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The Long Tale of Coda

When Coda was established as a talent agency in 2002, there were just 15 members of staff. Twenty years later, the numbers have multiplied significantly and, having emerged from the difficult pandemic years, a takeover by Wasserman Music is being heralded as a step toward an even brighter future. Gordon Masson reports.

As the London-based Paradigm staff celebrated the company’s 20th birthday at ILMC, the ink was barely dry on the deal that saw the company become part of Wasserman Music, effectively reuniting agents in the UK with their former Paradigm colleagues in North America, a number of whom made their way across the Atlantic for the 26 April party.

Central to that deal was company owner Casey Wasserman, who had made no secret of his desire to add a significant music division to Wasserman Media Group. Indeed, during his ILMC keynote interview, he told delegates, “I was having a quasi-affair with [Paradigm chairman] Sam Gores, as I had a coffee with him once a week, essentially, for multiple years, to try to persuade him to sell his business. Our goal, frankly, was if we bought the whole of Paradigm, how could we separate the music business from the entertainment business and either sell off or merge that into something else that we would not be part of, so we could just concentrate on the music business.”

Revealing how the deal finally happened, Wasserman reported, “In February [2020], Paradigm stepped on at least one, but maybe multiple, land mines and kind of blew themselves up. At that point, I said to our team that we should move on to other things. But to their credit, Sam and his brother, Tom Gores, called a couple of months later to say they had some struggles and needed to solve the situation, so would we be interested in buying just the music business, which is what we wanted, anyway. So we began that process April 4 of 2020, and end of May 2021, we closed.”

The reunification of the two halves of Paradigm may have taken a further year to complete, but the principals in the London office could not be happier, with director Alex Hardee noting that the initial deal with Paradigm back in 2014 fulfilled a long-held ambition for the business to be part of a global enterprise, “but it took us a long time to find partners in America that had a similar business culture,” says Hardee.

In 2019, the companies officially started trading under the same Paradigm brand, ending the use of the Coda name in the UK. However, for many working in the London operation, the “Coda culture” is still very much alive and kicking, even though the business has now under-gone a couple of ownership changes.

“I threatened to leave MPI, which was sort of true, but I hadn’t actually found another agency to go to”

Early Days
The formation of Coda Agency back in 2002 brought together two successful boutique businesses and established an operation that few could dispute has changed the booking agency landscape.

What’s often overlooked is Hardee’s pivotal role in the formation of Coda. When fellow MPI agent Cris Hearn departed the company for a position at Primary Talent, Hardee saw an opportunity.

“I threatened to leave MPI, which was sort of true, but I hadn’t actually found another agency to go to,” he admits. “But I ended up buying Miles Copeland’s shares in MPI, and then I suggested we should talk to other companies about a merger. Primary Talent was really successful at the time, but I thought if we went in with them, they’d just end up taking the credit, so it was better to look for another agency of about the same size for a merger.”

Instead, Hardee identified Concert Clinic as a potential partner. “We talked to [owners] Clive Underhill-Smith and Rob Challice, and Clive came up with the name Coda for the new company,” Hardee recalls. “So Coda started out in 2002 with me, Clive, Rob, and Phil Banfield as directors. I have no idea how or why Clive came up with the name Coda, but I just realised after the Oscars this year that it actually stands for Child of Deaf Adult, which isn’t the greatest name for a music agency, really…”

“We actually get approached by agents working elsewhere a lot, but from a recruitment point of view it’s all about trying to find people that can complement us”

Development & Growth
As Coda grew, adding agents and boosting its roster year on year, the need for bigger premises became a recurring theme for its leadership.

The merged MPI and Concert Clinic entity saw the partners initially setting up shop for Coda in rented offices in Rivington Street in London, to cater for a founding workforce of about 15 people. But with the company enjoying exponential growth, the need for space facilitated a move to a new location in Shoreditch High Street to accommodate 40 staff, before the directors chose to purchase their next premises in Clerkenwell where the head count doubled again.

“From there, we bought our current office in Wenlock Road, and we grew in size again to about 125 people. And then Covid hit, meaning that we could have probably moved back to Rivington Street,” says Hardee.

With staffing levels in May 2022 nudging above the 80 mark again, the company hierarchy is steadily hiring new people. “To be honest, we’ve always found it quite easy to hire, until now,” says director Tom Schroeder. “We actually get approached by agents working elsewhere a lot, but from a recruitment point of view it’s all about trying to find people that can complement us… There have been some big figures over the years that we’ve said ‘no’ to because we thought it would have changed the tone… we have never been those shouty aggressive people. We simply don’t think it’s the way to do good business.”

Looking back over the past two decades, Schroeder tells IQ, “Every agent that’s come here has gone on to have the most successful years of their career – their biggest financial years, the right upward trends, signing new stuff. We like to challenge people, to try and get them out of their comfort zone in the best, positive, possible way, and I think that’s worked in our favour.”

“We’ve now been together as a board of four – Alex, me, James and Dave Hallybone – for 15-plus years, and that’s a massive strength”

Schroeder was one of the original employees of Coda, having started his career 22 years ago at MPI. “I was up in Nottingham at university, but I wanted to come back home to London, so I randomly emailed a couple of companies one day, asking if they had any jobs for a keen kid. And at that moment, MPI had literally finished a meeting where they agreed to employ a keen kid.”

Taking that chance certainly paid off for both the company and Schroeder, who a few years into his career was invited to become one of Coda’s partners. “I was starting to have some success, and I think Alex had seen that I was quite shrewd.” He notes, “Alex and I realised that we are really different to each other but that we work really well together.

“The partners at the time were Rob Challice, Clive Underhill-Smith, Alex, and Phil Banfield, and I remember promising myself that in the first partners’ meeting I would sit there and not say anything; just absorb it and then leave. But within about 90 seconds, I stood up and said, ‘What are you all doing? This is ridiculous.’ And I really enjoyed that part of it. It comes quite naturally to me.

“We’ve now been together as a board of four – Alex, me, James [Whitting] and [financial director] Dave Hallybone – for 15-plus years, and that’s a massive strength.”

“One of the first calls I ever made was to Anton Lockwood at DHP, and he asked me if the band I was pitching would bring in their own backline, and I had to hand over the phone and ask a colleague what a ‘backline’ was”

For his part, Whitting tells IQ that he joined Coda in April 2003, having been an A&R exec at Polydor and then Chris Blackwell’s Palm record label. “It was my introduction to the music industry, but I found out quite early on that A&R wasn’t for me: you’d sign an act and spend ages developing them, but often you didn’t even get to release a record,” he laments.

