CAA’s Marketing Turns 10

Major booking agencies have been quietly building artist marketing departments for more than a decade but little has been said about how they operate.

Creative Artists Agency is widely credited with building the first agency marketing department. When Rob Light took over the music department from Tom Ross in 1998, one of his first items of business was to build an in-house marketing operation.

“The agency business needed to become much more of a customer service business,” CAA’s Allison McGregor, head of the marketing department, told Pollstar. “The feeling was that some things fall through the cracks, and the agency could really help service our managers and agents. And, on the flipside, help the promoters with getting things approved and making sure the process was a positive for all sides.”

CAA and William Morris Agency both have well-recognized marketing departments. What goes on behind the scenes tends to be treated as proprietary secrets of the agency.

But basically, CAA’s marketing department acts as an aggregator. The record labels do some marketing, although not like the salad days, as do the various venues and tour promoters.

“CAA is the entity that kind of takes all those pieces and makes sure it’s all running smoothly and makes sure the left hand is talking to the right hand,” McGregor said.

This is the 10th anniversary of the marketing department. CAA had a great year, according to the agency, with tours like the Jonas Brothers, Bon Jovi and AC/DC and increased attention to sponsors.

And despite the predictions of financial gloom and doom, the company is actively pursuing more manpower for the department and preparing for some major tours, more than a dozen of which McGregor couldn’t discuss. The success led to McGregor and Light deciding it was time to talk more about the department.

“The CAA Music Marketing department was launched … with the notion that the agency could add to the value of the client relationship by working hand-in-hand with promoters, labels, managers, sponsors, and venues to create and capitalize on strategic opportunities for our artists,” Light told Pollstar. “This concept has risen to a whole new level and continues to grow under Allie McGregor’s leadership. She and her team have helped to transform the landscape of the business.”

The marketing department is currently working on tours for Depeche Mode and Fall Out Boy, along with the unmentionables. The Jonas Brothers are expected to hit the road again next year. AC/DC is expected to go to Europe then return for the second leg of its North American tour.

“AC/DC’s one of our biggest success stories of this year,” McGregor said. “Sony did an amazing job of launching the record, which went straight into us launching the tour. The dialogue between our two companies and [AC/DC’s business manager] was amazing.

“Bon Jovi’s another great example. … It’s just making sure every aspect of that artist’s career is being addressed.”