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UTA duo reveal Take That touring masterplan

UTA agents James Wright and Olly Ward have spoken to IQ about their ambitions and touring strategy for British pop icons Take That.

The duo began working with the beloved group – Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen – last year, and have a huge year planned ahead.

This Life on Tour kicks off in the UK in Sheffield on 13 April, promoted by SJM Concerts, and includes six nights at The O2 in London, six at Birmingham’s Utilita Arena and seven shows at Manchester’s new Co-op Live, as well as multiple dates in Leeds and Dublin, with support from Olly Murs.

It will also take in stadiums in Middlesbrough, Nottingham, West Bridgford, Norwich, Bletchley, Southampton, Plymouth, Swansea and Bristol, followed by outdoor concerts in Cork, Dublin and Belfast.

“I think it’s fair to say that anyone in the industry would bite their arm off to work with Take That”

“I think it’s fair to say that anyone in the industry would bite their arm off to work with Take That,” says Wright. “We have great existing relationships with their manager Chris Dempsey and SJM, so when the opportunity arose to work with them and we got to know Gary, Howard and Mark as well, it felt like a great fit from the off.

“Take That’s legendary status in popular culture, as well as their enduring prominence and value to the music industry over the years made this such an enticing prospect.”

The band, who were previously represented by Wasserman Music, were joined by original members Robbie Williams and Jason Orange on their 2011 Progress Tour, which sold more than 1.8 million tickets to become the biggest in UK history. Barlow, Donald and Owen have continued as a trio since Williams returned to his solo career and Orange retired from the spotlight ten years ago.

Their 2024 European tour, which is being staged in support of their ninth studio album This Life, will go on to visit Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal in June/July. A slate of dates in Australia and New Zealand have also been added for October/November.

“When it comes to touring, the band are hard working, committed and eager to break new ground”

“The new album is something special, such a positive record that adds to their impressive catalogue of hits, and feel like the group are in a great place right now,” adds Ward.

Here, Wright and Ward delve further into their plans for the group both at home and abroad…

What can you bring to a legendary band like Take That at this stage of their career?

OW: “From our initial meetings, it didn’t take long to establish a multitude of tangible things that we could bring to the project, and add to the wider narrative as they build into their fourth decade together. It also became clear that UTA are best placed to deliver the band’s creative and business ambitions; to represent them as a band and as individuals.”

JW: “As a band we can really service them well at UTA, and given the various interests of Gary, Howard and Mark our full service agency can add value to them all as artists at every turn, and we can help craft their careers across a range of industries. When it comes to touring, the band are hard working, committed and eager to break new ground. Our team is here to realise an ambitious creative strategy which is driven by the band and management as much as us, to take them into new territories and explore their global reach.”

OW: “UTA is truly global, so this is something we know how to drive forward and deliver in terms of touring. Then we have the full breadth of our departments, including but not limited to Music Brands Partnerships, Corporate and Private Events, Music Marketing, Music Crossover, IQ, UTA Foundation and Ventures, which are already bringing exciting conversations and opportunities to the table.”

“We’ve detected particular demand from German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese-speaking countries”

What is the strategy behind their upcoming tour? 

OW: “There’s been unprecedented demand for the upcoming This Life on Tour, with same-day sell outs and new dates added to the UK run, which now has 41 arena and stadium dates in 17 cities. Plus we have 20 dates in eight European countries already announced, including two countries the band have never been to before.”

What are your plans for the group internationally?

JW: “Using the data and analytics of UTA IQ we’ve identified audiences for Take That in places they didn’t believe they existed. By pairing this incredible tool with the experience of the team we’re quickly building valuable insights into new primary markets. For example, digging deeper than streaming and social media metrics, we’ve detected particular demand from German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese-speaking countries. Given they hadn’t visited places like Spain since the 2010’s, the strategy is to build in those burgeoning territories and more. There’s a whole host of new countries for us to explore, which we’ll be announcing in 2024.”

OW: “Gary recently visited Australia to announce their Australian tour for the end of the year to a great reaction, and we have Sophie Ellis-Bextor as main support.”

