‘Our Roster Keeps Grinding’: Q’s With Prysm Talent Agency’s Executive Team
Prysm Talent Agency launched in November 2019. The Michigan-based agency specializes in bass music, and represents acts including B.o.B, Bare Noize, DirtySnatch, Rico Act and more.
Pollstar reached out to the companies executive team – CEO Colton Anderson, CFO Justin Lizama, COO Paul Yu Asensi and Head of A&R Lance Deanto – to find out how they’re coping with the ongoing crisis, and what opportunities they see on the horizon despite the calamity it has been causing for this industry.
Colton: It’s definitely been a rollercoaster of a year. With just opening our agency back in November 2019 it wasn’t the year we had hoped for. However with such a rough first year It makes us extremely optimistic for our company. If we can get through this, we’ll be able to get through anything.
Justin: Level up and crush.
Paul: I’m very satisfied with how well we did this year considering how crazy it has been. Although we did not get to book the amount of shows we wanted to, we have done a lot in terms of infrastructure and outreach that will put us in a great position to hit the ground running.
I’m definitely optimistic at what we can and will accomplish when Covid restrictions get lifted. Right now for me it’s been a ‘hurry up and wait’ mindset.
Lance: To add to what Colton said, definitely not the year we anticipated. I do feel as though we’ve put together a strong infrastructure within the company, and a strong roster to go along with it. Rough year, but I’m feeling good because it seems we’ve built something good to lead into 2021 with.
When was the last live show where one of your clients performed in front of a live audience?
Colton: Our clients have honestly been playing shows throughout the pandemic. We’ve been staying up to date on all state by state guidelines and focusing on markets that have had less restrictions, which are mainly Florida, Georgia, and Texas. We’ve had great success in those three states as of late.
Justin: My direct clients have been staying busy with venues that are following CDC venue protocols. Just looking forward to full-on touring in 2021.
Paul: Our clients have been playing shows, but we have been doing extra research with the promoters that they work with to make sure they abide by CDC restrictions. Hami, in particular, just played a drive-in rave down in San Diego that went off without a hitch.
Lance: As long as talent buyers and promoters are following CDC guidelines/abiding by restrictions, we allow our clients to play whatever shows they want. Kleøpatra recently played, as did Hami and a few others. There are a lot of markets we just flat-out can’t work with and we get it, but if our clients want to play the shows and the shows are allowed, we encourage it. Just wear a mask, sanny up and maintain that distance!
– Justin Lizama
It’s interesting to see that the agency business, in particular, isn’t just standing idly by in these times. There are some moves where senior agents launched independent companies, and agencies are still being acquired. Can you touch on the trend towards becoming more independent?
Colton: I would say the structure behind smaller, boutique agencies are a much more personable experience with artists. When an agency has over 1,000 different clients it’s very difficult to tailor to each one individually. Not to mention it comes with a much larger overhead and is a lot harder to sustain impacts like we’ve seen with COVID.
In my opinion we’re going to see a massive shift in the live music industry. I’m really excited for the future of the live entertainment industry. I think we’ll see a lot of new faces when things start to open back up.
Justin: COVID taught us that we need to create our own economies. Independent or not, it’s the template artists and businesses have to follow.
Paul: I definitely see the trend to becoming more independent but with Prysm, I feel like we give our clients the benefits of being independent and none of the cons since we’re more of a boutique agency. We’re able to dedicate more time to individual clients in all aspects of helping them achieve greater goals.
Lance: I started becoming keen on the independent life a while back with my dubstep project Blaqout, and one of the best parts about it is we get to call the shots and maintain our vision. In addition to this, we can tailor the experience to what our artists need, and make sure each client on our roster is represented in the manner they wish to be.
We can be a lot more attentive, also. We have a client-to-agent ratio that our artists find to be ideal because if something needs to get done, it gets done quickly.
– Paul Yu Asensi
What makes you confident that the agent’s job will only become more important in times of no live gatherings?
Colton: As of now at least for Prysm, we’ve just been really focusing on bolstering our network, focusing on building relationships while shows are in limbo.
So, I think even though shows aren’t really happening, we still are keeping our artists in the front of the promoters minds. Maintaining communication with promoters and potential buyers for our artists is the most important thing we can do for our clients at the moment.
Justin: Sifting through the noise, quality control, and making sure everything happens according to plan is an essential role of being an agent, agents are always important. Artists need support, artists need someone to go to bat for them when it comes to performance logistics.
Paul: Our clients’ first and foremost job is to focus on their music and performance. And, pandemic or not, our agent’s job is to focus on everything else so that our clients can do their job to the best of their abilities. We want our clients to ideally only worry about their craft.
Lance: I don’t necessarily think it will become more important when we can’t have gatherings, but to have representation locked in for when restrictions lift will be a big help. Not only will music fans be chomping at the bit to go to events again, but musicians will be ready to perform again and we’re preparing to lock those opportunities in for our roster quickly and efficiently.
– Lance Dean
The electronic music scene has been embracing the technological world quite early on. Do you think your clients have been adapting particularly well to the restricted circumstances? Any examples you’d like to highlight in that regard?
Colton: Our artists are continually adapting and embracing new ways to be seen through COVID by playing live streams, virtual festivals, etc.
We’ve also been pushing to get placements on video games and doing sync licensing deals. For instance, Blaqout recently had one of his songs placed on a series on Netflix. All and all our artists are staying busy and continuing to grow.
