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Summertime: Summer Marshall’s 20-year odyssey

Looking back on 20 years in the business, CAA stalwart Summer Marshall tells Lisa Henderson about how an insatiable hunger to find new talent and emotional intelligence have helped her sign some of the world’s biggest artists.

“Humanise your approach.” That was the advice Summer Marshall gave in a 2017 IQ New Bosses interview for those wanting to follow the agency route into the business. Six years later and those words are still serving as the modus operandi behind her own increasingly successful career. “I approach my work with kindness, an emotional intelligence, and a number-one priority of achieving the goals for the artists I work with,” she says, sitting across from IQ in an expansive boardroom in CAA’s Hammersmith offices.

Having got her foot in the door at just 16 years old, Marshall has already clocked up 20 years in the business, including 15 at CAA – not that she’s noticed. “Honestly, I just get on with it. I’m focused on doing a really good job. I just want to make sure that I’m doing the best I can for the artists I work with and that they’re achieving what they deserve to achieve.”

The results speak for themselves. In the week that we spoke to Marshall, her act Sam Smith delivered two sold-out shows at the O2 in London, as part of their world tour. Maisie Peters, who Marshall believes will be “the next major festival headliner,” played her biggest headline show to date at Hammersmith Apollo. And US singer-songwriter Ava Max delivered the last of two sold-out Shepherd’s Bush concerts which Marshall, who splits her time between west London and Dorset, attended despite being awake since 5 am.

Her impressive and intentionally eclectic roster also includes Jorja Smith, Tems, Celeste, Koffee, Kojey Radical, Gabriels, Nick Mulvey, Nadine Shah, Temper Trap, and Portugal. The Man. “I proactively try and keep my roster to artists that are all quite different, but the thing they all have in common is they provoke conversation. They’ve all got unique voices, and they all have something significant to share with the world.”

“I’ve got lots of memories of Madonna, Tupac, Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, The Cranberries, Nirvana”

Child of the world
An ear for talent is something that runs in Marshall’s blood. Dad Korda is renowned in the record industry, having held a managing director title at three major record labels. The A&R extraordinaire, who has signed some of the biggest names in rock and roll over his 30-year career, currently co-leads international operations at Australia-headquartered Mushroom Records. Cousin Lara Marshall is director of marketing at Above Board/The Orchard, younger brother Will Marshall is an agent at Primary Talent (and also became an IQ New Boss), and artists are a dime a dozen in the family.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Marshall’s passion for live music was borne from countless summers at Glastonbury as a child, “probably dancing to wild abandon with no shoes, watching Ash. I’ve got lots of memories of Madonna, Tupac, Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, The Cranberries, Nirvana. The childcare back then was you were sat in front of a speaker stack for a few hours while your parents worked.”

Dad Korda remembers hosting “domestic A&R meetings” each Sunday with kids Summer, Will, and Molly. “I’d cook them Sunday lunch and play everything my A&R team had played for me, and they were brutally honest. We would talk through the deal structures and how much money was invested and whether they wanted to contribute any of their pocket money into the deal. It was a very open house with lots of questions. The three of them formed my domestic A&R department.”

Those weekend A&R workshops paid in kind to Korda, who years later signed The Darkness upon Summer’s recommendation. “That was the first time I properly listened to her, and the band ended up being massive and selling eight million albums.”

Travelling was another cornerstone of her childhood, which helped form her encyclopaedic knowledge of venues and insider knowledge of markets around the world. “My wonderful parents are complete hippies that decided to go back-packing with me as a very small baby. I’ve lived in Australia for the best part of two years. I’ve lived in America. I’ve travelled all over Asia. I’ve been to Africa. I’ve also lived in every single borough in London. I’ve been to a good number of venues in the UK and all around the world. I’d say my home is London, but I’m a child of the world.”

“The industry did not used to be a very friendly place for women, and there was a view that it wasn’t going to be the best career choice”

Though it may have seemed written in the stars that Marshall pursued a career in the music industry, several members of her family attempted to dissuade her from that path. “The industry did not used to be a very friendly place for women, and there was a view that it wasn’t going to be the best career choice. I felt more pushed towards some of the more traditional female roles like teacher, nurse, or mother.”

Marshall started working “as soon as I was legally able to” – first in retail and then in hospitality. Bar and pub jobs led Summer and a good friend to programming and promoting live music, and she eventually turned her hand to A&R, PR, and marketing. Though she didn’t heed the warnings about the less equitable side of the music industry, she found some truth in their caution. Having launched her career in the industry as a teenager, she had to frequently battle both ageism and sexism.

