This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Sean Goulding, agent, The Agency Group in London, England.
Neil Warnock launched The Agency Group in 1981 after his purchase of the Bron Agency, where he had been managing director for nearly a decade.
Previously, Warnock, who is chairman of The Agency Group today, had been a director at NEMS Enterprises. In his teens, he had operated South Bank Artists which handled college and university bookings for Pink Floyd, Donovan, and Tyrannosaurus Rex in and around London.
In 2005, The Agency Group underwent major shift. A refurbished North American management structure was put in place coupled with buy-outs of the Kork Agency, and Roth Talent Associates.
The restructuring was a reaction to The Agency Group's accelerated expansion in recent years, as well as a reaction to facing mounting competition for acquiring new acts, and keeping existing ones within a fiercely-contested new, global booking environment.
To further bolster its international business, The Agency Group recruited Sean Goulding from the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills in 2006.
A native New Yorker, Goulding has a Bachelors of Music at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After Berklee, he had moved to California in 2000, and had soon landed a job at the William Morris Agency working in the mail room. Then, moving up through the ranks as an agent, he was responsible for booking the agency’s developing artist roster internationally.
At The Agency Group in London, England, Goulding currently oversees global bookings for Awolnation, Dispatch, Seether, Young Guns, State Radio, glassjaw, Yellowcard, Anti-Flag, the Blackout, Kids in Glass Houses, Killer Mike, Everlast, Doomtree, Juliette Lewis, Rebelution, Kongos, Arcane Roots, and others.
The Agency Group has offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Nashville, and Malmo, Sweden.
You report to Geoff Meall?
Yes. Geoff is our managing director. Geoff has the task of managing a bunch of bratty agents whining all of the time. I can’t imagine how much of a job that is. He’s an amazing boss. His door is always open. I’m always going in there asking questions, and usually getting answers to things that I didn’t even ask him. Geoff basically hired me, along with Neil (Warnock).
At The Agency Group, you represent acts as a responsible agent not on a geographical basis?
Yeah, especially internationally. I think that’s the only way that it could really work. We do teams in-house where we will sign acts together as responsible agents but, as far as the booking process, this way is the best way. I have to manage 40 countries for each individual artist. If I do a pan-European tour, I’m looking at 20 countries or so. To divvy that up, I don’t know how you would do that. I think it’s best this way for me. It works. I’m the first person that speaks to every promoter. I’ve got the first-hand knowledge (of individual markets).
Does that include handling America directly as well?
For most of my acts I work on a global basis, excluding North America which is, in most cases, handled bymy colleagues there. That’s what works for us. Then we know, and our managers know the person that is selling the artist. At the end of the day, it’s about time management, and getting the most opportunities for the artist in any country. For international, there are a lot of different opportunities. There’s a lot of opportunities in each country, and having one person managing all that is what is works for me.
With The Agency Group, you obviously can also consult agents in the other offices.
Just in our office, we have inter-office calls that are usually genre specific. Then there are overviews. We have a few agents in this office that specifically do rock acts. Paul Ryan does a lot of metal stuff, and there’s Beckie Sugden, and Ross Warnock, Tom Taaffe, and Geoff as well. Then we have Tobbe (senior VP Tobbe Lorentz) in our office in Sweden. Between all of us, there’s probably 50 acts coming through March/April/May. It’s a busy time frame for us because a lot of acts in that (rock) genre will come over here for a few opportunities. So we were (recently) all sitting down in a room saying, “You’ve got 10 acts, and I have 10 acts. Let’s package this up. Let’s not compete with each other.” We just do that in-house.
So there’s considerable in-house communication?
On Mondays usually (excepting summer months when it’s Tuesday due to agents being at festivals) we have a kind of around the horn discussion with all of the agents here—and with any visiting agents—of what everybody is working on, and the issues that are coming up. We check in with one another. There’s a good camaraderie in this office, and there’s a lot of teamwork with our agents signing up acts together. But we are all individual businesses, entrepreneurs. But we are all working together just in this office. Then outside this company, there are relationships that we all have to put more relationships together.
