A Brave New Agency World: Meet the independents
Last year presented the agency world with a raft of unforeseen hardships, from the shutdown of the concert business to widespread job losses. Faced with the choice to adapt or founder, many agents rose to the challenge of the former, ushering in a new age of entrepreneurship. Some agents banded together in the wake of redundancy and others decided to strike out of their own accord, spurring a wave of brand-new independent agencies across the globe.
The UK gained the likes of Mother Artists, One Fiinix Live, Route One Booking, Marshall Live Agency, Runway Artists and Playbook Artists; the US welcomed Arrival Artists, Mint Talent Group, TBA Agency and Paladin Artists; and the Spanish agency landscape expanded with Rebel Beat Agency – all “born out of the most unlikely of scenarios,” as Arrival puts it.
For the founders of Arrival, the most unlikely scenario was being laid off from Paradigm Talent Agency in the US, along with hundreds of others. But co-founder Ali Hedrick says this turned out to be a blessing in disguise: “I’d hoped that one day I would be my own boss, but I’m not sure if I ever would have done it, so it’s kind of fortuitous that it happened and forced my hand, in a good way.”
Hedrick founded the agency in October 2020 with her former Paradigm colleagues Erik Selz, John Bongiorno, Karl Morse and Ethan Berlin, as well as Matt Yasecko, former COO of Chicago- based agency The Billions Corporation – where she previously worked for nearly 23 years. A
Arrival’s roster includes the likes of Everything Everything, Denai Moore, Sons of Kemet, Wild Pink, Andrew Bird, and LOMA, booking from offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.
After clocking in time at other agencies, both major and independent, Hedrick says that setting up her own shop has given her a new lease of life as an agent. “It’s made me love booking again and being an owner just feels right… all agents are entrepreneurs in their own way.”
Jon Ollier, an ex-CAA agent who used the pandemic as a jumping off point to launch his new UK-based agency One Fiinix Live, echoes that sentiment: “As agents, we’re problem solvers – we make things happen – but the whole live business was being asked to just sit things out [because of Covid restrictions], and I’m not very good at doing that.”
Ollier took the likes of Ed Sheeran, Anne-Marie, JC Stewart, Lauv and 2Cellos to One Fiinix, which he set up following his exit from CAA in October 2020, after nearly six years at the agency.
“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. 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.”
“I always really just hated the competitiveness among agents and agencies – or even agents within the same agency”
A sense of fortitude is something Amy Davidman, founder and partner at US-based TBA Agency, is striving for too, after the “emotional upheaval” of the pandemic and her own redundancy from Paradigm.
“I chose optimism. I choose to believe in my work and my clients and my partners, and our ability to start a company and be successful and do right by our clients,” she says.
Davidman formed TBA in September 2020, alongside Marshall Betts, Avery McTaggart, Ryan Craven, and Devin Landau, to whom she felt “a natural gravitation.”
The new agency has unveiled a clientele that includes The War on Drugs, Courtney Barnett, Chvrches, Tune-Yards, Cut Copy, Beirut, Guided by Voices, Jungle, Cuco, Purity Ring, José González, Tycho, Caribou, and Alvvays, operating from offices in Los Angeles and New York.
“As a group, the five of us really could cover all the bases of what we needed to launch the Sons of Kemet are one of the acts helping to launch Arrival Artists company. Typically, none of our contracts would have ended at the same time so it would have been very difficult for all of us as partners to come together at the same time and launch a company,” Davidman says, pointing out the fortunate timing.
Timing has been a crucial factor for Route One Booking founder Ben Ward, who says that his redundancy from United Talent Agency (UTA) in London, along with the pandemic, has provided the perfect storm in which to launch his UK-based agency.
“I’d previously thought about going independent and the redundancy just accelerated things. I thought I’m not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself… I’m going to see which clients I can retain. There was nothing I could do but throw myself wholeheartedly into it,” he says.
The veteran rock agent and Orange Goblin frontman launched his new booking agency in November 2020, alongside co-director Jules Chenoweth, during England’s second national lockdown.
“When you want your numbers to be good, you’re thinking in a different way. Going independent has lifted a layer of self-inflicted stress that I didn’t need”
“If touring and festivals were all going ahead at the time, we would have been scrambling around trying to get things sorted in time for the summer,” he says. “But because there was nothing happening, we could reschedule shows and look to 2022 and 2023 and have time to get everything in place and bring everything up to speed.”