“Within the first five years of my career, I remember going to see an artist that I had signed – and I had correct accreditation – but a door person refused to let me in because he did not believe that I was the agent,” she tells IQ. “That happened to me more than once where I had to call someone to verify that I was who I said I was. Now, it’s not so unexpected for a woman or a young person to be an agent.”

The suggestion of nepotism was also some- thing Marshall had to wrestle with in the formative years of her career. “I didn’t use my last name for the first two years,” she says. “I was fiercely independent, and I didn’t want an assumption that all of the doors had been opened for me because – whilst I fully acknowledge my privilege and I’m very grateful to my family for the support they’ve given me – there are doors that also close because of who you’re related to. It’s a bit more complicated.”

“Being the child of a record exec is a curse as well as a blessing,” Korda testifies. “But she’s achieved everything she has all on her own – all I did was help buy the champagne. Nothing was given to them. They had to work for everything. Hard work was ingrained in them. We had a real life, and we put their feet firmly on the ground.”

“When Summer joined CAA, she was sometimes ‘Korda Marshall’s daughter.’ I am pretty sure that the tables have turned and Korda is now ‘Summer Marshall’s dad.’”

It was that complication, among other things, that helped inform Marshall’s decision to pursue a career in the live business, where her dad’s reputation didn’t precede her. “When I started at CAA, that was the first time I had a business card with my last name, and that felt okay.”

CAA chief Emma Banks says: “When Summer joined CAA, she was sometimes ‘Korda Marshall’s daughter.’ I am pretty sure that the tables have turned and Korda is now ‘Summer Marshall’s dad.’”

The CAA years
It was 2008 when Marshall committed to a path into the live industry. Friend Alison Donald (now head of global creative at Kobalt) mentioned to CAA co-heads Emma Banks and Mike Greek that Marshall was thinking about a change of direction and a meeting was scheduled.

Banks remembers sitting with Marshall in a CAA meeting room. “It seemed to me that she was a smart, driven, and musically savvy person that would be a great addition to the young and growing team at CAA. We were lucky that Sum- mer also liked what she saw, and so she joined us, and the rest is history.”

Greek echoes that sentiment: “Summer struck me as a person with a strong drive to be successful. She had an incredible knowledge of and passion for music. She talked a lot about the many live events she had been to and showed a real passion for moving into the live arena.”

“I am a deeply spiritual person, and I do believe in the fundamental principle of karma. I actively try and put good out there”

Marshall adds: “I have deep respect for Emma and Mike – they are extraordinary human beings. They’re immensely intelligent business-people and have done an incredible job here. They’ve been wonderful mentors to me.”

As a self-identified humanist, the company’s mantra – ‘Take care of each other and good things will happen’ – was also a signal that CAA was the right place for her. “That spoke to me,” she says. “I am a deeply spiritual person, and I do believe in the fundamental principle of karma. I actively try and put good out there, and I feel that kind of moral centre that is quite rare in business. People at CAA really do follow that principle.”

With five years of hard graft under her belt, Marshall hit the ground running at CAA, booking shows from the off. In the first two years, she aimed to be “a human sponge” and attend every meeting and concert she possibly could. “I remember Mike and Emma taking me aside after the first 18 months and saying ‘You don’t have to go to every show. We’re not going to be upset if you’re not out every single night.’

“I think because of my initial training, as a teenager, when I was doing A&R scouting, there was a real expectation in the previous industry norm that you discovered new music from going to concerts, because it was pre-social media. That was a blessing for me because whilst it was an extraordinarily busy time in my life, I can confidently say I’ve been to almost every venue in the UK.”

“I’d say that the artists that are on my roster who are the most successful, I signed before they even released a song”

Building a roster
Marshall’s first few years at CAA were a whirlwind – so much so, she can’t quite remember how she landed her first acts. “My first three signings happened all together at the same time, which was extraordinary: General Fiasco, Temper Trap, Cloud Control. I was incredibly busy after that.”

Marshall recalls wooing Australian indie rock band Temper Trap through a mix of flattery and preparation. “I kept calling and saying, ‘I love you,’” she jokes. “It’s not just saying, ‘I love your music,’ it’s coming with a vision and [hoping] it aligns with them.”

Like many of the artists Marshall has worked with, Temper Trap went on to great success, primarily with 2014 hit Sweet Disposition.

