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Wide Days to host virtual event

Scottish live music industry conference Wide Days is putting on an afternoon of virtual discussions and socials tomorrow (24 April), when the event was originally due to take place.

Wide Days is among a number of industry conferences to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with organisers moving the three-day event from April to 23 to 25 July.

To mark the original dates of the Edinburgh conference, a free virtual event will take place from 1.30 p.m. (GMT) tomorrow.

Kicking off with a TikTok webinar, the programme also features ITB agent Steve Zapp in conversation with Wide Days founder Olaf Furniss, as well as a social workshop, allowing live event professional to swap tips on useful platforms, webinars, podcasts and initiatives and an end-of-day music quiz.

The event will also include a virtual chatroom on Zoom, to facilitate networking and catch ups throughout the day.

Those interested in attending the event can sign up here.


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The Cult awarded for sell-out UK tour

Veteran British rockers the Cult celebrated the 30th anniversary of their fourth album, Sonic Temple, with a sold-out UK tour that sold over 25,000 tickets.

Promoted by Kilimanjaro Live, the UK leg of the Sonic Temple tour saw the band play venues including Rock City (2,000-cap.) in Nottingham, the O2 Apollo Manchester (3,500-cap.), Portsmouth Guildhall (2,500-cap.) and the Eventim Apollo (5,000-cap.) in Hammersmith throughout October.

Pictured at side stage after the Hammersmith Apollo date on 27 October are (L–R) agent Steve Zapp of ITB, Cult band members Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury, and Kili promoter Alan Day.


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Opposites attract: ITB at 40

At ITB, they call it “going over to the dark side.”

You walk out of the open-plan space where Barry Dickins is king, and most of the other agents and assistants reside, cross reception and follow the corridor down to the other end. There, you might find Rod MacSween and his team, surrounded by shelves of highbrow books and photos of MacSween arm-around-shoulder with the cream of classic rockers: Ozzy, Page and Plant, Steven and Joe.

“We’ve always liked the idea of the company all being set out over one level, with Rod at one end of the office and me at the other, and everyone else in between,” says Dickins.

The demarcation of ‘dark’ and ‘light’ sides is jokily acknowledged by little Star Wars icons above the key-code entry systems on opposite sides of reception – on MacSween’s, the rock giants, on Dickins’, the classic singer-songwriters.

Office geography aside, Dickins and MacSween remain one of the live business’s most indivisible partnerships, still intact after 40 years that have included a 14-year spell within Live Nation, a latter-day return to independence and long-term relationships with artists including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon and ZZ Top (Dickins’ list) and Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, The Who, Pearl Jam, Kiss, Guns N’ Roses and Maroon Five (MacSween’s).

But it’s been some time since the company was solely the sum of the founders’ still-formidable rosters.

“Me and Rod are completely different – mentally, physically and artistically. That’s probably why the business works so well”

In 2018, ITB offers strength in depth, with Dickins’s daughter Lucy famously turning up talent including Adele, Mumford & Sons, Hot Chip and James Blake, and other senior agents such as Mike Dewdney (Kasabian, Blink-182, Eels, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and Steve Zapp (Biffy Clyro, Courteeners, Editors, The Cult) holding their own.

But while there’s plenty of work taking place at ITB between the two poles of Dickins and MacSween, it is their chalk-and-cheese relationship that still defines the public face of the business. And the more you look at it, the more you suspect this is the evergreen marriage that remains harmonious largely because they live substantially separate lives.

“Me and Rod are completely different – mentally, physically and artistically,” says Dickins. “That’s probably why the business works so well. If we were similar people then we probably would have killed each other by now.”
MacSween agrees. “We don’t see an awful lot of each other, but we each have much respect for what the other does. We have always remained friends and been there for each other, as partners should be.”

Different they may be, but the two are genuine legends of equal stature in the pantheon of agents – MacSween the tough negotiator, not one for small talk, who lives and breathes the music he represents; Dickins the charmer but certainly no pushover, with encyclopaedias of touring know-how under the silver barnet.

“He is really humble; he is not a chest-beater about how well he has done,” says Lucy Dickins. “But he is a fucking genius in this business – he is so good.”

“[Barry] is a fucking genius in this business – he is so good”

Independently, her father extends exactly the same compliment to his business partner. “Rod is a fucking genius,” says Barry. “If I was a manager then he would be our agent. He is, hands down, the best agent I’ve ever come across. He’s incredible. He gets great deals. I swear that people just give him the best deals to get him off of the phone.”

It is no coincidence that Dickins, “the hands-on, running-the-company guy,” in the words of agent Mike Dewdney, works among the rest of the agents, while MacSween maintains a separate team – three assistants, plus another agent, Ian Sales – that allows him to focus intently, even obsessively, on the needs of his artists.

“I’m a bit anal sometimes,” says MacSween. “I still make numbered lists of things to do each day. If I don’t complete any, I asterisk them and carry them forward to the next day.”