As a result, when Clive Underhill-Smith presented him with an opportunity to join Coda, Whitting didn’t hesitate. “I jumped at it,” he says. “I loved the immediacy of the job – working with an artist, booking the show, and the show happens. There’s a beginning, middle and end to it, whereas A&R often lacked a middle and an end.”

However, he recalls that his start date at Coda – 1st April – was apt, as he had limited knowledge of the agency environment. “I was given a load of phone numbers and some CDs and [was] told to book some shows, but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” Whitting admits. “One of the first phone calls I ever made was to Anton Lockwood at DHP, and he asked me if the band I was pitching would bring in their own backline, and I had to put my hand over the phone and ask a colleague what ‘backline’ was.”

Despite being so green, Whitting quickly found his feet. “The first significant act I took on was Mylo, pretty early on in 2003. I really just focussed on that, and when he broke through in 2004, I quickly learned what it actually took to be an agent and what was expected of you. After that, I knew how to implement that experience into other artist careers.” And as Whitting’s success caught the eye of rival agency bosses, Hardee offered him partnership at Coda.

“I don’t believe you can be a significant agency signing global stars if you don’t have a global footprint as a company”

Global Expansion
The ambition of Coda’s partners and staff to be able to deliver global services for clients became something of a burning topic, and quietly, senior management started looking for suitable partners with whom they could form an alliance in North America.

Says Schroeder, “I don’t believe you can be a significant agency signing global stars if you don’t have a global footprint as a company. And we made that decision a long time ago. It was then about who would those partners be. We had options, but Paradigm was about Marty Diamond and Lee Anderson and Sam Hunt and Tom Windish. That’s who we had our synergy with. And the build worked great because we both saw ourselves as the alternative agency, and to be honest, I never want that to change.”

In fact, Hardee reveals that it was Marty Diamond who first tabled the idea of an alliance.

Diamond tells IQ, “We always wanted to have an international partner, and Coda was a very natural fit because we already had shared clients and we had a shared spirit – both companies were very entrepreneurial and disruptive.”

Noting that he knew the Coda principals individually through working on various shared clients, Diamond says, “Tom, James and Alex complement each other incredibly well, with each coming at it from a different place. As an outsider looking in, it was very clear how their personalities support one another, and that is true to this day – they are thoughtful, methodical, and they balance each other. And, bottom line, they’re just really good partners. Through what has been a very trying time for our industry as a whole, they showed creative finesse and they showed dedication to the people that they work with.”

“Wasserman has the same sort of culture, certain principles that we like”

Schroeder couldn’t be happier with the choice of partners in North America. “The merger was super successful, and our growth was exponential. We were doing global signings in a different way to everyone else, and everyone was really happy.”

Hardee says, “Paradigm was very good because it was a big company in America, but they allowed us to govern ourselves, maybe with a lot more freedom than you would have with the traditional big American agencies.

“Wasserman, I think, will be a slightly different kettle of fish. They’re much bigger than Paradigm, and they will want more control of the company, and we realise that. They have 120 people working in their office in London already on the sports side, so it’s going to be a different dynamic. But as far as the agents go, the people who are at Wasserman are the same who were at Paradigm.”

He continues, “Wasserman has the same sort of culture, certain principles that we like. The difference with Casey Wasserman is that he is up there on the level of a [Michael] Rapino or an [Irving] Azoff – he’s a player in Hollywood, and we never really had anyone before who can get you into any room, which is great for the Americans and great for us when we go to LA. But it will undoubtedly be a slightly different dynamic.”

With a full year under Wasserman ownership, Diamond says the new working environment is “truly amazing.” He states, “Not only is [Wasserman] a well run, well managed company, Casey is incredibly dynamic, incredibly engaged, supportive and excited about being in the music business. Obviously, they’ve been in the music business on the brands and property side of things, but not on the talent representation side of things.”

And he reveals that the support for getting the agency business back up to speed has been unlimited. “I can’t remember the number of people that came along with us in what was a very long and convoluted journey to get to Wasserman, but we’ve hired in excess of 50 people already in the first year,” he says.

“Ultimately, it’s Alex who is the glue. We’ve worked with him for 20 years, so he must be doing something right”

The “Coda Culture”
Despite the Paradigm merger and subsequent Wasserman acquisition, many of the London office staff still refer to the “Coda culture” that they believe sets the agency apart from its peers.

“It probably originated in the early days of everyone at the company going out together and partying together, but then growing up and still having that same team spirit and non-shouty atmosphere,” opines Hardee.

“We’ve engendered a culture where anyone can ask questions, and we’ve always had open-plan offices to help with that. We’re not brain surgeons, so we want to make sure nobody gets too self-important. Sure, we have a sense of humour, but we also do a serious job. For instance, people see me as the funny guy, but I’m actually quite good at processes and putting CRMs together – I invented a thing called Task Systems that everyone uses in this company. So James is the nice friendly one that everyone loves; Tom is very much the emotive one; I’m more robotic; and Dave does all the hard work and takes none of the credit for it.”

While Coda was ahead of the game in terms of actively recruiting and developing female agents, Hardee admits it took movements like Black Lives Matter for the company to put its diversity efforts under the microscope. “It drew our attention to who we actually have at the company, but also who we do not have, and we’ve identified that situation as one of our weaknesses. So we’ve set targets and, I believe, having cut down staff numbers because of Covid and now going through a recruitment programme, we’re addressing that issue, and we’re aiming to be better.”

Agreeing that the Coda culture is very much alive and kicking, Whitting notes, “There’s a few people that have been here for over a decade, and that’s helped shape the company culture, which is forever changing. Ultimately, it’s Alex who is the glue. We’ve worked with him for 20 years, so he must be doing something right.”

“People enjoy working here; people like coming to work. That’s part of the culture that we created, and it’s something we are very proud of”

Another building block of the Coda culture is the openness encouraged by senior management, enforced by their company meetings every Tuesday, when all staff members, from accountants to reception, agents and assistants, gather to discuss every single on-sale and all final ticket sales from the previous week, as well as any other concerns.

