Joe Hadley, Agent, CAA

Joe Hadley
– Joe Hadley

The Disruptors

Executives behind the ideas that disrupt the industry in positive ways.

Joe Hadley
Agent, CAA  

Joe Hadley’s career has involved working with major artists like Beyonce, A$AP Rocky,  Jorja Smith, Goldlink and Koffee, helping put together arena tours and rising to the ranks of the top of the agency business at CAA, but right now his most impactful success may go beyond music.

“Having just helped put together CAA’s Amplify Town Hall and the CAA AMP video, I’d have to say that is now the most impactful,” Hadley says. 

“The event brought together leaders in entertainment, sports, media, brands, technology, and social justice in a call to action to end systemic racism. The discussions provided critical action steps for real and permanent change.”

The fact that there aren’t many music agents of color is obvious to those in the business and Hadley himself, who says change starts from the inside. 

“There aren’t enough minority execs,” Hadley adds. “Not just in hip-hop, but the industry overall.  We have a long way to go. Last year I commented on the lack of black women agents; it has to change. 

“This change starts with the hiring process and giving different people opportunities. Furthermore, we need to set them up for continued success, ensuring they are promoted at the same rates as others and receive equal pay. The list goes on, but it starts with getting people in the building.”

On the business side, Hadley is proud to have been part of one of the first and largest drive-in concerts in Southern California, for CAA client KYLE, with more than 1,000 cars attending over two nights, although he notes the agency is focusing on June 2021 and forward. 

“He wanted to do it specifically because it was around graduation time, and he felt that a lot of kids were at home missing something they’ve been looking forward to their whole lives,” Hadley says. “It was a small way of putting something on for them.”

Giving much credit to KYLE’s management for the drive-in event, Hadley says the learning curve in doing unorthodox shows largely comes at the walkout. 

“Because of the expenses involved, we had to make the ticket prices significantly higher than they would be at a traditional KYLE show, but even at the highest price at $200 for five people in a car, it wasn’t that much more expensive.” 

As has been the case across the board, the demand and excitement for live music is clearly not an issue, according to Hadley. 

“That was my takeaway from doing that show. The demand was there so much so that people would sit in their cars and watch music,” he says. “It goes to show that whenever we can put shows back on, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever.  

“Barring a miracle/vaccine, traditional touring as we know it is done at least through the end of the year. Having said that, we’re expecting live entertainment to come back bigger than ever. 

“There’s a lot of energy building and excitement from fans to get back outside. Packaging next year will be crucial in order to stay competitive.”

On that front, the business has much to learn from 2020. “We need to diversify the business of touring,” he says. “These last few months have been eye-opening on many fronts and have highlighted how vulnerable the touring business can be.” 

Lessons gleaned from the pandemic extend to the day-to-day expectations and overall work environment, too. 

“A lot of big companies are going to realize that maybe being in an office isn’t as crucial to productivity as we all thought. I can’t speak for every agent, but for myself, the idea of being constantly busy and being at shows four or five times a week and on a plane every other week, you don’t need to do those things to be successful at a high level,” says Hadley, who adds that The Fonda theatre in Los Angeles is maybe his favorite venue, partly because there’s a couch upstairs that comes in handy when you’re beat from being at your fourth show of the week. 

“Right now, a lot of my day-to-day is a lot more relationship-building and upkeep than before. I phrase it as I’m allowed that time to really delve deeper with managers and clients and build better relationships,” Hadley says, adding that there is increased opportunity to work and collaborate with agents from other media departments. 

Getting his start at the Windish Agency in his hometown of Chicago, Hadley said he may have received his best and worst advice at a pivotal time in his career. 

“It was definitely the best and worst at the same time, when I was let go at Windish after not being able to come to terms for my new contract. I called an agent after to ask his advice and he said, ‘Maybe being an agent isn’t for you.’ 

It caught me off guard, for one, but two, it made me double down and have to prove something to myself, and I pushed myself even harder. I don’t know how I would have replied had I not had that conversation, so I’m glad I did.”  

He’s quick to credit mentors at CAA, saying “Darryl [Eaton] taught me how to be an agent,” longtime head of music Rob Light “put me in rooms I shouldn’t have been” while chief innovation officer “Michelle Kydd Lee has been a HUGE advocate for me internally. She has helped me navigate CAA and build relationships with the other non-music partners.” 

He also credits Parkwood Entertainment’s Steve Pamon, adding, “I was introduced to Steve Pamon early on, and our relationship has grown over the last four years. He consistently challenges and changes the way I view the Artist/Manager/Agent relationship. The way he thinks about each deal has been eye-opening and is truly remarkable.” 

Hot Takes

The show that changed your life? 

The show that changed my life was the first show I ever attended. It was a radio show with Missy Elliott! Oh, and Lauryn Hill at Coachella. I cried.

Who had the most impact on you as a mentor as you were coming up in the business? How did they influence you and what did you learn from them?

I’ve been fortunate to have numerous people in my professional and personal life that have empowered me. Without question, I’d have to say Darryl Eaton, Rob Light, and Steve Pamon. Darryl taught me how to be an agent. He explained the nuances of deals and how to work together with promoters as partners. From day one at CAA, Rob put me in rooms I shouldn’t have been in. I remember being three months in and being in the Kanye West signing meeting where I met Izzy Izvoric. I was introduced to Steve Pamon early on, and our relationship has grown over the last four years. He consistently challenges and changes the way I view the Artist/Manager/Agent relationship. The way he thinks about each deal has been eye-opening and is truly remarkable. Lastly, Michelle Kydd Lee has been a HUGE advocate for me internally. She has helped me navigate CAA and build relationships with the other non-music partners. 

Artist to watch breaking in the next year? 

There are so many amazing artists out there. Still, you should definitely keep an eye on Mavin Records (based in Nigeria). They represent an incredible roster of artists. Additionally, Koffee had a big year and won her first Grammy on her debut EP. Expect big things from her.

Technology most impacting your daily work or personal life? 


Best/worst career-related advice you’ve received?

The best and worst career advice I got was when I parted ways with The Windish Agency. I called an agent there afterward to ask for advice on moving forward. He said, “Maybe being an agent is not for you.” It was tough to hear, as I had just been let go. But, it pushed me to work even harder and gave me something to prove to myself that I could do this at a high level.

The best live show you saw this year? 

Best live show I saw this year was the KYLE drive-in show at Ventura Theater. I usually go to four or five shows a week, but this was the first show I’ve seen in a while.

Your favorite venue to see a show at and why? 

The Fonda is my favorite venue to see shows, its capacity is 1,200. You can catch a lot of artists there, right before they break. Shows there are always intimate, and the theatre is beautiful. Plus, if you have an act playing there, you can sit on a couch and watch the show… it helps when you’re on show number five for the week.