The Agency Pivot: Drive-Ins, Livestreams And A Slew Of New Indies

The Agency Pivot
Drive-Ins, Livestreams and a Slew Of New Indies

TBA’s five founding partners (from left) Devin Landau, Amy Davidman, Avery McTaggart Marshall Betts and Ryan Craven.

Few concert industry sectors were hit as hard as the booking agencies, which found themselves with nothing to book and therefore no commissions to keep the lights on. However, with artists often tied to agents rather than agency, many laid off or furloughed agents found themselves in a position to continue on their own. 

“We were in the very early stages of understanding the ramifications of COVID-19 in our business and at the same time trying to get clients on the phone and reassure them that things were going to be OK,” TBA’s Avery McTaggart says of the pre-formation days of TBA agency, (pictured) which launched in September.  
 Other similarly formed agencies, such as MINT Talent Group and Arrival Artists, have taken shape as the pandemic rages on, with agents retaining core, viable, ticket-selling clients and choosing to go on their own in a world that may not require the backing of the traditional major agency.
 “There’s going to be a whole new wave of these independent shops popping, and I think it’s going to be nothing but good for the industry in general,” says MINT Talent Group co-founder Patrick McAuliff, who enlisted agents from four different agencies for their own shop.
 It’s not been all bad news from the major agencies, however, with high profile livestreams, drive-in tours and charity events. Particularly active has been United Talent Agency, which had the first drive-in tour in June with one-man electronic/humorist  Marc Rebillet taking his “Loop Daddy” stylings on the road, followed by fellow UTA clients Bert Kreischer (grossing close to $100,000 on some shows) and Iliza Shlesinger with a coast-to-coast, often two-shows-in-a-night Tailgate Comedy Tour. Meanwhile, UTA electronic music client Kaskade has picked and chosen multi-night engagements, grossing $485,906 in six shows at the City National Grove of Anaheim. Meanwhile, WME’s Marissa Smith is heading up the agency’s Virtual Appearance Group in a demonstration of added resources for the new normal. 
Boutique agencies have been able to react quickly, with Sound Talent Group in June making a splash with longtime rock client Clutch selling more than 7,000 livestream tickets for the first of multiple “Doom Saloon” online events, along with rolling out its own Sound Talent Media podcast network featuring dozens of established and growing shows for cross-promotion, monetization and publicizing its own efforts. 
STG co-founder Tim Borror sums up the agent’s ever-evolving role: “Our job is to try to figure out how to do events [artists] want, how to develop the concept to do it more than one time, and keep it interesting to fans so this continues to be something they want to be engaged with.”