What sort of demand are you seeing and how does their popularity abroad compare with the UK?

JW: “Domestically, they are as popular as ever – the new album saw the strongest week one sales of any British act in 2023 as it landed at No.1 – and what is especially exciting to see is the growing popularity around the world and the potential that brings.”

Ultimately, what do you hope to achieve with the band? 

OW: “Take That possesses a curiosity and genuine appetite, and UTA are here to match it. We want to see the biggest and best shows of their career, open doors globally and help inspire the next step in Take That’s incredible career. The band are excited about the prospect of reaching such significant new audiences for the first time, and we want to nurture that growth and sustain the enthusiasm. Whilst we’re excited and proud of how the new team have hit the ground running with these major announcements for 2024, we’re already plotting years beyond that. There’s a long term vision at UTA for all the members of Take That which we can’t want to see unfold.”

 


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Obi Asika on what’s next for Afro Nation

Afro Nation co-founder Obi Asika has told IQ that further international growth could be on the cards for the world’s biggest Afrobeats festival.

Burna Boy and Wizkid will headline the brand’s debut Miami, Florida edition, presented by Event Horizon, SMADE and Live Nation at LoanDepot Park from 27-28 May, while previous Afro Nation festivals have taken place in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean since the brand launched in 2019.

“We launched Afro Nation Miami recently and would love to do more shows in the US,” Asika tells IQ. “Brazil would be an incredible place to host an Afro Nation show and it is very much on our roadmap for the future, and of course more shows on the African continent.

“A lot goes into selecting locations for an Afro Nation festival, the beauty of the site, event infrastructure, travel logistics and accommodation for guests, but most importantly, everywhere you’ll find an Afro Nation event will be bringing joy to sites of cultural significance around the world.”

“Afrobeats is still a relatively new genre in terms of worldwide popularity and we are on a mission to help elevate the next generation of global superstars”

Event Horizon co-founder Asika has been co-head of UTA’s UK office since the company acquired his Echo Location Talent Agency in 2021, and will appear on The Open Forum: The industry health check panel at this year’s ILMC.

The leading agent stresses the importance of Afro Nation providing a platform for the next generation of talent, as well as showcasing globally renowned acts.

“Afrobeats is still a relatively new genre in terms of worldwide popularity and we are on a mission to help elevate the next generation of global superstars, so it was incredible to see such an enormous outpouring of love for artists such as Rema, CKay, Major League DJz and Uncle Waffles, as much as it was humbling to see how far artists like Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy have come,” says Asika.

“We’re sure to witness some big moments with artists on an impressive trajectory like Fireboy DML and Asake this summer, and also like bringing massive non-English language acts like Dadju to even wider audiences.”

Last year, the festival marked its North American debut with Afro Nation Puerto Rico, as well as its return to Portugal for the second time and Ghana, for the first time since 2019. A Mexican edition had also been planned for September 2020, before the pandemic intervened.

“In 2023, we will be building on our VIP experience, elevating the beach club events and really optimising the stunning site that we build this festival on”

The 2023 Portugal event is scheduled for Portimão from 28-30 June, headlined by Burna Boy, 50 Cent and Booba.

“We’ve just announced the first phase line-up for Afro Nation Portugal 2023 and are really excited about the opportunity with the show this year,” says Asika. “We always strive to represent as many genres and artists from as many countries as possible, led by Africa, and we have a great platform to build on after an incredibly successful event in Portugal last year.

“2022 saw a great deal of change, with a huge, brand new main stage, raised production levels and a completely unique backstage artist village concept that we commissioned. In 2023, we will be building on our VIP experience, elevating the beach club events and really optimising the stunning site that we build this festival on.

“Evolving our infrastructure in an aesthetically pleasing way that is harmonious to our beach setting is incredibly important to us, in the same way we always look to support the local industry and economies by working collaboratively and constructively with everyone around us.”

Asika says ticket sales for Afro Nation Portugal’s 2022 edition “surpassed all our objectives” despite logistical issues related to the pandemic.