Justin: Definitely, productivity has been key. Reevaluating the way forward is another key. COVID has reset the game and has given everyone time to reevaluate and re-calibrate their futures. Making music is why everyone is here, so I have driven home the fact that they need to keep making music, keep developing their sounds.
Paul: I definitely have noticed a large uptick in Twitch and Facebook Livestreams and our clients have been staying ahead of the game on that.
Lance: From a technological standpoint, a lot more music has been released by our artists. They’ve taken digital distribution by storm, played numerous formats of livestreams, anything to really stay active with an online presence.
Zubah does livestreaming really well, as does Kleøpatra. Deucez has been doing production streams which is a nice change of pace from your run-of-the-mill livestream shows.
Gladys Vega/Getty Images – B.o.B. is part of Prysm
Here he can be seen performing as part of the benefit concert, Power To The People at Coliseo Jose M. Agrelot, March 18, 2018, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
What’s your game plan for 2021?
Colton: first and foremost, we want to get back to getting our artists live gigs. However, we have a lot planned moving into 2021, first of which is starting a subsidiary publishing and licensing company, and a Prysm label imprint. The goal for us is to be able to do as much for our roster under one roof.
Justin: Put one foot in front of the other and crush, keep learning, keep developing.
Paul: After Covid restrictions get lifted, I would love to book our artists on shows, tours, and festivals again. After that I would definitely like to expand into other genres of EDM. As you can see on our website, we’re a very bass heavy roster. My personal favorites however are trance and techno which means also hiring agents well versed in those fields. I would also try to go as far as to expand just not into other genres of EDM, but other genres of music like more hip hop and pop.
Lance: To get our artists playing again! That’s the first move. Yes, I want to find more dope acts that are serious about their projects but first I want our guys playing again. From there, we want to get into the world of licensing music/starting a Prysm label to house releases from our roster. Talks of this are still early but we want to work hard on becoming a one-stop-shop for our clients.
How much are you focusing on digital vs. live ways to keep your clients in touch with their fanbase?
Colton: through COVID we continue to encourage our artists to do as much as possible. We continually look for opportunities for them whether it be COVID compliant social distanced events, drive ins, virtual festivals, or livestreams.
Justin: Our clients know that it’s extremely important to stay connected digitally. It’s the only option right now. From there, taking advantage of the limited live opportunities is a luxury.
Paul: Some of our clients, like Dirtysnatcha, have been hitting the studio really hard making track after track of bangers so that when unrestricted live shows happen again, they can play over an hour of unreleased music. Other clients like GVNR have been doing both studio and hitting the livestreams hard. Any way you put it, our roster keeps grinding.
Lance: This is an area where a lot of our clients are taking different approaches to it all. Some of our acts are doing live streams rather often, others are staying more quiet and preparing content to blast out in the future. I think it’s about a half-half split right now.
Of all the solutions you’ve observed over the past months to get artists to perform in front of a live audience, which is only possible if it’s distanced at the moment, have you seen any you deemed economically viable?
Colton: Honestly, not really for long term implementation. Drive-ins are a quick fix however the overhead the promoters have to endure is pretty substantial.
I felt like live streams/virtual could have been sustainable if promoters would have come out of the gate by doing ticketed live streams. However, with the amount of people that are doing free streams it really hindered that as a possible revenue stream for the artists.
Justin: No, but in terms of staying relevant it is a must. I am content with break even for now. Breaking even is still a win.
Paul: Before I was the COO of Prysm, I started out how a lot of people started in the game, as a DJ/promoter. I definitely know the cost of these shows and what it takes to throw one and they are not cheap.
A lot of the live shows happening right now are definitely taking a hit and I would say it is not economically viable in the long run. Unless you want to charge $200/person for a small show, someone is taking the hit, but it goes to show how much people love live shows and can’t wait to go back to normal.
Lance: Oof, that’s a bit of a toughy. With the costs to throw those events being as high as they are and the ticketing restrictions being set forth based off of capacity rules, breaking even seems to be a tremendous challenge for event organizers. I don’t see it being economically viable in the long term, compared to throwing shows normally.
What’s your business philosophy? Has this year changed it in any way?
Colton: My philosophy is that in any successful business you have to have a solid vision, and ultimate purpose. The purpose of Prysm is to bolster all of our artists and provide them with all the tools they need to reach their goals.
Justin: Grow and expand any way possible.
Paul: My philosophy has always been to work well with others and together you can achieve more than you could alone.
Lance: My business philosophy is to build, and never stop building. Maintain relationships, loop your connections in with one another, and form a spider web around you. Make it so anything you need done can be handled quickly, and share opportunity when you can. By doing this, opportunity will come back to you in due time.
Anything you would like to add?
Colton: first and foremost, thank you for taking the time today to dig into what Prysm is about. For all the readers be on the look out for a lot of new and exciting things from Prysm. COVID has taught us a lot. With us being a new agency we were faced with tremendous challenges this year. If Prysm can survive the impact of COVID, we can survive anything. Thanks again.
Justin: I love Pollstar, it has always been an amazing resource for me. Thank you for supporting live music and including us in your path forward. 2021, let’s go!
Paul: I would like to tell 2020 to kick rocks and let’s hope for a better 2021.
Lance: Not really, thank you for taking the time to talk with us and for featuring the agency in this manner! We appreciate the opportunity and wish you all an epic 2021! Take care.