Established music agencies in the current age can be roughly split into two categories: independent agencies concentrating essentially on live touring for their music clients; and LA-headquartered full service global agencies offering music clients the opportunity to tap into a wide range of services including film, TV, digital and branding.
A number of well-known independent music agencies have made strategic alliances with or been acquired by full-service agencies in recent years: AM Only, London- based CODA Agency, and Windish agency joined forces with Paradigm, in 2012, 2014 and 2015, respectively. United Talent Agency acquired The Agency Group, the world’s largest independent music agency, in August 2015.
Is going full service the only way for independent agencies to survive in future years? Why are artists and their managers drawn to diversified agency platforms? It’s not just the prospect of going into acting, which concerns a small share of music artists, it’s about the ability to express their art or creativity over a wide range of media platforms. It’s also about providing some of the services the labels are no longer able to provide for many artists, due to the challenges they have faced in recent years: high-level brand partnerships, tour marketing, digital strategy, sync opportunities, literary, non-scripted TV opportunities, gaming and ultimately building businesses with clients. The resources are available to all of those that feel they have ambition in other areas. Not all artists will be interested in this, and some independent agencies will continue to exist and retain clients at the top end. Others may need time to understand the processes and gradually adhere to a more integrated approach.
“The biggest driver of the changing industry has been the digital revolution. As the world becomes increasingly connected, artists that break internationally have done so on a much bigger scale than ever before.”
The merger of independent and full-service agencies is also the result of dramatic changes in the music market, an increasingly competitive and fast-moving sector that demands more attention, more strategy and more resources. Some agencies are naturally feeling the desire to build alliances with larger competitors to retain clients and keep their focus on career and artist development.
In the midst of this sea change, the role of the talent agent has evolved and is more pivotal than ever. It’s no longer a simple artist and promoter relationship. Decreasing revenues on the record side has led music representatives to explore and focus on other areas of growth in developing long-term careers. But in doing so they cannot abandon the trust factor. Agents are as connected as ever with A&Rs, publishers, lawyers, publicists, and building trust from all key actors is essential to an agent’s success in representing the client. Trust can be as much in an agent’s judgement, their ears, as it is in the way they service their clients and the expertise they bring to the table. Agents with the best ears, A&R taste, independent spirit and genuine passion for their acts will be the winners in the long run over opportunists and buzz-chasers.
The biggest driver of the changing industry has been the digital revolution. As the world becomes increasingly connected, artists that break internationally have done so on a much bigger scale than ever before. The major global agencies have created digital media divisions to represent the new generation of artists and content creators. This is in response to a massive increase in musical output on the Internet, which has made things ever more competitive for developing artists and made it far harder for anyone to stand out.
Regardless of this new reality, one aspect of the job that should remain timeless is the sense of service. The key for future agents will remain using all of the tools that agencies have at their disposal to represent and continually provide the best possible service to clients. Those that focus on their own interests without keeping them aligned with the interests of their own clients may become successful, but they will not remain in the agency business. It will be vital for agents and agencies of the future to remain client- focused and to be about building careers, not themselves. The moment an agent or agency becomes bigger than their clients they lose that critical connection.
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