Robert Gibbs, Head of Music, Partner, ICM Partners

Robert Gibbs
– Robert Gibbs

The Change From Above

Robert Gibbs
Head of Music, Partner, ICM Partners

Robert Gibbs is raising the bar. As ICM Partners’ newly named co-head of music, the veteran agent is the first Black exec to be named head of music at a major talent agency – ever.

“That has never been done before – there’s been agents that are head of hip-hop or R&B that are very genre specific, but across all genres there’s never been an African-American that sat in the role in the history of the agency business, on a major-agency scale,” Gibbs, who has been at ICM for 14 years, tells Pollstar. “For me it’s a huge win. I was once told by an executive in the agency business that will remain nameless – this was 10-plus years ago – but he told me, ‘You’ll be a journeyman in this business.’ That one comment, it’s funny that stuck with me. You go through life saying, ‘You know what, I’m going to prove people wrong in a lot of different ways.’”

“It’s inspiring, hopefully, to others that you don’t have to be pigeonholed to just have to do hip-hop or R&B, – or, even on the other side of diversity – you don’t have to be pigeonholed to just being a country or rock guy,” Gibbs says, adding he’s excited to serve alongside co-head of music Mark Siegel.

“Being able to lead a group of agents in all types of business – electronic music, hip-hop, R&B, rock, pop – to be part of leadership in that is something I couldn’t have imagined. Ten to 15 years ago, it never would have crossed anyone’s mind [that it was possible].”

Breaking the barriers as the first in any business often means being one of the best, and Gibbs has long been admired by peers and colleagues for not only representing artists like J. Cole and Ari Lennox at a high level but for leadership.

“I often say the assist is as great as the score. That’s my motto,” Gibbs says. “Everything I do revolves around that. Being in this role allows you to be even more of a team player, at an even higher level.”

The timing of his promotion meant adding more responsibility to his plate, which he took on without blinking.

“It was challenging for us all obviously, and me jumping into this role even added another layer to the challenge,” Gibbs says of recent months. “Everyone in the live space, and the record companies too, had to put their head around the fact that we’re all in this – it’s not just me.

On the goal of diversity, Gibbs says it has to be not only intentional but committed, from the top.

“There’s still a long way to go, I want to be sure I’m clear in that,” Gibbs says. “The education and mentorship piece is key. I’ve said this a lot, it’s not just, ‘Hey we just gave this job to a minority candidate so we did our part.’ You have to hold their hand in a sense and teach the ropes of how this business works, all the way through. It’s really got to be side by side and helping these people grow. I hope all agencies look at it that way.”

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