You’ve got a pretty impressive roster.
I am trying to build up something that is diverse. A lot of my artists are very independent types of artists.
Well, you do oversee bookings for Dispatch.
I’ve got a few artists that are on majors, but with Dispatch, they did everything pretty well on their own. Most people probably don’t know how successful this band is. That took a process of educating people overseas to what was happening with them in the States. This is a band who sold out three Madison Square Garden; played to 100,000 people; and did a free show in Boston.
We put up a tour in March (2012) and we had the capacity to sell up to 1,500 to 2000 tickets in London, Cologne, Berlin and few other markets that the band has never been abroad to in their history. That’s an exciting project for me. I get to take something, work with it, put it on sale in a certain way, educate promoters, deal with my managers, and coordinate something. We are also using a lot of social networking capacity. We put up the (full) current tour on Cyber Monday (the marketing term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.).
[With the release of “Circles Around The Sun,” Dispatch’s first full-length album in 12 years, the band is touring the world. A North American tour kicks off Sept. 20th in Vancouver, British, Columbia. Further shows are slated through mid-October with stops in Seattle, Hollywood, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, Boston, Toronto, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. European shows are booked for early 2013 including dates in Vienna (Jan. 23), Stuttgart (24), Berlin (26), Copenhagen (28), Frankfurt (30), Zurich (Feb. 1), Amsterdam (2) and Dortmund (4).]
You also book one of my favorite bands, Yellowcard.
On their last album cycle, they did a world tour. They did South East Asia, Australia, and parts of Europe that they had never touched before, all the while doing it smartly. They teamed up with All Time Low who are also on Hopeless Records. They were able to package up, and benefit from that (billing) but also they could go out and headline, and do festivals as well.
So when it came around to this album (“Southern Air”) in the (United) States, they did the Warped tour. They could have done it a few years ago, but it wasn’t the right time for them. They did really well on Warped tour this year because it was the right time. Their music is being supported internationally, if you look at the charts.
I had the opportunity with their manager Missy Worth, to be able to carve out their schedule, and get them in Europe when the record was coming out. I had them playing festivals in Germany, Italy and places where we saw potential. And we had real good chart positions over here for the (album’s) first week. The first week it was #10 on the Billboard chart. But it wasn’t just in America.
One doesn’t expect to see a big-time agent at the annual Oppikoppi festival (Aug. 9-11, 2012) in rural South Africa; where we met and saw Seether perform. Do you often travel that afar?
Well, I try to be there for the important gigs. I go out. I see venues. I meet people. Then you see what happens. I have only been working with this band for this album cycle. I like to know everything about my artists. Going to their home market was important for me.
Shaun (Morgan) and Dale (Stewart) are from South Africa. Shaun grew up just outside of Durban which was the first date on that tour. When we were originally talking about this tour, it was just going to be Oppikoppi. The guys knew what Oppikoppi is, and that it had been growing. Fortunately, for the band, this year was the biggest year Oppikoppi has had with over 20,000 people (attending).
What took place before their performance at Oppikoppi on the final night?
Flew into Durban, and Seether played an outdoors show at the Wave House in a tent adjacent to a hotel/shopping mall. There’s also, around this venue, half pipes for skate-boarding, and an outdoor surfing pavilion where you can surf on wave pools. The next day I had a 5 A.M. lobby call after being out late. I had just flown into South Africa the day before.
Then you flew to Cape Town.
They had a show that night at the (Grand West) casino (in the Grand Arena,) which was part of the deal with Oppikoppi. They were going to do kind of a miniature version of what was going to happen at Oppikoppi for an indoor show in Cape Town. So they took Seether, Bullet For My Valentine, Kongos, Eagles of Death Metal, Enter Shikari, and Can Coke Cartel. I got to see Cape Town. Misha (Loots), who’s the organizer, took me out, and I met with some of the labels that were there. I got to see the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (one of the great botanic gardens of the world) where Shaun played an acoustic show a few years ago at a 5,000 capacity outdoor (venue) adjacent to the Rhodes University campus where they do shows in the summertime
From there, we went to Johannesburg and they took us out to Sun City. That’s where we stayed for three days. Then we went to see the bush that is Oppikoppi.