“The Portugal show doubled in size and we sold 50% of our tickets for 2023 before we even announced our line up, so we have built an incredibly loyal fanbase for the brand,” he says. “There were difficulties in getting access to certain equipment as our industry still felt the after effects of the pandemic and one thing we have done as a business to combat that is to invest more in owning our own inventory. For example we have invested into owning our own main stage, security barriers and steel shields to use at our festivals in Portugal and West Africa, and also to allow touring artists and other promotions – such as Global Citizens and Black Star Line Festival in 2022 – to access it.”

“We are generally hearing good things about ticket sales and if you have a strong brand with a clear identity then people will keep buying tickets”

He continues: “One issue we have faced with building events in multiple territories such as Ghana, Puerto Rico, Miami and Portugal is around artist travel and visa difficulties, but this is part of our commitment to having as much global representation on stage as we possibly can.

“Ticketing can also be an issue, a process we want to make as easy and accessible as possible, so we have partnered with Easol to sell our tickets and introduced them to African payment gateways so they can take payment from customers using African cards. We pride ourselves on partnering with innovative technologies and removing obstacles in the industry.”

While Asika acknowledges there is some concern in the live events industry over the potential effect on ticket sales from the cost of living crisis, he is feeling positive about the season ahead.

“We are generally hearing good things about ticket sales and if you have a strong brand with a clear identity then people will keep buying tickets,” he adds. “Due to the backlog from Covid there were too many shows last year. Now things are back to normal and we broadly have a positive outlook on the events industry. The travel industry also seems to be recovering well and, as a promoter who offers international event experiencers, that’s very promising to see.”

 


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UTA’s Gary Howard: ‘2023 will be a busy year’

UTA agent Gary Howard warns ticket prices will likely have to increase to cope with rising costs as the business readies itself for another packed 12 months.

Howard, who represents the likes of N-Dubz, Craig David, Blue, Steps and UB40 ft. Ali Campbell, is coming off a sterling 2022, which saw him named The O2’s Agent of the Year after handling eight shows at the London venue – more than any other agent.

“2023 will again be a busy year for most although some of the logistical issues caused by Covid and Brexit will still be with us for at least another 12 months,” he tells IQ. “Also, I think ticket prices will have to increase to deal with rising costs of production and the current cost-of-living [crisis].”

The veteran pop agent describes the sheer volume of concerts held last year as an “eye-opener”.

“I have never seen so many stadium shows happen at the same time”

“It was a wild year,” he says. “I have never seen so many stadium shows happen at the same time. On Glastonbury weekend alone, you had BST on with three nights, Red Hot Chili Peppers at London Stadium, Ed Sheeran at Wembley, Diana Ross and Billie Eilish at The O2 and hundreds of other shows happening at the same time – and that was just in London!

“My expectations were high as I had four massive arena tours out and a huge summer programme as well, and the year didn’t disappoint.”

Personal highlights included hip-hop trio N-Dubz’ UK arena comeback tour, which sold more than 250,000 tickets, and an emotional UB40 ft. Ali Campbell tour in memory of late bandmate Astro, who died in November 2021.

“Seeing [Astro] digitally up on the massive screens performing Rat in mi Kitchen in February was so emotional,” says Howard. “I, like most of the audience was brought to tears. I really loved that man, he was a top fella who had time for everyone and would always greet me with a big smile and say in his Brummie accent, ‘Alright Millwall.'”

“I just hope that by the end of 2023, I’m staring at 2024 with a big smile on my face as we have so much new talent breaking globally”

He adds: “Also, N-Dubz selling out four O2 Arenas and 23 arenas across the tour when most of the industry said we couldn’t sell out Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and that I was apparently mad for trying is something that will always stick with me. But more than that, Tulisa from the band calling me with tears of joy the moment it all flew out of the window saying, ‘We did it Gary. No one believed us, but we did it.’ That was also a major highlight.”

In closing, Howard discusses his high hopes for some of the newer additions to his roster.

