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Jon Ollier: ‘The agency world has been shaken to its core’

Ed Sheeran agent Jon Ollier says hopes to help talented booking agents regain a sense of control after the devastating events of 2020 with his new venture, One Fiinix Live.

Speaking to IQ after the launch of One Fiinix last month, Ollier explained the agency’s unusual name, which was inspired by his eldest daughter’s middle name, Phoenix: “One Fiinix wasn’t necessarily named after her, but it comes from the same place,” he says. “When she was born, it was a cataclysm, and we’re in a similar situation now. A phoenix symbolises hope, rebirth, immortality, and new beginnings…”

In addition to Sheeran, Ollier takes the likes of Anne-Marie, JC Stewart, Lauv and 2Cellos to One Fiinix, which he set up following his exit from CAA in October after nearly six years at the agency.

Ollier says he looks back fondly at his tenure at CAA, which he describes as a “fantastic company” about which one “can’t say enough good things”.

“It was a very amicable exit from CAA, which came after lots and lots of discussion,” he explains. “They were very good to me.”

“I want to be able to look my kids in the eyes and tell them I did all I could to make sure we came out of this stronger”

However, as time went on, the impact of coronavirus on the major agency sector – and the opportunities presented by striking out on one’s own – became too difficult to ignore, continues Ollier. “No one single factor led me to this decision – if that was the case, I’d probably be foolish – but a major factor is the reaction to Covid-19.

“As agents, we’re problem solvers – we make things happen – but at the moment, the whole live business is being asked to just sit things out, and I’m not very good at doing that. I’ve got young kids and I want to be able to look them in the eyes in years to come and tell them I did all I could to make sure we came out of this stronger.”

Like his colleagues in the independent agency world, Ollier believes the crisis of 2020 has done much to shift the balance of the power in the agency sector.

“The business models of the big companies are not designed to withstand a pandemic. That’s not a criticism of anyone in particular – everyone has been far too complacent,” he says. The reality is that the major agencies have a huge amount of overheads, huge numbers of staff, and they’re not really able to move quickly in terms of making decisions and engineering their way out of it [the crisis].

“When the times were good, agents were being paid well and looked after by a company that seemed like it cared. But now, that whole concept has been shaken to the core. Agents need to feel a bit more like they’re in control.”

“Agents need to feel a bit more like they’re in control”

For those agents who feel like they’ve lost control of their destinies, Ollier has one simple message: Get in touch.

“So many people are clinging to this life raft, which is the job they’ve got, but which they don’t feel they have a future in,” he says, “and my job is to say, ‘Let go of the life raft.’”

Ollier says he sees One Fiinix – currently just him and longtime colleague Emma Davis – becoming a “collective of individuals who are empowered to go out and there are make deals”. “I’ve always wondered why we have a department for this, a department for that, when everyone in those departments is more than capable of going and getting a deal,” he explains.

While the new agency will have an office, the plan is to be less “departmentalised” and with more focus on its people, Ollier adds.

“At the moment, all I’m saying to people is, ‘How can I be supportive? Come and talk to me and let’s generate some ideas,’” he continues.

“Ultimately, we would like to help some people out. I’ve been helped out over the course of my career, and we all need that – no one is an island. So what I’m saying to people is: let’s get collaborative, let’s get creative, and let’s build our way out of this, however that manifests, in a mutually beneficial way.”

 


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Jon Ollier launches new agency One Fiinix Live

Ed Sheeran agent Jon Ollier has announced details of his new booking agency, launched following his recent departure from CAA.

Headquartered in London, One Fiinix Live aims to offer both a “first-class service” to Ollier’s existing roster – which also includes Anne-Marie, JC Stewart, Lauv and 2Cellos – while also investing in new “strategies to maximise opportunities in a post-Covid-19 world”, according to Ollier.

Ollier will serve as CEO of the new venture, with Emma Davis – who served as Ollier’s assistant at CAA – also joining One Fiinix Live. Ollier left CAA after nearly six years last month, along with his personal roster.

Explaining the reason behind the name, Ollier says: “I have always been interested in spirituality and symbolism. Fiinix is, of course, a play on the word Phoenix and so, therefore, a symbol of rebirth, hope, immortality and resurrection.

“It is a word that has come into relevance for me strongly at huge turning points in my life. We gave our daughter, our first child, the conventional spelling as her middle name. She came into our lives and it was all change, a new chapter in our lives. I think we are in a similar place right now: everything we knew to be true about our lives has been tested and shaken and my response to it has been to embrace the change, have faith in the immortality of music and hope in the rebirth which will come from it.”

Ollier began his career at Helter Skelter, moving to Free Trade Agency in 2008, when he first began working with Sheeran. He moved to CAA as a senior agent in 2015.

“After almost six years at CAA, where I learned a huge amount from some inspirational colleagues, I felt it was time to launch my own venture and realise the vision I had for a forward-thinking, innovative agency that could empower artists and help them reach new audiences,” he comments.

“The idea of starting the company now is to invest in a business that can grow from the bottom of the market”

The past few months have seen a flurry of activity in the agency world on both sides of the Atlantic, with the likes of Route One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK, Arrival ArtistsMint Talent Group and TBA Agency in the US and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain all having launched this autumn following cutbacks at the major agencies.

“It may seem counter intuitive, but I think this is uniquely good time to launch a new business as we enter the next phase for live music,” continues Ollier. “There will be huge opportunities as we create new ways of thinking and I believe One Fiinix Live is poised to play a leading role in that positive disruption.”

Hinting at plans to expand the number of agents at One Fiinix, he adds: “We are keen to turn the current challenges we are all facing into possibilities, and I encourage anyone who feels they have the same kind of mindset to reach out – now is the time to embrace the change.”

He adds: “The idea of starting the company now is to invest in a business that can grow from the bottom of the market and to create a vehicle that can take advantage of the situation we find ourselves in. There are talented people out there who, for a number of reasons, may feel their situation is less secure that it was and the hope is that we can start conversations, employ, go in to ventures or just simply offer support where we can.

“I think the priority for all of us right now needs to be the survival of the ecosystem as a whole and so I think the industry will become naturally more collaborative. It is then just about seeing what opportunities come out of that collaboration.”

 


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Sheeran agent Jon Ollier to launch own company

Jon Ollier has become the latest agent to use 2020 as a springboard to launch his own independent company, after CAA today confirmed he will be leaving the agency within weeks.

Ollier will be taking his biggest client, Ed Sheeran, with him, alongside fellow British stars Anne-Marie and Calum Scott, but at the moment it is unclear who else from his roster might also be part of the new venture.

Ollier was at Free Trade Agency until March 2015, when he joined CAA’s London office. His departure from the company is amicable, with CAA offering their full support for his yet-to-be named new venture.

“Starting my own company has been a dream of mine and I appreciate CAA’s support in this transition”

“CAA has been a wonderful experience and one I am incredibly grateful for,” says Ollier. “It has been an absolute privilege working alongside so many outstanding people who care deeply about their clients and each other.”

He adds, “Starting my own company has been a dream of mine and I appreciate CAA’s support in this transition.”

CAA co-head, Emma Banks tells IQ, “Jon has been a great colleague and friend. We wish him the very best as he pursues an entrepreneurial path, and look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Ollier will be handing over and wrapping up with the company until mid-November and more details about his new company will be released in due course.

 


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