I’ve never experienced a music festival like Oppikoppi.
Ah, no. It’s tough to describe to someone who has not been there. You know where it is. You see pictures of the location. The main stage is a permanent thatched roof structure. It’s kind of like its own pyramid stage that Glastonbury has but it has a different look. The first person that greets you on arriving is Misha. He’s in a 3-piece suit but he has a bandana over his mouth because of the dust that is around. It’s sort of like this outlaw guy in a 3-piece suit saying, “Welcome to Oppikoppi.” Yeah, it’s nothing that you have ever seen.
You now work with Kongos who consist of the Kongos brothers, Johnny, Jesse, Dylan and Daniel who are the sons of celebrated South African singer/songwriter, John Kongos.
I do. That came about after you and I saw them onstage (at Oppikoppi). That was the first time I’d seen the band. I heard the musicianship, and saw how they handled everything. I saw how the songs translated (with audiences). Then I met with their label, Just Music (South Africa's leading independent music company,) which is Karl Anderson. He handles XL (label) so he handles Adele. I had started working with him on (American electronic rock band) Awolnation who went down there for the first time in March. Since then “Sail” has been dominating airplay there. They are on their second single down there. He also handles Kongos. I met with him, and got an understanding on where that band was at as far as that market. Then I sat down with their dad and the guys at the hotel. We talked about ideas and their goals and what they want to look at and what we can offer them as The Agency Group. We signed up on the spot. They are all living in America. Their dad obviously has experience there.
Kongos plays rock with a rather unique twist.
There’s a lot of different ingredients in what they are doing. That’s what drew me to them and having the interest. That band is on their, what, fourth Top 40 single in South Africa? South Africa is not New York. It’s not the UK. Some people might not think that it’s a major market but it’s a good market. If you look at what is resonating there, if you look at the Top 40 charts there, you see very international playlists. But also the talent coming out of South Africa is a bit different.
About two years ago, you took part in a BBC Radio One panel titled “How can we support UK rock music?” What was that about?
With Radio One, I think that there is a mandate to support every genre. They were looking at a structure on how to do that (with rock music).
There seems to be a bullish attitude in the UK music industry toward music, particularly rock; a renewed optimism in developing more domestic acts as the music industry continues to retool.
At the beginning of the past two years, I would see the annual (sales) figures and see press releases or hear discussions that “This genre is selling well” or “This genre is not selling well.” That sort of stuff. I have noticed that in the last couple of years people saying that, “Rock is not selling as well as this (genre). How do we correct that on a long-term basis?” That’s probably what was happening with Radio One. They were bringing people in from the rock community, and asking, “What should we do?” I think in the end it came down to looking at the acts that are being developed on our home turf, and looking at what is coming in from abroad. “How do we give those acts a space? There’s only so much airplay in a day. Who gets what?”
As far as rock music, I guess it’s all in cycles. These days, everybody is talking about electronic dance music. However, you still you see Adele, and Amy McDonald over here. Those kinds of (pop) artists that reach into many age demographics. Look, rock bands take longer to develop with touring. Record sales are usually less than a pop act but there are still a lot of successes in that world. Just in-house here we have (Welsh heavy metal band) Bullet For My Valentine. They sold out at Wembley Arena last year. There are still acts that are being developed on the live circuit which is still healthy for rock acts. It is just that it takes a bit longer sometimes if you compare it to pop or what not.
It’s considerably tougher to break a rock act globally.
In the late ‘80s, and early ‘90s, you had the Seattle sound. You had all of these bands that were able to incubate in their own home markets. They were playing gigs. They were getting better, and bigger. You had A&R folks that would come into it (the local scene). You had that whole process happening.
These days, artists coming through in the UK, can put something up on YouTube. They can have their music out on a global scale. What has changed dramatically over the past 10 years is the mechanics of how artists develop.
With a UK-based artist, what do they do to break into America? What do they do to break into Canada? Or vice-versa. How do you find a band that’s in South Africa, and how do you export them? If they have a local following, what are the mechanics where you have a worldwide (booking) agency or a label that is connected with international departments?
