Sustainability and diversity top of agents’ agendas
Discussing various big topics such as the post-Covid return to business and sustainability, the main discussion point arising from this year’s ILMC agency panel was diversity and how the business, in general, can be more open to attracting people from different backgrounds.
Session chairman Tom Schroeder of Paradigm Talent Agency admitted to guests Lucy Dickins (WME), Mike Greek (CAA), Sam Kirby Yoh (UTA) and Obi Asika (Echo Location Talent Agency) that prior to the panel he thought his passion, sustainability, would be the main takeaway from the panel, but instead it turned out to be diversity.
Earlier in the session, Schroeder had joked that UTA had been the most aggressive agency during the pandemic, so much so that they had a 50% market share of the panel guests, thanks to the 3 March announcement that the company had acquired Asika’s Echo Location operation.
“When everything comes back we’ll [either] return to being the same idiots or there will be some fundamental change”
And it was Asika who, in tackling a question about race and diversity, recounted a story from his youth where his mother, a sociology teacher, had urged him to read a book by Jock Young who wrote about labelling theory, opening Asika’s mind to the dangers of stereotyping.
“So I was aware from the age of 13 or 14 that I was constantly stereotyped by teachers at my school, by parents of the children, by school friends, and even maybe sometimes myself, because you end up, potentially, becoming that stereotype. It’s a seriously dangerous thing and it happens all over the world,” said Asika.
But he revealed that it was music at university, especially drum and bass, that first allowed him to think of himself as British, as he identified with the music. He added, “We all do it, but if you are judging somebody before you’ve given them a chance, think about how dangerous that can be. And on the other side of it, think about how powerful the industry we work in is – someone who felt that way, because of the love of music, is now sitting here and has just started as the head of the UK office of a global agency, having a talk with all you fine people.”
“The responsibility we have as an industry to become sustainable is something we haven’t thought about enough previously”
Addressing how the industry should approach its return to reopening, Schroeder stated, “There are two schools of thought: one is that when everything comes back we’ll return to being the same old idiots we used to be, or maybe there will be some fundamental change.”
Greek responded, “I do believe there will be fundamental change, but I do see there are certain elements of what we do that are going to end up being the norm again. Ultimately, the responsibility we have as an industry to become sustainable is something we haven’t thought about enough previously. Secondly, it’s important to note how loud our voice is as an industry when we collectively get together – that’s something we can hopefully see grow in the future.”
On a positive note, Dickins stated that she thought there would be a lot of silver linings to come out of the pandemic shutdown, not the least of which would be improvements to people’s life-work balance, and not being at every show, every night.
“We have to work together – not just agents, but also promoters and venues in regard to dealing with government and policy”
Noting that the industry is in a precarious position where huge number of tickets are being sold, Schoeder pondered, “When we get practical on this, how is it going to work? You’ve got festivals spending money on marketing, but no insurance system for the artist or for the promoters and tickets are being sold for events we don’t know are going to happen. At some point, the artist has got to invest some money to make a show to go on the stage, if anything is going to happen. It’s a jigsaw that confuses me every day.”
Greek agreed, stating, “I have sleepless nights about it as well because I’ve committed lots of my clients to lots of different events, but there’s no way of knowing without insurance and all other kinds of stuff… the conversations are about everyone around the artist trying to minimise costs they would incur in advance in order to make a decision as late as possible to do the show. It’s a big concern and some artists can afford to take the risk, while others can’t.”
Kirby Yoh commented, “We have to work together – not just agents, but also promoters and venues in regard to dealing with government and policy. But we can make it better for everybody – safer for the fans and the artists. In my mind, there is not a choice. It’s our responsibility to work together.”
“Just be careful. Make sure you’re not spending too much money unless you really have to”
Dickins noted that some of the problems around agreeing industry best practice involved the competition and legality issues. “But basically I think you have to conduct your business with empathy because every single person has had to go through this [Covid]. So it’s all about sharing information, talking people through each step, and listening to people. As regards different places opening at different times, that’s just something we’re going to have to work around and take on board because every single border is going to have a different issue.”
Indeed, in answer to a question from a delegate, Schroeder suggested that payment plans for advances were being discussed, although he admitted that these could become complicated.
