2017 Booking Agency Changes; Seismic Shifts

In a business always in flux, 2017 was no different with many big changes at the major booking agencies’ music departments including former CAA agent Scott Clayton joining WME’s Nashville office and a flurry of hires at United Talent Agency where David Zedeck has taken over as Global Head of Music.

Scott Clayton
– Scott Clayton
Pollstar Yearbook Photo

Paradigm opened a Toronto office (after UTA closed one), major comedy agents including Michael Berkowitz joined WME and CAA made waves in Asia with major investments coming its way and naming a China CEO.

To WME, Clayton brings clients including Dead & Company, My Morning Jacket, Train, and Kings of Leon, as well as The Record Company (with Buster Phillips, who also came over from CAA, as co-RA), and MMJ’s Jim James and Carl Broemel for solo representation.

Joining UTA, Zedeck, who repped Britney Spears, *Nsync and Backstreet Boys at the peak of their stardom, leaves his role as exec VP and president of global talent and artist development at Live Nation. He takes major roles at UTA as Global Head of Music, a partner in the company and special adviser to the board of directors.

David Zedeck
– David Zedeck

The hiring falls in line with UTA’s increased focus on its music department, which has steadily built its roster with recent signings like Jeezy, Jeremih, and Seether. In the last five years, UTA has doubled in size to include more than 850 global employees and made major acquisitions in the music, news and finance spaces; recruited top agents and execs into leadership roles at UTA and acquired an equity stake in AGM Partners. Zedeck is on tap to speak at the Pollstar Live! conference in Los Angeles in February.

There were big changes in Toronto, where UTA announced in early August it was shuttering its office, which was formerly the Toronto office of The Agency Group before merging with UTA, with the agency’s Canadian operations moving to the New York and L.A. offices.

That led to Paradigm opening its own Toronto office helmed by former UTA agent Rob Zifarelli, joined by agents Adam Countryman and André Guérette.

Zifarelli brings with him clients City and Colour, Feist, Phantogram, Vance Joy, Broken Social Scene, Boy & Bear, Dashboard Confessional, Christine and the Queens, Tash Sultana, Alexisonfire, Bahamas, Dan Mangan, James Vincent McMorrow, Meg Mac, Stars, and Xavier Rudd among others.

“Canada is an important source of creative talent for our agency,” Paradigm exec Tom Windish said. “Rob, André and Adam are highly respected as seasoned and cutting edge agents. We’re excited to have their expertise on our side as we continue to strengthen our worldwide network of agents and offerings to our clients.” 

Rob Zifarelli
– Rob Zifarelli

In August it was announced Monterey International agency’s California was acquired by Paradigm Talent Agency.  Monterey International, with 14 agents in Carmel, Calif., and Chicago, changed its name to Paradigm effective immediately and brought a roster of almost 200 artists with it.

In October, WME announced partners Joey Lee and Jay Williams would join Rob Beckham and Greg Oswald as co-heads of the agency’s Nashville office. Together, the two agents represent Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Brothers Osborne, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Alan Jackson and Dierks Bentley, among others.

See: Pollstar’s Executive Profile on Jay Williams. 

In early December it was announced noted comedy agent Michael Berkowitz was leaving as APA’s head of comedy at the end of the year, with Jackie Knobbe and Max Burgos named as new co-heads of the department.  APA counts Tiffany Haddish, Lewis Black, Leslie Jones, Eddie Izzard and more among its clients.

Jay Williams
– Jay Williams

Also joining  Berkowitz, who was made partner at WME, were comedy agents Marcus Levy, Amy Lynch, and Andrew Russell. Agents Danielle Esparza and Tommy Pucciani are also moving to WME. Berkowitz  brings his client roster including Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, John Mulaney, Hannibal Buress, Craig Ferguson, Mike Birbiglia, Bill Burr, and Anthony Jeselnik.

CAA announced a strategic partnership with Singapore-based investment firm Temasek, a company with a $200 billion net portfolio, with the investment going to further CAA’s growth.  That follows this year’s investment by China’s media and entertainment fund CMC, alongside Fubon Group, including Taiwan Mobile.

CAA noted it is the first agency to “build a sports business, create an investment bank, launch a venture fund, found technology start-up companies, and establish a business in China.” 

Circle Talent Agency
– Circle Talent Agency
Kevin Gimble and Steve Gordon

Meanwhile, Circle Talent Agency continues to establish itself as a major player, with the signing of major electronic artist Kaskade following recent acquisitions of the Ten In One and Kenmore agencies bringing its client roster to more than 300 artists, helmed by partners Kevin Gimble and Steve Gordon. See: Pollstar’s Executive Profile on the Circle Talent partners