There’s No Stopping Dave Shapiro

The Agency Group’s Dave Shapiro talks with Pollstar about his career, clients such as A Day To Remember, Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens, and Hanson, and his love for flying, skydiving, BASE jumping and living life to the extreme.

As a vice president at worldwide booking agency, The Agency Group, Shapiro is based out of the company’s Los Angeles office, but he admits that he spends little time behind the desk.  Instead, the co-founder of the tour is more likely to be found at one of his clients’ concerts, meeting with his bands or talking with artist managers and record label execs.  That is, when he’s not jumping off the roofs of buildings, leaping off of bridges or flying airplanes and helicopters.  And, as if Shapiro’s not already busy 24/7, the booking agent also owns a restaurant.

But every story has a beginning and the tale of Shapiro’s career actually started out on the other side of the music equation when he was a drummer in a band.

Backflipping off of a bridge in Idaho.

How did you make the transition from musician to music industry exec?

When I was in the band I was the guy who handled all the business. Every band has that guy and I was it.  I got into the business side of it and when the band broke up it just seemed like a natural progression for me.  I had a company called Velocity Touring prior to my time at The Agency Group. After a few years of that I ended up at The Agency Group.

Generally speaking, fans see an agent as the person who brings a promoter and artist together.  On a basic level, it’s been called “selling dates.”  But how much influence or power does an agent have when working with a concept such as the “Scream It Like You Mean It” tour?

I think it’s a case-by-case situation.  In general, a fair amount [of influence], at least for my experience.  It depends on what managers and artists you’re working with.  Some managers and artists like more say and control than others.  For me, personally, and the rapport I have with most of my clients, I’m extremely involved and heavily involved in all the decision making.  We have that sort of relationship where there’s a level of trust there. So I’m extremely involved and do share a lot of the power and a lot of the decisions.

Is that part of your pitch when you’re approaching a potential client? Do you tell them you want to be heavily involved in all aspects of the act’s career?

What I think the pitch is, and what I say to a lot of artists is, “Ultimately, I work for you and it’s always going to come down to what you guys want and the decisions you want to make.  But I’m going to be very vocal about what I think you should do.  If I think you’re making a wrong decision, you’re going to know.  If I think you’re making a right decision, I’ll obviously let you know that as well. But at the end of the day it is up to the artist. If they want to make a decision that I disagree with, once I’ve said my piece, if they still want to roll the way they want to roll, I’m going to own that as if I made the decision, too.  Because that’s my job.  But I always make it extremely well known whatever I feel

How did the “Scream It Like You Mean It” tour come about?

That specific tour was basically a situation where we have a lot of clients that were doing the Warped tour.  The problem was that Warped Tour obviously can’t accommodate every single band.  There are always bands every year that really want to be a part of of it that get left out because there are only so many slots.  And I represent a lot of bands … in that world.

One year, we decided we really needed something else to do with these artists that aren’t on the Warped Tour. … We came up with the idea that whenever Warped is booked … we can talk about putting them on [Scream It Like You Mean It]. It came about more out of necessity than anything else.  Now it’s our fourth year doing [it] and it has become a great tour for us.

Dave Shapiro (center) and Pierce The Veil.

Is Warped kind of like the 800-pound gorilla in the room every summer in that no matter what you’re doing you have to keep them in mind so your tour doesn’t intersect?  Does that tour affect your business regardless of whether any of your bands are on it?

Without a doubt.  It’s something that affects everything.  We have to plan around it every year.   Maybe we have a band headlining and we’re looking for support and [acts we want] are not available because of Warped.  It’s not just over the summer.  The Warped radius clause stands out a few months prior to the tour.  So it really becomes an issue that affects everything we’re doing, come late March.  But with that said, I don’t view it as a bad thing. Warped has been an amazing tool to help develop some of these artists. I really view it as more of a positive than anything else and I work closely with Warped every year.  Yeah, it definitely can make certain situations difficult but at the end of the day it’s for the right reasons.

How many hours do you work each day?

Honestly? Pretty much when I’m awake I’m working.  Even if I’m out to dinner with family, friends or whatever, I’m still looking at my Blackberry, getting emails and kind of dealing with things.

The very first thing I do every single day when I wake up is roll over, look at my phone and check my email.  It starts when my eyes open and stops when they close again.

zDo you have a family?

No.  I’m not married or have kids.  But I have a dog.  That’s the extent of my family.

Do you think your career has somewhat limited your ability to have a personal life?

I think this job in particular makes having a personal life difficult, for sure. It gets in the way.  It makes having relationships hard.  I think some people may be better at finding that balance than me.  I also think that’s what has allowed me to get to where I’m at in my career, because I haven’t had that balance. … My career is something that I enjoy so I don’t have a problem making sacrifices for it.