And adding his advice, Asika said, “Just be careful. Make sure you’re not spending too much money unless you really have to. Hold back and focus on the areas that we know are looking positive. I honestly believe we will have shows in the UK this summer, but I have a policy of spreading my bets – I’m not focussing on any huge festivals this year, I’m spreading things across clubs to 5,000 to 10,000 all over the place and anyone who mentions exclusivity is told that I’m not interested.”
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Lucy Dickins named WME co-head of music as Geiger exits
Following months of speculation, WME’s worldwide head of music, Marc Geiger, has confirmed he is leaving the agency after 17 years.
Under the leadership of Geiger, who joined the then-William Morris Agency in 2003, WME’s music division has “become a global powerhouse,” comments Lloyd Braun, president of representation at parent company Endeavor. “During his tenure, Marc led countless agency initiatives and firsts for the music industry, including the creation of festivals and EDM divisions and building out WME’s leading London and Sydney music teams.
“We thank Marc for his countless contributions to WME and wish him all the best going forward.”
Also out is co-head of music Sara Newkirk Simon, who moves into a consultancy role in the wider Endeavor business. She is replaced as WME’s third music co-head by Lucy Dickins, head of the agency’s UK music division, who joined WME last year.
“The past 17 years have been an incredible ride”
Other co-heads Scott Clayton and Kirk Sommer remain in their current roles.
“The past 17 years have been an incredible ride, and I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the world’s best artists and colleagues,” comments Geiger, whose Breakfast Meeting interview was a highlight of ILMC 28.
“I’m proud of all that we accomplished, most especially the team we built during my time with the agency. I know they will achieve great things in the future.”
Geiger’s next destination is unclear, though speculation has linked him to an executive role at streaming giant Spotify.
This story will be updated.
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‘We exist to tour’: Team Mumford do Futures Forum
Mumford & Sons’ live strategy formed the core of the Futures Forum keynote interview on Friday (6 March), featuring founding band member Ben Lovett, manager Adam Tudhope and agent Lucy Dickins, in conversation with journalist Paul Stokes.
“We are most passionate about the live side,” said Lovett, in a statement that proved almost superfluous over the course of the interview, given the palpable sense of enthusiasm he emitted while talking about Mumford & Sons’ past tours, their Gentlemen of the Road events and his own venues, Omeara and Lafayette.
Since the very earliest stages of Mumford & Sons – and even before they were known as such – the band members approached performing with a “sleeves rolled-up mentality”, unafraid of getting involved with staging and other aspects of putting on shows.
This resulted in a collaborative approach to touring, which remains to this very day. “I love the fact that it is always a conversation between us and the promoters,” said Lovett. “We respect promoters as a band – it’s in our DNA.”
The band officially formed in 2007, consisting of Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ted Dwane and Lovett, with Dickins and Tudhope coming on board as firm members of the team from the get go.
“We just toured non-stop,” said Dickins, who joined WME in May last year. “I’ve never seen a work ethic like it and that continues today.”
Lovett agreed that “the main reason Mumford & Sons exist is to tour”. The band’s most recent concert tour, Delta, saw them perform more than 60 dates at arenas across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.
“I’ve never seen a work ethic like it and that continues today”
The mammoth tour sold 700,000 tickets in just a few days of going on sale, broke multiple attendance records and featured the band playing in the round for the first time. “It was very challenging but incredibly effective staging,” said Lovett, explaining there was a “sense of duty” to allow fans to experience their songs in a different way for their fourth headlining tour.
“We took some risks on Delta,” he said, “and on balance it really paid off. It really felt like there were connection happening between audience members throughout that tour.”
Forming meaningful connections in interesting places is at the heart of much of what the band do. The team revealed that upcoming plans to “go deeper into eastern Europe”, explore new “seemingly random places” and work with new promoters, were “scuppered” by the recent coronavirus outbreak.
“We really do have a really awesome idea up our sleeves,” said Tudhope, with the team hinting that plans would not be put on hold forever.
The band’s Gentlemen of the Road event series has seen them perform in many different places, travelling to small towns in the UK, Australia, the US, South Africa, and more.
“The culture clash is so beautiful”, said Tudhope, speaking of seeing tiny, off-the-beaten track towns inundated with festivalgoers, and local businesses benefitting from the event. “There’s a real community aspect.”
Dickins referenced the practical challenges of finding a suitable site for these unique events and curating the line-up. “It’s double, if not triple the amount of work but it’s worth every bit,” she said. “Enthusiasm drives it.”