The new agency’s roster includes the likes of influential punks Discharge, fuzz-rock legends Fu Manchu, Canadian thrash act Voivod and country artist-producer Shooter Jennings, alongside emerging acts such as King Creature, Video Nasties, Daxx aand Roxane, and Blind River. In addition to bookings, Route One offers clients transport options for touring, backline, and links to digital music distribution company RouteNote, of which Chenoweth is a board member. The company also owns The Yard, a music venue in Cornwall.
Like Hedrick and Davidman, Ward says that going independent has renewed his “enthusiasm and clarity” for the job, which had diminished during his time working at a major agency.
“You can get really down and lose focus on what it’s all about. I had periods of that at UTA,” he explains. “If you want to be really hands-on with your artist, then being a small fish in a big pond isn’t as good as being the big fish in a small pond. A lot of artists fail because they were swept under the carpet at bigger agencies, and I feel that a lot of agents probably felt the same way as well.
“You get your big hitters at every agency who deliver millions of pounds worth of commission each year, and younger agents won’t be regarded in the same light. That’s understandable because every company is in it to make money, but the money comes secondary – it’s the artists’ satisfaction and seeing bands’ careers develop that comes first for me. I think with bigger agencies that satisfaction is lost with the pressure to deliver and keep the big wheels rolling.”
Davidman, who spent three years at Paradigm, agrees that both artists and agents are at risk of “slipping through the cracks” in a major agency. “I saw the benefits at a larger full-service agency, and yet I’ve maybe felt a little bit less in control of those benefits,” she says. “I think major agencies can work for a lot of artists and managers, and then I think others really slip through the cracks. There should really just be space for everybody to be successful and have access to a lot of different opportunities.
“I always really just hated the competitiveness among agents and agencies – or even agents within the same agency. I have hoped that there could be a way that we could all just say, ‘Yeah, you offer that thing, and you offer that thing,’ but if a lot of people are going after the same artists it just naturally becomes competitive.”
Davidman says that being her own boss has alleviated that sense of pressure and competition and has helped reaffirm her unique offering as an agent.
“If you want to be really hands-on with your artist, then being a small fish in a big pond isn’t as good as being the big fish in a small pond”
“After we launched TBA, there were a couple artists that I tried to sign that I didn’t, and I was less broken up about it than I maybe would have been before. I was, like, ‘Yeah, if this doesn’t fit what you’re looking for then cool, go and find the thing that you’re looking for, because this is what I’m doing and I’m really in it.’ Now I don’t have to wake up every day wondering what my value is or how I fit into a larger picture or what my numbers are going to be.”
The pressure to hit targets and go up against peers are two things Hedrick says she won’t miss either. “You have to do projections a couple times a year at a major agency,” she explains. “You’re always looking at your numbers and when you’re not one of the top agents at the company, there is that pressure to be doing well. There’s in-built competition. When you want your numbers to be good, you’re thinking in a different way. Going independent has lifted a layer of self-inflicted stress that I didn’t need.”
One Fiinix Live’s Ollier believes the crisis of 2020 will have highlighted these issues and suggests that a paradigm shift may be on the horizon. “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.
“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]. There’s a unanimous sense that the shackles are off for these agents, and with a greater sense of autonomy each is revelling in their ability to abandon traditional ways of working and reinvent the wheel.
For Ward, breaking away from an established agency has empowered him to take a more “hands-on approach.” “We have that freedom to sign the acts we want to sign – whether it’s rock and metal bands or we want to get a bit more diverse with our roster. And you know there’s no fear anymore, just opportunities,” he says.
Davidman is also keen to ditch the traditional “strict rules” about who gets to work on which projects, and instead is adopting a more ad-hoc approach to TBA’s services, especially during the pandemic. “We have to be flexible about who we’re talking to and what opportunities we are putting in front of folks,” she says. “Whether that’s being open to an artist who doesn’t have a manager, or a manager who is independent but wants a team to help them with different things, or someone who’s asking for help in a realm outside of touring – those things are not what an agent would traditionally do, but we at least want to be open to these opportunities.”
Ollier has had a similar vision for his agency, revealing plans to be less “departmentalised” and more focused on the people within the company.
