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Tony Smith: “Artists need the truth from their manager”

Legendary manager Tony Smith has granted a rare interview with IQ after wrapping Genesis’ The Last Domino? Tour.

The legendary English rock band returned to the road at the end of last year following a 13-year hiatus.

The reunion tour kicked off last September in the UK, making stops in the US and Europe before culminating with a three-night stand at London’s O2 in March.

As the name of the tour suggests, it may well be the last time Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford – Genesis’ most commercially successful line-up – perform live under the pseudonym.

The tour would mark the end of a 50-year chapter for Smith who has managed the band since 1973 and played a crucial role in Genesis becoming one of the world’s best-selling artists.

Though Smith tells IQ that interviews are his “least favourite part of the job” (gulp), Genesis agent John Giddings managed to twist his arm for a rare conversation.

Here, Smith shares his philosophy on successful managers, reveals the motivation behind his extraordinary career, and sets the record straight on his age…

 


IQ: On a personal level, how are you feeling about this being Genesis’ last-ever tour?
TS: I’m not sure how I feel, actually. I mean, life’s gonna carry on afterwards. There’s still the Genesis catalogue and everything else to still deal with, but it might change. Who knows? Never say never but that was probably the last show. Probably.

The three-night stand at London’s O2 was postponed four times. Did those delays contribute to the anticipation in the arena?
The audience has obviously been waiting a long time so there was a lot of anticipation. But it’s interesting actually – I’ve noticed that in some places the first-night audience are the hardcore fans and they’re a bit in awe, so sometimes you don’t get the same reaction as you do on the second night. But [the opening night at the O2] was really good. The audience stood up all the way through.

“I think the role of a manager is to be the one person the band can hear the truth from”

How successful has The Last Domino? Tour been?
It has been very successful. Reviews have been great, the tour completely sold out – it has been a really good turn. In terms of numbers, it’s probably not as big as the tour in 2007, which was all stadiums. We wanted to keep this one to arenas. Given Phil’s lack of mobility, I don’t think a stadium show would work that well for him.

Even with Phil seated and not playing the drums, he’s still quite the showman…
He’s still got that entertainment spark. The voice is still there and he’s still got the sense of humour and stuff like that. It’s just a drag that he can’t move very much. I think it’s more difficult to sing properly when you’re seated but he seems to have overcome that.

Phil’s son Nic filled in on drums. How was it bringing him into the fold?
He’s fantastic. He played on Phil’s last solo tour which was in 2018/2019. He was only 16 and was good then but now he’s beefed up and is really strong. Phil has said to me on different occasions that Nick is doing things he didn’t do. Also, he’s a very nice guy! When a kid grows up in that environment, they could go either way but he’s really grounded.

“A manager is a bit of a father figure, in a way”

You’re 83 –
I’m not 83! Wikipedia is wrong. I’m 77 – I was born in 1945. It’s really annoying because you get someone to go in and change the Wikipedia and then someone changes it back! I’m glad you’ve straightened that out. Although, it’s always impressive when people think you’re 83 and still on tour.

Apologies! You’re 77 and probably the longest-standing manager in the business. What’s your motivation?
Well, first of all, I love the music and I love being in this business. I like the logistics of it all – putting things together, planning things out and having some kind of agenda. When you see all that fall into place, it’s very satisfying.

And I enjoy being a leader – it’s great when you’ve got a big team. I think we’ve got 100 people on the road and it’s good to be able to put a great team together that works really well – that’s very satisfying.

I like all the elements of management. There’s a little bit of creativity. You get involved with the setlists, the artwork, the marketing and the albums. Ultimately, the band will make those choices but they bounce off everyone. Plus, I like the challenge of managing a band and being able to follow it all through.

“How we ever did tours without mobile phones and computers, I cannot remember”

In the 50 odd years since you’ve been doing this job, how much has the role of a manager changed?
I think the role of a manager is to be the one person the band can hear the truth from – that hasn’t changed. I think the role of a ‘proper’ manager is to help guide the artist and help them to make choices, provide encouragement and discouragement at the right times. A manager is a bit of a father figure, in a way.

