Agency Intel: UTA Turns Its Rock Game Up To 11

Guns N Roses
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
– Guns N Roses
They’rE Back! UTA’s rock game is on point, with clients holding top rock radio chart positions and Guns N’ Roses kicking off a tour that will hit stadiums, arenas and festivals later this month.

UTA’s rock team has been on a hot streak in 2021 after adding several new agents and clients over the past year, and things keep looking up as the industry continues to reawaken. 

“I think we are really fortunate our company looked after our music division to bring in great colleagues and some of those new colleagues have brought in amazing clients over,” UTA partner and agent Ken Fermaglich told Pollstar. “As things started to come back online, not necessarily the touring, but just from a promotional perspective, some of our new and existing clients got some good looks. That was exciting, after having such a lengthy period of inactivity, to have some good things happen for our clients.”
Some of those good looks include St. Vincent’s “Saturday Night Live” appearance, Wolfgang Van Halen’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” turn, Poppy’s Grammys performance and Machine Gun Kelly, who recently played a walk-up show on Southern California’s Venice Beach.
The UTA rock team now consists of Fermaglich, who reps Guns N’ Roses, Muse, Paramore, 3 Doors Down, A Day To Remember, newcomers Mammoth WVH, Dirty Honey and Plush, and more out of New York; Josh Kline, also in New York, works with Architects, Ayron Jones, Bring Me The Horizon, Lilith Czar, Mario Judah, MOTHICA, One OK Rock, Seether, Solence, Sullivan King and Veil of Maya; Chris Visconti in New York, who works with Wage War, A Day To Remember (alongside Fermaglich), Marianas Trench, Black Stone Cherry; ONE OK ROCK, Lilith Czar, Solence; Fame on Fire; and Robbie Brown in L.A., who works with Black Pistol Fire, Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, Jimmy Eat World, Machine Gun Kelly, Spoon and St. Vincent. The UTA rock division also includes Paul Ryan and UTA Partner and Co-Head of Worldwide Music Samantha Kirby Yoh, who reps St. Vincent, LCD Soundsystem and Spoon, as well as UK-based Neil Warnock, Ross Warnock and Tobbe Lorentz.
“I can’t picture coming out of the pandemic without these new teammates and clients, it added another dimension to what we were doing,” Kline said. “I would describe it as a phenomenal, unexpected surprise seeing all of these clients joining us when they did. This injection of brain power and trade craft. Just general connectivity, when they joined, it really enhanced what we were already doing.”
Brown, who joined the team in January, said he has been able to hit the ground running and that he feels the division has lots of momentum.
“There’s a lot of awesome energy here,” Brown said. “We’re getting awesome perspective and [different] points of view, it creates this great vibe that helps us tell all of these stories. It feels like the engine is firing on all cylinders. We are 100 percent all moving together in the right direction and life is great.”
One example of the momentum UTA’s rock team is feeling is the roster’s recent success on radio charts. On Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Airplay chart for the week of June 12, UTA clients held the top four slots, with Ayron Jones (“Mercy,” No. 1), Bring Me The Horizon (“Teardrops,” No. 2), Seether (“Bruised and Bloodied,” No. 3), A Day To Remember (“Everything We Need,” No. 4). 
In recent weeks, Kline said he noticed numbers like nine of the top 30 and six of the top 10 artists on rock radio charts being UTA clients. In the past several months, Seether (May 29), Mammoth MVH (March 6), and Ayron Jones (June 5) have all hit No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart, and “My Ex’s Best Friend,” Machine Gun Kelly’s collaboration with Blackbear, hit No. 2 on Billboard’s Rock & Alternative Airplay chart in March. Meanwhile, Grandson’s single “Blood//Water” went platinum earlier this year. 
“Rock radio has always been a big, important piece of how we set up a campaign for a new rock artist,” Kline said. “As an agency, we always had numerous clients on any given chart at once. But as of late it has become the lion’s share. 
We’re definitely parlaying all this action back into the live space, and we’re seeing great results … with the number of bookings and how robust the upcoming festival season looks.”
Guns N’ Roses, which reformed its original lineup and became a consecutive-year arena and stadium headliner with the launch of the “Not In This Lifetime Tour” in 2016, has one of the biggest tours on the books for 2021.
“When we first took a look at what we wanted to do – we just didn’t know when anything was going to come back,” Fermaglich said during Pollstar Live! in L.A. in mid-June.
After moving everything up a year, then moving the beginning of the tour to the end, and then being able to add some dates around that, Fermaglich said the GNR team was able to route a tour that begins in July and runs into late October. The routing even includes a stop at the new Las Vegas Allegiant Stadium, which Fermaglich said Axl Rose is stoked about as a Raiders fan. 
“It’s been a complete maze, would be the word,” Fermaglich said of the routing and re-routing process. “Of course, nobody’s had to deal with this before and there’s no road map. You’re playing guessing games about a whole lot of different aspects of what goes into mass gathering – that’s really the name of the game.”
Visconti said during the COVID-prompted period without touring, UTA’s rock division turned its emphasis to A&R – and that it’s now seeing the fruits of that decision. Another goal during the pandemic, he said, was improving the representation of women in the space. 
“The rock space has traditionally been very male dominated,” Visconti said. “One of the things that we thought and talked about as we were going through this hellish experience of COVID-19 and being in lockdown, was that we wanted to try to expand the roster into an area we didn’t do a tremendous amount of work in previously: Female fronted bands or bands that contain women. There is a real concerted effort to find them, prop them up, and put them in good places to build audiences to tour and fanbases.”
Some female artists UTA has been working with include Arlo Parks, Lilith Czar and carolesdaughter.
Brown has also been working as co-head of UTA’s festival division with David Strunk, along with various agents who specialize in genres like EDM and hip-hop. According to Brown, one thing that’s becoming clearer representing these artists in the festival space is that many can’t just be categorized as “rock” artists and have broader appeal that stems from incorporating many different musical influences. Kline added that the pandemic forced many artists in the genre to overcome challenges in very direct ways, and now some of the artists have become more comfortable creating more content to directly engage their audience or more frequently collaborating with other artists.
“I think the audience is ready to embrace rock more so now than they have been before,” Fermaglich said. “Artists like MGK may not want to be perceived as just a rock artist, but he is a rocker and he is a star. And you need stars in order to propel a format. … The rock genre is really wide right now, a lot of artists sit in the rock space, but there are stars emerging.”
While UTA has many rock tours in the works, some of which remain unannounced, the biggest will likely be Guns N’ Roses, which grossed $101.7 million across 31 shows in 2018 and 2019, for an average of $3.3 million per show. The band’s 2021 tour kicks off July 31 and will hit North American stadiums, arenas and festivals through early October, before heading to Oceania in November. Fermaglich is optimistic the trek will sell out in most markets.