“It was very challenging but incredibly effective staging”
From a business point of view, Tudhope said the events were a great way of gaining a true understanding of how promoters work, which has “really informed a lot of our own business decisions.”
“Promoters aren’t a bank for us,” added the Mumford & Sons manager. “They’re the enablers of a dream and you need a good relationship for that.”
If the experience of putting on their own events has enabled the band and team to develop a deeper understanding of how promoters work, then Lovett’s experience as a touring musician has informed him in his capacity as a venue owner.
Lovett, who owns and operates London venues Omeara and the recently opened Lafayette, stated that both fans and artists want something “unique” from venues, asking why the industry is pushing a more standardised “cookie cutter” model.
“Everybody wants to play Omeara because it’s so thought out from the artist’s side,” said Dickins. Artists that have performed at the 320-capacity venue include the Pretenders, Kodaline, the Maccabees, Beck and Circa Waves, with upcoming performances from Jake Bugg, Amy Wadge and Jesse Malin.
Lafayette (600-cap.) opened its doors last week with a performance by Brit Award-winner Dave and already has a full programme of upcoming events by the likes of Jack Peñate, D Double E and Hudson Taylor.
“The support I’ve received for Lafayette has meant the world,” said Lovett, adding that he has the lease on the venue for 25 years – equating to around 5,000 shows. “Just think of all the acts that are going to go through there.”
“For me, the sign of a successful band is longevity”
Lovett’s venue ventures have much to do with sustaining the live industry and providing artists with a place to perform. Lovett referenced the number of venue closures that have been seen in recent years, emphasising the damage that the secondary ticketing market is enacting on the grassroots level of the industry in particular.
Tudhope spoke of how the US leg of Mumfords’ Delta tour ended up generating “many millions” for the secondary market. “We didn’t want our fans to have to pay that money,” he said, explaining that it was the tickets sold at the affordable price band that were most heavily targeted by touts.
This experience “galvanised us really strongly to do something about it”, said Tudhope. Together with other managers and artists, the Mumford team has now created “a really good coalition” around anti-touting group FanFair Alliance.
Environmental sustainability is another area that the team is looking to improve upon. The band partnered with green touring specialist Reverb on its Delta tour to calculate – and later offset – carbon emissions, and create an eco-friendly touring template for future use.
“The key thing you have to commit to is spending money,” said Tudhope. “It costs money to be greener, that’s the reality.”
With sustainability remaining essential to Mumford & Sons’ ethos, it appears this will be a cost the band is willing to take.
“For me, the sign of a successful band is longevity, rather than number ones or show size, or anything else,” said Lovett. “All I want to know is: how can we do this for longer?”
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The final countdown: ILMC week is here
The 32nd International Live Music Conference (ILMC) is kicking off tomorrow (3 March) in London, welcoming top music industry professionals for a wide range of panel discussions, keynote interviews and networking events.
The 2020 edition of ILMC features the conference’s most wide-reaching agenda yet, with sessions looking at the agency, ticketing, venue and festival sectors, as well as exploring green touring, mental health, the Insta-generation and life after losing a star act.
This year also sees the return of Futures Forum on 6 March, a forward-looking discussion and networking event created by young professionals for the next generation of live music industry leaders.
Highlights of the ILMC agenda include the ILMC Breakfast Meeting, which sees Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell site down to interview fellow legendary artist manager Peter Rudge, and the Futures Forum keynote, featuring Team Mumford & Sons – founding band member and venue owner Ben Lovett, manager Adam Tudhope and booking agent Lucy Dickins.
The 2020 edition of ILMC features the conference’s most wide-reaching agenda yet
Elsewhere, ILMC’s main opening session The Open Forum: Universally challenged will consider the impact of Covid-19 coronavirus on the business, as well as other key topics; agents line up to discuss recent strategies for both emerging and established artists in The Agency Business 2020; urban music’s meteoric rise is examined in the Urban Legends: Hip hop on top panel; and the industry’s duty of care towards its workforce forms the centre of conversation in the Mental Health: Next steps for live session.
A packed ILMC workshop schedule will look at the impact 5G is likely to have on live music, the benefits video-sharing platform TikTok brings to the business, how to maximise the potential of digital marketing and the advantages of digital ticketing.