Schroeder explains, “I believe in making a flat pyramid structure for the company, where rather than it being very difficult for staff to access the people at the top, everyone gets the chance to talk and be heard. That’s become more and more important because it’s young people who are really defining culture – their A&R is better, they understand what young people want, and those people need access to the top of the tree.”

Indeed, testament to the Coda culture is the fact that the vast majority of agents who join the company stay there.

“A couple of people have left over the years, and it’s always sad to see people go,” says Whitting. “But if they’re not happy and excited, then we wish them well to do what they want to do. People enjoy working here; people like coming to work. That’s part of the culture that we created, and it’s something we are very proud of.”

“Agents instinctively, because of ego or defence or whatever, have a tendency to blame everyone except themselves when they lose an act”

Another unique element of the Coda mindset was a piece of silverware, initially awarded to individuals for losing an act on their roster but latterly given to anyone who made any notable faux pas.

“The Shame-Up Trophy is just a really good way of getting rid of that nonsense that people have when they make a mistake,” explains Whitting. “Owning up to everything is the only way you’re going to learn and grow. It’s good when you make a mistake that people are actually there to support you rather than get on your back.” And he admits, “Ultimately, the people who have won the Shame-Up Trophy most are probably myself, Tom, and Alex.”

Schroeder agrees. “Agents instinctively, because of ego or defence or whatever, have a tendency to blame everyone except themselves when they lose an act. But there have been points in our company’s growth where we’ve lost key acts, and instead of sulking or being angry, we want everyone to learn from it because then you can start to really tackle your weaknesses and acknowledge them.”

“Me and Alex took a kicking at times – our Covid nicknames were Zoom and Doom!”

Covid
Like the entire live entertainment sector re- acting to Covid, Paradigm’s UK offices quickly shut-up shop in early 2020, sending staff home, with a number unfortunately having to be made redundant as lockdowns and restrictions ended live events globally for an unprecedented period.

But while the situation in London was bad, at the Paradigm operation in North America, where the music division was the smaller part of the Hollywood-centric entertainment empire, the pandemic was catastrophic, with hundreds of staff losing their jobs and the very future of the indie powerhouse being called into question. That situation, however, was resolved when Casey Wasserman finally agreed a deal with Paradigm owners Sam and Tom Gores, in a move that Sam Gores described as “a win for all parties.”

Looking back over recent events, Whitting says, “Losing staff was the hardest thing that we had to deal with in our 20-year history. But we’re coming out of it strongly, and while the whole market is very choppy, we’re still here, and that’s something to be very proud of.”

Schroeder says, “Me and Alex took a kicking at times – our Covid nicknames were Zoom and Doom! But I quickly knew that this wasn’t going to be a four-, six-week, three-month thing. That was the toughest bit. I was just spending the whole time as a partner going, ‘If I could just see 12 month’s time, I could plan my business,’ but we never could.”

“Even now, this market is volatile”

Nevertheless, Schroeder believes the company’s weekly meetings took on even greater significance during- and post-Covid.

“Working out how and when to go on sale; whether you’ve been forced to reschedule and when you should announce that; what levels to do upgrades, multiples etc. We want to do that as a company, and when you have either a good tour or a bad tour, or something in the middle, the key is to talk about what you’re going to do next. It’s a massively important part of what we do as a company, so our weekly meetings are invaluable.

“Even now, this market is volatile. And you can either just talk positives and discuss the excitement of the resurgence of live, or you can acknowledge the fact that there’s an awful lot of casual ticket buyers who need to be enticed back into the market.”

“There’s not a better team in the business, globally, in terms of identifying talent early and growing it”

Team Wass
While the live music industry was devastated by Covid, the pandemic presented Casey Wasserman with the catalyst to realise his ambition to get into the agency business.

Having completed the Paradigm US deal in May 2021, the transaction for the UK division became the worst kept secret in the live music industry. Frustratingly, the reunification of both divisions of Paradigm under the ownership of Wasserman Media Group was necessarily prolonged by the pandemic. However, the April 2022 confirmation that the London-based operation and its staff had become part of Team Wass was cause for much celebration on both sides of the Atlantic.

Looking ahead at the prospects for the reunited music division, Diamond predicts, “Continued growth and continued diversification.” He adds, “There’s not a better team in the business, globally, in terms of identifying talent early and growing it. Obviously, if you put on paper the superstar talent we collectively represent, it’s pretty impressive.

“The one thing we have found in our conversations is that there’s a hunger and desire to challenge the business, disrupt the business, grow the business. And that’s done by signing great talent – whether that’s sports talent, branding clients, or music clients – and nurturing those relationships to build superstars.”

“Casey is young; unbelievably ambitious; very, very successful; and he has an understanding of where the economics go, much beyond the music industry. So he’s going to be a massive asset”

Cheerleading the closure of the transaction, Schroeder states, “One of the very obvious weaknesses we felt we had, as Paradigm, is we didn’t have a figurehead… [Marc] Geiger at William Morris, Rob Light at CAA, these people are front and centre, whereas we lacked that. But what Wasserman does, to a level that we never imagined, is we have a figurehead in Casey Wasserman whose reach is enormous. His experience is unbelievable, the people he has access to, the doors he can open.

“Casey is young; unbelievably ambitious; very, very successful; and he has an understanding of where the economics go, much beyond the music industry. So he’s going to be a massive asset, and I feel incredibly excited having someone of that significance at the top of the tree.”

Hardee is equally enthused. “Our contemporaries are UTA, William Morris and CAA, but I still think we present our case differently. We definitely think in a more independent way, but that’s just a little point of difference that most people will see in the culture here. And that’s the same, as far as I’ve seen, at Wasserman.”

Hardee notes Wasserman’s hiring of Brent Smith as an example of the calibre of talent the company can attract. “He’s one of America’s biggest agents, representing Drake and Kendrick and Frank Ocean and having one of the biggest rosters in the world. So, there will be targets over here, too,” he states.

“In the UK, we actually took on Nick Cave and Chris Smyth, but we didn’t want to shout about it because we’d made 40 people unemployed through the pandemic, and it didn’t seem right to announce new people because it could upset the office. The bottom line is that agents like coming here, so we will be looking for new agents – no matter if they are young or old, we’re always open to conversations.”

