Q’s With MAC Agency Founder & CEO Andrew Lieber

Andrew Lieber and DaBaby
– Andrew Lieber and DaBaby

Andrew Lieber entered Pollstar’s radar in 2018, when his client Juice WRLD was blowing up on every major streaming platform. The agent said demand for Juice WRLD spiked to unprecedented levels after the May 2018 release of his album Goodbye & Good Riddance, so Lieber got aggressive, booking the artist in 2,000- to 3,000-cap rooms with ticket prices above $30 just a few weeks out from the show date. 

And it paid off. The opening show of last summer’s headline tour at Myth in Maplewood, Minn., grossed $108,250 on 3,000 tickets, and he regularly reported grosses of more than $50,000 throughout that tour. Lieber can laugh now about how many people called him crazy, because just a year later Juice WRLD (now with WME) is selling out near 10,000-cap arenas.
Now working with red-hot rapper DaBaby – who Lieber said is on a parallel trajectory with what he saw from Juice WRLD last year – and the recently signed Polo G, Lieber’s MAC Agency has become a serious player in the hip-hop world as a fully independent talent agency. 
“Everything we make, that we earn, is from the hard work we put in,” Lieber told Pollstar. “And I think there’s a big correlation between our independence and how hard we go for our artists. We’re not on a comfortable salary, we have to earn everything we make. There’s no complacency over here. We’re very aggressive but we’re smart at the same time. When I want something, I go after and I go after it hard, and I’m extremely aggressive when the spotlight is on an artist.”
He took some time to share his story, which stretches from a failed attempt during college to produce “How High 2,” to working for free as a tour manager, to being as the head of an ascending independent agency with a clothing and merch venture as well.
Pollstar: Your start in this business was an attempt to make the film “How High 2”?
Andrew Lieber: Long story short, I failed to make “How High 2.” I couldn’t lock in the money, my investors ended up going with a different venture. I tried to make the movie financially possible, but I failed to raise the $20 million needed. 
Still, after that experience I couldn’t go back to a classroom and just go back to school. I had tasted what I wanted to do; I dropped out of school right away and jumped into the music world. 

So then you started NOVA Talent?
That was my first journey into the music world, on the management side of things. I found artists that I thought could make it, I didn’t know what I was doing at the time, this was eight to nine years ago, but I thought I could help careers, so I started managing artists. I tried to get agencies to sign my clients, and we don’t take “no” for an answer around here, so if they weren’t gonna do it, we would do it ourselves. So I started booking tours for the artists I was managing. While I was doing that, I got in touch with King Los and Cory Gunz. The same manager was managing both artists, and I convinced them to let me tour manage if they brought my artists on as support. I would go on the road and not make money so my artists could go on tour to support these bigger artists. 
So I was tour managing for King Los and Cory Gunz for a couple years, had a couple different artists on those tours, and I worked for free. But if I’m working for free, I’m gonna make something out of it. So I started building venue relationships while managing these tours. 
Now, I’ve always been a sales guy, and [as those relationships developed] I just fell in love with booking shows. Delivering an artist that I feel passionate about, selling them to venues, and having a sold-out show – to me, there’s nothing better.
One by one, venue by venue, I cold-called them, cold-emailed them, set up face-to-face meetings, I started developing these relationships.  And I started picking up one artist at a time, tour by tour. 
To convince artists to let me book their tours, I had to promise the management, in signed contracts, that I would cover all their expenses on top of the show guarantees. I had to figure out how to raise the tour budget myself.

So you gradually started getting more tours, which led to 2018.
2018 was a life-changing year for me, with Juice WRLD, Ski Mask the Slump God, Moneybagg Yo, Dave East, Phora.
Now the MAC Agency is in the same conversation as these bigger building agencies. Love to all these agencies, a lot of them have reached out, but right now we love what we’re doing independently and we’re going to continue to lower our heads and work hard.

So you’re planning on continuing as an independent agency? 

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images for BET
– DaBaby
DaBaby performs onstage at the 2019 BET Awards June 23 Los Angeles, Calif. DaBaby’s agent and MAC Agency founder Andrew Lieber explains how he’s come up as a true independent in a space dominated by full-service major agencies.

