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Primary Talent returns to independence

Primary Talent International is returning to being an independent music talent agency following a management buyout.

Primary was sold to ICM Partners in 2020, which was subsequently acquired by CAA. The deal to re-establish Primary’s independent status was led by managing partner and CEO Matt Bates along with former ICM founding partner and COO Rick Levy, who will continue to act as a senior advisor to Primary.

The UK-based booking agency, whose roster includes almost 460 clients including The 1975, The Cure, Lana Del Rey, Noel Gallagher, Jack Harlow, alt-J, Dropkick Murphys, and Patti Smith, will continue to operate from London, while maintaining a presence in Los Angeles and New York.

“The pandemic changed the landscape of the music touring business, and we felt it was beneficial to return to our roots”

“The pandemic changed the landscape of the music touring business, and we felt it was beneficial to return to our roots as the UK’s largest independent music talent agency,” says Bates. “Adding to the strength and experience of the original Primary agent team, we are excited to bring aboard the next generation of talented agents to join as founding partners. In this new incarnation, Primary will be even better positioned to support the evolving careers of our artists and guide them wherever needed.”

Under the new set-up, Bates will oversee all aspects of the agency, and serve as managing partner and CEO. Agent Ben Winchester will continue to serve as a board member along with Bates and Levy.

The agency has also elevated current Primary agents Laetitia Descouens, Sally Dunstone, Martje Kremers and Ed Sellers, to partner status. They will be joined by veteran agent Simon Clarkson, who will be based in Los Angeles.  The firm currently has 35 employees and expects to announce further additions to the team in the coming weeks.

Other clients on the company’s books include Imanbek, Mitski, Rina Sawayama, Two Door Cinema Club, Wolf Alice, and Ziggy Marley.


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Primary Talent finance chief Peter Maloney retires

Primary Talent International finance director and ILMC stalwart Peter Maloney has announced his retirement.

The Limerick, Ireland-born executive spent 32 years with the agency and was an influential figure in ILMC history, running the conference alongside founder Martin Hopewell for a number of years. His contribution was recognised with the Medal of Honour at the 2014 Arthur Awards, which he received alongside the late ILMC producer Alia Dann Swift.

“Peter has been my adviser and friend for over 30 years,” says Primary agent Hopewell. “He’s probably also the straightest man I’ve ever known. I completely relied on his professionalism during years that I was running both Primary and the ILMC – and I have a feeling that at least one of the two wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for his involvement. Everybody who has been involved either over the last three decades owes him a debt of thanks.”

Qualifying as an accountant with Price Waterhouse Ireland in 1982, Maloney moved to London and joined Deloittes (then known as Touche Ross), providing accounting services to actors and musicians.

“With a keenness to work directly in the actual music business, I joined a management company client of mine in 1987 where I gained extraordinary experience working for Steve Weltman,” Maloney tells IQ. “Over a two year period I was exposed to such areas as live touring, merchandise, publishing, record companies , producers, recording studios and collection societies. Steve was a great mentor and prepared me for a long and lasting career in the business.”

“It is hard to compress and summarise those 32 years. The company means an awful lot to me and always will”

During his management days, Maloney first crossed paths with Martin Hopewell at The Manor recording studio in Oxfordshire in 1988.

“It was also my first introduction to clay pigeon shooting, something that Martin was extremely good at,” remembers Maloney. “Martin represented one of the acts that we were managing at the time though on this occasion we were both at the studio to see a band called Walk on Fire.

“By 1989 I was ready for my next challenge and answered an advert in Music Week for an accountant at The Station Agency run by Steve Hedges. I got that job and ‘the rest is history’. Steve is one of the most incredible people I have ever worked for and I truly thank him for supporting me in so many ways that allowed me to flourish and find my niche.”

Primary was formed a year later and opened its doors in October 1990, initially made up of the staff and clients from The Station Agency (Steve Hedges with Andy Woolliscroft and Ian Huffam), World Service Agency (Martin Hopewell with Dave Chumbley, Paul Franklin and Nigel Hassler) and Foundation (David Levy with Richard Smith).