Outside of the conference programming, the best and brightest of the industry will be crowned at the ILMC Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner on Thursday night and delegates will go head to head in a series of activities including the It’s a Copout game show night, as well as staples of the ILMC night-time programme table football and karaoke.
ILMC takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel in London from 3 to 6 March. Companies supporting this year’s conference include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventim, Universe, Livestyled, Tysers, Joy Station, Mojo Rental and Showsec.
Team Mumford, Peter Rudge confirmed as ILMC keynotes
Legendary artist manager Peter Rudge and Team Mumford & Sons and have been announced as the keynote speakers at this year’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March.
The ILMC Breakfast Meeting (Wednesday 4 March) this year features two titans of the artist management game, as Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell sits down to interview Peter Rudge, whose roster has included the Who, the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Duran Duran, Madness, Ray Davies, Anastacia, James, Imelda May and Ball & Boe.
The Futures Forum keynote, taking place on the final, youth-focused day of the conference on 6 March, will see Team Mumford & Sons interviewed by Radio X DJ John Kennedy. Founding band member and venue owner Ben Lovett will be joined by manager Adam Tudhope (Everybody’s) and booking agent Lucy Dickins (WME) to reflect on Mumfords’ journey from banjo-plucking west London folkies to global superstars.
The ILMC Breakfast Meeting features two titans of the artist management game
Elsewhere across the ILMC conference schedule, guest speakers include CAA co-head Emma Banks, UTA’s head of global music David Zedeck, Live Nation’s executive president of international touring Phil Bowdery and SVP Marketing Jackie Wilgar, Book My Show CEO Ashish Hemrajani, AEG President and CEO Alex Hill, Oak View Group co-chair Jessica Koravos and O2’s head of sponsorship Gareth Griffiths.
Last year’s Breakfast Meeting saw the Who’s Roger Daltrey take to the stage to discuss the band’s beginnings, crooked managers and his oft-strained relationship with Pete Townshend, whereas the inaugural Futures Forum keynote featured double grammy winner Dua Lipa talking about the challenges faced by women in the industry, alongside her father, Dugi.
ILMC takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel and The Baglioni Hotel in Kensington from 3 to 6 March. The invitation-only event sells out annually, with 1,200 delegates from over 60 markets attending the main conference, and a total of around 2,000 professionals expected at ILMC events across the week.
XL Recordings’ A&R manager joins WME
WME has announced that Caroline Simionescu-Marin is joining its UK music division as an agent, effective immediately.
Simionescu-Marin, who was most recently the A&R Manager for XL Recordings, began her music career as editor of the UK urban music site and channel GRM Daily in 2013, aged just 18. While at GRM Daily, she created and developed the ‘New Gen’ brand, as well as playing a part in the early management of J Hus.
At XL, Simionescu-Marin curated the ‘New Gen’ compilation album, featuring the likes of AJ Tracey and Avelino, and signed underground British rapper Nines, releasing his first two albums, which both charted in the top 5 selling over 100,000 albums.
“I am very excited to be starting the next chapter of my career as an agent in WME’s UK music team”
“Caroline is going to be a brilliant addition to WME,” comment Brian Ahern, partner and co-head of WME’s London music division, and Lucy Dickins, head of UK Music at WME. “She’s completely immersed in the music she loves and what she has achieved so early in her career is really impressive. Her joining will further strengthen and grow the UK team as we kick off 2020.”
Simionescu-Marin says: “I am very excited to be starting the next chapter of my career as an agent in WME’s UK music team. I have admired the company for a long time and it’s exciting that, as well as music, WME has such a major reach across many other areas in global entertainment too. I can’t think of a better place to learn and grow.”
WME’s UK music division is also headed up by Adele and Mumford and Sons agent Lucy Dickins who recently appeared alongside her father Barry, co-founder of ITB, and brother Jonathan, founder of September Management, in a one-of-a-kind interview.
‘There’s a shortcut now’: Dickinses talk artist development
Barry Dickins, the co-founder of ITB, his son Jonathan, founder of September Management, and daughter Lucy, head of UK music at WME, came together to share their industry expertise – as well as a few family anecdotes – in a keynote interview with ILMC MD Greg Parmley at Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) on Thursday (16 January).
With over 100 years of industry experience between them, the trio reflected on the most significant changes to have taken place in the business in recent years.
