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ICM’s Robert Gibbs promoted to head of department

Robert Gibbs has been promoted to head of contemporary music at ICM Partners, after 14 years at the company.

Gibbs moved from CAA to ICM in 2006 and was made a partner at the company in 2016.

His current roster includes artists such as J.Cole, PartyNextDoor and Ari Lennox and his work has earned him a spot on the Billboard Power 100 list for two years running.

“Robert is a fabulous agent, individual and an impactful leader. I am very proud of him and all that he has accomplished in his fourteen years at ICM,” said CEO, Chris Silbermann.

“We began discussing this well-deserved promotion last October and but for the pandemic, this would have happened sooner. He has earned this promotion with sustained levels of excellence in all aspects of the job and makes our organization stronger. I am thrilled for him and us.”

Robert Gibbs says: “ICM has built the best culture of any major agency and I am proud to take a leadership role within this organization.

“We have been fortifying the department even during the pandemic”

“We are the last and only major agency solely dedicated to the representation business and it shows in the manner in which we work for artists to achieve their dreams. We have been building and fortifying the department even during the pandemic and our contemporary music team is one I am proud to now lead.”

ICM’s international touring business includes artists such as Khalid, J. Cole, Migos, Good Charlotte, Charlie Wilson, Limp Bizkit, Sinead O’Connor, Suicideboys and Boyz II Men.

Other ICM clients include actors Samuel L. Jackson, Sir Patrick Stewart, John Travolta and Christoph Waltz, comedians Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, filmmaker Spike Lee and wrestler-actor John Cena. In addition to LA, the agency – formerly International Creative Management – also has offices in London, New York and Washington DC.

Earlier this year, ICM allied with Primary Talent International, one of London’s last major independent booking agencies.

Primary – home to the 1975, Stormzy and Dave – is retaining its name and team while benefitting from LA-based ICM’s “global scale”. While ICM’s international touring business will get a boost from the allyship.

ICM agent Yves Pierre, who represents artists including Lil Yachty, talked about navigating the world of livestreaming and why people must “put themselves on the line” to achieve a more diverse industry for IQ‘s Tales from Covid series.

 


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Beyond Rhetoric: BAME execs on boosting diversity in live

The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Musiclooked at the lack of racial diversity in the live music business, as well as practical steps the industry can take to begin turning the tide.

Hosted by Live Nation International diversity lead David Carrigan, the session welcomed UK Music’s Ammo Talwar, Metropolis Music promoter Kiarn Eslami, ICM agent Yves Pierre, ATC Management’s Sumit Bothra and Earth Agency’s Lucy Atkinson to discuss the overwhelming whiteness of the concert industry, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter and #TheShowMustBePaused campaigns for racial equality.

Talwar, who leads UK Music’s diversity and equality taskforce, said that while the industry’s front-facing components are hugely diverse, its workforce is not.

In London, for example, over 40% of the population are non-white, he said, compared to around 18% in the UK music industry. At the executive level, he added, companies are still overwhelmingly staffed by “middle-aged, white heterosexual males”.

Comparing her own path into the business, Atkinson said she speaks to a lot of white men “who say they just kind of fell into this job, and that hasn’t been my experience at all. Even now, I still feel like I have to fight to get taken seriously as an agent.”

“A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”

On the artist side, Pierre pointed out that lot of artists aren’t allowed to “live” in traditionally white spaces – they have to start in a black/“urban” genre and then go pop or rock when they are already established. “We have to acknowledge that these artists exist and that there’s space for them,” she said.

Looking at practical measures to promote a more representative industry, Atkinson said: “A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”: for example, the ‘Rooney rule’ in the NFL that requires at least one ethnic-minority candidate be interviewed for a job.

Speaking from a promoter’s point of view, Eslami described another simple change he has made on his shows – which, while not costing his employer any more, allows for greater investment in ethnic minority run businesses. “Every show we have has a budget, and one of those costs is catering,” he explained. “[I asked] why do we spend all our budget in supermarkets, when there are so many other caterers our there?

“It’s about looking at how we change the cash flow for these shows, whether it’s in catering, marketing or elsewhere.”

Pierre said it’s up to everyone in the industry to hold their own employers accountable when it comes to employing a diverse workforce.

“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation. We have to make sure that the companies we’re working for live up to those standards when it comes to racial diversity and gender equality,” she explained. “A lot of the time nothing gets done because you think someone else is doing it.

“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation”

“If I want to see the change, I have to be part of that change. I have to hold my colleagues, and my bosses and partners, accountable.”

“It’s time to do things differently,” agreed Eslami. “People often think, ‘If something’s not broken, why fix it?’, but we’ve all had a three-month time out and realised that now is the time to think about how we can do things differently in future.”

Bothra said ATC is looking at changes it can make to hiring processes to promote greater diversity.  “For us as a management company, for example, we have to be aware that it’s incumbent on us to look in new places to find people,” he explained. “We can’t just go to the same recruitment agency, the same school, and do the usual thing, because that’s not going to make any difference at all.”

“The professionals are out there,” added Talwar. “We’re just not looking in the right places.”

“There are tons of kids who don’t know that an agent exists, or that there’s a management position, or a social media aspect of this,” said Pierre, emphasising the importance of getting the word out about the live industry to underrepresented groups.

“I think we have to expose people to these things, so they can understand there’s a whole workforce behind these artists and something for them to do beyond just being an artist or a producer or writer.”

“The professionals are out there. We’re just not looking in the right places”

“Before I started at Metropolis I didn’t even know a promoter was a job,” added Eslami. His advice, he said, is that “it doesn’t take long” to offer advice and mentorship to young people from disadvantaged groups. “There are 365 days in a year, and if you spare one or two” of them you can really make a difference, he said.

