WME’s Peter Schwartz On His Hot Streak: 24kGoldn, Olivia Rodrigo, AJR & Beyond

WME’s Peter Schwartz
– WME’s Peter Schwartz
poses for a photo in honor of client AJR’s sold-out drive-in show at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia Aug. 19. This “was the only concert I’ve seen since March so it was a special day for me,” he told Pollstar.

WME’s Peter Schwartz is having a moment, but it’s not his first time. Having represented some of the biggest acts in hip-hop over the years, including current clients Macklemore and Joey Bada$$, his success streak continues with 24kGoldn whose song “Mood” just spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart. 

After talking with Pollstar about the 20-year-old rapper and what his upcoming tour plans look like, Schwartz was gracious enough to set aside time for a follow-up chat about lessons learned from the pandemic and what’s happening with the rest of his clients such as Ferg and record producer collective Internet Money.

His roster isn’t limited to hip-hop, with big recent wins for his artists including pop trio AJR securing a place on the Top 10 chart with its single “Bang!” and new signee Olivia Rodrigo, who took over the No. 1 spot on the chart and set a Spotify record for most streams in a week with her pop ballad “Drivers License.”

Schwartz joined WME in 2015 after departing The Agency Group, where he was vice president and head of urban music. He got his start in the live business working in the mailroom and going through the agent trainee program at the New York office of William Morris, where he worked with Cara Lewis for two years.

WME is known for its team dynamics and Schwartz made sure to give a shout out to his colleagues, including Ben Totis and Ron Opaleski, who are his partners on AJR.

“I want to make sure the proper credit is given to these guys,” Schwartz says. “I don’t do this alone. We have big teams in music and across all areas for our clients. That is the great strength of WME.”

Pollstar: As we wait to see when touring can resume, have you seen extra competition for the fall dates?  
Schwartz: Oh, I think it will be insane. The avails are generally gone in the better venues. I was already booking into that period as of last summer. So I have around at least 12 tours that are booked for the fall. And I worked on those all through last year, definitely trying to be ahead of everybody else in looking farther down the line. Obviously, now that here we are at the beginning of ’21 and it’s all getting a lot closer and the fact that there have been some delays with the vaccine rollout … we are starting to have to back up these tours with new routings in ‘22 just to be safe.

24kGoldn: No. 1 Without A Tour … Yet

What are some of the lessons you learned or takeaways from the pandemic / 2020?    
Well, I learned to wash my hands and wear a mask. (laughs) I learned a lot of terms and things I never thought would be pertinent to my life. So that was the start of it. I think I learned to really appreciate what you have. I am thankful that I’ve got a healthy family and a family with me. I’m happy that I’m employed – as you know, so many people in our industry and others are not. I’m thrilled to have a job and I’m thrilled my artists are having success during such a turbulent time, even though they’re technically not on the road. It was such an unbelievable year in terms of politics and science. As I as tell my teams, it’s something that I’ve never lived through and most people haven’t. We’re kind of all in the same boat, talking about it and learning and navigating this new world. 

