Independent Agencies Form NITO As Non-Profit Advocacy Group


Independent talent agents have banded to form a non-profit advocacy group to help their small businesses survive the catastrophic loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Independent Talent Organization, founded by 14 agencies that represent more than 2,000 artists, was formed with the purpose of “promoting the welfare and prosperity of its members and their represented artists, as well as for the indirect benefit of those associated with them.”

Among the founding companies are Entourage Talent, Ground Control Touring, High Road Touring, Leave Home Booking, Madison House, Mongrel Music, New Frontier Touring, Panache Booking, Partisan Arts, Pinnacle Entertainment, Sound Talent Group, Skyline Artists Agency, TKO and The Kurland Agency. As of press time, NITO membership numbers around 65 independent companies.
“As owners of our individual entertainment businesses, we have given our all and more to our firms,” Madison House’s Nadia Prescher said in a statement. “Our small businesses are self-funded and independent, but nonetheless have a significant economic impact on the many who rely on our work. My fellow NITO co-founders and members are calling on the independent human spirit that all like-minded self-starters can get behind.  We are focused on government support and reform during this economic crisis, while building an environment where entertainment entrepreneurs can discuss their common goals and stand together in unity.”
In addition to talent agencies, NITO invites a “broader coalition of the live music ecosystem beyond independent talent agencies including U.S.-based small businesses and majority owner-operated independent management companies.” U.S.-based artists, crew, and other live touring entities are invited to join as non-dues-paying members.
“NITO stands with the artists and all of those who make up the world of live performances. It’s a fully integrated world, that is reliant on and supportive of one another, as no one can productively and successfully navigate this environment on their own,” High Road Touring founder Frank Riley said. “When all things come together in the best way, these shows and this music bring joy and happiness in an otherwise troublesome and dangerous world.”
The coalition’s statement reminds the industry that not only do they represent artists and negotiate the live aspect of their careers, agents are “the initial and perpetual conduit between countless people whose livelihoods depend on each other,” citing managers, publicists, promoters, travel agents, record companies, sound and lighting as well as backline techs, backstage and production crews, transportation companies and drivers, venue staff, caterers and many others.
Recording Academy Chairman and Interim CEO Harvey Mason counts himself among NITO allies. 
“As the organization that represents music’s creators, we welcome our new allies at NITO,” Mason says of the fledgling group. “Artists were among the first to suffer from the results of the pandemic and will be among the last to recover. As citizens turn to music during these troubled times, it demonstrates that music makers must survive and thrive. We look forward to working with NITO as partners in improving the lives of artists.”
Among the founding members alone, their independent businesses in 2019 booked more than 40,000 concerts moving more than 12.5 million tickets, generating in excess of $500 million in annual ticket sales. The economic impact on their surrounding communities is more than $1 billion, NITO reports.
Many of these companies have already been forced to lay off or furlough much of their staffs and, unlike some major agencies that have private equity and other investors acting as financial backstops, they are wholly dependent on agent commissions that have come to a screeching halt since approximately mid-March. 
“While it is still unknown when it will be safe to experience the thrill of a concert in person again, NITO will continue their efforts on behalf of the artists they represent and their role as the engine that helps to employ and support all of those who depend on their work,” the statement says. “NITO will fight to keep this community alive until it’s safe again to gather with friends and other fans to share these experiences that are some of the best moments of our lives.”