“We’ve got some great agents coming through… You can definitely see future management material there”

Nonetheless, Hardee contends that one of Coda’s strengths was developing agents in-house, and it’s a strategy he aims to continue despite the expanded Wasserman armoury now at his disposal. “Growing people internally is the most rewarding part of the job and can produce the best agents because they carry no baggage from other places. Tom Schroeder came through the ranks, as did James Whitting, and Nick Matthews is another. We’ve also got great talent who have joined us – Cris Hearn went on holiday to Primary [Talent] and came back, Sol Parker came in, as did Geoff Meall and Clementine Bunel. But we like the education process at the company, which is only possible because we don’t sit in little silos.”

As Paradigm UK becomes the latest addition to the Team Wass family, Whitting is looking forward to the years ahead with a renewed lust for life. “We’re very excited to see what Wasserman can bring to the table,” he says. “It’s going to be interesting because of the various different areas that they’re in – their marketing with their sports and branding expertise: they align really well with what we do. And because they did not have a music department, that’s good for us, as we’re not going into a pre-existing culture. We’re kind of creating that side of the culture for Wasserman. And we’re good at culture creation.

“We’ve got some great agents coming through and people who over the pandemic have put themselves front and centre in really trying to keep things moving forward and keep things positive. You can definitely see future management material there, which is good because we don’t want to carry on doing it forever.”

“I’m completely convinced that we will have this wonderful creative bounce off the back of [Covid], and it will look like nothing we’ve seen before”

Likewise, Schroeder’s fervour for the deal is palpable. “I am buzzing,” he says. “I’ve got a young roster and the fan base is a young one – it’s like the new punk. I’m completely convinced that we will have this wonderful creative bounce off the back of [Covid], and it will look like nothing we’ve seen before. These kids don’t see colour, they don’t see gender, they don’t see sexuality, they don’t see ethnicity. They’re slightly hedonistic for the moment but with real seriousness about cultural significance and owning artists and being part of it. It’s wonderful to see.”

And he believes that the Wasserman acquisition will help fast-track some of the London office’s rising stars to levels where Coda or Paradigm may have found unattainable. “We’ve spent a lot of 2021 and 2022 talking about the need to take some risks and put some young people in really significant positions. Now we’re moving a lot of people who have put the time in and have that sort of spark and specialness about them: if they’ve got that, then why not do it now?”

For his part, Casey Wasserman says, “What’s so exciting about the acquisition here [in the UK] is their history with our US music team. The relationship I’ve built with Alex and Tom and Dave and James and the whole leadership team over the last few years is really extraordinary. I’m incredibly confident that this will be a successful business because of the trust and respect and the commonality we share, [as well as] the history they shared prior to us getting involved.”

As the company’s owner, Wasserman has some strong views on how his talent agencies should operate. “We learned early on that you cannot buy client lists,” he says. “Our job is to build a great culture and attract and retain great people. If you do those two things then the clients will come. If you sacrifice either of those two things for a client, it’s not a sustainable business.”

“I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all… If you are that talented, you should have the best people represent you, and not just because they all work in the same place”

Addressing the idea of representing clients for non-music-related activities, Wasserman pulls no punches. “If you are a musician and you want the best music agent, you are going to want to hire someone at Wasserman to manage that part of your career. If you can also act, or something else, then you should hire the best person to do that for you. I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all: everyone sells that, but it’s total [bullshit]. If you are that talented, you should have the best people represent you, and not just because they all work in the same place.”

“We want to make ourselves the best place for an agent to pursue their career for themselves and for their clients”

Joining in the celebrations for Coda’s 20th anniversary, Wasserman underlines his determination to complete the acquisition that saw the company become part of his media group.

“Coda, and the team that had built Coda for 20 years as an incredibly successful business, had unfortunately just flipped to being Paradigm shortly before the start of Covid, so the timing was brutal,” he observes. “But just like the US [Paradigm] business, they worked through an incredibly difficult situation and did that incredibly well.”

And hinting that there could be further agency acquisitions, Wasserman states, “It was always our plan to buy both [Paradigm] businesses. Because of the different shareholdings, we separated those transactions to give them both the appropriate attention and focus. But these two are the first two steps, not the last two steps, as we continue to build a global music business.

“We are competitive, so we want to represent the best clients, help them drive their careers and be incredibly relevant and influential in the music business. We are going to continue being aggressive, so as the world is coming back, the plan is to put ourselves in the best position to succeed. If we think it adds value to our business and our clients, we are going to go after it.”

Wasserman concludes, “We want to make ourselves the best place for an agent to pursue their career for themselves and for their clients. I really believe we have done that on the sports side, unequivocally, and I have no doubt we are also going to do that on the music side.”


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IQ 111 out now: The Long Tale of Coda

IQ 111, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

The June edition celebrates 20 years since the launch of Coda with the talent agency’s founders, tracking its history and looking to the future in the wake of the evolved company’s acquisition by Wasserman Music.

In addition, we reflect on ILMC’s Brave New World-themed gathering after the conference made a successful return to physical form, and commemorate the richly-deserving winners of this year’s Arthur Awards.

Elsewhere, the magazine dissects the supply chain problems currently plaguing the business and speaks to experts in search of solutions, while a separate feature examines some of the challenges and opportunities for suppliers of event infrastructure. Plus, we provide a health check on the seemingly buoyant Swiss market.

For this edition’s columns and comments, Lorenz Schmid details MUCcc Arena’s ambition to become Germany’s first climate-neutral arena and Class of ’21 New Bosses alumni Theo Quiblier urges others to share stories of their failures and be honest about insecurities.

In this month’s Your Shout, meanwhile, execs including Geoff Ellis (DF Concerts), Dmitry Zaretsky (Pop Farm) and Will Holdoway (Method Events) reveal the act they rank as their greatest festival discovery.

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 for just £7.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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Return of Music Mudder fundraiser confirmed

Talent agency Wasserman Music and UK music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins have announced the return of music-inspired endurance event Music Mudder.

Teams from across the music industry will take part in the “ultimate UK mud run” at Camelot Events’ obstacle course in Dorking on Friday 2 September, which follows off the back of the successful inaugural edition in 2019, which raised £64,000.

Teams of 10 cost £1,000, plus a minimum of £500 fundraising per team and can be booked by contacting Wasserman Music’s Lucy Putman at [email protected] Alongside the main event, there will be live music and a selection of food and drink.

“After the success of the inaugural event in 2019, we are so excited to be bringing back Music Mudder this year – bigger, better and muddier than ever before,” says Wasserman Music agent Lucy Putman. “Whether teams are competitive or joining just for fun, this is a great way to beat the post-festival season blues, whilst raising funds to help Nordoff Robbins keep offering their amazing music therapy and promote the value of music for all people in society.”