“I’d say that the artists that are on my roster who are the most successful, I signed before they even released a song,” maintains Marshall. So how does she know when she needs to sign an artist, IQ asks? “The hairs on my arms stand up,” she replies. And that’s how she came to sign one of her longest-standing and most successful clients, Sam Smith, before their 2014 breakout hit Lay Me Down.

“I heard Sam’s voice for the first time, and I can honestly say it stopped me in my tracks,” she says. “I couldn’t think of anything else for the next week apart from this extraordinary voice. Sam just has such a unique show.”

“It’s remembering that every show you do needs to have a purpose. There’s no show you should book that’s just to fill the diary”

Another mainstay on Marshall’s roster is British R&B singer Jorja Smith, who she signed ahead of her 2016 debut single, Blue Lights, which addressed police brutality and racism.

“That signing was a team effort,” Marshall tells IQ. “Jorja has a fantastic manager, a fantastic tour manager, brilliant production manager, and a lovely, brilliant band. There are lots of people here that come together to create a successful touring career.

“Her journey has been an example of really taking a leap of faith and getting into markets outside of the UK early. When Blue Lights hit, we had so much demand in the UK we could have easily just gone and done every event in the UK, but we proactively got to Paris early. It’s remembering that every show you do needs to have a purpose. There’s no show you should book that’s just to fill the diary.”

“We lost money a little bit at the beginning [trying to] do some of these festivals and shows to get her into all these markets, but it’s paid off sevenfold now as we come into this moment because she has brilliant foundations to be able to play in every major market in 2024 with her [yet-to-be-released] phenomenal second album, fallen and flying.”

“Summer is so intuitive when it comes to where an artist should play and is always pushing forward to ensure that they have the best opportunities for growth”

That sixth sense for routing is something Banks can testify to: “Summer is so intuitive when it comes to where an artist should play and is always pushing forward to ensure that they have the best opportunities for growth.”

There’s still room for improvement, though, Marshall admits. “I strive to keep learning. At the end of every tour or collection of shows, I aim for a debrief with the promoter and artist team to talk through what went right and what might have not gone right.

“There are always new venues, new marketing methods, new ticketing processes to explore. It is part of what keeps the job exciting and this industry so special to work in.”

Despite her heavy-hitting roster, Marshall says the hunger to find new talent “drives her every day.”

“I love listening to new music. All parts of an artist’s career are brilliant, but the most exciting thing for me is those first 18 months with an artist when you are really rolling up your sleeves and asking, ‘How do we do this? Where are we going to get fans? When are we getting to Paris? How are we tackling the right time to go to Australia? What is the right London show to be bringing all the press to for reviews?’ Those are really important steps.

“It’s a bit like playing a game of chess. I possibly overanalyse but it’s brought me success, so it’s a good thing, but I will spend a lot of time think- ing about the timing and the process because it’s not just about when the tour is happening. It’s about when you’re announcing it, how you’re announcing it, the on-sale window, and who your presale partners are. The nuance in the marketing is really important. One of the big things I’ve learned from working with Mike and Emma is that attention to detail is everything, from when you’re thinking about the show to when the show’s happened and you’re settling it.”

“I do look at the artists I work with like my other children. I care deeply about doing the right thing for them”

Marshall says the reason why she has less than 20 artists on her roster is precisely so she can give that level of attention and care to her artists – something she swore by during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I actively tried not to sign artists during the pandemic when all of my peers were signing lots, because I knew if life did resume and we got this version of reality back again, everyone would want to tour, and I wanted to ensure that I had the capacity to work with the artists that I’ve already committed to. I do look at the artists I work with like my other children. I care deeply about doing the right thing for them.”

Like every agent working in the business, Marshall has lost an act or two but not through lack of care. “It was when I had to go on maternity leave,” she tells IQ. “You have to wave those acts off into the sunset and accept their leaving is a product of the circumstance – it’s no reflection on your work.”

While Marshall is surprisingly gracious about the departure of these acts, she says it was returning from maternity leave that was her toughest moment. “Catching up after the time away whilst still wanting to be a present wife and mother. The period away made me reassess time management entirely, I am more efficient and productive now than ever before because I am so much more conscious of maximising every working day, every second and every hour to its fullest.

“I want to make both my time working and the time with my family count. Balance is important. Finding a healthy life balance allows me to be the best agent for the artists I work with.”

“I don’t feel that I’ve stopped learning. There’s only reason to leave if you feel you’re not continuing to grow”

The Future
Unsurprisingly, Marshall has received a steady stream of job offers from both the live and record industries, but there’s a reason why she’s stuck with CAA for the better part of two decades.