You have all of the technology that is available to artists and to labels and teams to work with. It is an interesting time for the industry. You’ve got a lot of capacity for technology to be used for artists to go beyond borders and have careers outside of their own countries. That’s interesting.
Do you have managers of developing bands expecting to play the Reading Festival or the Van Warped tour out of the gate?
The managers I deal with are great managers. I tell them what I think. Then we banter back-and-forth. As far as a developing artist, I say, “This is what I think we need to do.” You have to depend on who the artist has employed to give them advice. That this is where we have our expertise. If I am developing a certain type of artist; whether it’s Awolnation which is more on the alternative side to Tonight Alive which is a pop punk band from Sydney, Australia on Sony, that goes through Raw Power Management’s label, Search & Destroy Records; their touring cycle is going to be much different than Dispatch. It’s up to me to educate a manager or a manager to educate me on something that I don’t know. But we’ve got the expertise to offer that (career advice).
Of course, we love for our bands to play Reading. We know what that does for our bands. We’d love for a band to play Glastonbury in the UK or Rock Am Ring/Rock Im Park in Germany, and now Oppikoppi in South Africa. There are all those (festivals) but they are not the be-all, and end-all for artists. These days, there are more festivals than ever. Playing a festival, that’s not going to break a band. It will help, but you have to put the work in. It always comes back to putting the work in, and being ready for that (opportunity) slot. Don’t expect for a festival to break your artists (in Europe). You’ve got to come over here, and do a lot of things.
You seem optimistic about rock music’s future.
As I said, there’s different tastes for everybody. There’s all different cycles going on. Of course, pop is going to sell. For me, I was a musician. I was a drummer. This is the stuff that I listened to. That’s why it resonates for me. Working for rock bands is one thing but I can relate to it. For me, working with a rock band is a no brainer. As far as what’s out there in the industry, and what’s working, well yeah rock bands work. It’s just taking a bit longer. You may not have a ton of singles being sold all at once. But Young Guns, for example, they are on their second record ("Bones”), and they are going to sell 2,000 tickets in London (at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire on Oct. 16, 2012). They have just released a record in America. This is a two year progression for a band.
Before playing the opening slot on the main stage at the Reading Festival in 2010, Young Guns had already sold out The Garage, and The Barfly in London, and had done a national Kerrang! tour. They were ready for the main stage at Reading.
A manager once told me when I first started in this business,” You have to get to that first 100 gigs to really know what you are doing onstage.” Some bands have some of that when you first start working with them; and some learn it by trade. Young Guns did that Kerrang! Tour (in 2010) Kerrang! is the biggest selling (music) monthly here in the UK. It’s established. It’s an annual tour in which they do 3,000 to 5,000 tickets a night. It is promoted by SJM Concerts. It’s an annuity. Every year, they have some artists that they want to support and then they have some established headliners. So Young Guns on that tour, they were ready for it.
Gus (Gustav Wood) is a very charismatic frontman. He’s great talking to the press. They kind of tick all of those boxes. Then take it another step. They were able to get into the festival circuit. That helps in the development of artists. Then they played Reading main stage. That was the next step for them. This past summer they headlined the stage at Reading and, again, they were ready for that. At this stage, they already had singles at Radio One. When they played a hit single (“Bones”) which was the closing of the set, every kid in the tent was singing along. That’s sort of a culmination of the work that they have done on this record; what the label has done on this record; the work that we’ve done on the touring side; and management. There’s also been press for them. You live and die by press in this country.
Music press plays a more pivotal role in the UK.
That brings me back to my point that I try to go around to every country that’s new (booking bands). I’ve been to Russia. I’ve been to Poland recently. I went down to South Africa to see what’s developing down there. Every country has its specific mechanics for things to work. What works in one country might not in another country. What you hear a lot is some (American) artists saying, “Just because I have a big following in the north-east in the States, in New York or Chicago, that will translate in the UK.” And it doesn’t. You have to put in the work wherever you go.