“I just hope that by the end of 2023, I’m staring at 2024 with a big smile on my face as we have so much new talent breaking globally like JVKE, Natalie Jane, Johnny Orlando, Leah Kate, Bellah Mae and Junior Andre. It would be great for some of them to break through in a major way. We are definitely expecting that they will!”

Howard is also excited to be working with singer-songwriter Jess Glynne, who recently signed to UTA for worldwide representation.

“She is just the most amazing talent and a true British icon,” gushes Howard. “I represent her with Oliver Ward and we are currently building the comeback plan alongside her management at Roc Nation and her new label EMI. I just can’t wait.”

 


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UTA announces huge round of promotions

Leading global talent, entertainment and sports agency UTA has elevated 67 colleagues across 27 divisions in its latest round of promotions.

US-based Mackenzie Coberley (coordinator), Brennan Duffy (agent), Noah Friedlander (agent), Alana Gitt (agent), Akhil Hegde (agent), Lauren Holland (agent), Alexis Lesko (coordinator), Gabriella Librizzi (coordinator), Lauren McClusky (coordinator) and Hope Murray (coordinator) have all been upped in the firm’s music department.

The promotions recognise contributions at various levels of the company, and also include departments such as motion picture literary, news & broadcasting, production, publishing, talent, theatre, television literary, television talent, Asian business
development, audio, brand studio, comedy touring, communications, digital talent, endorsements & voiceover, finance & accounting, fine arts, gaming & Esports, HR, IT, IQ, media rights, MediaLink, UTA Foundation, Ventures and Web 3.0.

“Providing opportunities for advancement is core to our culture, and we are proud to share in this group’s success”

“Over the past year, UTA has accelerated our momentum with new acquisitions, investments in our client capabilities, and key hires,” says UTA president David Kramer. “This growth could not be possible without the hard work, ambition, and collaborative nature of the colleagues we promoted today. Providing opportunities for advancement is core to our culture, and we are proud to share in this group’s success and excited to see what their next chapters at UTA will bring.”

The promotions represent a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and include over 60% who identify as women and 35% who identify as people of colour, while 80% of those promoted to agent started their careers in UTA’s agent training programme.

Earlier this year, UTA announced its largest partner class ever-elevating 26 partners across 15 divisions.

The promotions come amidst a time of substantial development and growth for UTA. In July, it confirmed a strategic partnership with global investment firm EQT Private Equity and recently announced the acquisitions of literary and talent group Curtis Brown Group and software and data analytics company MediaHound.

 


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UTA adds Anna Gregorek to brand partnerships team

UTA has announced that Anna Gregorek will join the agency in the newly created position of senior director of music brand partnerships (MBP).

Based in London, Gregorek will lead the UK brand business for UTA’s MBP division and brings more than two decades of experience in the branding and music space.

Prior to joining UTA, she served as a music commercial director at YMU Group, where she led brand partnerships and strategy for all management artists including Years & Years, Take That, Steve Aoki, Clean Bandit and MNEK. Earlier in her career, she held roles at Warner Music Group, EMI Music, Dr Martens, Red Bull and North One Television.

“As we continue to expand our international footprint, Anna will be an incredible asset to our team”

“As we continue to expand our international footprint, Anna will be an incredible asset to our team and we’re thrilled to welcome her to UTA,” say MBP co-heads, Alisann Blood and Toni Wallace. “She’s well respected within the industry and has extensive experience in pairing artists with European and global brands.”

In the past year, UTA has acquired strategic advisory firm MediaLink and new hires in the MBP division with Irene Agbontaen and Sean Hendrie and additional hires in the endorsements and voiceover division.

The company also acquired top UK literary and talent agency Curtis Brown Group and US-based software and data analytics company MediaHound.

 


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UTA promotes David Kramer and Jay Sures

Talent agency UTA has announced two major promotions, elevating David Kramer to president and Jay Sures to vice-chair.

The US-based duo have served as co-presidents of the company since 2017.