The Arden connection
When they talk to IQ – at different times, of course – Dickins, while still a very active agent, tends to survey the company as a whole, while MacSween’s focus is his faithful dedication to his own family of acts.

For such a long-lived partnership, Dickins and MacSween took a little time to get off the ground. The former, the son of NME founder Percy Dickins, had come up in the 1960s, representing The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Nice at the Malcolm Rose agency, before honing his trade under agent-promoter Harold Davidson, who later sold to MAM.

“If I was a manager, Rod would be our agent”

“I was in the rock department at MAM in 1975, and Rod was at the Bron Agency and I’d heard good things about him,” says Barry. “I actually offered him a job at MAM but he said he wanted more money than I was on, so that conversation was fairly short.”

MacSween came into the business like many – as social secretary at the University of Exeter in the early-1970s. He spent time at various London agencies before eventually coming into the organisation of notorious manager Don Arden, where he first met Arden’s daughter, Sharon Osbourne – now a longstanding friend. “She was working with her father at the time,” MacSween recalls. “We, and then Ozzy, became great friends. With all their help, ITB was set up in 1976. Barry came and joined as a partner in 1978.”

“Don didn’t have the best reputation but I have to say that he was always good with me,” says Barry. “Anyway, it was a pretty good offer and I was young, so I thought what the hell – what did I have to lose?”

In the early days, Dickins could boast Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell and others. MacSween, yet to deck his office walls with most of the rockers that nowadays make up most of his client base, had ELO, Steve Hillage, Kiki Dee, Roy Wood’s Wizzard and Whitesnake.

Together, they built a formidable reputation for smart negotiating, a strong eye for career development and notably tight artist relationships. An in-depth company profile from 25 years ago in Applause magazine describes the business as much admired, big-hitting and fully formed, the characters of its co-managing directors distinctly recognisable as the ones we see now. Even then, Dutch promoter Leon Ramakers marvelled at the co-managing directors’ unlikely union, declaring it an example to all the peoples of the world of how to live in harmony.


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 76, or subscribe to the magazine here

New conference Music Cork kicks off this week

A new music-industry conference and showcase festival makes its debut in the Republic of Ireland tomorrow.

Music Cork, which runs from 10 to 12 May, hopes to create “unique opportunity in Ireland to listen to the best industry professionals talk about their work and experiences, see the best new talent perform and enjoy plenty of opportunities to network with speakers and delegates over three days of intimate social gatherings and shows”, say organisers, who include Indiependence Festival promoter Shane Dunne, The Delphi Label’s Alexis Vokos, music barrister Willie Ryan and manager Jim Lawless.

Speakers include agents Geoff Meall (UTA), Steve Zapp (ITB), Josh Javor (X-ray) and Sarah Casey (LPO), Kendal Calling co-founder Andy Smith, MCD promoters Brian Spollen and Stephen Curran, consultant Andy Edwards and a host of label execs, with topics touching on building artists, festivals, working with agents, music publishing, sync and more.

In addition to the showcases, an “informal” night-time programme will include dinners and pub crawls across the “most fun and friendly city in Ireland”.

Tickets are are still available from Eventgen.ie, priced at €155.


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The unstoppable Steve Zapp

… Branded one of the hardest working agents around, Zapp tells Eamonn Forde about his work ethic and his first 25 years in music…

If your earliest experiences of live music involved sleeping on train platforms, being physically assaulted and getting the sack for booking an act deemed enormously inappropriate, then the chances are you’d probably want to cut your losses and get into a more stable career path.

Steve Zapp, despite his placid demeanour and antipathy towards swearing, is made of sterner stuff. He is marking 25 years in the business and 15 years at ITB where he looks after a roster of around 55 acts that include Biffy Clyro, a band he spotted, like an alt-rock Brian Epstein, in The Cavern Club in Liverpool, and has taken to headlining festivals and touring arenas.

Zapp cites three London shows as pivotal in his early life: The Wonder Stuff at Brixton Academy, Energy Orchard at The Borderline and Pete Wylie & The Mighty Wah! At Subterranea

Born in 1973 and growing up in Folkestone, Zapp was introduced to music via The Smurfs and The Wombles but soon expanded into Adam & the Ants, Wham! and Duran Duran. His dad was into music, but it was Thursday night’s Top of the Pops that really kicked the doors open for him.

“I lived in Kent and there weren’t many acts that played live,” he says of the dearth of concerts in his formative years, which amateur psychologists would suggest he has spent his professional career making up for.

He cites three London shows as pivotal in his early life – The Wonder Stuff at Brixton Academy, Energy Orchard at The Borderline and Pete Wylie & The Mighty Wah! At Subterranea. “I hung out too long after the Pete Wylie gig and missed my last train so had to sleep in the station,” he recalls. “I got through it.”


Read the rest of this feature in issue 67 of IQ Magazine.

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