Voices From The Trenches: Steve Martin, APA

Steve Martin, exec VP of worldwide music at APA and former president of North American operations at The Agency Group, answers a few, random questions for Pollstar

Martin has always been accommodating when asked for his viewpoint but this time he wanted to get the word out on Dolly Parton’s latest venture.

His other clients include David Gilmour and Scorpions.

What exactly got you into this business? Were you doing your part for the war effort?

Since high school I loved going to shows and working with bands. I also didn’t like to wear a tie or be at an office early in the morning. So I felt the music business was a good path. I have very few other skills! I got lucky in the draft lottery, so I didn’t have to go to Vietnam — I had family and friends that didn’t have such luck.

Dolly Parton is heading out on tour. Was that a surprise?

The length of the tour came as a surprise, quite recently. Danny Nozell, Dolly’s manager, and I had been discussing 15 or so shows for a cross-Canada tour this fall. She hasn’t done a tour of this breadth in many years here. Danny and his team have done a fantastic job around Dolly, building her worldwide for 12 years. One of the many remarkable things about Dolly is the thought and care she puts into her show for her fans – a great deal of effort to make it look effortless.

Jerry Weintraub said, “Every 10 years something comes along that knocks all the dishes off the table.” Do you see anything like that coming along?

When I went to see Hatsune Miku and watched 3,000 people going wild over a hologram, I thought that was pretty interesting. As that technology improves – it could have quite an impact.

You’ve always been an approachable, fun person in the business. What is the one thing that people would find surprising to learn about you?

That’s nice to hear, especially because I just bought a fridge magnet in Austin that says,” I hate it when I have to go places and do stuff.” Probably that I haven’t had a drink in 17 years. Even I’m surprised by that.

What can new promoters do to get their calls returned?

Have a unique venue, point of view on promoting or offer great deals. And be polite.

Best concert / worst concert(s)?

Best? There are so many, of all types from small clubs to stadiums, authentic, and had-to-be-there gigs but one that still stands out is the “Concert for 9/11” at the Garden. I’ve always enjoyed going to shows – concerts, theatre, whichever – to share an experience with people, to have a connection with the artist, writer, or band and the people around you. But the 9/11 show was an incredibly cathartic night of shared grief, joy, anger, loss … and hope, with the firefighters, cops, musicians and audience in the same room. It was a night like no other.

For worst, there are two points of view. 1) There is absolutely no reason to tolerate inept music or any art. I discovered a solution years ago: you can leave! 2) “Worst” can also mean a musician, tour manager, promoter or agent is just having an awful evening, for various reasons. Then, all you can do is say, “Sweet Jesus, let this night end!”

What new act should people be paying attention to?

Offhand: A-WA and Red Sun Rising.

Look, we don’t ask for a lot but if you’re going to book our act, can you at least ….

… have a vague idea of the artist you’re booking? Asking if the piano on the rider is necessary when the artist plays piano? Seriously? Have a clue.

What is the biggest pain-in-the-ass part of being an agent?

To paraphrase a Nashville songwriter, “I get paid for the travel. I do the work for free.”

If I retired now, here’s what I’d be most proud of.

Never crosses my mind, frankly. I enjoy what I do too much.

What are you listening to and how are you listening to it?

Sirius radio in the car; Howard Stern if he’s interviewing a guest. I flip between Underground Garage, Coffee House, Raw Dog. At home, it’s Spotify running through Sonos. random stuff.

This show “Vinyl” sucks. Explain.

Like a lot of people, I was disappointed in the first (and second) episodes of “Vinyl.”

More “Tarantino” than “Scorsese,” with an uneven script. But stick with it. I thought the third episode was brilliant and the fourth close to it. Great dialogue and Cannavale can be mesmerizing. Even if you forgive the buckets of cocaine.