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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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Olly Murs celebrates ten years of touring

Olly Murs and his management have been presented with a commemorative plaque celebrating his ten-year touring career.

On the first of Murs’s two May shows at the O2 in London (17–18 May), CAA, which represents the British singer worldwide, honoured Murs and Modest! Management for a decade-long touring career (2009–19) with over 300 shows and 1.8 million tickets sold.

Pictured, from left to right, are: Modest! production manager Ant Carr, tour security Tony Murphy and tour manager Mark Murphy (back row), and Modest!’s Harry Magee and Sarah Gallagher, Olly Murs, CAA’s Mike Greek and Modest!’s Richard Griffiths (front row).

Griffiths and Magee, who co-founded Modest! in 2003, also look after the Spice Girls, Little Mix and One Direction’s Niall Horan. They will receive the prestigious MITs Award this November, and last year were presented with the coveted Peter Grant Award at the Artist & Manager Awards.

 


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European Festival Awards 2018: The winners

Pohoda, Wacken Open Air, NorthSide, Mojo Concerts and CAA’s Mike Greek were among the winners at last night’s tenth-anniversary European Festival Awards 2018, held at Eurosonic Noorderslag in Groningen.

Hosted for the final time by IQ editor Gordon Masson and Glastonbury Festival/Yourope lawyer Ben Challis, the awards once again recognised excellence in 15 categories, with the biggest prizes of the night – best major festival and line-up of the year – going to Judas Priest-headlined Wacken Open Air and Roskilde Festival, respectively.

Roskilde was a double winner, also taking home the health and safety award for the second year running, with Pohoda Festival winning the Take a Stand Award and its festival director, Michal Kascak, the prize for excellence and passion.

The Netherlands’ Mojo (Pinkpop, North Sea Jazz, Down the Rabbit Hole) won best promoter, while Denmark’s NorthSide was recognised as the best medium-sized festival and Romania’s ARTmania the best small event.

Pohoda, Wacken Open Air, NorthSide, Mojo Concerts and CAA’s Mike Greek were among the winners

As previously announced, Eurosonic Noorderslag co-founder and outgoing creative director Peter Smidt took home the lifetime achievement award.

Performances on the night came from Grant and Bishop Briggs, with the main artist’s award, for best newcomer, being awarded to Greta Van Fleet.

A full list of winners is below.

Best New Festival
Rolling Stone Park

The Health & Safety Innovation Award
Roskilde Festival

Agent of the Year
Mike Greek, CAA

Best Small Festival
ARTmania Festival

The Green Operations Award
DGTL Amsterdam

Promoter of the Year
Mojo Concerts

Line-up of the Year
Roskilde Festival

Best Indoor Festival
WOS Festival

The Take a Stand Award
Pohoda Festival

The Brand Activation Award
Fortum at Ruisrock

Newcomer of the Year
Greta van Fleet

Best Medium-Sized Festival
NorthSide Festival

The Award for Excellence & Passion
Michal Kascak, Pohoda Festival

Best Major Festival
Wacken Open Air

The Lifetime Achievement Award
Peter Smidt

 


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Jake Leighton-Pope returns to management after leaving CAA

After a decade at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), UK booking agent Jake Leighton-Pope has left to launch a new artist management company.

Leighton-Pope started his career in management, working with artists including Paul Oakenfold and Richard Ashchroft at Marc Marot’s Terra Firma Artist Management, before moving into merch with Universal’s merchandise division, Bravado.

He joined CAA in London, where his roster included Will Young, Little Dragon, Dodie and Cherry Glazerr, in 2008.

“I started in management 20 years ago, and it’s time for me to go back,” Leighton-Pope tells IQ. “I loved being an agent – I did it for ten years and had a great time – but I’m in my 40s now, and it was time for a change.”

“I started in management 20 years ago, and it’s time for me to go back”

He adds that leaving CAA – and his former colleagues, including UK office co-heads Emma Banks and Mike Greek and head of music Rob Light – is bittersweet, and was an amicable split. “It was as good [an experience] as someone leaving a company after ten years could be,” he explains.

“I love them and they love me. I’m leaving with a heavy heart.”

While it’s “very early days” for his new, as-yet unnamed company, Leighton-Pope says the new business is “about bringing all my years of experience together” to offer a full-service management offering to his new roster. His first artist is up-and-coming London-based electronic act Anna Straker, who he is co-managing with James Barnes of the Forty Four management.

 


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Greek philosophy: CAA’s Mike Greek at 50

The professional career of CAA agent Mike Greek started where many a music industry story begins: in the pub.

Or, more specifically, a number of pubs in Aberdeen. During a two-week placement at DF Concerts (named Dance Factory at the time) working for Stuart Clumpas, Greek was challenged with locating the support act for a Martin Stephenson and the Daintees show who had gone missing on his quest for Dutch courage. “The show was at the Aberdeen Music Hall, and about 30 minutes after doors, we couldn’t find the support artist,” Greek remembers. “I was tasked with going around the pubs of Aberdeen looking for him, and, luckily for me, he was in one of the locals near the venue. It was so ridiculous, it was brilliant.”

That led to a summer stint with MCP Promotions, led by Tim Parsons and Stuart Galbraith, and involved working in the office and helping out on outdoor shows.

“When working at Milton Keynes Bowl on a Bon Jovi concert, everyone else was staying in a Travelodge, but to keep costs down I had to sleep on the portakabin floor with the Liverpool scaffolders”

“When working at Milton Keynes Bowl on a Bon Jovi concert, everyone else was staying in a Travelodge, but to keep costs down I had to sleep on the portakabin floor with the Liverpool scaffolders. It was certainly a baptism of fire and I learnt that my strengths were not on the technical side of things. I gained some valuable insight into what it takes to put an outdoor concert together and loved how everything came together in the end.”

Greek has come a long way since those days of portakabin accommodation. After a chance encounter with Ian Flooks led him to join Wasted Talent at the same time as Emma Banks in 1990, he was involved in building the agency that became Helter Skelter into one of the biggest independent agencies in the world.

Since 2006, Greek has had phenomenal success as co-head of CAA’s London office, alongside Banks, representing an eclectic array of artists including Franz Ferdinand, Paloma Faith, Sam Smith, Thirty Seconds to Mars, the Black Keys, the Script, Olly Murs, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jamie Cullum, MGMT, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Tears for Fears and Band of Horses, to name a few. This year, Greek celebrates his 50th birthday after dedicating more than half of his life to music.

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 73:

 


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