Todd Walker Launches Outer/Most Agency, Leaves Paradigm ‘With Hugs and Handshakes’

Todd Walker

Todd Walker

Todd Walker, a longtime touring agent, today announced the launch of Outer/Most, a new independent booking agency with an impressive roster of artists outside the traditional mainstream that includes Ryuichi Sakamoto, Anoushka Shankar, Christian McBride, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds among others.

Walker, who is leaving the Paradigm Talent Agency, will be joined by Kelly Deasy, Partner and Agent, whose roster includes Kweku Collins, KAINA and Tasha; and Amy Butterer, Director of Operations, who formerly worked at The Billions Corporation and React Presents. Both will work out of Chicago while Walker will remain in Boston.

“This was an opportunity to create something unique in this day and age of consolidation and a lot of bigger shops out there,” Walker told Pollstar. “I tend to work with a lot of artists who are a little bit more left of center or outside of the proverbial mainstream.” 

“Through the years, Todd has become a trusted partner for me,” Anoushka Shankar said in a statement. “He has a strategic, long-term vision for my career and can see the bigger picture for how to balance my various projects, and that is invaluable.” Shankar said in a statement. “Plus, he’s just an incredible human and the kind of person I feel lucky to have in my life.”

While agency departures can be acrimonious and/or fueled by subterfuge and the like, Walker’s move was different. “I had this amazing experience at Windish and that seamlessly transitioned into Paradigm, which was also a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful experience,” he says. “I just felt like, as many things do, it kind of ran its course. It’s worked really organically and has been a profoundly positive uncoupling—a lot of hugs and handshakes on the way out. You never hear those kinds of stories. It was one of those things where I basically said “I think I want to go in a different direction,” and they were like, “I think that’s cool.”

Anoushka Shankar
(Photo by Robbie Jack/Corbis via Getty Images)

Anoushka Shankar, now represented by Outer/Most, performs at the Edinburgh International Festival at Usher Hall on August 16, 2017.

Tom Windish remembers the first time he met Walker, who joined his firm in 2012:  “He was holding court at a table at APAP and had a huge crowd of promoters around him waiting to get a word in,” Windish tells Pollstar. “After meeting him, I knew I wanted to have him on our team at Windish Agency, both for the relationships he had with PACs and because of the great work he did as an agent.”  Windish adds that he’s “excited for his new venture” and has “no doubt he will find much success.”

Walker began his career, as he said, with just a “phone, map and Pollstar Directory” and opened his own agency in the late 1990s. He began promoting shows in the Boston area and joined International Music Network [IMN] in 2000, where he worked with major global artists like Buena Vista Social Club, Caetano Veloso and Baaba Maal. “I was a middle-man to help create cultural experiences — events that were more than just concerts.”

His latest entrepreneurial move, he says, is both an evolution in his career and an opportunity to better serve his artists. “I went to Windish because it was an opportunity to take a lot of the artists I work with and give them more mainstream and commercial visibility. And with Paradigm it got really big. But there’s a lot of artists who like to work with smaller, more boutique teams. When you’ve got someone like Anoushka Shankar or Nils Frahm snuggled into a roster of 3,100 acts, it’s tough to feel like you’re getting the attention or the kind of affiliation they want. This feels like a natural development.”

Though Walker’s corner of the market may be small in comparison to the larger arena and stadium business, the veteran agent says it’s a market that has sustained growth while more PACs and theaters come online, music becomes more globalized and the demand and cultural cachet for more adventurous music grows.

“One of my big takeaways from working at Windish and then Paradigm is that the arts are becoming cool,” Walker says. “Where historically these used to be shows your grandparents or your weird NPR aunts used to go to, now the whole programming is changing. There’s a new generation in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s who used to go out and see a lot of music and now have families and careers and don’t live in major cities anymore. They want to go out to dinner, have a nice meal and see something really cool. A lot of these audiences are gravitating outside of the commercial club settings and into beautiful art centers and theaters doing programming that is nurturing younger audiences. And some venues have to because a lot of the subsidies and underwriting aren’t there, so they’re doing shows  based on a straight P&L or an individual concert off their series. You’re seeing really cool shows now happening at the Barbican or Disney Hall or The National in Dublin, these are all spaces doing incredible shows in unbelievable spaces.”
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
(Photo by Oliver Walker/Getty Images)

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, one of Outer/Most’s clients, performs at Institute of Mentalphysics on Oct. 15, 2017 in Joshua Tree, California.
Walker, whose other clients include Æ MAK, Beachtape, Draco Rosa, Efterklang, My Brightest Diamond, Rodrigo Amarante and Whyte Horses, also cites festivals with more adventurous programming like AC Entertainment’s Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, FORM: Arcosanti in Arizona; Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals: and the series of Pitchfork Festivals as further evidence of an expanding market. All of which means more opportunities.

“There’s such diversity out there for where you can place these artists and how you can tour these acts and what kind of environments we can put these artists into,” Walker says. “Rather than going through the motions and seeing if that “next record hits.” I think if you’re smarter about it you can take a step back and hone in on how you’re playing these individual markets which really is going to lend itself to a lot more longevity.”

“I’ve known Todd Walker for 25 years and he has consistently been a hard worker with amazing relationships in the business serving the artist and clients he works with at an exceptional level,” said Live Nation’s Ryan Vangel, who oversees the promoter’s New England business, in a statement. “He is someone I not only consider a great business associate but also a friend and I would support him any way I could.”
Jay Sweet, who books Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival, concurs. “Todd not only has some of the most discerning and eclectic ears of anyone I know in the business, he’s emotionally invested not only in his vibrant roster but in his bookings as well. He genuinely cares about enhancing every opportunity that comes his way – – an increasingly rare commodity. I truly wish there were more like him.”
When asked to name his mentors, Walker has many: “My mentors are Ashley Capps [AC Entertainment], Scott Southard at IMN and Tom Windish,” he says. “And though he’s not in the business anymore, Dan DeWayne was a presenter I worked with for years and years. He literally started WorldFest in Grass Valley [California]. I also have a lot of colleagues who are mentors. I’m a big believer in the more you give people the more you get from people – everyone’s a bit of a mentor.”
This. of course isn’t the first time an agent has left a larger agency to put out their own shingle. In the eighties Dennis Arfa left William Morris to start AGI; Frank Riley left Monterrey Peninsula Artists nearly twenty years ago to launch High Road Touring; and just last year Dave Shapiro, Tim Borror and Matt Andersen left UTA to launch Sound Talent Group, to name a few. 
All that said, starting Outer/Most wasn’t an easy decision for Walker. “I got a bunch of other offers and that might have been the more responsible thing to do,” he says, “but this was something that was more exciting. I’d say my emotional state right now is a combination of severe and profound fear, and severe and profound inspiration, and enthusiasm.”

To hear a playlist of Outer/Most artists click here.