“It is hard to compress and summarise those 32 years,” reflects Maloney. “The company means an awful lot to me and always will. Primary runs through my veins. I was humbly proud of every success that we achieved and personally saddened by every failure.

“I got to work with some amazing artists and their managers and accountants. I consider myself very lucky to have seen so many live concerts and event: Oasis at Knebworth , INXS at Wembley Stadium and the Spice Girls at Wembley Arena were particular highlights.”

“I could write a book on my ILMC reflections alone!”

Maloney describes Hopewell as an “incredible mentor” and “major influence in my development”.

“The ILMC had been going for two years before we started Primary,” he notes. “I subsequently worked with Martin on the ILMC for the next 25 years. That was an amazing, unique and fulfilling experience. I could write a book on my ILMC reflections alone!

“I also got to work with some extraordinarily talented people at Primary, and not just agents. We have to remember those in the engine room that propel the company forward such as Lisa Briggs , the face of Primary on reception for over 27 years, our IT manager Robin, the bookers , the unsung assistants, Tina the cleaner, and my fabulously loyal and hard working accounts team of Kerri, Elaine and Nik.

Thanks too, to the Primary board of Andy, Ben, Matt and Pete – a very unique collection of individuals. We had to make a lot of very hard decisions over the years , particularly during the Covid pandemic. Letting go of ‘our baby’ and selling to ICM was a decision that we took very seriously.”

On a poignant note, Maloney also pays tribute to his former colleagues Dann and Primary director and booking agent Dave Chumbley, who both passed away five years ago.

“For all the great things that happened at Primary over the years, 2017 was a very bleak year when we lost both Alia Dann and Dave Chumbley,” he says. “I worked with Alia for so many years at the ILMC . She was a great support and confidant to me, as I was to her.

“Dave was a gloriously unique and flamboyant character. The productivity of the office rose dramatically once he breezed through the door each morning! A force of nature , an action man with a big generous heart. Still sadly missed. When dealing with various scenarios in recent years I would often ask myself ‘what would Dave think?’”

Maloney reveals that, now he has retired, he plans to continue to travel and take longer holidays, as well as maintaining his fitness.

“I have been running for over 50 years,” he adds. “It has kept me sane and I intend to run until I am no longer able to do so. I am more of a speed merchant than a long distance runner and have a few Parkrun age category course records that I am jealously guarding!”


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IFF 2022 launches with new central hub, agency partners

The eighth edition of the International Festival Forum (IFF), ILMC’s invitation-only event for festivals and bookers, is now live.

More than 800 delegates are expected to attend this year’s gathering of the international music festival business, with many of the world’s leading booking agencies signed up as partners.

Wasserman Music, WME, CAA, UTA, ICM Partners/Primary Talent, ATC Live, X-Ray Touring, One Finiix Live and Earth Agency are among the first to back the 2022 edition and many of whom will present showcases featuring the hottest new talent.

Alongside the showcases, IFF 2022 will offer the usual plethora of networking, showcases, panels, and parties – all taking place between 27 and 29 September in London.

In addition, IFF has announced a new central hub, the Holiday Inn in Camden, which will be transformed into IFF Central for three days.

IFF has announced a new central hub, the Holiday Inn in Camden, which will be transformed into IFF Central

IFF Central will be exclusive to delegates and will host all conference sessions, complimentary delegate lunches, a late-night bar that’s open until the early hours, and ample space for private meetings.

The hotel also features 100 rooms for delegates in a range of categories, which can be booked at the same time as registering your pass. Room rates are discounted for IFF delegates but there’s a limited number available. Click here for more details.

Since launching in 2015, IFF has gained a reputation for showcasing the most talented emerging artists at early stages of their careers, including Idles, Slaves, Loyle Carner, Public Service Broadcasting, Lewis Capaldi and Shame.

Last year, IFF enjoyed a successful return to a physical event, with a programme that featured a double keynote interview with Melvin Benn and Folkert Koopmans.

