2019 In Review: The Year In Agencies

Posty Fest
Cooper Neill / Getty Images / Arnette
– Posty Fest
CHANGE AGENTS: Posty Fest, the Post Malone-curated festival at AT&T Stadium in Texas Nov.2, is a prime example of the agencies’ place at talent agencies’ direct involvement in multiple facets of an artist’s touring.

The biggest talent agency story of 2019 was the one that didn’t happen: rumors turned out to be true this summer that two of the major full-service agencies – UTA and Paradigm – were at least looking into a mega-merger that would create an entity with enormous clout and talent, a move that would be one of the largest talent agency transactions to date. 

On the surface, the merger seemed to  make sense, with UTA’s movie and TV clout and Paradigm’s strong music and literary departments. However, it was not meant to be.
“There are reasons why a combination like this would have made sense for both agencies, but in the end, what is more compelling for us is how unique the culture at Paradigm is and how powerful our independent path can be,” Paradigm chairman Sam Gores said in an internal memo shared with Pollstar.  “For obvious reasons, it is not possible to communicate with the entire company when a conversation like this occurs,” Gores continued. “Those who know me and the history of how we have built Paradigm know that I always make decisions regarding the future of the business by considering what is ultimately in the best interest of our agency as a whole and all of our clients.”
While nothing quite that cataclysmic took place in the agency business this year, there were some major moves, including the completion of the previously announced merger of UK-based agency Coda into Paradigm, which continues to grow its overseas operations including its partnership with Steve Strange’s UK-based X-ray Touring.
In April, Steve Lassiter was named co-head of worldwide music at APA, joining Bruce Solar and Steve Martin. Lassiter’s roster includes Travis Tritt, The Charlie Daniels Band, David Lee Murphy, Sublime with Rome, and The Marshall Tucker Band. 
Marty Diamond, described as an architect of Paradigm’s music division since 2006 when the agency acquired his Little Big Man boutique shop, became head of global music. As agent for major artists like Ed Sheeran and Coldplay, Diamond will lead Paradigm’s executive leadership group. The position had been vacant since the passing of beloved agent Chip Hooper in 2016. 
Lucy Dickins joined WME to head the agency’s UK music division, with major clients including Adele, Mumford & Sons, James Blake and many others. She comes from ITB, run by her father Barry Dickins. 
Back in the U.S., WME was active with the promotion of agent Becky Gardenhire to co-head of the agency’s Nashville outpost, where she will oversee day-to-day operations, along with her roster that includes Jake Owen, LANCO, Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, Tenille Townes, Sara Evans and Trisha Yearwood.
Meanwhile, the agency business as a whole continues to find new ways to benefit clients with an increased emphasis on multimedia opportunities as well as direct involvement in artist-curated festivals, such as Post Malone’s Posty Fest that in its second year sold 45,000 tickets and brought 20 brand partners to AT&T Stadium for a one-day event. This trend can be seen across the board, as with Dance Gavin Dance’s Swan Fest now in its second year, this time in its home market of Sacramento, with direct involvement from indie agency 33 & West. 
Always a cutthroat and grass-is-always-greener business, this year’s musical chairs of music agents finding new company digs wasn’t as active as in recent years (at least not publicly), although agent Kevin French joined CAA after a stint with Paradigm, bringing clients including Tame Impala, The National, Sharon Van Etten and others.
On a lighter note, The Agency Group founder and current UTA Global Head of Touring Neil Warnock was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the UK’s 2019 New Year Honours List for his services to Music and Charity.