I really like the way things are moving independently. If the right partnership deal comes along, I’m not closed-minded to that, but people are rooting for us, people want to see us win.
And I like being able to move how I want to move. These bigger building agencies, there’s a lot of restriction there. I’ve built this brick by brick from nothing. And I couldn’t be on another man’s salary. 
Everyone was telling me how crazy I was for what we did with Juice WRLD and it paid off tremendously. What we’re doing with DaBaby, a few less people are calling me crazy because of the success we had with Juice WRLD, but I still hear those conversations. But it’s not crazy, it’s aggressive and it’s smart. 
We’re building up DaBaby and we’re gonna get as much juice off that Baby on Baby album as possible. I am an aggressive agent. Hip-hop, the urban music scene, is No. 1. That’s dictating everything right now and I don’t know if some agencies are adapting. I’m seeing the trends and I’m seeing what can move, even if you bump the ticket price higher. 
My partners Ben Gomez and Russell Carl, they’ve been with me for like four years. They were helping with everything on the back end, contracting, deposits, admin work, marketing, ticketing. They would have my back and handle the back end, and I would be on the front end doing the sales. 
Now Ben is in L.A. running the clothing side of our business. Russell is still with me leading the back end, the booking side of things. We have a couple employees on this side and a couple employees on the clothing side. 
Part of your aggressiveness is getting your artists into the biggest rooms you can, right?
The biggest rooms that make sense. I’m not going to put my artists in a room to fail, I’m going to put them in a room that is going to go the distance and push the limit enough to get where we want to go. That’s venue size, ticket price, who the promoter is, getting all the money up front, not saving it for the back end if we know it’s going to sell out. 
And I’m on both sides, if promoters are losing money on artists we’re being aggressive with, we’re out of a job. Before MAC, I think the balance wasn’t a true balance. There was less risk on the promoter, not enough [value] for the artist. 
So what happened with the Juice WRLD split?
So, some months ago, I got a call from Juice WRLD’s management. It was a tough call for them to make, but for me to stay on as his agent I would have to dissolve my company and move to one of the bigger 
agencies. I chose not to do that, and it was an easy decision for me. 
I love those guys, they changed my life, they tried to bring me with them, but it wasn’t the right move for me. I’m not gonna dissolve everything I’ve built for one artist. So I declined their offer, it would have been a nice amount of money, but I decided to keep my commissions and [now] I am no longer his agent.
Do you find it tough to compete with the larger agencies as artists get to the arena level, where Juice WRLD is at now?
Well, we have the relationships with arenas. There’s nothing booking- wise, touring-wise, festival-wise that I can’t do. I can book an arena tour tomorrow, [a major artist] calls me and the tour is done. 
[With Juice WRLD] they thought I couldn’t deliver on TV/film, branding and endorsements. But then I turned around and locked in a one-year $1.8 million endorsement deal for Trippie Redd. I promise you, we have some things in place so that soon [other agencies] won’t be able to say anything. 
For a month or two it hurt. I put everything into Juice WRLD and I crushed it for him. But I’m right back in the driver’s seat with DaBaby. I learned from that experience, I learned how to position myself the right way and with DaBaby and his manager Arnold Taylor, the sky’s the limit. We’re gonna absolutely demolish it for him, we’re gonna crush it for him. And maybe there is a chip on my shoulder, but it’s gonna benefit DaBaby tremendously.
But all I am ever going to say about Juice WRLD [and his team]: Peter, Bibby, Juice WRLD, G Money, I love those guys forever, wholeheartedly. They changed my life. We’re continuing to do business and those guys are incredible people that I will mention forever. They introduced me to the industry and they allowed me to show the industry what I can do. I will forever be grateful to them, I love Juice WRLD and I love his team. 

Anything else you want people to know about your rise as an independent agent?
I’ve worked so hard for so long making no money. Now we’re seeing so much growth in such a short amount of time.
I just want the artists out there to know that there is no agent or agency on this planet that is going to go harder for them than Andrew Lieber and the MAC agency. I’ve had to build my whole career on having to prove myself to every single artist because I’m the independent guy. And I will prove myself time after time. I am not afraid, and I’m not scared. Let’s go get it.s