More details of IFF 2022, including the provisional schedule, will be announced in due course. If you have an idea for a panel topic, speaker or presentation, please email Ruud Berends.

A limited number of super discounted earlybird passes are now available for just £345 (saving £150 on the full rate). Each pass includes access to all sessions and showcases, lunches, dinners, and some drinks. Click here to register.


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Top agents call for action on diversity

Top agents called for a more diverse, inclusive and equitable industry during last week’s ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag).

Hannah Shogbola (UTA), Natasha Gregory (Mother Artists), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent International) and Whitney Boateng (WME) came together for the all-female Agents Panel – hailed as “a long-overdue milestone” by moderator Maria May (CAA).

“We are representing the change we want to see,” said May during her opening gambit for the digital session. “I believe the music industry has a duty to continue to strive forward post-pandemic be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in.”

However, WME’s Boateng says there’s a “lot more work that needs to be done in the industry”. “It is still predominantly old white male and it has been for years,” she added. “Change has to come from the top-down and it has to be more than black squares.”

UTA’s Shogbola agreed: “If you are looking around your office and it does not reflect the society that you live in and the roster that you look after, then there is something categorically wrong.”

Black squares were posted on social media as part of the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday movement, a protest against racism and police brutality in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

“As a black woman within this industry, it’s frustrating that even 15-20 years into my career, it takes the death of somebody like George Floyd for our industry to finally open its eyes,” said Shogbola.

“The industry has a duty to be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in”

Boateng pointed out that it’s not just racial inequalities that the industry needs to fix but also disparities around sexuality and gender, with the panel unanimously agreeing that diversity on line-ups is still “not good enough”.

“It’s so important that when anybody is going to a show, they feel like it’s a safe and inclusive space for them,” said Dunstone.

Elsewhere during the panel, Mother Artists’ Gregory says that flexibility towards employees’ work hours will also be a key feature in a more equitable post-pandemic industry.

“Working 9–5 is not equality because everybody has a different situation, a different experience and different needs,” argued Gregory. “Being an agent is not a 9–5 anyway so just put trust in your team – working hard is a given in this industry.”

Dunstone agreed: “Adaptability and flexibility are massive takeaways from the last two years. Hopefully, we’ll pick and choose the bits of [pandemic life] that worked for us.”

The 36th edition of ESNS took place under the banner ‘Building Back Better, Together’ and focussed on getting the industry back on its feet after two years of the pandemic.

The hybrid conference and festival wrapped on Friday (21 January) and Dago Houben, director of ESNS said that “despite the fact that there is definitely screen fatigue, we were able to perform our platform function for the national and international music industry.


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Beckie Sugden moves to ICM Partners/Primary Talent

Beckie Sugden has joined ICM Partners/Primary Talent International as a concerts agent in the company’s London offices.

Sugden moves to ICM/Primary from X-ray Touring, which she joined in 2014.

Over the last seven years, she has built a roster including Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals, Russ, Noname, Mick Jenkins, T-Pain, Ghostemane, Mac Ayres, Soulection, Joe Kay and more, which will move with her to ICM/Primary.

“Beckie is an agent whose reputation in the industry precedes her,” says Matt Bates, managing director, Primary Talent International and ICM Partners head of International/Europe, who announced the news today. “She has an exciting and diverse roster and we are excited to welcome her into the ICM/Primary family.”

“Beckie is an agent whose reputation in the industry precedes her”

Sugden added: “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the team at ICM/Primary, bringing my 15 years of experience to an already stellar international team. As we all begin to rebuild from the ashes of the pandemic there feels like no better time to join such a progressive, representative and forward-thinking company.

“I’m extremely proud to represent some of the most exceptional and groundbreaking artists around and I look forward to continuing our work together utilising the incredible breadth of resources ICM has to offer as artists’ careers become more multi-dimensional than ever.”

Prior to X-ray Touring, Sugden spent five years at The Agency Group (UTA), and she worked at WME before that. She began her career in live music from her bedroom as founder of her own agency, Mixedtape.

