals out there, but we’re seeing a lot of success where they’re focusing on specific niches,” he said. “People want to be part of that moment in time and relive that, as opposed to, ‘Let’s give everyone a little flavour of everything.’ Those that are focusing on specific genres, or overfeeding one time period, are seeing some success and a point of distinction.”

“The pandemic has made people really appreciate those coming together moments that maybe they took for granted before”

Koravos, who is also president of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, which oversees some of the world’s biggest theatrical titles, said Covid-19 has prompted a change of mindset in the public when it comes to live shows.

“One thing that pandemic has absolutely done is made people really appreciate those coming together moments that maybe they took for granted before,” she said. “Flipping hats and talking about the West End and theatre for a second, what’s very interesting to me is that what’s very successful in the West End right now is the shows that have been there the longest.

“I see it with Phantom of the Opera, which has flipped its age demographic down by 10 years over the course of the pandemic, and I think it’s because of exactly that – you take for granted that something that’s always been there will keep being there. But I don’t think that’s the assumption anymore.

“People want to go see Billy Joel at [Madison Square] Garden. They want to go see Phantom of the Opera. They want to make sure they are appreciating the things that might not always be there.”

“There are just not enough good venues. It’s really that simple”

TVG Hospitality co-founder Lovett urged would-be investors to put their faith (and finances) in the independent sector.

“I would back indie promoters,” he said. “Everything’s getting so algorithmic, we could end up with pretty watered down creative inputs into our lives unless those indie promoters go and stick their neck out. So I would say, invest money into those indie promoters… If we can get some great promoters coming through, it’s going to be good for everyone.”

Earlier this year, TVG Hospitality announced the closing of $50 million in new funding to expand its team and venue portfolio in the UK and US, backed by a heavyweight list of investors including OVG, founded by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff.

TVG is bidding to create the next generation of music venues alongside elevated hospitality offerings in order to enhance the artist and fan experience and create gathering spaces as community assets. The company’s current portfolio includes London music venues, Omeara, Lafayette and the Social, and broader hospitality offerings at Flat Iron Square and Goods Way.

“This is going to be the most exciting few years”

“Across the board, I think what Tim and Irving saw – and the same issue that we were trying to solve – is there are just not enough good venues. It’s really that simple,” said Lovett, whose latest project – the 8,000-cap Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville, Alabama – opened earlier this month.

“For the last couple of decades there just hasn’t been enough investment into truly inspiring places,” continued Lovett. “There are people buying incredible bars and restaurants and hotels, and there’s lots of other things that are being constantly being reimagined and the envelope is being pushed. But when it comes to music venues it’s just stagnated. And this is going to be the most exciting few years where all of these new venues are going to [launch].”

OVG has already opened the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Moody Center in Austin and the UBS Arena in Long Island, New York, with schemes also on their way in Manchester, Baltimore, Coachella Valley and Cardiff.

“Venues are very expensive,” added Koravos. “The 2,000 seaters are expensive, the 20,000 seaters are super-expensive, so investment is a crucial part of getting those off the ground. But the whole point of Oak View Group is really just looking around at the fact that, around the world, the big music venues are actually all buildings that were built 20 years ago or more, for the most part.

“They were built for sports for the most part, not by anybody who knew anything about the content about what needed to go in them and what the fan needed to experience. So at Oak View, our whole reason for being is to build the best experience in the best markets.”

 


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