“We’re ripping up the old-school contracts and the old-school way of working”
“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 says. “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.”
Hedrick, who has been an agent for over two decades, is looking forward to diversifying Arrival’s workforce and mentoring aspiring agents – something she’s never had the chance to do before. “[Arrival Artists] could easily just hire the people we’ve worked with before – that have done the job and that we know are fantastic – but we’re doing our due diligence to make sure that we include a more diverse set of people. We’ll probably even hire some people who haven’t done the job before that we need to train,” she says.
Hiring is also top of the agenda for Natasha Bent, who left Paradigm in December 2020 to set up UK-based artist management and live agency Mother Artists, along with her brother Mark Bent. “We’re ripping up the old-school contracts and the old-school way of working, and really trying to be diverse in not only who we work with but who comes on board in our team,” she says.
“It’s not only about clients but it’s about us and creating a company that – in my mind, wherever I’ve gone – I always thought should exist. A place where ourselves, our families, and those who decide to join in the future, are really well looked after,” she says.
Another thing that was important to Hedrick was the implementation of a profit share for all the employees at the company. “I want to make sure that we share the profits with all employees so they can buy a home someday and show that not everybody at the company needs to become an agent to make decent money. If the company has a banner year and profits, that will be spread throughout the entire company,” she says.
As for the sense of cut-throat competition that each agent has referred to: that has been replaced with a desire to collaborate – something Hedrick chalks up to the pandemic, “which made us all a little bit softer and nicer to each other because we’re all in this together.”
The Arrival Artists boss says she has calls with new agencies including Mint and TBA on a regular basis, as well as weekly meetings with UK agency ATC Live, with which Arrival has formed a strategic partnership to “facilitate dynamic global representation for shared artists.”
Davidman, meanwhile, hopes that this new spirit of collaboration will not only better the agency world but the industry as a whole. “The agency world should not be so divided, fighting over power,” she says. “We should collaborate and use the collective power to try to figure out the important things, like how to break down systemic racism within the music industry.”
Welcome to a brave new agency world…
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Steve Martin and Andy Somers launch Paladin Artists
Another new independent agency, Paladin Artists, has made its debut after former APA staffers Steve Martin and Andy Somers gathered a team of nine other agents to launch offices in Los Angeles, New York City and London.
Paladin has also created a strategic partnership with Wayne Forte of Entourage Talent Associates and Karrie Goldberg of The Kagency in a deal they say will re-envision the agency business, looking at artist and brand representation, touring and live events, literary representation, theatre production, touring exhibitions and estate management.
In addition to the principals, the Paladin Artists team will include agents Magaly Barone, Kath Buckell, Chyna Chuan-Farrell, Christian Ellett, Steve Ferguson, Seth Rappaport, Sara Schilevert and Zach Silva.
According to Celebrity Access, the turmoil caused by the Covid pandemic allowed Paladin’s founders time to assess the overall industry landscape and devise a more evolutionary approach to the agency side of the business.
Somers says, “Paladin, Entourage and The Kagency share similar visions and will each benefit by the sharing of information, experiences, and common goals; exploring new means of improving the future of artist and brand representation while remaining independent at a controllable scale of operation.”
“The industry is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic world”
Martin adds, “The world has been through hell for the last 18 months with many places and people still struggling. I’m simply grateful to work with people I like and artists that I respect, enjoy and have fruitful relationships with. Many were able to take a step back during the shutdown and evaluate what is important, be it personal or business. The industry is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic world.”
Both veterans of the independent scene, Martin and Somers have worked together for decades as their careers saw them both instrumental in the growth of Neil Warnock’s The Agency Group.
For his part, ILMC stalwart Wayne Forte says, “This pandemic has highlighted how short life truly is. So, why not work with people and clients one genuinely likes and with whom one shares similar visions and philosophies. The establishment and building of yet another successful business is a bonus! After all, success is not simply a destination, it’s a constant journey.”
The Kagency, founded by Karrie Goldberg in 2004, built one of the first venue representation businesses in North America focused solely on handling the corporate/private event, film and photo bookings for their clients. The company portfolio currently includes more than 500 traditional and non-traditional venues in the US and UK, while its talent roster includes artists and brands such as Nike, Givenchy, Duran Duran, Beyonce, Cartier, Under Armour, Maserati and Vogue.