Social media is the best way to make new acts visible nowadays, said Barry, who founded ITB along with Rod MacSween in 1978, adding that the touring circuit for emerging acts is “not the same” as it used to be.
Jonathan, who manages artists including Adele, Jamie T, London Grammar and Rex Orange County, agreed, saying that most people are finding their music online nowadays, rather than at live shows. The disappearance of a small club circuit, said Jonathan, means that “we often come across artists that are fully formed on the recording side but completely and utterly undeveloped on the live side.”
“For all its benefits,” he continued, “technology has made people lazier. It’s like there’s a shortcut to being popular now.”
“We often come across artists that are fully formed on the recording side but completely and utterly undeveloped on the live side”
The data-driven nature of artist discovery can also be a problem for the industry. “We have to be careful to not always give people exactly what they want,” said Jonathan. “The true phenomenon comes from giving people what they don’t know they want yet.”
Adele, who Jonathan and Lucy discovered and started working with at the same time, yet independently of each other, is an example of this “true phenomenon”. Lucy cited the success of artists including Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith as a result of Adele’s opening the door for a less conventional model of pop star.
“We are risking getting a more generic type of artist if everything is based on data,” concluded Jonathan.
If not based on data, how do you spot if an artist is going to be a hit, asked Parmley. “You can’t,” said Lucy, whose roster includes Mumford and Sons, Hot Chip and Mabel, in addition to Adele. “It has a lot to do with gut feeling – if it’s something I truly love, I want to work with it.” In the case of Adele, though, it was special. “It is very rare that something like that comes your way,” said Lucy. “She [Adele] blew me away song after song.”
The advent of technology has, however, also brought a lot of advantages to the business, said Lucy, who picked up agent of the year at the European Festival Awards on Wednesday. She cited the diversification of artists that are discovered nowadays, with many non-English-speaking acts breaking through. “It’s great there’s so much more diversity now,” said Lucy. “I’m so excited by how many new types of music are out there.”
“It’s great there’s so much more diversity now. I’m so excited by how many new types of music are out there”
Jonathan agreed that it is good to see things “break from beyond these borders”. “We will see genuine African superstars this year,” he stated. In particular, the September Management CEO believes there is a lot of “super-creative” work currently being done in hip hop, and that drill music will “be the rap music to unify the genre and stop hyper-local stuff”.
With so many new kinds of music coming from all over the world, Barry emphasised the importance of keeping a young team around to ensure enduring relevance. “I want to see development within ITB and see the company get some great new young people,” he said.
Artist management has also changed over the years, said Jonathan. Deals are way more transparent and flexible, there’s an easier route to market than ever before and a lot more choice of artists, he said, but “it’s still all about working with the artists you believe in and taking a long-term approach”.
“I’ve always played it long,” he said, explaining that he works with artists that he believes will have a long career, rather than taking “quick money”.
“It’s not a race – it all depends where you end up.”
Going Dutch: What to expect from ESNS 2020
Much of the European music industry is preparing for its yearly pilgrimage to the Netherlands, as conference and showcase festival Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) is set to commence tomorrow, 15 January, in the Dutch city of Groningen.
Combining a daytime conference programme with a packed evening showcase schedule, ESNS 2020 welcomes Switzerland as its focus nation this year, with over 20 emerging Swiss acts performing throughout the event and aiming to impress in the European Talent Exchange Programme (ETEP), which saw success for ATC Live-repped punk rockers Fontaines DC last year.
The 2019 European Festival Awards kick off proceedings on Wednesday evening, hosted by IQ Magazine’s Gordon Masson and A Greener Festival’s Claire O’Neill, and featuring performances from artists including Swiss singer-songwriter Marius Bear.
Wacken Open Air founders Holger Hübner and Thomas Jensen are set to receive the lifetime achievement accolade at the ceremony, which will see winners crowned across 15 categories.
Over 150 panels, along with keynote interviews, workshops and networking opportunities, will take place at ESNS 2020
Over 150 panels, along with keynote interviews and workshops, will take place at ESNS 2020 from 16 to 19 January at conference centre De Oosterpoort, with a new city-centre location, Forum Groningen, hosting sessions over the weekend.