What has changed is the technology and everything that goes with that. How tickets are sold, how music is delivered. How we ever did tours without mobile phones and computers, I cannot remember. It all worked but it was probably a bit slower.

The other thing that has changed – as far as touring is concerned – is that the budgets and the finances are much larger than they used to be because there are bigger venues now. When I was a promoter in the late 60s/early 70s, the biggest venue was Wembley Empire Pool for 8,000 people. Most of the venues were for 2,000 and 3,000 people at the most. It was a very different kind of business. As a promoter, I did a Led Zeppelin tour which went on for two months around England and it was all town halls and theatres – those were the venues.

“You can’t look after more than one major act properly”

Do you get as much satisfaction out of the smaller shows as you do out of the big ones?
Yeah, absolutely. When Mike + The Mechanics [Mike Rutherford’s band] go out on tour we’re playing 2,000-seat theatres. And the same with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, which I look after, as well. It’s just as satisfying. In fact, in some ways, it’s more satisfying.

Back in the 80s, you said all the most successful managers very rarely look after more than one major act. Do you stand by this philosophy?
I still think that’s true. A good relationship with a major actor should be an intimate relationship and you can’t have that with too many artists. I’m lucky insofar as Genesis has always been great and there have been lots of solo spin-offs. The only other thing is, when Steve O’Rourke [manager of Pink Floyd] died, Nick Mason [the band’s drummer] asked me to look after his interest in Pink Floyd. But [Steve] and I were always mates because of motor racing so that was easy to manage.

In the main I still believe that the management relationship is special. You can’t look after more than one major act properly. I look after every element of Genesis, including things like personal finances, so it’s more of a holistic approach. Whereas I think there are managers out there that have got 234 acts but they’re more like agents than they are managers.

“A good relationship with a major actor should be an intimate relationship and you can’t have that with too many artists”

What’s your take on modern management?
I don’t know about younger managers and what goes on. I’m not involved in that kind of business anymore but I suspect it’s very different. I think a lot of managers these days tend to be more employees almost. They don’t direct, they don’t manage in the same way. They’ll take instructions from their artists. If you ask a question about something they’ll always say, “I’ll get back to you”. In most cases, I instinctively know what the band are going to be okay with.

I think a lot of that [bureaucracy] is due to when lawyers started getting involved with management contracts and insisting on minimum earnings for the artist. If the manager had to get in X amount, that compromises the manager’s decision straight away because he’s going to go for his money or think short term and won’t think about the career. I’ve never had a management contract and that has worked for the last 49 years. I don’t believe in contracts; it’s either going to work or it’s not going to work and that’s the end of the story. The only thing I have is a piece of paper in a file somewhere that says what happens if we part ways.

“Aside from interviews, dealing with bureaucracy is my least favourite part of the job”

What’s your least favourite part of the job?
Interviews. I do very few. Aside from that, dealing with bureaucracy is the main thing. I don’t mind the shitty bits of the job, like when you’ve got to give people bad news – it’s part of the job and it’s what’s expected of me really. The rest of it is fun, apart from dealing with John Giddings…

Tell us your best John Giddings anecdote.
John and I go back a long time. It has been a very good partnership. There was one tour that John was booking and he called me up all worried about the mileage between one city and another. I just turned to him and said [indignantly]: “John, do you drive the trucks?” That quote comes back to haunt me all the time.

“John Giddings and I go back a long time. It has been a very good partnership”

What are some of your highlights from the 50-year journey with Genesis?
We played Rome in 2007 with half a million people in the audience – that was pretty spectacular. Knebworth is a highlight. Also, we sold out four shows at Wembley Stadium back in the 80s. At the time, that was a record – which I think has subsequently been beaten by Ed Sheeran. The first time went to America in 1973 and played the Roxy in LA at Christmas was a highlight – that was the West Coast’s first experience of Genesis.