In an internal email seen by Deadline, UTA co-founder and CEO Jeremy Zimmer says Kramer’s promotion “acknowledges the important role he serves as my close strategic partner, leader of a large part of UTA’s operations, and forward-thinking business builder”.

“Again and again, David has been a trusted ally to clients and a passionate champion of our people and our culture,” says Zimmer. “Having David as our president underscores my confidence in the future direction and stewardship of our business.”

Sures, meanwhile, is hailed by Zimmer as “the ultimate power player”.

“We will rely even more on Jay’s unique blend of instincts, intelligence, deep connections, and external relationships”

“He has played a major role in systematically building our television group, including literary and talent, into an industry leader while representing a wide roster of clients,” he says. “He also oversees, and continues to grow, our news, speakers, and culture and leadership groups. As vice-chairman, we will rely even more on Jay’s unique blend of instincts, intelligence, deep connections, and external relationships to continue to drive our business forward across many dimensions.”

Earlier this summer, Kramer led UTA’s acquisition of UK agency Curtis Brown and played a key role bringing in global finance firm EQT as UTA’s largest outside investor.

Sures, meanwhile, has helped build the agency’s TV group and oversees UTA’s news, speakers and culture and leadership businesses.

will enable both executives to focus on their respective strengths. were confirmed days after UTA announced the hiring of veteran music agent Scott Mantell, who most recently served as a partner and co-head of international touring at ICM.

 


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UTA hires Paul Yoo as SVP of ventures

UTA has hired Paul Yoo for the newly created role of SVP of ventures.

Yoo, who will be based in Los Angeles, will focus on building out the group’s private equity practice by identifying opportunities for the agency’s clients to acquire or make substantial investments in existing businesses.

UTA’s ventures department builds and invests in businesses at the intersection of media, entertainment, consumer products and technology, working with various divisions across the agency to leverage UTA’s expertise and relationships within the entertainment business landscape.

“Paul has extensive experience in private equity and venture capital, and he is well-respected within the financial industry,” said Sam Wick, head of UTA Ventures. “With his deep knowledge of the space, he will be able to find innovative ways for clients to become more involved in companies that align with their interests. We are thrilled to welcome him to UTA.”

“Building a strategic investment platform for its clients is a natural extension of the agency’s DNA”

Yoo was previously a partner at Transom Consulting Group and M&A Services, where he built and led the Consumer Goods/Retail Practice of the consulting firm and investment bank.  He was also an advisor to A-list celebrities and athletes in the formation of and investments in consumer brands.

“UTA has long displayed an entrepreneurial spirit and ability to create lasting value to its client base,” he says. “Building a strategic investment platform for its clients is a natural extension of the agency’s DNA, and I’m excited to help develop unique opportunities for our creators, talent, artists, and athletes.”

Earlier this week, UTA announced the appointment of London-based Irene Agbontaen to another newly created role of director of artist brand strategy on the music brand partnerships team.

The company represents artists including Post Malone, Bad Bunny, YG, Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Bebe Rexha, Guns N’ Roses, Lil Wayne, Burna Boy, Halsey, Machine Gun Kelly, Paramore, Rosalía, Florence and the Machine, Bring Me The Horizon, Christine and The Queens and Dolly Parton.

 


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UTA bolsters Nashville team with string of hires

UTA has confirmed the appointment of Matthew Morgan as co-head of the agency’s Nashville office as part of a series of hires.

Morgan and music agents Marissa Smith, Emily LaRose and Buster Phillips join from WME in a move that sees the trio reunite with former colleague Scott Clayton, who was unveiled as UTA’s latest co-head of global music last month.

Morgan, who will work alongside co-head Jeffrey Hasson, has worked with the likes of  Zac Brown Band and Lizzo. He previously spent 13 years at CAA and two years at CMT. UTA opened its Nashville HQ in June 2021.

“Our Nashville office is rapidly expanding, and that momentum will continue under Matthew and Jeffrey’s leadership,” says David Zedeck, partner and co-head of global music.