It sort of goes back to my point earlier about technology. If you put a song up on the internet, people know about it around the world. There are a lot of countries to develop on a touring basis. Like with Awolnation, we’ve got 15 or 20 countries in Europe (with activity) online on the touring side, but there’s also radio, TV and everything else in those markets. That comes from coming here, doing the work; coming back; doing the headline tours, festivals and support dates; and having a press agent and having TV and radio pluggers. All of them engaged with the label, and everybody talking. That’s more and more what I’m doing on a week-to-week basis with artists, and their teams. Getting on phone calls and talking about things. It’s about collecting information, and making things work.
In the past 18 months, the dust has settled in the music industry. People are far more optimistic. Rather than bitching about developing acts, people are doing it.
The business models have corrected themselves. Overheads have been brought down. Things are more streamlined. A lot of that goes back to technology and what’s available. Just down the road from our office in Islington are all these (offices of) upstarts like Songkick, SoundCloud, and Mobile Roadie which me and Greg Lowe, who does dance stuff like Chromatics, have been dealing with.
[An estimated 5,000 technology-based companies are located in east London—lauded as Silicon Roundabout—employing over 10,000 people.]
These are businesses that are already involved (in the music industry). There are a lot of ideas out there. A lot of new companies. A lot of entrepreneurial stuff that you are able to activate pretty quickly. We put a tour on sale last week and talked to SoundCloud. They are doing a lot of different things with different artists. It’s all very DIY. You can basically do something pretty DIY, put it out there instantaneously, and link that to all different PR that you are doing; or just put it out there.
Ten years ago, you’d probably look at SoundScan, and see what acts were selling (before a tour). Today, there’s so much more information to get and make decisions on how to center artists. Awolnation is a good example. They are one of the top artists on Spotify, for example, in Sweden. They are getting something like 30,000 spins a day. It’s about educating a promoter about that. There are markets that we should be exploring on the live side and it’s something to develop, and we have. It’s about being informed. That’s how I work. We work with teams of people, including with promoters and each artist has their own different fan base in each country, and it’s about how to reach that.
A decade ago, an agent or manager would analyze SoundScan figures to figure out where to tour a band. Today, there’s new technology-driven sites and Spotify and other things. It’s now about figuring out how to utilize data.
And you can go to them direct. There’s no governing body that you have to wait for in order for statistics to come. I can go to Songkick and say, “I’ve got this artist glassjaw. Very niche hard core band that doesn’t tour much. They do special engagements and they usually sell out." I want to send glassjaw to Spain or Portugal. I can bounce glassjaw off Songkick. They are not going to give me precise data but they can tell me where this artist has a direct following. These are active users.
The mobile phone is having a similar impact on music that the transistor radio did.
For me, I feel that I am pretty good with technology. I’m interested in all of these new technologies that come. I only got an iPhone six months ago. In those six months, I probably have bought more music than I have in the past six years. It’s that immediacy where you hear some music, you buy it. Also there’s discovering stuff. I started listening to SoundCloud more on my phone. You can buy tickets.
So much entertainment is going to be localized on our phones.
That (mobile) technology is already being used for tickets. Even currency. People are getting used to not bringing cash with them. You and I were at Oppikoppi which has that RFID wrist band technology as currency. Oppikoppi used the technology as part of their currency-less festival environment. I first had the chance to see it at the Eurosonic Festival in Holland earlier this year. It was used for entrance to venues.
People are getting more used to doing that.
This is a whole new generation that is going to be buying in a different way than when I was growing up and when you were growing up. Going to buy a concert ticket when I was going to school, I would have to go down to Tower Records and line up and queue to buy tickets, get a wrist band and all of that sort of stuff. Now you wouldn’t think twice of putting information out there, registering for something, and having (monies) immediately deducted from your account. All that. This is a whole new generation coming up that is using this technology; that has no taboos or restrictions on it in their minds. It’s just a natural thing.
So when you go to a festival, and you have a wrist band that has $200 credit, you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s a safety factor. It might be a bit weird for some people on a Big Brother side of things, but the technology is there for people to use. That is just one example.