With Genesis retiring from the road, which other projects will you spend time on?
I’ve got lots of other interests, aside from Genesis, so I’ll be just as busy. There are a couple of other Genesis projects in the background at the moment – we’re looking into orchestral stuff and things like that. I don’t know what Phil’s gonna do – the same with Mike – but there are always things to do. I start on the road with Nick Mason in two weeks’ time and that’s running through the summer. I’m also one of the producers of Bat Out of Hell the musical and I’m one of the four managers of Pink Floyd ‘industries’ so that’s a full-time job on its own.

 


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5B Artist Management makes new hires

International music management company 5B Artists and Media, home to hard rock/metal acts including Slipknot, Megadeth, Stone Sour, Lamb of God, Behemoth and Trivium, has hired artist manager James Vitalo.

Vitalo, who brings acts such as Turnstile, Knocked Loose, Gatecreeper, Terror and Harms Way, joins 5B after five years at New Jersey-based Good Fight Entertainment.

5B Artists and Media has offices in Los Angeles, Brooklyn (New York) and Birmingham (UK), and also comprises a record label, a film and music festival production arm, a booking agency and a digital marketing agency.

“I’m incredibly excited to begin working with James and the amazing artists he represents,” 5B founder and CEO Cory Brennan says. “His energy, positivity and sheer determination is second to none and aligns perfectly with that of 5B. We welcome his invaluable perspective, and look forward to developing and uncovering the next generation of important artists alongside him.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity than to work with 5B”

Vitalo adds: “I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity than to work with 5B. The team has an incredible reputation for being hardworking and forward-thinking, while also maintaining a level of ethics that can sometimes be lost in the music industry.

“Everything they work on, from festivals like Knotfest to initiatives like Rock Against Racism, highlights the range of capabilities and thoughtfulness of the company. 5B has always been at the forefront of pushing the underground to the highest level and I’m excited for myself and the bands I manage to be part of what’s to come.”

In other 5B news, the company has promoted senior artist manager Brad Fuhrman to vice-president and Stephen Reeder from director of digital to senior director of digital.

“When you’ve got people like Brad and Stephen on the team, you count yourself lucky,” comments 5B president Bob Johnsen. “We at 5B take pride in what we do and how we do it, and no matter what comes at us these two keep innovating and helping to make us all smarter.”

 


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Various Artists Management ups Rebecca Dixon

London-based Various Artists Management, whose roster includes Ashnikko, Tom Grennan, Supergrass, Loyle Carner and La Roux, has promoted Rebecca Dixon to head of marketing and promotions.

Dixon has been with Various Artists, which also has offices in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, for five years, helping oversee the careers of Charli XCX and the Libertines, among others.

Reporting directly to group CEO David Bianchi, in her new role Dixon will oversee the company’s global marketing and promotions activities and will work between the company’s London and LA offices once travel restrictions are lifted. Her appointment is effective immediately.

“I’m looking forward to working with our amazing roster of artists and managers in this new role”

“Rebecca joined us straight from university and it has been a huge pleasure to watch her grow into this role over the last five years,” comments Bianchi. “Rebecca’s energy , passion and creativity will add real value and expertise to our roster of artists globally.”

“I’m really excited to take on the position of head of marketing and promotions for Various Artists Management,” says Dixon. “Having been at the company for five years, I’m looking forward to working with our amazing roster of artists and managers in this new role.”

She adds: “[W]e have an array of exceptional talent and we will continue to build worlds and brands for those artists and their fans while innovating across all genres and platforms.”

 


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Sydney-based Chugg Music opens new Asia office

Sydney-based Chugg Music, the artist services branch of Michael Chugg’s promotions company Chugg Entertainment, is opening a new office in Asia, spearheaded by Michael “Mick” De Lanty.

Australian expat De Lanty is a seasoned music industry executive based in Bangkok and has worked across the board, with roles in A&R, artist management, marketing, sales, publishing, promotions and brand development.