“We invite our friends from across the music world to team up with colleagues”

Nordoff Robbins’ music therapists work with work children and adults affected by life limiting illness such as dementia, learning disabilities including autism, physical disability and mental health issues at over 270 schools, hospitals, hospices and care homes, as well as providing sessions from its centres across the UK.

“Partnering with the fantastic team at Wasserman Music, we invite our friends from across the music world to team up with colleagues and join us for a packed day of entertainment, adventure and world-class obstacles, all to support Nordoff Robbins in our mission to provide music therapy, helping people to connect and communicate,” says head of partnerships, Nordoff Robbins, Sandy Trappitt,

 


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Wasserman Music UK announces handful of promotions

Wasserman Music has elevated five longtime UK-based employees to agent.

The promotions include Laura Brown, Cecilia Chan, Suzie Melki, Lucy Putman and Holly Rowland, who were all previously bookers at the agency.

The move represents the first promotions for the London office since Wasserman’s acquisition of Paradigm’s UK’s live music business in April.

“We are very proud that they have come through the ranks of the company”

“We are thrilled to announce the promotions of Laura, Suzie, Cecilia, Holly and Lucy,” says Wasserman Music partner James Whitting. “They have all been with us for a number of years and worked across the likes of Slowthai, Easy Life, Kaytranada, Louis Tomlinson and Billie Eilish, and we couldn’t be happier for them for this next stage in their careers.

“We are very proud that they have come through the ranks of the company, helping to shape our culture and building and developing our artists’ careers in the best possible way. We look forward to enjoying the future with this great group of individuals as we continue to grow Wasserman’s global music division.”

Brown joined Coda (now Wasserman Music) as a receptionist in 2013 and moved up to an agent assistant and became booker for Whitting in 2018. As a new agent, she has signed artists Lucy Deakin, Queen Millz, and Clarence & The Modern Life.

Chan, who first joined Primary Talent International as assistant to agent Cris Hearn and followed him to Coda in 2015, has signed artists including iamamiwhoami, Amy Wiles, Moon Boots, Shimza and BluePrint, and is a mentor with British charity Youth Music.

Melki moved into the live business at Asgard, later switching to WME to work with agent Sol Parker, who she followed to Coda in 2015. She has also worked with Wasserman agent Adele Slater. Recently, she has signed artists including Matt Corby, John Vincent III, Remme and Lip Critic.

Putman, who started promoting club nights with friends as a teenager, was invited to join Coda by agent Tom Schroeder in 2007. Putman has helped organise the Music Mudder charity fundraiser created by Wasserman Music UK agents, which will return later this year, and has also mentored at Bristol Beacons, an organisation that helps up-and-coming musicians.

Rowland, meanwhile, began her career as an apprentice at Coda before coming on board full-time as an assistant in 2016. She worked across DJ clients booking travel before moving to work with agent Sol Parker, and was promoted to booker for Alex Hardee two years later. As a new agent, she has signed artists including David Kushner, Sophia Alexa and Rhys.

 


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Wasserman Music duo on Liam Gallagher at Knebworth

James Hanley speaks with Wasserman Music’s Adele Slater and Alex Hardee about Liam Gallagher’s mammoth Knebworth shows this weekend and the state of rock music…

As the old saying goes, the best ideas are often the simplest. So when a 25th anniversary documentary on Oasis’ legendary 125,000-cap Knebworth concerts debuted on the big screen in September, there was no better time to announce frontman Liam Gallagher’s return to the site of his biggest triumph.

Upon a wave of nostalgia and renewed excitement, the rock’n’roll star sold out two nights at the fabled Hertfordshire venue from 3-4 June, promoted by Festival Republic, Live Nation and SJM Concerts. Kasabian head a strong support bill also featuring Paolo Nutini, Michael Kiwanuka, Amyl and the Sniffers, Fat White Family, Pastel and Goat Girl.

Days later, the singer, whose third solo album C’mon You Know was released last week, confirmed his maiden solo UK stadium tour, which stopped at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium on Wednesday (1 June) and heads to Hampden Park in Glasgow later this month, and also takes in Belsonic in Belfast’s Ormeau Park. European dates include festival slots at Rock in Rio Lisbon, Syd For Solen in Denmark, France’s Beauregard Festival and Lucca Summer Festival in Italy.

An Australia/New Zealand leg is lined up for late July, with a headline show at Alexandra Head at Cardiff Bay set for 15 September and a string of South American concerts planned for November.

Last summer, Gallagher played a free show for NHS workers at The O2 in London and completed a run of UK headline appearances at festivals including Reading & Leeds, TRNSMT and Isle of Wight.

“I think the idea might have been Denis Desmond’s, but we’re going to claim it as ours!”

Since his 2017 comeback, the Britpop icon has been represented on the live scene by Paradigm’s Alex Hardee and Adele Slater. Here, the agents reveal all to IQ about the genesis of the Knebworth plan, Gallagher’s international ambitions and share their hopes and fears on rock music and the resurgence of the touring sector. As you were…

IQ: When was the idea for next year’s Knebworth shows first formulated?
AH: I think that the idea might have been [Live Nation UK & Ireland chair] Denis Desmond’s, but we’re going to claim it as ours! Whoever’s it was, it’s not going to go up there with Einstein’s theory of relativity, because it’s not the most complicated thing to think, ‘Let’s do Knebworth shows 25 years after they actually happened, with a documentary coming.’ It’s a good idea, but an obvious one. But our jobs are quite simple compared to doctors and nurses.

AS: With the timing of the anniversary of the film, it kind of just made sense.

AH: I tell you what, the idea was simple and we knew it would capture the imagination and be a hot event, but it took us by surprise that we could do two [nights]. We always knew we’d do one, and we had a second day on hold. At the outset, we thought that the second show was an outside chance. But definitely by the announcement date – and the reaction online – we got ready, very quickly, to go for the second show.

What capacity are the Knebworth gigs?
AH: They’re 80,000 but we’re hoping that people think they’re 125,000 like the original gigs.

Did you have the option of scaling all the way up to 125k?
AH: Well, I wasn’t at the original gig, but lots of people involved were.

AS: I was.