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International booking agency Pitch & Smith divides
Launched by Eleanor McGuinness, Nikita Lavrinenko and Paul McGivern, the new agency brings together more than 45 years of experience as well as a roster that includes Angel Olsen, Weyes Blood, Son Lux, Andy Shauf, This Is the Kit and Cut Copy.
Meanwhile, P&S founders Stefan Juhlin and Kalle Lundgren Smith will remain at the company along with team members based in London.
Juhlin tells IQ it was a mutual decision for the two parties to go their separate ways: “For Kalle and myself, we felt this was a good time to go back to where we once started, putting all our time and energy on fewer artists, with a very simple and straightforward organisation behind it. We’re confident this will benefit everyone, both ourselves and our artists.”
“For Kalle and myself, we felt this was a good time to go back to where [P&S] once started”
P&S will now be headquartered in Stockholm, where it was founded in 2007, with a roster that includes Caribou, José González and Toro Y Moi.
The agency will work will continue to work with the three former agents at Playbook, which will launch offices in London, Berlin and Dublin ‘to bring their international perspective to the European/UK live circuit’.
“The last year has been tough for the industry as a whole, but this feels like the perfect opportunity to collaboratively bring together the best of our experiences and shared values, and build something new with friends and partners,” says Playbook’s Paul McGivern.
“I don’t know two harder-working or more engaged agents than Eleanor and Nikita and I’m proud to be partners with them in the launch of PlayBook Artists.”
“We are all determined to bring new approaches and concepts to life and rethink what a modern, artist-focused agency can be”
Eleanor adds: “It’s important to all of us to support the independent network, especially after the challenges of the last year, and the years yet to come. Paul, Nikita and I come from a similar background of working independently, and we are very proud of that and the long term approach we have to our artists.”
Nikita comments: “It’s easy to get caught up in a “doom and gloom” mentality when the times are difficult. That’s why I love seeing excitement, energy and new ideas sprawling out conversations I have with Eleanor and Paul. We are all determined to come out of this stronger, bring new approaches and concepts to life and rethink together what a modern, artist-focused agency can be these days.”
The three partners will be joined by former Pitch & Smith agent assistant Duncan Smith, who will assume the role of agent with a roster that includes Happyness, Shopping, Lime Garden, LICE, Home Counties, and new signing Clara Mann.
Playbook follows the launch of Field Booking, Arrival Artists, Mint Talent Group and TBA Agency in the US, as well as Marshall Live Agency, Mother Artists, One Fiinix Live, Route One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain, in 2020, amid a wider fragmentation of the global agency sector in response to the coronavirus shutdown.
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FKP Scorpio partners with Berlin’s Area One agency
FKP Scorpio has joined forces with Area One, a Berlin-based booking agency whose roster includes some of the biggest names in international rock and pop, to form new agency business FKP Area One.
Folkert Koopmans, founder and CEO of the Hamburg-headquartered, pan-European concert and festival promoter, will serve as head of the agency alongside Area One’s Joe Rambock and Thorsten Schauf.
Marv Thomas, who has worked with Rambock and Schauf for a number of years, will also continue at FKP Area One.
The Area One team has worked with rock/metal acts including Slayer, Volbeat, System of a Down, In Flames, Queens of the Stone Age, Bullet for My Valentine, A Day To Remember and Machine Head, as well as UK pop artists Ellie Goulding and Bastille and Germany’s biggest country-rock band, the BossHoss.
“Together with the FKP Group, we will open an exciting new chapter”
“I have known and appreciated Joe and Thorsten for a long time and am pleased that through them we can further strengthen and expand our portfolio, especially in the rock sector,” says Koopmans’s co-CEO, Stephan Thanscheidt.
Koopmans adds: “With Joe and Thorsten, we complement our musical programme with genres and artists that are especially important for the international orientation of our business. I look forward to growing even further in this area with them and the teams across Europe.”
“We look forward to partnering with Folkert and Stephan and the entire FKP Scorpio team,” say Rambock and Schauf in a joint statement. “Together with the FKP group, we will open an exciting new chapter.”
Midnight Agency launches in Canada
Canada’s newest independent booking outfit, Midnight Agency, has launched with offices in Vancouver and Toronto.
