Top execs weighed up the pros and cons of the continued consolidation of the agency business at the recent ILMC.
Alex Hardee (Wasserman Music), Alex Bruford (ATC Live), Charly Beedell-Tuck (Solo Agency) and Ella Street (WME) shared their views on the matter during the Agency Business 2023 panel, moderated by IQ Magazine‘s Gordon Masson.
The panel, which took place at the beginning of March, marked one year since Paradigm UK was acquired by Wasserman Music, with Hardee becoming part of the managing executive team.
He told ILMC delegates he thinks the convergence of the business will continue, leaving a handful of major agencies that operate on a global scale.
“I think that there’ll be fewer and fewer agencies and they’ll fold up into bigger ones,” said Hardee, who represents Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi among others.
“I don’t know how you can survive on a big scale without having a global footprint moving forward because the Americans have rigged the game in streaming and the majority of the new acts that are going to be global acts will come from America and perhaps Korea because that’s where the streaming base is. Branding – even though a lot of its smoke and mirrors – seems to be quite important. We’ve got 300 people working at our company now, just in the UK.
“I THINK THAT THERE’LL BE FEWER AND FEWER AGENCIES AND THEY’LL FOLD UP INTO BIGGER ONES”
“I don’t know how you’d operate on a cottage industry level and retain a world-class band. You’d be under so much pressure from people. I think it will be very hard. I think that there will be four or five main agencies probably like there are four or five main record labels.”
While WME’s Ella Street stressed the importance of independents in a healthy marketplace, she echoed Hardee’s point about the need for agencies to have a global footprint.
“I think competition is obviously important and we need to support those independent agencies, venues and festivals to create a healthy marketplace for everybody,” said Street, a WME veteran who represents the likes of Keane, Goldfrapp and more.
“And obviously, some artists are looking for a more boutique experience and don’t want to sign with WME or Wasserman. But I think Alex does have a point; artists and managers are coming to us and wanting a global plan. We’re having to project 18 months, two years ahead. So unless an artist is just looking to just tour the UK at a certain level, they are eventually going to involve a bigger team – they’re going to be looking for that next part of the conversation.”
Bruford, founder and MD of independent agency ATC Live, argued: “I think it’s well proven now that you don’t need a major record label or a major agency or major management to be a global success. I think there are a lot of artists out there that have managed it with all kinds of different levels of teams. For me, what matters is the quality of the work that you do. Whether you deliver not for your artists, it’s not really about the size of the company.
“IT’S WELL PROVEN NOW THAT YOU DON’T NEED A MAJOR RECORD LABEL OR A MAJOR AGENCY OR MAJOR MANAGEMENT TO BE A GLOBAL SUCCESS”
“For us, the continued consolidation is beneficial because rather than being focused on volume, we’re focused on the creative and strategic representation of our artists. And that’s really our priority, rather than how many acts we represent and how big the numbers are. We’ve had really positive responses to that from a lot of the biggest artists and managers out there who want to have their artists represented in that way. There are obviously different ways of doing it and it just depends on which path artists want to take with their careers. I do totally agree that you need a global footprint – we have one – and I think that that’s a really important part of the business. It’s just part of the game.”
Beedell-Tuck, a senior agent at John Giddings’ boutique Solo Agency, reinforced Bruford’s point about the bespoke service independents can offer artists.
“It’s about how you’re servicing your clients and what kind of service you’re offering,” said Beedell-Tuck, who works with artists ranging from Iggy Pop to Megan McKenna.
“If you’re represented by a smaller boutique agency, you’re likely to get a more tailored experience because, in my opinion, you get more of the agent’s time and you’re not just another number. Having a global footprint is very important but there are other ways of satisfying that.”
Since the panel took place, there has been more movement in the agency business, with Primary Talent returning to being an independent music talent agency following a management buyout.
Primary was sold to ICM Partners in 2020, which was subsequently acquired by CAA.
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