Dave Shapiro in Greece.

How do you scout new talent?

Generally speaking, I try all different ways.  From searching the internet a lot to … just talking to the managers and trying to find out about the new artists they’re working with.  I also do a lot of business with [record labels] and try to find out about the new artists they’re working with.

A lot of my artists I’ve found through other artists.  If one of my bands finds a new band that they love and they tell me about it, I’ll always check that out as well.  There are a lot of different ways I look for artists but I think ultimately probably the best is just staying in close contact with all the people I do a lot of business with and have good relationships with and people that I trust on an A&R level.

Some agencies might assign agents specific areas or regions to book artists in, while at other agencies the agent responsible for an act books the entire tour.  How does it work at The Agency Group?

We do not have a territorial system.  I’m booking the entire tour [for my acts].  That’s how we do it.  A lot of other agencies book in territories but we don’t.  I like it this way a lot better.  I like knowing what’s going on with every detail.  When my artist calls me I like having all the information at my fingertips and not having to run down the hall to get an answer.  For me, having that control is crucial.  I would feel very uncomfortable letting someone else book my bands.

Dave Shapiro with clients Memphis May Fire, Sleeping With Sirens and Pierce The Veil at Australia’s Soundwave music festival.

You’re into extreme sports, including wingsuiting and BASE jumping.  Do you think that runs in tandem with your career, and that there’s something in common with jumping off of the sides of mountains and going into business situations where you’re trying to do the best for your bands?

It’s kind of a stress relief for me.  Most people tell me it’s extremely stressful just looking at those photos, but for me it’s the best feeling in the world. I wouldn’t give anything up for it. BASE jumping, skydiving, flying planes and helicopters are my favorite things to do. For me when I’m not working, that’s the stuff that, having the 24/7 job, makes it kind of manageable on a stress level.  It really is my relief.  I just love it.  I travel the world and get to do it. Even when I’m traveling for work, I’ll bring my parachute with me, jump a building in whatever random city I’m in or go to the drop zone and skydive wherever I’m at.  Rent a plane and go flying around or whatever. For me it’s the greatest hobby.  I can do it wherever I go.  And having the job I have allows me to take more advantage of my hobbies because I get to travel so much.

The Agency Group's Sean Goulding (left) and Dave Shapiro.

How long have you been a pilot?

I’ve been an airplane pilot for, like eight or nine years.  I’ve been a helicopter pilot for about two years.

For airplanes, are you rated single engine, multi-engine?

Everything.  I fly multi, single, I’m commercial-rated.  I’m a flight instructor. … There are three instructor ratings and I have all three.  I got heavily into it and I kind of went the distance.

How did you find the time to get all those ratings?

I was doing it mostly before and after work.  When I was in flight school, I would fly at 5 a.m. or 5 until 8 a.m. and then go straight to work, then work all day and go back at night.

Do you consider yourself as one who has a Type A personality?


Do you think that’s a job requirement for agents today?

100 percent.  I think so. I think if you’re not someone who can take control of a situation, I think your artists sense that and I think it would be very hard to keep artists happy.

Dave Shapiro (left) next to founder/president of The Agency Group Neil Warnock (center) and vice president Colin Lewis.

How much time do you actually spend in your office?

Not a lot.  The other part of it is that I work from home half of every week when I’m actually in California.  I have a second home in San Diego and I go down there every week for three or four days.  So I’m actually in the office in Los Angeles like two days a week.

Do you travel with a lot of your tours?

I do.  I’ve never been on a whole tour but I do a lot of stops.

Is there any difference between booking A Day To Remember and booking Hanson?

Very much.  Not so much in terms of trying to figure out the right venues to go to.  But the strategy behind where those bands are at is very different.  You take a band that’s been around for 15 years vs. a band that’s been around for … well A Day To Remember has been around for 10 but the band has been real popular for five years … vs. a band that’s been doing this for a living and has been a popular band for 15 years.  There’s a big difference.  They’re in very different places in their careers, not just timing wise, but with the demographics they appeal to and so forth.  So you definitely have to take a different approach in strategy with each one. 

With Hanson, for example, our fair and casino department can go nuts setting dates.  We do really well on that front with them, on top normal hard-ticket club shows, things like that.  A Day To Remember won’t play those sorts of shows but on the flip side they’ll play a lot of the contemporary festivals and stuff that aren’t as easy to attain for a band like Hanson.  There are a number of differences but I think, overall, the strategy for any band should be different.  Those two bands, for examples, are very different.

Do you ever look at other tours and say to yourself, “If I was booking that tour, I would do it differently.”

