Signing Stormzy, Forming LIVE & Wearing Wigs While Discussing COVID Protocols: Emma Banks Is Busy

Impact International: UK/Euro Honors

Emma Banks


Signing Stormzy, Forming LIVE & Wearing Wigs While Discussing COVID Protocols: Emma Banks Is Busy

Emma Banks knew she wanted to work in this business, after promoting The Pogues at Reading University in 1988. She recalls, “I drove a couple of the band back to their hotel after the show, sat up most of the night drinking with them and decided I wanted to work in the music industry. It was a great concert, but that night probably changed my life forever because working in the music industry was not part of my plan before then.” Some of the world’s biggest acts, including Katy Perry, Muse, Arcade Fire, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Florence + The Machine, Lorde, Kylie Minogue, and Green Day, will be happy she changed plans.

When Banks began her career at Wasted Talent agency in 1990, there weren’t any female agents around. “We are in a much better place than when I started in the business many years ago,” she says, “Doesn’t mean we are perfect, far from it, but occasionally we need to acknowledge that progress has been made. I have never been one to look at what is unfair about my lot in life, I think if you look for trouble you will often find it. I have always said that being female is not a defining characteristic for me and I am just a person doing a job. Clearly there are problems still for women and other under-represented groups and we all have to keep working to change that.”

Banks says the past year has been “a strange one.” When the world first went into lockdown, she took a more pessimistic view than a lot of her colleagues, not just the agents at CAA, when assessing a possible reopening, which turned out to be correct. It meant most of her tours only had to be moved twice. The time saved on rebooking shows was spent signing new clients, most notably Stormzy. Banks, a nine-time winner of Pollstar’s UK Agent of the Year Award is modest about it, “I was a very small cog in the wheel of signing Stormzy – it really was a whole team effort that started some years ago when we [brought] Stormzy a corporate opportunity and has fleshed out into full representation across all of his business. Ant Brown, Joe Hadley, Amina Bryant and many others deserve massive respect for the work they put in to get us to this point – we are super excited to be working with such a great talent.”

CAA also added a big name outside of music to its client list in the last year, when signing the poet and performer Tomos Roberts. For Banks, “it’s been fascinating learning more about the book publishing world. Tom has also been working with brands to produce custom poems which they have all been thrilled with. There is so much to come with Tom and he is really utilizing many facets of the Agency as he has so many elements to his business.” Signing Todrick Hall in April of last year has also been “an interesting experience. Over the year he has played live shows, streamed shows, worked on TV shows, is in discussions for musical theater and movies – so much that may not have happened if touring hadn’t been shut down,” says Banks, adding, “this is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s been busy!”

Banks is part of the team instrumental in forming the country’s first official body representing the live biz. Aptly titled LIVE, the group’s been working on various campaigns to petition the government for financial help, a workable reopening strategy etc. She even climbed to the top of London’s 02 Arena – yes, onto the roof – to do an interview for Sky TV about how the pandemic was impacting live music. “Not sure why I said yes to that as I am really not good with heights. It’s a surprise to me I ever got down,” she recalls.

CAA’s UK office celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, and Banks says she’s “proud of the business we have built in London.” The office opened in 2006 with five people, including Banks and co-head Mike Greek. It has grown to over 150 staff across the various departments, all of whom are working with each other to maximize opportunities for the clients on CAA’s “second to none” roster, which, to Banks, is “a testament to the hard work and dedication of every member of the team.” A team that’s kept itself motivated on regular video calls. 

“We have used the time to practice presentation skills and to show off our ability to wear a wig or a horse’s head (we know it’s you Paul Franklin!) while discussing COVID protocols,” says Banks. 

“It’s been important to be positive but realistic, it can be lonely when your world is turned upside down and routines are thrown off-kilter, and so pretending this was going to be over quickly was pointless once it was clear we were in for the long haul. We probably know each other better now than we did before COVID! Ultimately everyone pulled together – every member of the CAA team has been a leader in some sense by serving their colleagues when they needed them.” Banks misses working in the office. She’s excited to “start getting back to normal, having shows play,” and with Brexit now a reality, “wondering if everyone got through immigration. It’s been too long!”