Voices From The Trenches: Jeff Epstein, Universal Attractions Agency

Jeff Epstein
– Jeff Epstein

Jeff Epstein is the co-owner of Universal Attractions Agency.

Can you please describe how you got into the business and a basic synopsis of your career so far?

The summer after I graduated college (1993), I decided not to take a job selling insurance and instead traveled to Colorado with my band to try and make it as a musician (drummer). In a very short period of time, I discovered that I enjoyed booking my band more than playing in it. I headed back to New York and landed a couple of internships. One, Focus Business Management, offered me a job as an assistant. I was there less than a year because it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

My next job was in the mailroom of Associated Booking Corporation (ABC). I was there for only six weeks and became an agent. Jeff Allen, my partner, also started at ABC but it took him six months to a year to make agent – I guess I was better able to keep my route book in order than he was. I did very well with my territory “The South” and booked BB King, 

I didn’t feel like ABC was the right fit for me and I had an offer to go to Universal Attractions Agency and took the job. When I started at UAA, I was booking heavy metal bands (

In the ’90s, I started bringing jazz artists over to UAA including 

In 2007, Jeff Allen and I decided to buy UAA from Jack Bart, UAA’s second owner. Since then we have been focusing on two types of growth: agent growth and exclusive artist growth. Before 2007, Allen and I were the sales force. Today we have 12 agents, eight support staff and a West Coast office in addition to our main office in NYC.

Artist wise, we rep one of the hottest tours of the summer, “

Can you please tell us how Universal Attractions got its name?

In 1946, Ben Bart (James Brown’s manager and UAA’s first owner) rented office space from Universal Studios. Their insignia was engraved in the floor and Ben decided to use that as his inspiration and named his booking agency Universal Attractions Agency. 

What could the music industry or at least buyers do to improve the business/touring model?

Marketing. The shows that we receive a real marketing plan for allow us to ensure (to the best of our ability) that the buyer is on the right path for a successful show.

Many times we are able to steer a promoter in the right direction from making what we feel would be bad decisions.  Case in point, on the “I Love the 90’s” Tour, many buyers in the beginning thought this was an urban show and decided to only advertise on urban stations. Once we discovered the crossover ability of this show, we were able to put buyers on the right track to CHR, etc. Now, we require a marketing plan for all of our shows and tours.

We want a successful show for everyone and feel that those promoters who take the time and effort to research (including reaching out to cut their radio deals early) will win out over the ill prepared. 

You have a roster that is booked exclusively and nonexclusively. What are the advantages and disadvantages to each?

With exclusive artists, we are involved in many more decisions and are able to give those artists our full focus. We are part of a team that helps those artists grow and achieve their goals.

Having nonexclusive artists allows UAA to represent a wider array of talent. It is difficult, though, to raise the guarantee of a nonexclusive artist if there are many agents pitching and trying to undercut each other. With an exclusive artist we can help control the price. Buyers can’t shop around and they have to pay what the artist commands if they want to book that artist. 

Since 2007, we have been leaning toward exclusive artists and have built a territorial agency that will allow for more exclusive relationships over the coming years.

What should readers know about the “I Love the ‘90s” tour?

We are capturing the imagination of a generation. This is what UAA does. We create packages and content that works for years.

We toured the ‘70s Soul Jam for 15 years or more and had great success with the New Jack Swing Tour featuring 

Other than that, it’s about timing and demographics. The fans who were 18-25 when these artists first came out are now 38-45 with discretionary income and are looking to remember their youth and have a good time. That’s really what “I Love The 90’s” Tour is – a big house party and a good time. We are already into booking well into 2017 and the tour is shaping up nicely as “I Love the 90’s: The Party Continues”

You have three shout-outs

My wife, Eve.  She’s an amazing woman, wife and mother who takes care of our three kids and puts up with my endless work hours and constant interruptions.

My father. I get my entrepreneurial spirit from him.

My partner, Jeff Allen. He mentored me and is the fairest person I know. He treated me as an equal from the beginning. It’s also great to have someone who has as much at stake as me; to bounce ideas off of and to take the risks and reap the rewards with.