While the current zeitgeist feels like a “watershed moment” for diversity, real change needs to be about more than words – it’s got to be a “root-and-branch approach” that tackles “systemic” issues, said Talwar.

He added that he’s “just as interested in the block in the middle” – the one that stops industry professionals of colour attaining leadership positions – as the one that stops ethnic minorities getting into live music in the first place. “Where are the next CEOs, the next chairmen?” he asked.

Carrigan concluded by saying the conversation had been “a long time coming” and expressed his wish that debate will go on in future. “These conversations about race in the live music industry are not common, which illustrates the need to continue the conversation,” he explained.

Given the importance of the conversation continuing, future IQ Focus panels will revisit the topic in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can watch back yesterday’s session on YouTube or Facebook now.


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Tales from Covid: Yves Pierre, ICM Partners

As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert its impact on the live industry, IQ builds on its Tales from Covid series to discuss the opportunities for change that have started to emerge from lockdown life.

Ahead of this week’s IQ Focus session, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, IQ catches up with panellist and ICM Partners agent Yves Pierre (Migos, Lil Yachty, Baby Rose, City Girls), to talk about the urgent steps the industry needs to take to tackle systemic racism and the new revenue models and opportunities that have emerged from the coronavirus shutdown.

 


IQ:It’s been a really tough few months for the live business. What has changed from a business point of view over the past few months?
YP:My role, in its essence, hasn’t really changed. I still offer the same service – looking for new business opportunities and getting creative. It requires the same mindset. Although the format is different, we are still tasked with presenting our clients with the best information possible.

The difference is, obviously, that we are going from live models to the various virtual platforms that are coming out now. We are having to explore different pieces of technology and need to be really well versed in everything to understand what we stand to make and all the different revenue avenues, such as merch packages and other bundles.

What we need is to develop an accurate strategy with those livestreaming companies and work with different promoters on that side of things to work out what we consider the business model to be.

“We need to factor in these [virtual] opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed”

Do you foresee virtual shows becoming a revenue-driver for acts in the long term?
I think there will always be a place for virtual events after this but maybe in not quite so prevalent a way as now. There’s no denying, though, that we need to factor in these opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed.

There’s no perfect model for online events yet. YouTube and Fortnite have been an early frontrunners, but we are going to see everything level up.

I am still figuring out the basics to judge how much people are willing to pay for various online events, how many people certain platforms can withstand, which kinds of formats require large overheads. It’s all still being tweaked and we are certainly not in a position yet to say which is best.

An interesting format I have tried with one of my artists, Lil Yachty, was an online paint and chat with a group at a university. This took him out of his comfort zone and allowed one on one engagement with fans – and it proved really interactive.

When live shows do return, what do you foresee as the main challenges?
I think it is going to be the mental aspect we’re going to have to work around. As an agent, I need to try and think as a consumer and think how comfortable I’d be in enclosed spaces with lots of people.

Mentally, this situation is taking a toll and the fear of there being another wave, and what that will mean, is massive. We are really going to have to step outside of this and look at the perspective of the consumer to figure out whether they’re ready.

There’s also the economic aspect – how much are people going to be able to pay for a show? A lot of people have lost their jobs, or been laid off and furloughed. There is a big economic element to think about, but we will have to deal with the emotional side first.

“Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case”

How do you foresee the industry recovering from this?
Sadly, it’s just going to take time. You could implement all the safeguarding measures you want, but time is what we need. I believe we can look this as a chance to reset, rather than view it as a loss. We have to be willing to pivot and try and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

The business absolutely will change after this. We’ve already seen the beginning of Live Nation’s plans for the future, of course. Everyone is going to have to take a step back and reevaluate what things will look like.

We have realised content is king now. More than ever, we have to focus on what the artists are going to go for.

The key will be finding a way to engage with fans that aren’t in a venue. Being there in real life is not the be all and end. There is a world of opportunity online, we’ve realised that you have to look at all possible options.

I’ve certainly found this to be a great opportunity to look at different ways of doing things. Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case.

One push for change in the industry has been highlighted in particular in recent weeks, what now needs to be done to tackle racism and increase diversity in the live business?
There is a myriad of things on several levels that must be done. Heads of departments and those with the power in this industry need to partake in actual engagement with community. There is no value in giving money when people have no clue what money is used for. There needs to be real conversations with communities or advocates for those communities to obtain real information on where to donate.

Partnering with local communities will also help people gain the understanding of what it is like to live with discrimination.

“We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable”

Within the industry there are so many examples of discrimation towards Afro-American clients and workers. For example, the security measures that are taken against hip hop artists would not be implemented for other acts. This is unconscious bias. Some venues ban hip-hop completely – it’s a bias, and allowing that to happen is a bias. There is no sensitivity to what that feels like as an agent and as a client. All these things play a part in the problem.

As well as community engagement, representation of Black people at executive level is needed. Having one Black person on an executive board isn’t enough. It feels like an exception, and that’s not parity. We constantly have to raise ourselves to a diff standard to our non African-American colleagues. We have to commit to making sure there are more of us in a role and that goes for all people of colour in business in general.

We need equity in more than name and, until we get there, then there’s a problem. We are in a position where this is something that has to be led by African-Americans in these spaces, but our colleagues have to work with us. We can demand these things but, at end of the day, they are implemented by someone else. So we need a concrete commitment by these leading companies.

Are you hopeful that now is the time for long-lasting positive change?
I really hope so, but we also have to see more evidence. People have to be putting themselves on the line. This isn’t for us – in the long run, it’s not about us. It’s about the people around us and those coming after us.

We need these things to be implemented now. We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable. Not wanting to feel guilty is not enough, and we have to be clear that words and stated intentions are not enough.

We need change and we need to be part of the process we are to achieve this.

 


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