All the time. And I’m sure they’re doing the same with mine.

Dave Shapiro, Hanson and crew members.

Along the same lines, on those rare moments at home when you actually have nothing to do and you see an established artist such as a Jimmy Page or a Kenny Rogers on TV, do you think about what you would do if you were booking them?

I think there are many times where you kind of have that thought in your head.  I’ve actually had situations where artists that I’m thinking to myself that I’d handle them differently, I’d do it this way or what not, and then I’ve gotten a call from that artist saying, “We’re not happy with our current situation and we’d love to take a meeting.”

I think when you’re an agent, that’s kind of how you’re looking at everything.  If you’re [a painter] you’re going to look at paintings differently than I would.  If you’re a chef you’re going to taste food differently than I would. You have a different perspective on things.  For me, anytime I look at an artist and what they’re doing with their career, I immediately, in my head, lean towards the analytical side of it all and start pulling it apart.

Is it important for artists to have someone who isn’t afraid to say “no” to them?

100 percent.  And I think any good manager has a relationship as such so they can do it.  If a manager doesn’t have a rapport with an artist enough where they can say “no” and the artist respects them enough to understand that it’s for the better of their career if their manager is telling them that, there’s probably a problem there.  I think most of my managers do have those kind of relationships [to be able to say “no” with their bands.

In your opinion, what do you think is the worst thing an agent can do?

Well, I think it’s definitely no secret that our business has some questionable ethics.  I’ll tell you one example that I thought was disgusting.  There was an agent [who would] basically go to promoters, like younger promoters who were trying to get a leg up, and say, “I’ll give you this show but we’re going to co-promote the show.” So the agent basically said, “I’m going to book this show with you. I’m going to take my agent’s commission and I’m going to take half of your promoter profit.  And if the show loses money, It’s your risk, not mine.”  He only had upside.  I heard about it from a few promoters that had that conversation with him.  That’s just one example. You hear about stuff like that all the time but I thought that was unbelievable.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I believe I work with some of the greatest bands in the world.  They’re already doing great things, but I think their potential will continue to grow and they’ll do bigger and better things.

I also see a lot of the bands that I work with are in a genre [Screamo] of music that’s becoming more and more mainstream, which goes further into my point that I believe this is all going to continue to grow. … There’s clearly a movement there that’s only getting bigger.  I believe in five years I’ll be doing all the things I’m doing now, but these artists will be much bigger than they currently are.  They’ll continue to grow.

I also think, as someone who works for The Agency Group, I’ll hopefully have a big role in continuing to help grow and shape the company, not just my own roster.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

It’s just really simple advice, but something that was always said to me was, “You’re never going to get what you don’t ask for.” I remember that all the time.  Especially as an agent because we’re always having to push deals further and create new opportunities for artists.  That’s a quote that has always stuck with me and I always remember it. I think it’s a good life lesson, in general, not just as an agent.

“Most people tell me it’s extremely stressful just looking at those photos, but for me it’s the best feeling in the world.” – Dave Shapiro of The Agency Group.

Upcoming dates for the Scream It Like You Mean It tour with Story Of the Year, Silverstein, Like Moths To Flames, Hawthorne Heights, Capture The Crown, Set It Off and I Am King:

Oct. 16 – San Francisco, Calif., The Regency Ballroom
Oct. 17 – Sacramento, Calif., Ace Of Spades
Oct. 18 – Anaheim, Calif., House Of Blues
Oct. 19 – San Diego, Calif., SOMA San Diego
Oct. 20 – West Hollywood, Calif., House Of Blues
Oct. 22 – Henderson, Nev., Henderson Events Plaza
Oct. 23 – Mesa, Ariz., Nile Theater
Oct. 25 – Grand Prairie, Texas, QuikTrip Park (South By So What?)
Oct. 26 – San Antonio, Texas, White Rabbit
Oct. 27 – Houston, Texas, Warehouse Live
Oct. 29 – Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Revolution
Oct. 30 – Orlando, Fla., The Beacham
Oct. 31 – Tampa, Fla., The Orpheum
Nov. 1 – Atlanta, Ga., The Masquerade
Nov. 2 – Baltimore, Md., Baltimore Soundstage
Nov. 3 – Philadelphia, Pa., Theatre Of The Living Arts
Nov. 5 – New York, N.Y., Irving Plaza Powered By Klipsch
Nov. 6 – Hartford, Conn., Webster Theater
Nov. 7 – Worcester, Mass., The Palladium
Nov. 8 – Montreal, Quebec, Club Soda
Nov. 9 – Toronto, Ontario, Phoenix Concert Theatre

Please visit for more information.