Founded by veteran agent Grant Paley (president), formerly of Paquin Artists Agency, and artist-agent Nick Middleton (CEO), best known as one half of electronic music duo the Funk Hunters, Midnight Agency represents a diverse roster of more than 30 artists, including Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na Too Many Zooz DJ Shub and James Brown’s band, the JBs, as well as some of the biggest Twitch streamers in Canada.
The latest Covid-19-era agency launch in North America (following the likes of Field Booking, Arrival Artists and TBA Agency), and the first in Canada, Midnight will champion both the live and digital aspects of the agent’s role, say the co-founders, boasting a line-up of gaming streamers that includes the likes of Twitch partners JessU, Pyka and Guns, who reach tens of thousands of viewers weekly.
“We are proud to be the first new independent agency to launch in Canada since Covid-19”
“We are once again witnessing a major shift in the agency landscape: a return to boutique, independent, artist-focused companies charged with creating new opportunities in both the digital and live markets,” says Middleton, who also leads electronic label Westwood Recordings.
“We are proud to be the first new independent agency to launch in Canada since Covid-19 suspended live music. Midnight is about taking back control for our artists, building new revenue streams and navigating the ever-changing demands of how to deliver art and shared music experiences in a post-Covid era.”
Paley, who also started out as an artist, fronting the band Moses Mayes, adds: “After many years working to just find the gigs, I felt compelled to create an agency where working with an artist to fulfil their vision was a top priority. I really missed being a creative person.
Our roster at Midnight Agency represents some of the most forward thinking, diverse and technologically savvy individuals I’ve ever met. I look forward to pushing the boundaries with them and changing the way live music experiences integrate with today’s fast moving online platforms and strategies.”
Ex-WME asst Dan Owens launches agency Loud Artists
Dan Owens, a former senior assistant at WME in London, has launched Loud Artists, a new booking agency specialising in punk, rock, metal and alternative music.
Owens spent nearly four years at WME, where he worked with acts including Foo Fighters, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Faith No More and Red Fang as senior booking assistant to agents Russell Warby and Kara James.
Prior to joining WME, Dan toured the UK and Europe with artists such as Purson, Arthur Beatrice and Mulatu Astatke. He began his career working at Cato Music, the touring company founded by ex-Muse tour director Glen Rowe.
“The industry is in dire need for a shake-up. It’s about time someone looked after the counterculture, and Dan is the perfect person to lead the charge,” says Rowe, who now leads the charity Neko Trust. “I look forward to working with him on his new venture.”
“It’s about time someone looked after the counterculture, and Dan is the perfect person to lead the charge”
Loud Artists’ roster launch roster includes Palm Reader, Teeth, Blanket, SPQR and Eloise Kerry, with more to be announced soon, says Owens.
“With the industry facing its greatest challenges ahead, small to mid-level artists really need an agent in their corner to fight for them and to make them their priority,” he explains. “At Loud, we have the freedom to champion each client without compromise, empowering their creative vision and lifting them to a new level. We’re as passionate about their art as they are and we’re keen to do things differently.
“I’ve learned from the best and I’m grateful for the experience at WME and for the relationships I’ve made. I’ve received overwhelming support from contacts old and new and it’s energising to talk about gigs in the future tense again.
“We’re entering a new phase for live music and Loud Artists is perfectly positioned to embrace the change.”
Ex-Paradigm staffer launches Field Booking agency
Brendan Biesen, ex-assistant to Erik Selz and Tom Windish at Paradigm Talent Agency, has launched Field Booking, the latest independent booking agency to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Chicago-based agency will focus primarily on booking and tour management for musical acts, but will also provide promotional and image cultivation services for artists looking to expand their audiences.
Field Booking’s current roster includes Peter Oren, Half Gringa, The Slaps, Fast Preacher and Logan Farmer.
“The idea for Field Booking came from paying attention to the shifts and trends in the industry, and how it’s been adapting and reacting to the pandemic,” says Biesen.
“Field Booking came from paying attention to the shifts and trends in the industry, and how it’s been reacting to the pandemic”
“I felt that, with my time in the industry and the relationships I’ve managed to build in that time, I could forge a new path with Field and help give artists a chance at the success they deserve.
“I want to foster an inclusive environment at Field Booking that puts emphasis on the artists and their growth. I think it’s important to recognize that while I may be the agent, we are all in this together as a team to make this industry better as a whole.”