De Lanty spent 15 years with Sony Music Australia and he has also worked with independent labels in Asia and Australia, as well as in the UK.

The veteran will expand on the success of Chugg Music artists Sheppard, Lime Cordialeand Mia Rodriguez in the Asian region.

“Having been involved in many projects since the late 80s I am excited to actually be planting the Chugg Music flag in Asia,” says Michael Chugg.

“Andrew [Stone, co-founder of Chugg Music] and I are thrilled to announce that my long-time friend and colleague, Michael De Lanty, is running the operations from his Bangkok base. After five months testing the waters we have no doubt that this will be a great step forward for both Australian and Asian music.”

“Having been involved in many projects since the late 80s I am excited to actually be planting my flag in Asia”

Michael De Lanty says: “I am delighted to be working with Chugg, Andrew and their team, in launching Chugg Music Asia and very excited for the opportunity to help develop the careers in Asia of the formidable roster of artists that they have assembled, including Sheppard, Lime Cordiale, Mia Rodriguez, Casey Barnes, to name but a few.

It is an exciting period for music in Asia and no better time to introduce these incredible artists to Asian music lovers.”

Chugg Music Asia will aim to build strong platforms across the 12 major territories, which includes the world’s second-largest music market, Japan.

Chugg Entertainment was founded in 2000 by music industry pioneer Michael Chugg and has toured hundreds of major international acts including Dolly Parton, Coldplay, Radiohead, Elton John, Pearl Jam, Robbie Williams, Florence + The Machine throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Subsequently, Chugg Music was launched in 2012 with the help of Andrew Stone, offering management, label and publishing services.

 


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YMU hires new artist manager Truce

International artist management firm YMU Group has appointed Truce Susan to the position of senior manager.

Based in London, Susan – known as Truce – will report to Iain Watt, managing director of YMU’s UK music division, and work closely with senior manager Sophie Bloggs, whose team he joins.

Truce started his career DJing and organising music events across London, before joining music broadcast platform the Boiler Room in 2010, where he became global creative director. He then launched the label Bone Soda, helping artists such as slowthai, Octavian, Bakar, Ama Lou, Sheck Wes and BenjiFlow find international audiences.

He will continue to run Bone Soda independently but brings two of his existing management clients, Bekah CC and Airhead, to YMU Group.

Founded in 1984, YMU Group (formerly James Grant Group) has offices in Los Angeles, London, Washington, New York and Manchester. Its music roster also includes the likes of James Arthur, Years & Years, Blink-182, Clean Bandit, Take That, Steve Aoki, Mika and Danny Howard.

“Truce is a natural music entrepreneur”

“Truce is a natural music entrepreneur who has enjoyed success across a number of different sectors,” says Watt.

“He understands both the creative and commercial aspects of artist management and is a great addition to our team. He is bringing two great artists, Bekah CC and Airhead, with him and the aim is to help him build an amazing roster of credible artists who we can help have long-term, successful careers.”

Truce adds: “I’m excited to join Iain, Sophie and the rest of the YMU team. Having known Iain for a few years, it feels like the perfect story for how I see my management career developing.

“YMU is a leading entertainment management company and has successfully brought on and supported a number of inspiring artists globally. I’m hoping I can mix it up a little and look forward to combining experiences, knowledge and ideas to support our clients.”

His appointment follows the hiring of First Access’s Sarita Borge as senior manager in February.

 


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Germany’s Goodlive launches Nitelive Artists agency

Goodlive Artists, the booking and touring division of Berlin’s Goodlive (Lollapalooza Berlin, Melt Festival), has grown with the launch of a new agency, Nitelive Artists, focusing on dance/electronic and pop music.

Headed up by managing partner Flo Hauss, Nitelive Artists will focus on tour booking and artist management, as well as consulting for festivals and clubs. Hauss brings a roster that includes German hip-hop pioneers Die Fantastischen Vier, Fritz Kalkbrenner, Boys Noize and Digitalism.