AH: And even though, in hindsight, people say it was the greatest gig they’ve ever been to, there were massive queues for toilets and it’s a hard site to get into.

AS: The structure didn’t take it very well, it was absolute chaos. The road network around Knebworth is literally tiny little country roads, so to get another 45,000 people in would be a nightmare.

AH: Also, we’re very mindful now that 25 years ago, you didn’t have social media. If you don’t get things right nowadays, it’s everywhere straightaway. So we’re mindful that we want to give a good customer experience. Twenty-five years ago, different things were acceptable.

“To do the same as what he did in Oasis… was a massive statement”

What persuaded you decide to announce the Knebworth shows prior to the other stadium dates?
AH: We discussed it back and forth, but we just thought that Knebworth was the important thing to blow out and we just wanted to concentrate on that. We didn’t want to dilute the announcement of Knebworth, we wanted to blow that out and then launch the other stadiums off the back of that. The other stadiums are going to sell out, but we wanted the statement of selling out two Knebworths [first]. To do the same as what he did in Oasis, albeit with not as many tickets because of the infrastructure problems we talked through previously, was a massive statement and it resonated throughout the industry. We did a mechanism afterwards so that people in Manchester and Glasgow could change their tickets around if they wanted to and there was a bit of uptake on that. Not much, though, because I think most people wanted to go to Knebworth.

How do you reflect on his special show for NHS workers at The O2 in 2021?
AS: It was just a moment in time that kind of captured everyone coming back to the live world. It was one of the first shows back into the arena as well, so it was quite weird, but it was really good for everyone to get together.

What was the wider strategy behind Liam’s UK festival headline run last summer?
AH: They were booked two years ago, so they were flipped [from 2020 to 2021]. The Knebworth announcement was initially going to be off off the back of playing Reading & Leeds and TRNSMT. We wanted to keep it as close to those gigs and the documentary and as possible because that’s when we knew the maximum heat would be. But the record label wanted to wait until [Gallagher’s forthcoming third solo LP] was ready, so we came to a compromise and got a pre-order mechanism in place without the finished artwork, which was the right decision and we sold a lot of album pre-orders. Selling these gigs is all about the timing, as you could see in the summer, when the roadmap for coming out of Covid was announced. If you announced at that point, you were selling 30-40% [more tickets], it was a frenzy. And we knew that the right time to announce these shows was before everyone else went up with their shows and also after the documentary had just landed. That got everyone excited and then we announced Knebworth – that was the skill in getting that show sold out.

“We don’t actually know what he can do bigger than two Knebworths”

And what’s the audience demographic?
AH: It’s from 16 to 60, isn’t it?

AS: If you look at the Reading & Leeds crowd, that was all kids.

Last question on Liam, what do his prospects look like outside of the UK?
AS: We’ve flipped a load of stuff from other summers that are happening June time [next year].

AH: In some markets now, he’s bigger than Oasis were. He’s gone from club level to arena level now in most markets, and from headliner at secondary festivals to second on the bill at major festivals. And it’s growing – Knebworth’s had an effect. We don’t actually know what we can do bigger than two Knebworths next, apart from reforming Oasis. That’s the brain-teaser, but we can build his international career. Yes, he sings Oasis songs but he’s producing new music that’s relevant and he’s charting and reacting well for a rock act.

Where does rock music currently stand in the grand scheme of things?
AH: What do they say? Rock music is not dead, it just smells funny. It’’s not going to dominate the charts anymore, but it can still dominate live. Heavy metal’s never dominated the charts but Iron Maiden are consistently selling live tickets. People want to see it, it’s just there’s not enough people listening to it on streaming to make it in the charts. Someone’s got to work out how to make the charts relevant again, because four-year-olds are influencing them by shouting at their Alexas at the moment.

AS: There is always going to be an appetite for rock music and guitar bands, that’s never going to go away I don’t think, it’s just swings and roundabouts to see these trends.

A version of this article first appeared in IQ 106

 


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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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Six of the best from Alex Hardee & John Giddings

Heavyweight agents Alex Hardee and John Giddings served up a treat for ILMC delegates by starring in one of the most entertaining panels yet seen at a music business conference.

Coda Agency co-founder Hardee, now of Wasserman Music, and Isle of Wight Festival promoter Giddings, of Solo Agency, sat down in front of a standing room only audience to review their respective career paths and retell some of the many stories of their lives in the concert industry.

Here are six of the best tales (that we can print) from the double act’s ‘Dragons’ Den’ masterclass…

Why they became agents…

John Giddings: “I couldn’t get a real job. When I was 14 at school my mate said his group had split up and why didn’t I learn to play bass and pull a few chicks, so I thought it was a good idea. But then we were playing Harpenden Youth Club and a skinhead came and stood in front of me and said, ‘If you don’t stop playing now, I’m going to hit you,’ which was the end of my musical career. But I was better at booking the gig than being in it and my mate was social sec at the local college and he got a job in the music business. So I knew if you went to university and became social sec, you’d meet people in the music business and get a job. I got offered a job… Barry Dickins couldn’t decide between me and Paul Loasby, so he employed both of us.”

Alex Hardee: “Believe it or not, I actually was doing aeronautical engineering at university. My brother [the late Malcolm Hardee] was a comedian and he introduced me to lots of other comedians like Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard… And I started booking them while I was a student. Then I got a 2:2 in my second year in aeronautical engineering and [careers’ advice] said, ‘If you work really hard and get a 2:1 then you will be able to work in Enfield Aerodrome and get £16,000 a year.’ And I went, ‘Fuck no, I’m already earning £25,000 a year!’ So I left university the next day and that’s how I became an agent. I mean, some still say I am a comedy agent…”

“Groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn money”

Changing client relations…

JG: “When you start, you’re petrified about losing an act because you need to earn the money to pay your mortgage. And then finally, when you earn some money and you buy your house, the relationship changes. If a group comes to you and says, ‘We want to do this tour of beaches and rent a big top and go around the UK.’ And you can tell them it’s a fucking stupid idea which you couldn’t tell them before because you’re worried about losing them. But then when acts get to a stadium level, it’s a different level of representation. I’ve always thought groups should pay little commission when they start and more commission when they earn more money, but… it doesn’t work like that. Try telling a group they should pay you more money when they get bigger. And the poor little group has no money to pay you in the first place.”