Biesen spent five years at Paradigm and its former incarnation The Windish Agency where he managed day-to-day booking duties for the rosters of Windish and Selz and helped expand the reach of the A&R department.
Field Booking follows the launch of Arrival Artists, Mint Talent Group and TBA Agency in the US, as well as Marshall Live Agency, Mother Artists, One Fiinix Live, Route One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain, in 2020, amid a wider fragmentation of the global agency sector in response to the coronavirus shutdown.
Mother Artists: “We’re ripping up old-school contracts”
In December last year, ex-Paradigm agent Natasha Gregory [aka Bent] and her brother Mark Bent, boss of Mother Management, launched brand new artist management and live agency Mother Artists.
The company – which is the latest in a legion of new UK agencies including Marshall Live Agency, One Fiinix Live and Route One Booking – brings together the pair’s combined four decades of experience under one roof, with Natasha spearheading the company’s live division and Mark heading up management.
Having taken their artists with them (Natasha’s live roster includes the likes of Cate Le Bon and The Magic Gang, while Mark manages Idles and Heavy Lungs among others), the pair have hit the ground running and have already expanded the team with Natasha’s former assistant James Tones.
Now, the pair tell IQ why they’re employing a no-bullshit policy, what kind of company they’re determined to build and how the pandemic created the perfect storm in which to launch.
How did Mother Artists come to fruition? Was joining forces inevitable?
Mark: “We’ve always talked about working together as a kind of dream thing to do, but there was never any plan about when or how. And with everything that’s happening now and our situations, the timing felt serendipitous.”
Natasha: “Timing-wise, I feel like we’ve both got to the same level in business so that neither of us is carrying the other. We’re both strong in our own positions and in our own knowledge and skills…we’re on an even playing field. Mark and I are extremely similar in ethos and mind and ideas and we trust in each other.”
“Mother Artists is something that never would have happened without this pandemic”
Given the current climate of the industry, why is now the right time to set up shop?
Natasha: “Obviously it’s a really, really tough time for the live industry – for artists, managers, agencies, agents, crews…it’s catastrophic. But we’re glass half full people.
“For 18 years, I didn’t ever have the time to think about anything but the job at hand because the live industry is so fast-paced so there was just never any time to make Mother Artists happen.
“The advantage of the pandemic is that neither of us is travelling so we have the space and mindset to get our heads together and make sure that Mother Artists is really the best to our ability.”
Mark: “Mother Artists is something that never would have happened without this pandemic.”
Why did you decide to stick with the name Mother? Is there a philosophy behind it?
Mark: “When I was a tour manager, I saw some artists being pushed to the limits for the sake of people’s goals and we’ve never wanted to have that approach. I had a full-blown breakdown halfway through a tour and everyone was telling me it was gonna happen but I didn’t listen but my artists stuck by me through that when they could’ve so easily moved on.
“That’s why the name, Mother Artists, is so important because we want the company to be like a family and, within a family, you can have those moments where you all have a difference of opinion or you drive each other crazy but that trust and that belief is always there in the background which is so important.”
“We’re ripping up the old school contracts and the old school way of working”
Now you’re both running the show, what kind of company do you want Mother Artists to be?
Natasha: “We’re ripping up the old school contracts and the old school way of working, and really trying to be diverse in not only who we work with, but who comes on board in our team. It’s not only about clients but it’s about us and creating a company that – in my mind, wherever I’ve gone – always thought should exist. A place where ourselves, our families and those who decide to join in the future are really well looked after.”
What will you change about the status quo of the agency/management business?
Natasha: “This has always been quite a magical industry and that you know there’s this smoke and mirrors approach to what you do. When I started as an agent and there weren’t very many women, the only way that I’ve built this roster over 18 years is through hard work, kindness, respect and being honest with myself about who I am and what my capabilities are.
“Enough bullying. Enough shouting to get what you want – that doesn’t work so much anymore and actually that you should be proud of your differences and your vulnerability. Everyone is going to have bad days. Mistakes happen. Our number one rule is you put your hand up straight away so we can talk about it and deal with it. No ‘Oh my god I got that wrong, I’m going to be sacked’. We all pull in, sort it out, and it’s fine because we’re human.”
“You can achieve amazing things by being human”
Mark: “You can achieve amazing things by being human. Besides, everyone’s winging it. If you’re not learning if you’re sitting there thinking you know everything, then it’s game over really.”