The recruitment of Sugden follows the appointment of Sally Dunstone earlier this year.

Primary Talent International joined forces with ICM Partners in March of 2020 and Matt Bates was named head of international/Europe of the combined entities in February 2021.


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Sally Dunstone joins Primary Talent International

Sally Dunstone, formerly of X-ray Touring, has joined London-based Primary Talent International as an agent, bringing artists including Grammy-nominated rapper Jack Harlow and Brit Awards Rising Star nominee Rina Sawayama.

Dunstone, one of IQ’s 2020 New Bosses, joined X-ray from Live Nation in 2014. Her roster also includes Kelly Lee Owens, Places and Faces, Maxo Kream and Lancey Foux.

“We are very excited to be welcoming Sally into the Primary Talent International family” says Primary Talent managing director Peter Elliott.

“Sally is an agent I have admired and wanted to work with for a long time”

“Sally is an agent I have admired and wanted to work with for a long time,” adds Matt Bates, director of Primary and head of international for parent company ICM Partners. “She has an exciting contemporary roster of clients and has a huge future ahead of her. We are thrilled to welcome her into the ICM/Primary family.”

Comments Dunstone: “What ICM and Primary have put together over the past year has not gone unnoticed in the concerts world, and I am excited to join the team with my talented roster of artists and keep the momentum going.”


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Steve Backman joins Matt Hanner’s Runway Artists

Independent UK booking agency Runway Artists has hired Steve Backman, formerly of Primary Talent International, as its first agent appointment.

Set up by former ATC Live agent Matt Hanner in the spring of 2020, Runway represents artists including Lanterns on the Lake, the Futureheads, Sleeper, Highasakite, Ned’s Atomic Dustband and Wyldest. It was one of the first of many new agencies to have launched in the UK since the start of the coronavirus crisis, being joined since by Ben Ward’s Route One Booking, Jon Ollier’s One Fiinix Live and Natasha Bent’s Mother Artists, among others.

Backman, who joins following a 19-year stint at Primary Talent, brings a roster that includes Emmy the Great, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Steve Lamacq, Gabriella Cilmi, the Bootleg Beatles, the Mission, Art School Girlfriend and Odina.

“It’s great that an agent of Steve’s pedigree had enough belief in what I’d started to want to come on board,” says Hanner. “We have a shared ethos and approach to the way we work with our artists, and I think we will benefit from working together.”

“We are the masters of our own destiny, and that is really freeing”

“It’s a chance for me to put my knowledge to something new, fresh and exciting that we have control of,” adds Backman. “We are the masters of our own destiny, and that is really freeing.”

“The independent agency world has ballooned over the last 12 months; there are some big players in it now, and there is a lot more scope to shake things up and work in a slightly different way,” continues Hanner, who says that having achieved financial backing, Runway Artists is looking to bring more agents on board in the near future.

“We have the freedom to push into areas where we might be able to offer more for our acts and benefit them in the long term. Different artists want different things from their careers, and we’re committed to delivering whatever it is they are trying to achieve, rather than feel we have to push every act into trying to fill arenas.

“It feels like a really exciting time to be putting a new company together. This is a serious proposition. We are ambitious and we are looking to grow over time.”


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IQ New Music playlist spotlights ILMC 33 showcase artists

The latest edition of IQ’s New Music playlist goes live today, showcasing the exciting new acts, handpicked by major international agencies and music export offices, that are set to perform at this week’s 33rd International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Launched last summer, the playlist complements IQ Magazine’s popular New Signings page, which keeps the live industry updated about which new, emerging and re-emerging artists are being signed by agents.

The March playlist features contributions from ITB, ATC Live, Paradigm, UTA and Primary Talent, as well as UK Sounds, Hots (Hungarian Oncoming Tunes), Soundczech and Why Portugal, each of which have picked up to 12 tracks apiece showcasing some of their hottest touring artists.

Listen to the latest selection using the Spotify playlist below – or click here to catch up on the February 2021 edition first.

