Billboard Live Music Summit 2019: Future Agency ‘Bosses’ Talk Diversity, Sweat Equity and Self-Care

Lee Anderson, Tim Borror, Robert Gibbs, Joe Hadley, Jbeau Lewis and Ben Totis focus on the way in which ahead in a rapidly-changing — and increasingly-demanding — trade.

At the very high of the Future Bosses: Meet the Next Generation panel on the Billboard Live Music Summit on Wednesday (Nov. 6), Billboard editorial director Hannah Karp got here proper out of the gate to handle the elephant within the room.

“I have to say, it’s not the most diverse panel I’ve ever moderated,” mentioned Karp to kick issues off. Indeed, of the six younger energy brokers on stage — Paradigm agent Lee Anderson, STG co-owner Tim Borror, ICM associate Robert Gibbs, CAA agent Joe Hadley, UTA agent Jbeau Lewis and WME agent Ben Totis — not certainly one of them was a girl.

By method of rationalization, Karp identified that the panel was compiled by asking each company to submit brokers who had been at the moment on the management observe at their respective firms, inadvertently ensuing within the male-dominated group that assembled on stage on the Montage Beverly Hills.

With Karp setting the tone for the remainder of the dialog, variety — each gender and racial — grew to become a frequent matter of dialogue, with Hadley the primary of the panelists to handle the problem immediately.

“I think there are literally less than 50 black agents globally, and of those, three are women,” mentioned Hadley, who’s African-American. “So we need to change our hiring practices, we need to make sure that people of color are getting the same opportunities. Because we are not the exception, we need to show that we are the rule — we just need the same opportunities as everyone else. So across the map [in] entertainment, not just agencies, we need to find a way to make sure that we are diversifying and making sure that the executive side is representative of what the music and the talent side looks like.”

During the viewers Q&A portion close to the top of the panel a feminine questioner pushed the problem additional, asking the boys on stage what their respective businesses had been doing to be extra inclusive of girls particularly. In response, Hadley spoke to the accountability of people in management positions at businesses to raise up ladies — notably ladies of coloration.

“My last four interns have been women of color, [and] three of them have been hired,” he mentioned. “That’s not a coincidence, that’s me going to our HR and saying, ‘If I’m going to have an intern, if this person is going to work with me, this is what I need from you: it needs to be a person of color, specifically a woman of color.’”

The remainder of the panelists additionally had prepared solutions, with each Gibbs and Anderson stressing the significance of mentoring ladies brokers and Lewis stating that variety additionally needs to be a consideration when selecting which purchasers to tackle. Borror famous that constructing in concerns of variety from the get-go has been a precedence at STG, which he began alongside his UTA colleagues Dave Shapiro and Matt Andersen final November.

“I’m not trying to wave a flag or pat myself on the back, but to me, going to the year 2020, it’s kind of a non-issue if somebody’s got talent and they’ve got in earnest to do what we do, then they should be doing it,” he mentioned. “There’s not a lot out there at this point…but I feel like the door finally, hopefully is feeling more open than ever.”

A give attention to structural change within the trade at a time of nice transition got here to dominate the dialogue, together with the necessity for a higher emphasis on self-care. Indeed, if the rest of the panel may very well be boiled down to 1 overarching theme, it’s this: being a music agent is difficult, and within the digital age it’s solely getting more durable.  

“As agents coming up in the business, we were the gatekeepers, right?” mentioned Gibbs. “[To] access the talent…you had to call the agent. Well now, it’s Twitter, it’s Instagram, it’s social media, you can get right to [the artist]. And so the way of just doing the core business, it just doesn’t work [anymore]. You have to be able to expand that.”

The raise for brokers in 2019 has develop into tougher in a wide range of different methods. For one factor, brokers at the moment are anticipated to flesh out their purchasers’ backside traces in methods they merely weren’t anticipated to earlier than, notably because the share of revenues from recorded music has plummeted.

“At the end of the year, when you’re looking at the pie charts of where the revenue’s coming from, a lot of that comes from touring,” mentioned Anderson. “And I think because of that, they rely on us to deliver for a lot more of these [additional] revenue streams and opportunities. There’s a million deserving clients out there, and it’s how do you find a way to deliver for all of them with only so many opportunities.”

As Lewis put it, given the upper “sweat equity” now concerned in representing an artist, it behooves brokers to be ever extra cautious about which purchasers they resolve to take a position their energies into.

“I think that what that requires is that all of us are that much more judicious, more prudent about who the artists are that we do take bets on,” he mentioned. “With the realization that [when] we do take a bet on that artist, that’s going to require time and energy of a multitude of people. So we better all damn well be ready to make that bet if we’re going to.”

As Totis sees it, the singles-oriented nature of streaming additionally requires brokers to be extra nimble in relation to plotting careers. “We’re touring on singles now, so you have to activate your plans sooner,” he mentioned. “It’s not waiting for the album and then you’re going out and touring.”

That breakneck tempo, coupled with growing shopper calls for, typically ends in often-ungodly work hours for brokers who had been already overworked lengthy earlier than the rise of streaming. So how do the panelists cope?

“I’m like 20 pounds overweight, so I’m the wrong guy to ask,” mentioned Anderson to laughter when Karp questioned the panelists on their self-care practices.

“At UTA we certainly have company-wide initiatives pushing people toward wellness,” mentioned Lewis, “whether it’s groups of people [getting] together and talking about it or meditation sessions at the office, things like that, where people can sort of step aside from the daily grind and get into it. But communication and talking about it is so much of the battle as well.”

For a panel about “future bosses,” Karp went on to ask a vital query: what would the panelists change in the event that they had been to run issues at their respective businesses? In response, Hadley passionately led the cost on one other well timed concern: the burgeoning, social media-driven marketing campaign for increased assistant salaries at leisure firms.

“I think a lot of us are in the mindset of like ‘Oh, I came up, and I made $25,000 flat so everyone should do that, and you have to pay your dues,’” mentioned Hadley. “It’s just not right. If we want to attract the best and the brightest, then we need to have competitive pay or at least systems in place to help these people be successful, because I’m tired of losing good people because they can’t afford to work.”

Anderson was arguably much more blunt in his critique, specializing in his private expertise to make the purpose.

“When I moved to New York, I was living below the poverty line. I was ducking the subway turnstiles to sneak on the train because I couldn’t afford a metro card sometimes,” he mentioned. “There were days I would go to bed because I couldn’t buy food, and that’s not that f—ing long ago…if it was my company, I would pay [support staff] more. I’ll probably get called into the HR office when I get out of here for saying it, but…it’s an old f—ed-up model and I don’t agree with it.”

Lewis boiled issues right down to an much more basic degree. 

“I think there’s an overarching theme here that, whether we’re talking about who we represent or who we work with, we’re dealing with people, we’re dealing with human beings,” he mentioned. “Despite the competition, despite the celebrity, keeping the perspective that we’re dealing with human beings every day is pretty critical here.”

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