Agent Icon Rod MacSween Honored By Exeter University In The UK

Rod MacSween
– Rod MacSween
Holding his honorary doctorate degree from the University of Exeter, his alma mater.

Rod MacSween, renowned music agent and founder/CEO of ITB (International Talent Booking), was given an honorary doctorate degree by the University of Exeter, his alma mater, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music.

MacSween got his first taste of the music business in 1969 when, while reading chemistry and statistics at the University, he was elected as Students’ Guild Social Secretary. During that time, he was responsible for bringing legendary artists such as The Who, Pink Floyd and Robert Plant’s first group Band of Joy to the university stage where they played for 1,800 students and £1 per ticket. After graduating, MacSween worked as an agent at major booking agencies before founding ITB in 1976.
MacSween now personally represents many of the world’s top rock acts. He told Pollstar, “it was a tremendous honor to receive an honorary doctorate from the university where I was once a student. In 1970 I was proud to be a newly qualified graduate in one of the sciences so to return almost 50 years later and be recognized for my contribution to the world of music was a real thrill.”
MacSween addressed the students during the conferral at the University in July. “It was a fantastic day and a chance to tell students you can achieve great things if you want to and make the effort. My life certainly took a different course from the subject I had been studying,” he said.
The veteran agent didn’t particularly enjoy studying, admitting that his studies suffered a bit when he was elected as the social secretary for the university, in charge of booking all the entertainment. However, he also remembers that it was “very easy “to leave chemistry and statistics behind to pursue a career in music. He said, “the music business became a natural path after my student entertainment activities.”
The Who was the first band he booked to come down to Exeter in 1970. “I also brought down Pink Floyd and Robert Plant’s Band of Joy (pre Led Zeppelin) during my social sec days.”
Those experiences caused him to abandon any thoughts of pursuing an academic career, and instead take a job at the small Circle Agency, where he booked ELO and Wizzard among others. After a stint at the Bron Agency, he decided to strike out on his own, with his good friend Barry Dickins joining him at the newly formed ITB two years later. Since then, he’s earned a high regard and fierce loyalty among his clients, as well as a reputation as a shrewd negotiator. Being able to secure his clients a great deal while also maintaining good relationships with promoters, is a skill that he admits is largely down to instinct borne of years of experience. 
The first artists MacSween represented as an agent in the late 70s/early 80s were Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Elo, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne and Whitesnake, most of which he still represents today. His current roster also includes Pearl Jam, Morrissey, Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, Five Finger Death Punch, Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction, Black Sabbath, Christina Aguilera, and many more.
Looking at today’s agency business, MacSween observes, “how personal service still plays a vital role. Developing and building authentic relationships with artists and artists’ management is critical.” When questioned whether the current business consolidation worried him, he replied, “no. Been there and done it. Often it unravels naturally in time. Again, enduring relationships, nourished by fierce loyalty and mutual trust determine the course. It’s a tough, volatile and highly competitive business so you need to be aware of that and stay ahead of the game.”  
He had no doubt that there was still space for an independent agent to set up shop in today’s live industry. His advice to young people wanting to set foot in this business: “Believe in yourself. Have confidence, determination, commitment and enthusiasm, build relationships and take a few risks.”  
It’s the recipe that got MacSween to the position he’s in today. He now looks back on a 50-year career in music, almost all of it at the helm of ITB. “It is my pride. The company has developed well and continues to do so. We have a great team,” he said. 
And there are no signs he’ll be slowing down anytime soon, with “many different tours” coming up in 2020. “I’m always busy,” said MacSween.