Separated by agency/export office, the full track list for the March playlist is:

ITBBernhoft, The Fashion BruisesLookalike
ITBBernhoftAll My Loving
ITBConradNo God
ITBConrad, Pablo NouvelleLiving For The Weekend
ITBKapil SeshasayeeThe Gharial
ITBKapil SeshasayeeThe Item Girl
ITBMobs, GoldhouseBig World (Goldhouse Remix)
ITBMobsSay Anything
ITBNature TVHometown
ITBNature TVOnly One
ITBNicole Slack Jones, Guéna LG I Am Free (Acoustic by Johan Czerneski)
ITBNicole Slack Jones, Guéna LG Give You My All (Acoustic by Johan Czerneski)
ATC LIVEFenne LilyTop to Toe
ATC LIVEFenne LilyFor a While
ATC LIVELos BitchosThe Link Is About to Die
ATC LIVELos BitchosPista (Great Start)
ATC LIVEPillow QueensHowDoILook
ATC LIVEPillow QueensGay Girls
ATC LIVERueben JamesSo Cool
ATC LIVERueben James, Col3traneMy Line
ATC LIVEThe Goa ExpressBe My Friend
ATC LIVEThe Goa ExpressThe Day
ParadigmRole ModelBlind
ParadigmRole ModelMinimal
ParadigmRitt MomneyPut Your Records On
ParadigmRitt MomneySomething, in General
ParadigmBartees StrangeBoomer
ParadigmBartees StrangeMustang
ParadigmTV PriestPress Gang
ParadigmTV PriestDecoration
ParadigmJP Saxe, Julia MichaelsIf The World Was Ending
ParadigmJP SaxeHey Stupid, I Love You
ParadigmChristyDancing With Air
ParadigmChristyOn My Mind
ParadigmUpsahlPeople I Don't Like
UTANubya GarciaThe Message Continues
UTANubya GarciaLost Kingdoms
UTAPeach Tree RascalsMariposa
UTAPeach Tree RascalsMango
UTASkullcrusherSong for Nick Drake
Primary Talent InternationalBVDLVD, Lil DarkiePunk!
Primary Talent InternationalBVDLVDAdderall
Primary Talent InternationalDeema, David ArmadaHash Brown
Primary Talent InternationalDeema, Kish!Maddie
Primary Talent InternationalJoesef, Loyle CarnerI Wonder Why
Primary Talent InternationalJoesefThe Sun Is Up Forever
Primary Talent InternationalKaty KirbyJuniper
Primary Talent InternationalLouisahhhChaos - Wax Wings Remix
Primary Talent InternationalMiloeWinona
UK SoundsCherymAbigail
UK SoundsCherymWeird Ones
UK SoundsGengahrBefore Sunrise
UK SoundsLady NadeAin't One Thing
UK SoundsLady NadeComplicated
UK SoundsTrueMendousHmmm
UK SoundsTrueMendousThat Don't Mean
UK SoundsDead Pony23, Never Me
UK SoundsDead PonySharp Tongues
UK SoundsHMS MorrisPoetry
UK SoundsHMS MorrisBabanod
UK SoundsElles BaileyMedicine Man - Acoustic
UK SoundsElles BaileyWhat's the Matter with You
HOTSBabé SilaHole
HOTSBabé SilaMoonlight
HOTSJazzbois, Kid AbsraktLive & Direct - Live
HOTSWun Two, JazzboisInterloop
HOTSPlaton KarataevThe Season of Singing
HOTSPlaton KarataevElevator
HOTSThe Devil's TradeDead Sister
HOTSThe Devil's TradeThe Iron Peak
SoundczechLambdaSpace Express
SoundczechLazer VikingWaiting for the End of the End of the End
SoundczechLazer VikingEveryone But U
SoundczechPlease the TreesMissing Feeling Nothing
SoundczechPlease the TreesA Song Is It's Own World
SoundczechTeepeeNo Reason
SoundczechTeepeeParallel World
WHY PortugalWhalesBig Pulse Waves
WHY PortugalWhalesGhost
WHY PortugalLina, Raül RefreeMedo
WHY PortugalLina, Raül RefreeCuidei que tinha morrido
WHY PortugalSurmaMaasai
WHY PortugalSurmaHemma
WHY PortugalDream PeoplePeople Think
WHY PortugalDream PeopleCaroline

The full ILMC showcase schedule is available from the ILMC 33 website.