Highlights of the conference programme include ‘the Dickins Dynasty’, which sees ITB co-founder Barry Dickins and his daughter Lucy, head of WME’s UK music division, and son Jonathan, founder and CEO of September Management, in conversation with ILMC MD Greg Parmley, as well as a keynote interview with Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency’s John Giddings.
Other notable sessions include a keynote from Ticketmaster’s Don Pawley, ‘the Agents Panel’ with Paradigm’s Paul Buck, ATC Live’s Alex Bruford, X-ray Touring’s Beckie Sugden and CAA’s Maria May, and a panel on boutique festivals featuring representatives from Openair St.Gallen, Bluedot/Kendal Calling, Westway Lab and Release Athens.
ESNS 2019 attracted over 42,000 guests from 44 countries, including 4,100 conference delegates and representatives from 423 festivals, and showcased 342 acts across more than 40 stages.
Lucy Dickins joins WME
WME has confirmed to IQ that award winning music agent Lucy Dickins is joining the company in June. Currently a senior agent at ITB, she will become head of WME’s UK music division – a newly created role.
“Lucy is a star player, and the perfect addition to our team,” says WME’s head of music, Marc Geiger. “There’s no one else who possesses Lucy’s combination of pedigree, taste and respect in our industry. After being in business with her family for so many years, we feel fortunate that she decided to join WME, and we look forward to bringing her perspective to our clients and colleagues.”
Adding Dickins to the payroll is a significant coup for WME’s music team in the UK, where the company has been operating since 2007. One of the music industry’s most respected and successful agents, her existing client roster includes Adele, Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, James Blake and Mabel, whom WME will now represent globally. Dickins also works with Hot Chip, Bryan Ferry, Rex Orange County, Jamie T, Jack Peñate, among others, all of whom are expected to join her at WME. Also following her to WME’s central London offices will be ITB agents James Simmons and Chris Payne.
Underlining her popularity in the global industry, in March this year, Dickins’ peers voted her the Second Least Offensive Agent at ILMC’s Arthur Awards.
“There’s no one else who possesses Lucy’s combination of pedigree, taste and respect in our industry”
She states, “Growing up in this business, I’ve been lucky to learn from the best, but now is the time for me to take the next step in my career. The opportunity to join WME was hugely exciting, and I’m confident that this relationship can grow into something special.”
The job switch will bring her career of more than 20 years at ITB to an end. After a work experience stint at the agency as a teenager, Dickins began her career working for a small independent record label before re-joining ITB as an assistant in 1998. During the past two decades, she has built a reputation for developing artists and emerging talent from grass roots, and she is renowned for the close rapport she forms with her artists.
Lucy is part of a music business dynasty that stretches back to her musician grandfather, Percy, who, in the 1950s, co-founded the NME and introduced the Top 20 recorded music charts into popular UK culture. Her father, Barry, formed ITB in 1978 with a client list made up of some of the biggest artists of all time, including Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Her brother, Jonathan, currently manages a hugely successful roster including Adele, while her uncle, Rob, is a former head of Warner Brothers.
She was recently revealed as one of the first speakers at Eurosonic Noorderslag 2020, where she will be interviewed, alongside her father and brother, by ILMC’s Greg Parmley.
Her hire culminates a period of growth for WME’s UK office. This year the agency booked more shows at the O2 Arena than any of its rivals, in addition to leading European festival bookings.
Opposites attract: ITB at 40
At ITB, they call it “going over to the dark side.”
You walk out of the open-plan space where Barry Dickins is king, and most of the other agents and assistants reside, cross reception and follow the corridor down to the other end. There, you might find Rod MacSween and his team, surrounded by shelves of highbrow books and photos of MacSween arm-around-shoulder with the cream of classic rockers: Ozzy, Page and Plant, Steven and Joe.
“We’ve always liked the idea of the company all being set out over one level, with Rod at one end of the office and me at the other, and everyone else in between,” says Dickins.
The demarcation of ‘dark’ and ‘light’ sides is jokily acknowledged by little Star Wars icons above the key-code entry systems on opposite sides of reception – on MacSween’s, the rock giants, on Dickins’, the classic singer-songwriters.
Office geography aside, Dickins and MacSween remain one of the live business’s most indivisible partnerships, still intact after 40 years that have included a 14-year spell within Live Nation, a latter-day return to independence and long-term relationships with artists including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon and ZZ Top (Dickins’ list) and Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, The Who, Pearl Jam, Kiss, Guns N’ Roses and Maroon Five (MacSween’s).