“I don’t feel limited here or without support,” she says. “I don’t feel that I’ve stopped learning. There’s only reason to leave if you feel you’re not continuing to grow. CAA has been immensely supportive in helping me achieve what I’ve done so far and what I hope to do in the future.”

And detailing her “vast ambitions” for the future, it’s clear Marshall has no intention of resting on her laurels any time soon. “I want to achieve stadium success, and I would love to see some of the artists on my roster, like Maisie Peters and Celeste and Gabriels and Olivia Dean, become the next generation of headliners. There is no ceiling to what I would like to do with my career.”

 


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IQ 119 out now: Helene Fischer, Summer Marshall

IQ 119 – the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine – is available to read online now.

The June 2023 issue sees us go behind the scenes of one of the biggest European tours of the year, as German superstar Helene Fischer’s daring Rausch Live tour hits the road. Plus, CAA agent Summer Marshall spills the beans to Lisa Henderson about her first 20 action-packed years in the music industry.

Adam Woods learns how live music’s corporate juggernauts are transforming Belgium’s independent landscape in our latest market report, while music’s specialist travel agents educate Gordon Masson on the challenges and opportunities for the sector in 2023.

Elsewhere, we preview 10 festivals planning to make their debut in 2023.

For this edition’s comments and columns, NEC Group’s Guy Dunstan reveals some of the challenges and trends that he and his team are identifying through venues customer feedback, and Steve Jenner examines the various areas where he believes artificial intelligence can deliver improvements to the live music industry.

The Your Shout panel, meanwhile, recall the funniest or most bizarre thing they’ve seen at a festival.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £6.25 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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Arthur Awards 2020: All the winners

The 26th annual Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, took place at London’s Sheraton Grand Park Lane hotel last night. The awards, which take place as part of the ongoing International Live Music Conference (ILMC), honoured the industry’s best and brightest across 11 awards categories.

The prizes were handed out during the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner, hosted by CAA’s Emma Banks, who took to the stage in a full hazmat suit and gas mask emblazoned with the letters CAA across her back in hazard warning tape.

As the evening culminated with The Bottle Award, the unique industry achievement gong, Emma was invited back on stage to receive it, to loud applause and a standing ovation. “If I should say anything, it’s that we should all pick up the phone more,” she said. “You can’t have a relationship via text message or Whatsapp. We need to speak to each, to be more nice to each other.”

It was a successful night all round for CAA, as Summer Marshall won the Second Least Offensive Agent award.

The prizes were handed out during the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner, hosted by CAA’s Emma Banks

Elsewhere, Live Nation’s Kelly Chappel took the best promoter gong, French festival Eurockéennes was crowned best festival, All Points East won best new event, London’s Roundhouse received the best venue award and Charly Beedell-Tuck from Solo Agency won the Tomorrow’s New Boss award, which recognises the industry’s most promising new business talent.

Notably, all Arthurs for individuals – the prizes for best assistant, professional services, new business talent, agent and promoter, as well as the Bottle award – went to women.

The full list of winners is below:

Venue (First Venue To Come Into Your Head)
Roundhouse, UK

Promoter (The Promoters’ Promoter)
Kelly Chappel, Live Nation

Festival (Liggers’ Favourite Festival)
Eurockéennes, France

Agent (Second Least Offensive Agent)
Summer Marshall, CAA

Production Services (Services Above and Beyond)
Showsec

Professional Services (Most Professional Professional)
Tina Richard, T&S Immigration Services

New Gig on the Block (New Event)
All Points East, UK

Assistant (The People’s Assistant)
San Phillips, Kilimanjaro Live

Ticketing (The Golden Ticket)
Ticketmaster

New Business Talent (Tomorrow’s New Boss)
Charly Beedell-Tuck, Solo

The Bottle Award
Emma Banks, CAA

Prior to the Arthurs, ILMC head Greg Parmley presented two special ILMC Medal of Honour awards for longstanding service to the organisation. Production manager Bill Martin and agenda consultant Allan McGowan were both invited to the stage. “Bill is nothing short of a magician,” Parmley said,  “He juggles set design, lighting, stands, stages, and a hundred other elements to make the conference and this dinner happen every year.”

And speaking of McGowan, he said, “Across two decades, Allan has been a central figure in all of ILMC’s panels, putting hundreds of them together. And for ten years, his role as associate editor on IQ was instrumental in the magazine’s growth.”