You’ve been vocal about Mother Artists having a ‘no-bullshit policy’. What does this mean to you?
Natasha: “What we mean by no bullshit, is that there aren’t any shortcuts to being good at what you do. For example, when you pitch for a band. I can’t promise my bands that they’re going to get on another band’s support because I grow my artists to be in a position to pick their own supports. There’s no shortcut to building a great band – we deal with career artists.”
Mark: “Honesty is such a massive thing, especially on my side. Every artist I’ve worked with knows that they will get an honest answer out of me every time. Whenever we work with anyone, it’s never about the quick buck. The no-bullshit approach is the best way to achieve a long term career with anyone. Because if you don’t have the trust with the artists you’re representing, if you don’t have the trust of the team you’re working with, you’re not going to have those long term relationships with it which is exactly what you need for long term careers.”
“We have a no-bullshit policy…there aren’t any shortcuts to being good at what you do”
How do the artists on your rosters reflect the ethos and business model of Mother Artists?
Mark: “[The business model] can’t be led by us, it needs to be led by our artists. So we’ll just have to see where their careers go and how they want them to go and then we’ll make sure all the pieces fall together when they need to. We want to make sure that we’re representing our artists in both of our fields, as well as they were before, but ideally better than they were before.”
Natasha: “The rosters that we both represent have very strong-minded artists in their own right. They’ve got something to say and they stand for beliefs that we have to be a reflection of that and do it ourselves.”
Marshall Amps launches Marshall Live Agency
Marshall, the British music company best known for its guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets, has launched Marshall Live Agency (MLA), the latest new booking agency to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The firm’s second foray into the music business proper, following the launch in 2016 of Marshall Records, Marshall Live Agency is headed up by agent Stuart Vallans, who explains that the agency sits alongside other aspects of the Marshall business – including amps, loudspeakers, headphones and Marshall Arena, in the company’s hometown of Milton Keynes – to offer a “holistic” service to the live music industry ahead of concerts restarting.
Vallans tells IQ industry reaction to the launch of MLA, which has been in the works since last summer, has been “really positive” so far. “Everyone’s on board with the bands we’ve got so far, and getting the bands right has made the booking process easy,” he explains.
The company’s launch roster includes a diverse slate of emerging acts, including Gen and the Degenerates, Crashface, Elijah Miller, Gallus, Make Friends, Moray Pringle and Polar States.
The goodwill associated with the Marshall brand, which stretches back to the 1960s, when the company built cabinets for guitar legends such as Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore and Eric Clapton, has been a “massive selling point” when talking to promoters and festivals, who trust that Marshall can be relied upon to do the ‘right thing’, continues Vallans. “There’s a lot of good faith in the industry – people know Marshall are here to help out,” he says.
According to Marshall, the agency will especially focus on supporting grassroots music in a sustainable way, with plans for carbon-neutral tours also in the works.
“It’s incredible to be backed to do the right thing and put the needs of artists and venues first”
Marshall managing director Jonathan Ellery comments: “From day one, Marshall Amplification has prioritised the needs of musicians and done whatever we can to support live music. Marshall Live Agency is a natural continuation of this legacy.
“Twenty twenty was a devastating year for the venues, musicians and support networks that rely on income from live performances, and we’re not out the woods yet, so it is more important than ever to find creative solutions for audiences to reconnect. Marshall Live Agency, under the guidance of Stuart Vallans and working with the wider Marshall business, will aim to play a key role in nurturing young talent for both the short-term recovery and long-term growth of live music.”
Marshall Live Agency follows the launch of Mother Artists, One Fiinix Live, Route One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK, as well as Arrival Artists, Mint Talent Group and TBA Agency in the US and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain, in 2020, amid a wider fragmentation of the global agency sector in response to the coronavirus shutdown.
Looking to the immediate future, Vallans says he is focusing on developing MLA’s roster, with the long-term aim being to recruit more agents. He adds that there are a number of other new initiatives coming from Marshall in 2021.
“I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and quite often agent performance is measured by fees generated. Marshall has straight away thrown that out the window, as it’s not how they do business,” he comments.
“The agency performance will be based on how many people we inspire to see live music. It’s incredible to be backed to do the right thing and put the needs of artists and venues first.”
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 Artists, Mint 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.”