What factors led you to make the jump from the William Morris Agency to The Agency Group in 2006?
At the time I was working at William Morris, I was working in their international department. At the time, William Morris didn’t have a London office. I think that there was talk about it at the time, but there wasn’t any option (for me) there. I was working in the international department, which was Rob Markus, Tony Goldring, and Akiko Rogers. I had also been working with John Marx, and Marc Geiger. They suggested that I go into international.
You had already considered re-locating to London?
I had in my mind that I wanted to, I did some traveling like I do. I met some people along the way. I met Geoff and Neil, and they said a lot of things to me that made sense.
If I was going to do this international thing, it’s achievable from LA, but to wake up at five in the morning, and already have half of my day having taken place for a lifestyle didn’t make sense in my head. I thought that if I was going to do it (international)—whether it was temporarily or a permanent thing—that I wanted to live in the UK. To really get into the international commerce, and business of what I saw was happening six or seven years ago. I saw all of these artists that had started to reach into these emerging markets in Eastern Europe. There was a lot of work to be done. From my career (perspective) I thought it was the best to go over to London. There are other agents doing (international) from the States like Chris Dalston, Rob Markus and Tony Goldring, whom are originally from the UK and/or have spent time in the market. They all had experience from living abroad overseas. I just felt like that was something that I needed to do. Geoff and Neil provided that opportunity for me.
Was one attraction in joining The Agency Group that you could be more entrepreneurial?
I started in the mailroom at William Morris, and worked my way through the system there. There was a lot of opportunity for me to learn in that environment. I had access to working with a number of different artists, and people that were in the business for a long time. It was a great opportunity for me to get into the business.
The Agency Group, I guess the way to put it, is there as the entrepreneurial shift. You have your own business within a business. That is what appealed to me. You have to do the same thing at William Morris. You have to make your numbers and all that kind of stuff. What Neil and Geoff were saying to me that just resonated with me. Basically, I was going to move to London; move to a foreign country—just that alone is a challenge—but come over here and build a roster from scratch for the most part. That was a challenge that they were willing to support, and that they continue to support.
They bring on people here who fit into that mind-set or that (entrepreneurial) culture and that they have formed. At least here (in the UK office). I did work in the LA office and in New York before I moved here while waiting for my immigration papers and there’s a similar culture but I can speak more about the culture here and the team that they have built here. There is that spirit and that is what Neil and Geoff and, especially, Neil wants to continue.
Traditional industry lore has working in the mailroom at William Morris being a rough gig.
I’m sure it’s a little bit different now. There’s been books that have sensationalized the experience (from years ago). Books like (Fred Goodman’s) “The Mansion On The Hill” and (David Rensin’s) “The Mailroom” talk about that (earlier) era, but it is a very competitive place. It’s basically like a MBA for people in the music business. It’s very competitive. You have access to different resources, and you meet other people. I am still friends with a lot of the guys that I started with in the mailroom, like Kirk Sommer, who is still at WME, working with Adele, and the Killers; and Adam Harrison at Career Artist Management working with Maroon 5. You meet people along the way.
While in the mailroom, did you want to be in the music department there?
When I moved out to LA in 2000, I had offers to get into the record side of the business. I’ve got a music background. That’s the reason that I got in there. Did I see myself working international, the first day I got into that company? Not really but I was in a place where that opportunity could present itself. That, I guess, is what it’s about. You get into a place where the possibilities are huge, and what you take from that, and put into it is up to you.
You grew up in New York?
Yeah. Long Island originally.
Since you were a drummer at eight, you must have played in bands as a teen.
Yeah, I was in a few bands. Messing around. There are a lot of musicians in my family. The reason I started playing drums at eight was that my uncle John Morena owned (with drummer Bob Grauso) a drum company called Fibes. Growing up I got exposed to a lot of clients that he had. When I was growing up, he had already sold the company to C.F. Martin (C.F. Martin Organization), and it sort of moved on.