 


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The New Bosses 2017: round two

After shining the spotlight on (in no particular order) our first four New Bosses – Anna-Sophie Mertens, Zoe Swindells, Ryan Penty and Andrés Guanipa – last month, the next instalment of IQ’s New Bosses 2017 features three more live music industry leaders of the future.

Read on to get to know CAA’s Summer Marshall, Truck Festival’s Matt Harrap and AEG Presents’ Connie Shao…

 


Summer Marshall

Agent, CAA (UK)
Age: 30

Summer is based in CAA’s London office, where she has been instrumental in strategically building the international touring profiles of such artists as Sam Smith, who has headlined arenas around the world, including a massive sold-out Australian tour. Summer is active in a number of industry collectives, including the UK Music Futures Group, and is a member of the BRIT Awards voting academy.

Do you think you were always destined for a career in music?
While I once daydreamed of being a professional skydiver, I followed my passion for music. I love being an agent. And some might argue it’s just as thrilling.

Who do you turn to for advice?
I am fortunate to work with an inspirational group of colleagues. Emma Banks, Mike Greek and Paul Wilson, in particular, are three exceptionally wise and wonderful people.

And as a New Boss, what advice would you give anyone who wanted to follow the agency route into the business?
Humanise your approach. We are all in this together to support the artist.

As a New Boss, is there any practice that you would like to change, or introduce, to improve the way the business is done?
I would encourage everyone to make more phone calls. Establishing a personal connection goes a long way in building and sustaining a relationship. Plus, one call can be more effective and efficient than a string of emails.

If you had to choose one highlight from your career, so far, what would it be?
Being part of writing Sam Smith’s extraordinary story.

 


Matt Harrap

Event manager, Truck Festival (UK)
Age: 26

Matt Harrap, Truck Festival, UK, New Bosses 2017

While studying at the University of Portsmouth, Matt and some friends set-up a club night that showcased new acts and local talent. During this period he was approached by the founder of Southsea Fest and asked to help run the event’s social channels. This in turn led to an internship at Count of Ten, which by year two saw him elevated to the position of event manager at Truck Festival at the age of just 23.

What advice would you give to anyone hoping to find a career in the live music business?
It’s nowhere near as glamorous as people tell you. You have to be prepared to really work hard. You need conviction in what you believe in – but, most importantly, you need to be willing to listen to feedback from those attending events.

What’s your proudest achievement to date?
It’s pretty lame, but every year at Truck watching the audience go crazy. It makes me feel very proud of what we as a team have done.

And what about the challenges?
Tight budgets and artist exclusivity. I’ve learned you have to be creative to make budgets last, and in selecting artists you believe the audience will love.

Who do you turn to for advice?
I’ve been really lucky to work with great people since the age of 18, including my old bosses from Count Of Ten, people I used to run nights with at university, the whole team that work on Truck and the wider team at Broadwick Live, who have a vast experience of running awesome events.

As a New Boss, is there any practice that you would like to change or introduce, to improve the way the business is done?
Remove red tape; it completely stifles creativity.

 


Connie Shao

Promoter, AEG Presents (CN)
Age: 27

Connie Shaeo, AEG Presents, China, New Bosses 2017

While studying at the University of Southern California, Connie worked as college promoter, programming and producing concerts for 15,000 undergraduate students while also working an internship at Epitaph Records. Post-uni, she landed a job at ICM, working in domestic and international bookings, then in 2014 moved to Shanghai to join the Asia-Pacific office of AEG Presents.

What are your language skills like?
I grew up speaking both English and Chinese; however, I have a lot more to learn in Chinese reading and writing.

What are the biggest challenges about working in Asia?
There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to touring in Asia – it’s a fine balance between establishing consistency across the region while maintaining the unique distinctions of each market. Putting on a 12-date tour means working in 12 vastly different countries, 12 currencies, 12 ticketing companies and so on.

What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?
I’d love to continue expanding and developing the Asia touring region – we’re starting to see tours go to more markets, also new markets, and doing record-breaking ticket sales. There’s also great potential for global festival brands to launch with a tailored approach in many Asian markets.

As a New Boss, is there any practice that you would like to change or introduce, to improve the way the business is done?
I would encourage artists to maintain a presence in Asia beyond the touring cycle. It’s so important to develop and nurture the fan base in these markets, which touch half the world’s population.

 


The remaining three New Bosses will be profiled in future editions of IQ’s Index newsletter. Alternatively, read the feature in full now in the digital edition of IQ 73: