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Tales from Covid: Yves Pierre, ICM Partners

Lil Yachty agent Yves Pierre talks about navigating the world of livestreaming and why people must "put themselves on the line” to achieve a more diverse, equal industry

By IQ on 24 Jun 2020

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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