WME’s Matthew Morgan On Routing Lizzo To Superstardom

Matthew Morgan
Courtesy of WME
– Matthew Morgan

Lizzo is everywhere right now, from slaying MTV’s VMAs with an empowering performance, complete with a giant inflatable booty, to claiming her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Following the success of her spring “Cuz I Love You” tour, (Boxoffice reports include two sold-out nights at Brooklyn Steel May 12-13 that grossed $107,202) the superstar will once again be on stages everywhere. She just launched her “Cuz I Love You Too” tour with a Sept. 7 show at New Orleans’ The Fillmore and dates are booked through late October.

Pollstar checked in with Lizzo’s longtime agent, WME’s Matthew Morgan, to see how the singer/rapper got here. Along with the agent, who is based out of WME’s Nashville office, Lizzo’s team includes Kevin Beisler and Alana Balden at Full Stop Management.  
Pollstar: Tell us about the early days booking Lizzo.
Matthew Morgan: I’ve been working with her for about five years now so we’ve covered a lot of ground in that time. She had already created a little bit of a scene for herself in Minneapolis. Once we jumped in, we immediately went to work on the festivals we needed to get her on to support her album and start getting her out there. We knew once people saw her, they would become instant fans. We got her on Houston Free Press, Summerfest, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds in 2014.
What about support slots?  
She did a fall tour that year in the U.S. with Clean Bandit and Har Mar Superstar, who was another Minneapolis artist, and she did a UK tour with CHVRCHES. It was interesting, in the beginning, she was getting a range of tours that were across indie rock to R&B, soul stuff. She was such a magnet for people who love great music and really vibed with her.
In 2015 we got a call from Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney and she was like “I gotta have Lizzo open our reunion tour.”  
Lizzo’s an amazing performer, she’s a fierce advocate for feminism and Black Lives Matter and body positivity and really became a beacon for a large group of people. You can’t help but leave her show just feeling completely empowered and ready to conquer anything, because it’s so uplifting. 
Why was 2019 the right time for Lizzo’s breakout? 
Each year was a steady mix of festivals, headlining and the right support slots. And then there was really great press that was sprinkled in. Full Stop Management, Atlantic and [imprint] Nice Life have been the most amazing team to collaborate with. It’s a true testament to everyone being so dialed in and communicating.
Someone at Atlantic told me that last year she was the most synced artist in the Atlantic building; she had something between eight and 10 syncs, between TV commercials, TV shows, film, etc. That helped create a bedrock of familiarity between her music and culture, on top of all of the touring. 
In 2017 we did a nationwide tour in 1,000, to 1,500-cap rooms and most of those sold out in advance. That was when she had 50,000 followers on Instagram, so we knew there was this very one-to-one relationship with her and her fans; everything she was putting out there they were consuming. We were following up on some headline markets and selling them out six months later.  
And this year kicked off with the release of “Juice” in January. 
We had the spring tour plotted out ahead of that, and coming into it she had 250,000 Instagram followers, so 200,000 more than she had in 2017. We knew where the top markets were so we were looking at it like OK, let’s get aggressive here, but also let’s make sure we sell everything out. We went up with the spring tour [in February] and everything blew out – we immediately rolled into the second night and then third nights in some places. 
And then we put the fall tour on sale right after the second Coachella [weekend] and same thing – that blew out as well. She sold 260,000 tickets this year between North America and Europe headline shows all before she had anything hit the Top 25 at radio. 
Since all those dates sold out, three months ago, she’s added 3 million more fans to Instagram, she’s charting on six different radio formats. We still feel like we’ve just really started to scratch the surface because she’s onboarding all these new fans that haven’t had a chance to see her show yet. Or even buy a ticket. 
What’s next for Lizzo? Arenas? 
We’re sorting through a number of larger headline tour plans in North America and abroad, as well as some very select festival looks TBA! And then we’re also in the middle of building her own curated festival that we should be able to share more details on in the near future.  
What’s going on with your other clients? 
We are putting the finishing touches on Zac Brown Band for 2020 right now so that’s exciting to have been part of his world since 2007, before “Chicken Fried” became a hit. And actually, a lot of the quick growth spurt that he enjoyed really helped inform me about navigating [what] Lizzo went through this year, when things are moving so fast … going from clubs to amphitheaters and arenas. 
Cam, I’m really proud of her and can’t wait for her new music to be out. She’s really leaned into a lot of international touring. We’ve had her out on speaking tours and she’s a member of the Recording Academy’s diversity and inclusion task force and an ACM board member so she’s a really strong advocate for women. 
Michael Franti, I’m excited about his year next year. Gone West, Colbie Caillat’s new country group, is getting a lot of adds at radio now and things are really setting up nicely for them for next year. And then there’s Rival Sons, a rock group that I have. I’m really excited about their stuff too.