Meanwhile, I got to learn about Buddy Rich and Bill Cobham and a lot of the artists that he had using Fibes’ drums in the ‘60s and ‘70s. When I was eight, I was presented with the option of what instrument I wanted to play (for school), and in my grandparent’s basement there was a piano and a drum set sitting there. Growing up in suburban Long Island, I had a free drum kick instead of having to ask my parents to go buy one.
[After several later owners, Tommy Robertson, a 20-year veteran in percussion retailing, acquired Fibes in late 1994.]
You went on to study the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
When I was there, John Mayer was there for the first semester. A lot of my friends were more in the film school side. (Film composer) Joey Newman, who’s in the whole Newman family in film scoring, was there. A lot of the guys from (American progressive metal band) Dream Theatre came from there. A lot of clients that I come across have been alumnae. You would be surprised who are alumnae. It was an interesting place. It was a nice community of artists and people with ideas. You’re in the middle of Boston, and you have access to all sorts of stuff. There’s a great live music scene there. A great sports scene. It was a good place to go to school.
What courses did you take at Berklee?
I initially went there to be a studio musician. I was interested in doing film scoring; I eventually got the business and the arts degree. I did many different things there.
Meanwhile, you worked for several music promoters in Boston.
I don’t know if some of them exist anymore. There was Gamelan Productions, which was a boutique management, agency and promotions company. I was doing flyering and working in the office. I also did an internship in the very early days of Berklee's own record label, Heavy Rotation Records. This is prior to them getting Sony distribution. The coolest job I had while in school was a brief stint in the finance department of the Boston Bruins at the FleetCenter (renamed the TD Garden in 2009). At the time, The Boston Garden was being taken down just next door.
After school I had job offers to work in a couple agencies in New York like APA, but I decided that I was going to go out to LA. I had friends from school who had moved out to LA. There was a network of people I knew out there.
You didn’t have the William Morris position before leaving for LA in 2000?
No. I got it out there. I think it was a month and a half or so. A slot in the mail room opened up. I also had a job offer from Capitol Records out there. Do I go into the record industry or the live business? I made a good decision at that time. It could be a different decision these days because I wouldn’t mind being in the record industry. But that’s how it worked out.
Who are some of the great managers you have worked with?
Missy Worth is great. I work with her on Yellowcard and she also works with Rise Against. She’s somebody I’ve learned a lot from. When I’m working with Seether, that’s Vector Management, and Nicky Loranger. She’s been great to work with. There’s Nicky, and Jack Rovner (co-president/manager, Vector Management). Nicky is the band’s manager, and that’s who I deal with. That’s been a great experience.
Working with Craig Jennings at Raw Power Management has been interesting as well. I handle four of their bands (the Blackout, Tonight Alive, Kids in Glass Houses, and Young Guns). They are great to work with. Andy Snape and Mark James who co-manage Young Guns together are two fellas I see going far.
I work with both Steve Bursky (Foundations Artist management), and Dalton Sim (Nettwerk Management) on Dispatch. They are great people. Steve also works with Owl City, and Dalton also handles fun. Both Berko Pearce and Scott Sheldon with Awolnation are great to work with.
There’s the long standing music industry joke that managers should listen to booking agents on everything but routing.
The routing is easy (to figure out). It’s about the broader strokes. Especially with international, you have so much ground to cover. You have to set priorities in different countries. There’s different layers of development in each country, and you have to look at the touring and opportunities available. It’s not just touring (opportunities). It might be a press opportunity. I will base a tour around a few promotional opportunities.
There might be some advice from another part of the team. As the agent, yeah, it’s good to manage the whole live side (of a band), but there’s input that comes in from all parts of the team. That’s what I work with. When I work with the Play It Again Sam label on Young Guns or my new act Arcane Roots—who are finishing their debut album with (producer) Dan Austin—we are all sitting in meetings talking about ideas. There’s a back-and-forth. There’s no “My way or the highway” kind of thing.
Resentment of agents by bands builds while on the road.
I’d rather have them shouting “This is amazing” and have them playing in front of half a million people, instead of, “Fuck, this hotel sucks.” But hey, maybe, that was somebody else’s fault. Not my fault. I didn’t do it. So there!
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”
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