We are honoured to welcome this powerhouse group of industry professionals into our Music City headquarters

Smith had served as an assistant to Clayton and was responsible for booking concerts at colleges and universities along the US East Coast. She was also the company’s first social action music agent and headed up the music department’s virtual appearance group.

LaRose has worked with artists such as Sasha Alex Sloan and Andrew McMahon, while Phillips has represented acts such as Devon Gilfillian, Gov’t Mule, Ida Mae, Iron and Wine, Kathleen Edwards, Low Cut Connie and Nicole Atkins.

Additionally, Elisa Vazzana switches to UTA from CAA as a music agent, while Emily Wright comes on board as a music brand partnerships agent. The hirings are completed by Amy Lynch, who becomes an agent for the company’s comedy touring division, and Brandi Brammer, who is named senior HR business partner.

“We are honoured to welcome this powerhouse group of industry professionals into our Music City headquarters,” adds Zedeck. “The collective breadth and scope of our new colleagues will be a tremendous addition as we continue to expand our footprint in Nashville and beyond.”

 


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Booking agents unite for next IQ Focus

Continuing the weekly IQ Focus virtual panel discussions, this week sees a line-up of senior figures from the agency world step up.

Titled The Agency Business 3.0, the session streams live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 11 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.

For multinational agencies juggling investors, cashflow and large numbers of employees, the Covid-19 crisis has presented significant challenges. And for the smaller boutique outfits, the hiatus in touring is no less impactful.



But when the business does return, will this period have changed how agencies are structured, and how they work? What routes back do agents see working, and what new opportunities might emerge? In an industry fuelled by creative thinking, what comes next?

Joining chair and ILMC head Greg Parmley will be CAA’s Maria May, Paradigm’s Tom Schroeder, 13 Artists’ Angus Baskerville and United Talent Agency’s Jules de Lattre.

The popular IQ Focus sessions have run since April, with previous topics having included the festival summer, grassroots music venues, major venues, mental health and wellbeing during lockdown, and innovation in live music. All previous sessions can be watched here.

To set a reminder about The Agency Business 3.0 session this Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.


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Introducing… the New Bosses 2018

IQ’s New Bosses 2018 goes live today, with agents dominating the winners shortlist – no fewer than six bookers make our annual top ten.

The New Bosses scheme is now in its 11th year and relies on IQ readers and ILMC’s members to nominate those individuals, aged 30 and under, whom they believe are helping to shape the future of the live music industry. And it would seem you are good judges of character, as looking back across the New Bosses over the previous ten years, many of our named winners have indeed gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields.

So, congratulations go to this year’s cream of the crop: Bradlee Banbury (Creative Artists Agency), Kelly Bennaton (DHP Family), Leo Benton (K2 Agency), Tom Bownes (Live Nation), Erin Coleman (Paper and Iron Booking), Kevin Jergenson (ICM Partners), Michael Jones (The MJR Group), Maxim Karlik (United Talent Agency), Meryl Luzzi (Paradigm Talent Agency) and Aino-Maria Paasivirta (Fullsteam Agency).

“I remember pitching for an act and the agent subtly mentioned I had won the award, to the artist and manager; they were so impressed, I am now their national promoter.”

IQ’s New Bosses will be automatically shortlisted for the Tomorrow’s New Boss Award at the Arthur Awards in March 2019 – voting for which will open in mid-November. Last year’s winner, Anna-Sophie Mertens from Live Nation UK, comments, “Nothing beats being able to call yourself Tomorrow’s New Boss! The best part is your colleagues and business partners never fail to highlight the title, whether to celebrate or to mock you.

“I remember pitching for an act and the agent subtly mentioned I had won the award, to the artist and manager; they were so impressed, I am now their national promoter. Congratulations to this year’s New Bosses.”

To find out more about this year’s winners, click here to read our New Bosses 2018 feature.

Our winners also gave IQ lengthier insights into their careers and working methods, the full versions of which will be posted here on the IQ website over the coming weeks, so be sure to check the website regularly to find out more about Aino-Maria, Bradlee, Erin, Kelly, Kevin, Leo, Maxim, Meryl, Michael and Tom.

 


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