ILMC 33 takes place this week, from 3 to 5 March. A limited number of tickets are still available – click here for more information.


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Pete Nash joins ICM Partners/Primary Talent

Respected New York-based booking agent Pete Nash has joined ICM Partners, becoming the latest addition to the US major agency’s recently formed International division, which incorporates the UK’s Primary Talent International.

British-born Nash most recently worked at WME, where he spent almost nine years booking artists including Alanis Morissette, Vince Staples, Duran Duran and Tegan and Sara in addition to his own roster.

Prior to joining WME he ran his own New York-based agency, which he formed after leaving legendary London-based outfit Helter Skelter. Spending 17 years as a Helter Skelter director, he represented artists such as Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Blondie, the Fall and Suede. (ICM formerly owned the companies that become Helter Skelter; Nash’s ex-colleagues at the agency include X-ray’s Steve Strange and Pete Huffman, CAA’s Emma Banks and Mike Greek and K2’s John Jackson.)

Nash’s hiring – announced today (24 September) Rob Prinz, ICM’s head of worldwide concerts, and Primary Talent’s Matt Bates, ICM head of international – is the latest by ICM Partners International, the division formed with ICM’s effective acquisition of London’s Primary Talent in March. He follows former WME colleague Simon Clarkson, who joined ICM last month.

Both Nash and Clarkson will work closely with Primary Talent in London, say the agencies.

Nash – who will be based in ICM Partners’ New York office – brings artists including Kings of Leon, Pet Shop Boys, Regina Spektor, Travis, the Struts and Steve Winwood to ICM/Primary.

“The moves they have made to bolster their international footprint was the catalyst for me to make this move”

He says he’s “very excited to join an agency that is in growth mode. The moves they have made to bolster their international footprint was the catalyst for me to make this move.

“[I’m] looking forward to working closely with Rob Prinz and Matt Bates, who are longtime friends, and the teams at ICM and Primary.”

“I was trying to book acts off Pete long before I was ever an agent, so to be finally be able to work alongside him is a privilege,” says Bates, who is also a Primary director. “His experience in the international market is second to none, and his roster of incredible clients speaks for itself.

“I couldn’t wish for a more perfect addition on our team to help navigate the new exciting music landscape that we are entering into.”

In addition to New York and London, ICM – which is backed by US$150 million in private-equity investment – has offices in Los Angeles (headquarters) and Washington DC. It also holds a minority share in Albatros Agency, a Stockholm-based literary agency.


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ICM invests in Swedish agency Albatros

In the US agency’s latest investment in the European market, ICM Partners has acquired a minority stake in Albatros Agency, a Stockholm-based literary agency.

The investment sees Los Angeles-based ICM acquire “significant” minority share in Albatros, and follows its acquisition of London music agency Primary Talent International earlier this year.

As part of the deal, American ICM partner Pete Stone will relocate to Sweden to work closely with the Albatros team, according to Nordic 9. Albatros represents over 60 film and TV directors and screenwriters, including Björn Runge, Iram Haq, Jens Lien, Peter Grönlund and Måns Herngren.

“To partner with ICM is a true defining moment for us”

“We started Albatros Agency with a vision of boosting talent, working hands on with their projects, creating business opportunities and building long-term partnerships,” say Martina Österling and Elin Sandström Lundh, who co-founded Albatros in 2017, in a joint statement.

“We are very proud of what we have established at Albatros so far, but even more excited about this next chapter, and to partner with ICM is a true defining moment for us.”

ICM raised US$150m from Crestview Partners at the end of 2019.


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