Hauss – who will also continue working as the German promoter for the Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta – will work with alongside fellow booking agents Tobias Klose and Torsten Rettert.

Hauss, who was most recently managing director of Four Artists, comments: “I look forward to bringing my many years of national and international touring and booking experience to Goodlive, and I am very happy to have found a new home with my team after these challenging months.

“I am very happy to have found a new home with my team”

“I am particularly proud that my entire roster has decided to join me on this new path; loyalty and trust are not exactly commonplace in our business. We’ve got some very promising synergies with the structures at Goodlive Artists, not to mention a self-confident market position that suits my ambitious personal goals very well.”

Stefan Lehmkuhl, managing partner of Goodlive, adds: “Flo Hauss has terrific musical competence, [and] I am quite sure that he will be a valuable asset for touring and also give terrific new impetus to the Goodlive festival business.

“We very much look forward to working with and his team.”

Goodlive Artists’ other agencies are Melt! Booking (international rap, R&B, pop and alternative music), Der Bomber der Herzen (German rap and indie-pop) and Full Force Concerts (hard rock and heavy metal).

 


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Managers peg October as earliest return for live

The latest IQ Focus session saw a line-up of international artist managers discuss the timeline for reopening, potential changes to artists’ contracts post-Covid-19 and monetisation of live streams.

The session, presented in partnership with the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and hosted by MMF chair Paul Craig, featured Kaiya Milan (Off Balance Group/The Sorority House & Co.), Marc Thomas (Red Light Management/Go Artist Management), Meg Symsyk (eOne Management/MMF Canada) and Per Kviman (Versity Music/MMF Sweden/EMMA).

Thomas compared the constant cancelling and rescheduling of shows in recent weeks to “rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic”, adding that he has been “targeting markets” such as Australia and certain parts of the US, which are likely “to get back to live more quickly”.

Thomas said he has accepted two offers for artists to play in the US in October – the earliest dates he’s looking at – including at “a leading festival”. A caveat in the contract allows the team to reassess 28 days out, in case there is a second spike.

Artists will also need to weigh up whether to take the hit of losing a couple of weeks in quarantine in order to do four weeks of solid touring in countries such as Australia, he said, highlighting the obstacles of a post-coronavirus world.

“I’m not optimistic that these things are going to run smoothly”

“I’m not optimistic that these things are going to run smoothly,” said Milan, referring to events scheduled for the autumn. Managers have been receiving offers with clauses allowing the promoter to cancel at any point, she said, which works out ok for “more established artists” but is a big risk for lesser known acts.

“I’m in a space where I know anything can happen.”

Versity Music manager Kviman agreed that things remain too uncertain for now, saying he is not putting new tours out until September 2021 as “people aren’t ready to buy tickets at this point”. Tours that had already sold lots of tickets prior to the Covid-19 crisis are being rescheduled for May 2021.

Craig asked whether any new opportunities had come out of the crisis for managers and artists, with panellists agreeing that livestreaming had presented a variety of options, if not always significant from a financial point of view.

Symsyk said live streams had, in general, worked more effectively for electronic or hip-hop acts. Bands have tended to face more technical difficulties and have often not been satisfied with the quality of streams. “[For bands, livestreaming] has worked ok for charity events, but hasn’t been worth it from a financial point of view”, she said.

Thomas, who works predominantly with electronic acts, said he has “leant into livestreaming a lot”. One act sold $15,000 in merchandise while playing in a virtual edition of Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival festival.

“You can’t ask fans to pay for a ticket as a live stream doesn’t replace the experience of going to a festival, but you can sell off the back of it”

“You can’t ask fans to pay for a ticket as a live stream doesn’t replace the experience of going to a festival,” he said, “but you can sell off the back of it.”

Milan said there was more opportunity for grassroots artists to make money from paid live streams as audiences want to support them. “Livestreaming is the way people can see to help out and get something in return at the moment”, she said, which “works for a certain level of artist”.