But it’s been some time since the company was solely the sum of the founders’ still-formidable rosters.
“Me and Rod are completely different – mentally, physically and artistically. That’s probably why the business works so well”
In 2018, ITB offers strength in depth, with Dickins’s daughter Lucy famously turning up talent including Adele, Mumford & Sons, Hot Chip and James Blake, and other senior agents such as Mike Dewdney (Kasabian, Blink-182, Eels, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and Steve Zapp (Biffy Clyro, Courteeners, Editors, The Cult) holding their own.
But while there’s plenty of work taking place at ITB between the two poles of Dickins and MacSween, it is their chalk-and-cheese relationship that still defines the public face of the business. And the more you look at it, the more you suspect this is the evergreen marriage that remains harmonious largely because they live substantially separate lives.
“Me and Rod are completely different – mentally, physically and artistically,” says Dickins. “That’s probably why the business works so well. If we were similar people then we probably would have killed each other by now.”
MacSween agrees. “We don’t see an awful lot of each other, but we each have much respect for what the other does. We have always remained friends and been there for each other, as partners should be.”
Different they may be, but the two are genuine legends of equal stature in the pantheon of agents – MacSween the tough negotiator, not one for small talk, who lives and breathes the music he represents; Dickins the charmer but certainly no pushover, with encyclopaedias of touring know-how under the silver barnet.
“He is really humble; he is not a chest-beater about how well he has done,” says Lucy Dickins. “But he is a fucking genius in this business – he is so good.”
“[Barry] is a fucking genius in this business – he is so good”
Independently, her father extends exactly the same compliment to his business partner. “Rod is a fucking genius,” says Barry. “If I was a manager then he would be our agent. He is, hands down, the best agent I’ve ever come across. He’s incredible. He gets great deals. I swear that people just give him the best deals to get him off of the phone.”
It is no coincidence that Dickins, “the hands-on, running-the-company guy,” in the words of agent Mike Dewdney, works among the rest of the agents, while MacSween maintains a separate team – three assistants, plus another agent, Ian Sales – that allows him to focus intently, even obsessively, on the needs of his artists.
“I’m a bit anal sometimes,” says MacSween. “I still make numbered lists of things to do each day. If I don’t complete any, I asterisk them and carry them forward to the next day.”
The Arden connection
When they talk to IQ – at different times, of course – Dickins, while still a very active agent, tends to survey the company as a whole, while MacSween’s focus is his faithful dedication to his own family of acts.
For such a long-lived partnership, Dickins and MacSween took a little time to get off the ground. The former, the son of NME founder Percy Dickins, had come up in the 1960s, representing The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Nice at the Malcolm Rose agency, before honing his trade under agent-promoter Harold Davidson, who later sold to MAM.
“If I was a manager, Rod would be our agent”
“I was in the rock department at MAM in 1975, and Rod was at the Bron Agency and I’d heard good things about him,” says Barry. “I actually offered him a job at MAM but he said he wanted more money than I was on, so that conversation was fairly short.”
MacSween came into the business like many – as social secretary at the University of Exeter in the early-1970s. He spent time at various London agencies before eventually coming into the organisation of notorious manager Don Arden, where he first met Arden’s daughter, Sharon Osbourne – now a longstanding friend. “She was working with her father at the time,” MacSween recalls. “We, and then Ozzy, became great friends. With all their help, ITB was set up in 1976. Barry came and joined as a partner in 1978.”
“Don didn’t have the best reputation but I have to say that he was always good with me,” says Barry. “Anyway, it was a pretty good offer and I was young, so I thought what the hell – what did I have to lose?”
In the early days, Dickins could boast Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell and others. MacSween, yet to deck his office walls with most of the rockers that nowadays make up most of his client base, had ELO, Steve Hillage, Kiki Dee, Roy Wood’s Wizzard and Whitesnake.
Together, they built a formidable reputation for smart negotiating, a strong eye for career development and notably tight artist relationships. An in-depth company profile from 25 years ago in Applause magazine describes the business as much admired, big-hitting and fully formed, the characters of its co-managing directors distinctly recognisable as the ones we see now. Even then, Dutch promoter Leon Ramakers marvelled at the co-managing directors’ unlikely union, declaring it an example to all the peoples of the world of how to live in harmony.
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