The Agency Business 2017
Chairs: Xenia Grigat, Beatbox Entertainment (DK) & Olivier Toth, Rockhal (LU)
Brian Ahern, WME (UK)
Clementine Bunel, ATC Live (UK)
Jules de Lattre, UTA (UK)
John Giddings, Solo Agency (UK)
The panel formerly known as The Booking Ring opened with an overview by UTA agent Jules de Lattre on the agency landscape following a period of consolidation in the sector.
Referencing his ‘State of the agency business’ article for IQ Magazine, de Lattre touched on UTA's acquisition of The Agency Group and Paradigm's tie-ups with AM Only, Windish and Coda, and the trend towards artists increasingly choosing full-service global agencies that offer them access to other sectors, including film, TV and digital.
Both UTA and rival WME, represented on the panel by Brian Ahern, have had great success with full-service deals, although Ahern said such arrangements “aren’t for everyone,” with de Lattre paying tribute to the independently owned agencies “doing very well independent of that structure.”
On consolidation, ATC Live’s Clementine Bunel said she’s not concerned by the snapping up of independent booking operations by LA-headquartered agency giants. “It’s actually those changes that have allowed ATC to blossom,” she said. “We’re not a big corporate agency – all our agents are carefully picked for their tastes, their relationships with artists and festivals…
“I don’t see consolidations and mergers as a worry: on the contrary, we actually benefit from it. There are artists who need boutique agencies.”
Ahern said WME needs to have a global profile to be “able to service our clients in the way they expect.” He continued, “Having boots on the ground” in different markets and time zones is important, as “some of our clients in the US want to tour Europe, but they want to talk to someone at 7pm LA time.” Adding “We’re a global company and we’re trying to act like it.”
Speaking from the floor, music lawyer Alexis Grower (Magrath & Co) asked the panellists what effect they see Britain's impending exit from the European Union having on the agency business.
John Giddings said he doesn’t think it will “make a blind bit of difference,” as all member states have “always had different taxes, different PROs […] It was supposed to all become the same but it never did.”
De Lattre noted the headache for touring acts that would result from the imposition of hard borders in Europe, although he said he “can’t see the UK making it hard for entertainers to come into the country,” while Bunel said ATC has seen several acts asking to be paid in euros due to the current weakness of the pound.
The panel concluded with IQ’s Allan McGowan asking each panellist about the most significant recent changes in their day-to-day business.
“A lot of artists I work with personally don’t have any management, so there is a lot more going out of your way and facilitating, connecting and surrounding the artist with the right people,” said Bunel. “It’s quite exciting, but it’s just another service you provide, and not necessarily one you can monetise – it’s just what you’re providing as an agent today.
“I think what’s happening now is quite exciting – maybe I should be scared, but I’m not.”
Ahern added that the ever-increasing responsibilities of a modern music agent are a “double-edged sword.” While agencies are making more money than ever before, agents are “doubling our hours and doubling our output,” he said.
De Lattre highlighted the growth of UTA’s digital division. Part of his job now, he said, is about analysing “how our acts exist in the digital space – streaming numbers, social media – and working out how that translates in the live arena. An act with huge activity online will not necessarily be worth ticket sales – trying to translate that into the physical, ticketed world is really interesting, and something we think about on a daily basis.”
Giddings said with the emergence of live performance as the primary way in which musicians earn money, agents are now the people in the driving seat of an artist’s career. He joked: “We used to have to do what the record companies told us. But now everybody buys tickets and nobody buys records, so we tell them what to do.”