Although the grassroots sector is one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus shutdown, Symsyk noted that the current situation is giving “a window of opportunity to focus on local talent” in Canada.

Turning to when live does return, Thomas stressed the need for “everyone to have a bit more give”.

“The reality is, in this situation, everyone needs to win, and I don’t win by getting the agent to squeeze the promoter so hard he has to pay me half the fee if the show cancels […] and he loses a load of money.

“We need everyone in this system for the system to function.”

Thomas said he accepted, to a certain extent, Live Nation’s recently expressed intention to adjust artists guarantees down for shows in the future.

“We need everyone in this system for the system to function”

“Promoters are the most exposed out of everybody and they’re not going to put these big guarantees out anymore,” he said, “it’s going to go on the backend.” This kind of “give and take” will be essential from all sides when rebuilding the business.

From a practical point of view, we can expect to see social distancing and other measures in place for a while as “not doing anything is not an option, however unpalatable the measures may be”, said Craig.

Outdoor shows seem to be a much better option than indoor shows, and a lot more scalable too in terms of keeping to distancing rules, said Thomas. Targeting the right age range is also important, as “kids think they’re invincible”.

For Milan, the deciding factor is whether people felt ready to go back into social situations as, “if they are, they will do whatever they have to” to get back to gigs or festivals, no matter how inconvenient the measures are.

Craig agreed, pointing out that we have all become accustomed to things that would have seemed unthinkable six months ago.

“If people want to go to a show, they will do whatever is necessary to go.”

IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis is available to watch back on YouTube or Facebook now.


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Music managers step up for next IQ Focus

The next in the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual panel discussions features an international line-up of music managers, who will discuss the unique challenges the Covid-19 crisis has posed for their side of the business.

The session, IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis, will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 18 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.

With the bulk of artists dependent on live music revenue and audience connection, the Covid-19 crisis has decimated livelihoods.

But what does it mean for their managers? The individuals thrown into salvaging campaigns, rescheduling tours, interpreting contractual changes and navigating the most uncertain of futures. How are their own businesses faring? And what do they see as the challenges – and hopefully opportunities – ahead for the live sector, in what we are all optimistically calling the “new normal”.

Drawing on expert global perspectives, and from managers working across multiple genres, Thursday’s session will be moderated by MMF Chair Paul Craig (Nostromo Management) and feature Kaiya Milan (Off Balance Group/The Sorority House & Co.), Marc Thomas (Red Light Management/Go Artist Management), Meg Symsyk (eOne Management/MMF Canada) and Per Kviman (Versity Music/MMF Sweden/EMMA).

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including the agency business, the festival summer, grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.


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Music Managers Forum partners with TikTok

The Music Managers Forum (MMF) has announced an associate partnership with viral short-form video app TikTok.

TikTok – which has been downloaded more than two billion times globally – has been playing an increasingly important role in artist campaigns of late, helping music makers and their teams connect with audiences during the Covid-19 lockdown, including through its TikTok Live Sessions (which follow on from a starring role at this year’s Brit Awards).

Notable music 2020 successes on the platform include include Young T and Bugsey’s #dontrushchallenge (2K Management), Robyn’s #onmyown (DEF Management), Years & Years’ #breathechallenge (YMU Group) and Little Mix’s #BUSStayHome (Modest! Management).

The MMF’s associate programme enables artist-focussed music services to build direct relationships with the association’s network of more than 850 UK-based managers.

Activities already planned under the associate partnership with the MMF include access to best-practice resources on TikTok for MMF members, virtual training sessions co-hosted by TikTok and leading UK managers, and an in-person event in London, likely to be in autumn 2020.

“TikTok’s impact has been truly phenomenal”

Annabella Coldrick, MMF CEO, says: “Watching artists and music makers pick up and experiment with new technologies is always fascinating, but TikTok’s impact has been truly phenomenal. The MMF is delighted to have them onboard as an associate, particularly at such a challenging time, and I believe this partnership will deliver deep and lasting value to our membership and the talent they represent.”

“TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy to our users, and artists and their music have been a central part of this creative process since the app launched,” adds Paul Hourican, UK head of music operations for TikTok.

“We’re looking forward to working with the MMF to help managers make the most of our platform and connect artists with TikTok’s global audience, expanding the ways in which they can continue to creatively engage with fans, create lasting connections and drive success in all areas of their work.”

Read IQ’s November 2019 Q&A with TikTok’s head of music partnerships Europe, Farhad Zand, on how live businesses can utilise the platform here.

 


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New signings continue during corona lockdown

Nearly three months into the shutdown of virtually all concert touring globally, booking agents and artist managers continue to discover and sign new talent, with many using the opportunity to bolster their rosters in anticipation of live music’s return, they tell IQ.

“Discovering new talent is a big part of the agent’s job, and since many of us are stuck at home with no shows happening currently, that gives us extra time to listen to new music and get interested in new artists, even more so than before,” says Belgian agent Guillaume Brevers, who left London’s ATC Live to set up his own agency, Hometown Talent, earlier this year.

“I believe it wasn’t the case in the first few weeks following [the outbreak of] the virus, as most of the agents were really busy postponing their tours, discussing festival cancellations, etc. But more recently, I personally have found I have more free time to focus on new music.”

Similarly, Dominik Meyer of Austria’s Cobra Agency tells IQ that while the early days of pandemic were largely spent dealing with cancellations and postponements, there is now definitely “more time to listen to music and explore new stuff”.

One London-based agent (who asked not be named) says he, too, has been signing new acts during the shutdown, as there are “things that I am definitely excited about and that I feel I need to sign now.” He adds that discovering new talent gives him a feeling of normality in strange times – as well as “a sense that there is a business to come back to.”

“Signing new talent is a good way for agents to remain proactive while no tours are taking place”

Also keeping calm and carrying on is Australian artist manager Andrew Stone, who leads Chugg Music, the management, publishing and label division of Michael Chugg’s Chugg Entertainment. Chugg Music’s most recent signing is Mason Watts, who agreed a label deal with the influencer-focused City Pop Records late last month.

With City Pop, says Stone, “we’re looking to sign artists now more than ever. There’s a focus on artists who have developed in the influencer/social media space” – City Pop’s first signing was TikTok star Mia Rodriguez – “so we feel at least somewhat prepared for a more online model of artist development. I think it’s a good time to build catalogue and grow communities on streaming, socials and radio, so that when the artists are heading out on the road in the future they have more than two songs that people know.”

Signing new talent is “a good way [for agents] to remain proactive” while no tours are taking place, comments Brevers, “so when things hopefully get back to normal, agents will be effective immediately and ready to provide their clients with the service they deserve”.

“In an industry where everything happens especially fast, I’m taking advantage of this new free time to think about new ways to reinvent myself as an agent,” he adds, “as well as how this industry could evolve to meet the challenges we’re facing in today’s society.”

Stone says lockdown is “forcing us to get really good at online marketing and collaborations. We are collaborating more than ever with artists across Zoom, and having features from other countries and languages, so that our international audience development isn’t completely halted by our inability to tour.”

“As long as there are engaged audiences, there will be a creative and nimble industry that can make the most of connecting with them”

With the return to full-scale concert touring believed to still be some way off, it depends on the individual agent or manager – and their personal circumstances – whether they’re using their relative downtime to scout for new talent, or just trying to survive, says the London agent.

“I think it comes down to the people,” they say. “Some are nervous about the future and just holding on, and some are understanding that it will pass and that they have to check new things out.”

They’re in the latter camp, they say – and so is Stone. He concludes: “I hope we’re not in denial about the long-term outcomes, but I think that so long as there are engaged audiences, there will be a creative and nimble industry that can make the most of connecting with them – whatever the circumstances.”

IQ launched its monthly New Signings playlist, which features tracks curated by a selection of major booking agencies, last week. Listen here:

IQ launches monthly agency playlist


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