AH: “As soon as you’re worried about losing an act, you’ve already lost them. What’s quite interesting is when an artist starts to become unsuccessful they can’t fire the record label. So probably first thing they’d do would be to fire the agent, because they don’t have a contract. But it’s interesting in Covid… I thought there’d be a lot more change. But the agents couldn’t get blamed for nothing happening for the last two years so they couldn’t get fired!”

“The middle is being squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer. A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point”

The ’22 summer season…

JG: “Shows that went on sale before Christmas have done quite well, but shows that have gone on sale since then are beginning to struggle and it’s becoming soft in the market, because there’s three years’ worth of touring in one year. So we’ve all got to watch out. I don’t think it’s going to come completely back to normal until the start of ’23. Everybody’s putting on a brave face, but there’s a lot out there and it costs a third more to fill up your car, or your electricity bill now… If you’re a punter, you’re going to worry about your food bill, as opposed to buying a ticket for a festival.”

AH: “This year, there’s too much on, there are too many shows. There’s more tickets on sale, but the P&Ls for the individual shows aren’t making profits. So it’s a good year to be an agent or a ticketing company, but the promoters are going to suffer and that will have to get readjusted the following year. The middle’s been squeezed and it’s going to be quite a tough summer I think… A lot of shows aren’t going to hit that breakeven point.”

JG: “The kids are still going out. I mean, the Little Mix tour we keep releasing production seats and they sell like hot cakes. Harry Styles sells out.”

AH: “Billie Eilish… The top never gets squeezed but the middle acts, the middle festivals, the middle events, there’s a lot of trouble there. it’s going to be hard.”

“I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer”

Best festival memory…

JG: “Jay-Z was playing [Isle of Wight] and the audience of going wild. I thought, ‘An audience can’t go more wild than they are now,’ and then Kanye West walked on behind him… I turned around to my left, and there was Beyoncé standing next to me and I thought, ‘This is worth it.'”

AH: “This isn’t my best one, but it’s reminded me of a good one: I was at Hyde Park and I managed to blag on stage to Jay-Z. There was Beyoncé, Sacha Baron Cohen, Madonna and somehow me on the side of the stage and I was fucking desperate for a drink but there weren’t any. I looked around and Prince Harry’s there with a crate of beer. I go, ‘Can I have a beer mate?’ And he goes, ‘Here bruv’. And I thought, ‘Fucking “bruv!”‘ I went, ‘Oh thanks. where are we going afterwards then? I hear it’s all back to yours because yours is the closest.’ That’s a true story!”

“All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word”

Least favourite thing about the live business…

JG: “When people bullshit you – it’s so boring. The easiest thing in the world is to tell the truth, because then you can at least remember what you’ve said. All the contracts in the world are meaningless, you have to deliver on your word. And it’s so disappointing when people let you down and don’t deliver… It’s rife with bullshit, that’s the thing I like least about it.”

AH: “Smoke and mirrors is much harder nowadays, everything’s a stat, you can’t say I sold out Brixton if you didn’t sell out Brixton. Within two seconds, you can find out every ticket count, everyone can find everything.”

JG: “One thing that’s changed in the music business is, when I joined it, everybody used to lie about ticket sales and say they were less than they really were. And they still lie about ticket sales, but by saying they’re more than they really are. So they’ve never actually told the truth in the whole of my career.”

AH: “The promoters used to say they were less?”

JG: “Yeah, because they didn’t want to pay you as much and now everybody’s embarrassed by it so they inflate it when they tell it to you. Unless you speak to Simon Moran, who knows every ticket sale for every show throughout the universe…”

Advice they would give their 16-year-old selves…

AH: “Don’t.”

JG: “It’s so long ago I can’t remember, seriously. I mean, to be in this business you have to work really hard. You have to work the room and you have to deliver on your word. It’s not brain of Britain stuff, but people have to be able to trust you. If people can trust in you then they’re confident in what they’re doing.”

 


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New Bosses name one thing industry must change

Alumni from IQ Magazine‘s most recent class of New Bosses have identified areas of improvement for the international live music business.

A handful of the next-gen leaders shared their thoughts during Meet the New Bosses: The Class of 2021, at last month’s International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Theo Quiblier, head of concerts at Two Gentlemen in Switzerland, believes the one thing the industry needs to get better at is normalising failure.

“We are in a fantastic industry where everyone is signing the new top artist or selling out venues or sealing huge deals with festivals but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “I feel that we’re all a bit afraid of saying, ‘I went on sale with my favourite band and it didn’t go well’ – as simple as that.

“I feel that we’re all a bit afraid of saying, ‘I went on sale with my favourite band and it didn’t go well'”

“As a promoter, I could say, ‘Oh, I work with this top band,’ and people think, ‘That’s amazing, he must be rich,’ and, in reality, it’s your biggest loss of the year. We need little reality checks, and to say ‘I’m doing my best but I’m not the best’. Sharing insecurities is great because failure happens to everybody.”

Flo Noseda-Littler, agency assistant at Wasserman Music (formerly Paradigm UK), called for better pay for junior staff so more people can viably start their careers in the industry.

“Fair salaries for junior staff and internships so that it enables people in those positions to live in the cities in which they work,” comments Noseda-Littler. “By providing a free internship or a low paid job, you’re cutting off so many people who don’t have the ability to still live with their parents or be subsidised by their parents. And then you’re just reducing the number of people you can recruit and missing out on potentially really ambitious and amazing people.”

Anna Parry, partnerships manager at the O2 in London, echoed Noseda-Littler’s thoughts, adding that companies also need to improve their recruitment strategies in order to reach a more diverse pool of talent.

“This is a job that costs you a lot of time at your desk and a lot of time in your head”

“Companies really need to put more effort into understanding why people aren’t applying for these jobs, and then they need to create a lower barrier of entry for those types of people,” says Parry. “It’s not just saying, ‘Oh okay, well we posted the job on a different forum than we usually would’. It’s going to take a lot more of that to actually make a difference. We need to focus on that because it’s important our industry is representative of the artists we represent.”

Age Versluis (promoter at Friendly Fire in the Netherlands) on the other hand, is petitioning for a four-day workweek: “This is a job that costs you a lot of time at your desk and a lot of time in your head. Since Covid, we’re seeing a lot of people burning out and having trouble getting to that fourth or fifth gear.

“We forget that moving shows for two years to the same months is quite stressful. I think we could use some extra ‘me’ time.”