We’ve seen a lot of changes in the music industry not just with tours on hold, but layoffs and start-ups, livestreaming, how do you think this is going to affect the business going forward?
As you alluded to with agency changes, I think last year was pretty amazing and something unprecedented – a word used many times, of course, last year. I’m sure if you asked any agent or executive in an agency back in January or February if they thought that X, Y or Z person would not be there months later, of course we’d probably all be going, “Are you kidding me? Of course, that person is never leaving, that’s never changing.” It’s just absolutely incredible the changes that have happened. There have been many, many personnel/employee changes at WME and at many agencies. You see some agents breaking off into smaller agencies, which I think is something that maybe we’ll see more of.
Over the past years, there’s been a lot of consolidation. There used to be a lot more smaller boutique and mid-sized agencies and I think a lot of them consolidated. And then [2020] sort of blew that up a little bit, moved a lot of people around and potentially opened the door to some smaller situations. I think it’s an unexpected change, but it could be a good one. Most people don’t want to change and they’re set in their ways. But I think change is good. I think this was a pretty extreme version of that. But I’d like to think it’s positive going forward.
Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy
performs at the 94th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® on Nov.26, 2020, in New York City. The band’s song “Bang!” is No. 8 on the Hot 100.
Pre-COVID if you talked about doing virtual concerts there wasn’t a lot of interest in it. But now obviously everyone’s been more receptive to those shows because it’s really that or nothing. I think it will continue to grow, although I hope that we, of course, get back to the live touring. I do think it will open the door to more shows being streamed while they’re happening live, which is great. Whether it’s a festival or someone on tour, maybe it’s the last night of their tour in their home city, to be able to stream that final show to the rest of the world is a great way for artists to get themselves out there further and make additional income. Because tours don’t play every city in every state so it’s a chance for other people to get to share in the experience.
Along with 24kGoldn, your client AJR also has a Top 10 hit and has been making some major TV appearances. Can you share the latest with the band and an overview of what sort of touring we can expect?
For AJR we had two tours planned for 2020 that both got canceled, which was extremely disappointing in what was supposed to be a big, big year in their touring progression because their live numbers have been going up so steadily every year with every release and each tour. Obviously, it’s very disappointing to have to pull down the tours and all the work we had done to get where we were. On the other hand, AJR just had an amazing year for their music, which was still super positive for their career. “Bang!” is a song that came out at the end of January last year and it just cracked the Top 10 this week. Now at No. 9 on the Hot 100, which is just amazing to have a record build and develop slowly and steadily for a full year and it’s still peaking and still rising. I don’t see that happen too often. So it’s been a big year for that song and they’ve had so many great looks to go along with it. The song “Bang!” was used in an Apple campaign, which launched at the end of last year. 
They performed on the New Year’s Eve special just prior to the ball dropping. They’ve had so many great moments that it’s just really been an incredible year for them.
With all the acts, we’ve been working on rebuilding and pivoting, we’re probably on our fourth version of the next tour that’s going to happen. We had a new tour booked for this fall indoors, which is seeming like it might not [happen]. So, we’ve now pivoted to an outdoor model and we are currently working on an amphitheater tour that we hope can play this fall. And if not, we will pivot to late spring ’22. That was really driven by COVID and what we think our best chance is to get on the road. They will be releasing their new album on March 26 so, of course we’re hoping to be on the road this year to support it, not next year, just for optimal timing.
They did a virtual concert called “One Spectacular Night” at the end of December and it was a huge success. So, we were thrilled that they could deliver their amazing live show virtually and it got a tremendous response. That was a good Band-Aid to keep the fans happy until we can get them out there in person.
Any other recent highlights or upcoming projects for the rest of your roster you’d like to share?
Oh, my God, I have a big roster. I will preface this by saying I truly can’t mention them all. I would be talking for an hour and a half. We’re super excited that during COVID we signed Olivia Rodrigo, whose single “Drivers License” came out this past Friday and it was the most streamed [in a day] on Spotify by any artist ever. It’s incredible. Unbelievable. Within 48 hours of the release, the song was No. 1 on Spotify, U.S. and global, iTunes, Apple, every single streaming platform had her at No. 1, and it’s still there on every one of them. So we are super excited about signing her. As with all my artists, we do everything in teams at WME. That team is Dave Tamaroff, Ben Schiffer and myself who did the initial signing. And the entire company is super excited about her. And just this incredible start to her career with this single really making such awesome impact.  
Olivia Rodrigo
JC Olivera/WireImage
– Olivia Rodrigo
debut single “Drivers License” broke Spotify’s record for most streams in a week. She’s pictured at the premiere of Disney+’s ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” in November 2019.
COVID’s obviously been a tough time to get people on the road, but we’re still actively trying to sign great talent. Another signing that was awesome this year was Internet Money. They are without a doubt the hottest producer collective in hip-hop. Their single “Lemonade” just surpassed 500 million streams. We’re really excited about them. We’re building out a live DJ show for them; we’re also working to help them build their own festival in their hometown of Jacksonville. Internet Money is really a lifestyle and brand of its own, so we’re working across the company to help develop that. Also, a new artist signing Aleesha who’s a hip-hop / R&B artist out of Spain and also a great singer songwriter named Livingston out of Texas who’s on Elektra records.
The entire roster is ready to work and wants to work. So we’re actually quite busy. Loads of new music coming from my roster next year. Lucky Daye has a new album coming. Joey Bada$$, Jidenna, Ferg, Lil Mosey, Joyner Lucas, the list could go on – obviously 24kGoldn’s new record is coming in the spring. And then there’s artists like Aminé who put out a great record last year and we’re just anxious to get them on the road to support it this year when we can. Of course, Macklemore will also have a new record this year and he has not had one in a few years. So we’re particularly excited about that.
You’ve worked with so many big acts over the years. Have there been any moments that have stuck with you – either that have influenced business decisions or a general philosophy of yours?
I’ve been lucky enough to have personal relationships with many of my artists, which I truly treasure. These relationships help me to see things from their perspective and ensure we are on the same page in our approach. In making decisions, I always focus on doing only what is best for the artist. The magic moments are, of course, seeing them hit the stage and their fans going wild.
Anything you wanted to add?
These are just crazy times, I’m just trying to roll with it. And I’m hoping that things improve sooner rather than later for all of us in the industry. We work hard. We need the arts back; it’s important. Concerts are such a key part of everyone’s lives in our world and I can’t wait to get out to one of them again.