Tessie Lammle, agent at UTA in the US, echoed her peers’ points, adding: “I was going to say diversity or work-life balance but Theo’s point is huge. I think the younger generation is getting much better at [sharing insecurities].”

Each of the panellists appeared as part of IQ Magazine‘s New Bosses 2021, an annual list celebrating the brightest talent aged 30 and under in the international live music business. See the full list of the distinguished dozen here.

 


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Casey Wasserman: ‘We pride ourselves on being relentlessly consistent’

Casey Wasserman last week told delegates at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) about the modus operandi of his hugely successful multimedia empire.

“One of the things that define Wasserman as a company – and something that is a mantra of mine – is being relentlessly consistent,” he said last Wednesday (27 April) during The Hot Seat: Casey Wasserman.

“I always tell our employees that being really good for a short period of time is something a lot of people can do,” he continued. “Being relentlessly consistent for a long period of time is really hard – that’s one of the things we pride ourselves on. I think it’s what makes us good at what we do – whether that’s the way we work for our clients, the way we engage with each other as coworkers or the way we pursue opportunities.”

“The other thing we learned early on is that you can’t buy client lists. Our job is to build a great culture and attract and retain great people. If you sacrifice either of those things for a client, it’s not a sustainable business.”

Wasserman attributes one of the most important pillars in the company’s culture to his grandfather, Hollywood titan Lew Wasserman.

“He was a big believer that bad news gets worse so you better deal with it. We’ve built a culture of Wasserman that rewards and supports employees for being vulnerable and talking about their problems so we can fix them and move on from them and learn from them and not let them really hurt you.”

Over 20 years, Wasserman has established itself as one of the world’s leading companies in the areas of brands and properties consultancy, sports talent representation and music artist representation.

“The more time we spend worrying about our competitors, the less time we spend doing our job”

Last week, the company’s booking agency, Wasserman Music, acquired Paradigm UK, around a year after Wasserman acquired its North America live music business.

Referencing his mantra, Wasserman previously said that he had coffee with Paradigm’s founder and CEO Sam Gores “once a week for multiple years, trying to buy the business”.

He says his relentless pursuit of Paradigm “put [Wasserman]in a position to take advantage of the opportunity when it arose”.

In the past, both UTA and CAA have attempted to strike a deal with Gores but, though Wasserman admits that he’s “pretty competitive, he says he hasn’t given much thought to his competitors.

“The truth is, I spend very little time worrying about my competitors because I’m incredibly confident in what we do and the people I get to deal with every day,” he told ILMC delegates. “The more time we spend worrying about our competitors, the less time we spend doing our job. I hope [our competitors] spend a lot of time thinking about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

Speaking about the philosophy behind his hands-off leadership style, Wasserman said: “We don’t operate an agency to create structures and bureaucracy because that’s not how agents work – on the sports side or the music side. Our job is to put the guardrails in, let them do their job that they’re incredibly good at and give them resources to do that, and help them when they need help and otherwise stay out of the way.”

“We’ve got this team of really talented executives who are all going in the same direction. Yes, they have their own philosophies or work ways but there is a sense that we’re all going in the same direction and we’re out there together. I feel like we’re going to battle with this team.”

 


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ILMC 34: Casey Wasserman talks Paradigm acquisitions

Casey Wasserman has discussed Wasserman Music’s acquisitions of Paradigm’s North America and UK live music businesses.

The latter deal took place earlier this week and comes a year after the launch of Wasserman Music, which itself followed the completion of its acquisition of Paradigm’s North American live music business.

Speaking yesterday (27 April) at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), Wasserman revealed that his company had always planned to buy both of Paradigm’s businesses.

“We’re not myopic,” he said. “I don’t sit in Los Angeles and think the world operates and rotates around the United States. Building a global music business is fundamentally important to the clients we serve and the business we operate in.

“I don’t sit in Los Angeles and think the world operates and rotates around the United States”

“We can’t say to our clients, ‘We can only serve you in this little area or in this little way’. For us not to have a global music business that is integrated and operates as one unit would be a mistake.”

Explaining the reason for buying the businesses separately, Wasserman said: “Because of the different shareholdings, we separated those transactions to give them both the appropriate attention and focus.”

The entertainment mogul hailed Paradigm’s UK leadership team – which includes Dave Hallybone, Alex Hardee, Tom Schroeder and James Whitting – as “world-class” and says that the company weathered the pandemic incredibly well.

Discussing the tie-up between Wasserman Music and Paradigm’s North America business, Wasserman says the deal was “incredibly complex” and took more than 14 months.

“Building a global music business is fundamentally important to the clients we serve and the business we operate in”

“We brought on 80 employees and created a new music division and [because of the pandemic] we never had an in-person meeting to get that done,” he explained.

According to the American executive, the US deal came about after a “quasi-affair” with Sam Gores, founder and CEO of Paradigm.

“I had coffee with him once a week for multiple years, trying to buy the business,” he said. “Then February of 2020, Paradigm stepped on multiple landmines and kind of blew themselves up. And so I actually said to our guys, ‘Okay, enough of the dating game with Sam Gores, we’ll just move on to other things.

“And to their credit, Sam and his brother Tom called a couple of months later and said, ‘We’ve got some struggles here, we really needed to solve this situation and we’d like to talk about you buying the music business,’ which is kind of all we wanted anyway. And so we began that process on 4 April 2020 and end of May 2021 we closed.”

“[The Paradigm acquisitions are] the first two steps, not the last two steps”

He continued: “We went through a lot together over those 14 months to get close. And we knew coming out of it, we’ve got to bring that team together and go forward together. We don’t operate an agency to create structures and bureaucracy because that’s not how agents work. Our job is to sort of put the guardrails in, let them do their job, give them resources to do that, and help them when they need help and otherwise stay out of the way.”

Now Wasserman Music has both Paradigm businesses under its belt, the plan going forward is “to continue to put ourselves in the best position to succeed”. “We want to represent the best clients, help them drive their careers, and be incredibly relevant and influential in the music business. We’ve got a great leadership team, we’ve got great relationships, and we’re going to continue to be aggressive,” he said.

The American executive also hinted at future acquisitions to build a global music business, saying that the Paradigm acquisitions are “the first two steps, not the last two steps”.

“If we think [a company] adds value to our business and to our clients, we’re gonna go after it. We want to make ourselves the best place for an agent to pursue a career for themselves and for their clients,” he added.

 


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