After ICM Partners acquired UK-based Primary Talent in early 2020 and hired international music agent Simon Clarkson several months later to head up a new ICM electronic music division domestically, the department has been booming. The agency sector is set to have a major year thanks to massive acts including Alison Wonderland, Slushii, Aluna of AlunaGeorge, and rising up-and-comers like Shouse.
Primary’s roster included a plethora of talented dance artists throughout its history, including game-changers such as Noisia and Baauer. Once Clarkson came onboard in August 2020, he knew it was time to start building out ICM’s own dance music roster.
“There’s a lot of familiarity and Primary had a deep history in electronic music and that’s something that ICM had never focused on in a big roster,” Clarkson told Pollstar.
As the live business soldiered on and found ways to adapt during the COVID-19 shutdown, ICM continued building out its electronic department. When Clarkson joined ICM he brought with him a roster including Skrillex (Europe), Alison Wonderland (worldwide excluding North and South America) and AlunaGeorge.
In February ICM partners hired agent Paul Gongaware, the nephew of the Concerts West promotion veteran by the same name, in 2021. Clarkson and Gongaware had previously worked together during their time at WME.
“Simon and I were talking, we had worked together for a long time on a bunch of clients and while he was working to start a dance music department, he said, ‘Look, if we build something here would you be interested in coming, bringing what clients that you can and building something new?’” Gongaware says. “And it made a lot of sense.”
ICM’s electronic music department has spread its reach across the globe, signing acts from numerous countries.
“We’ve signed acts from 15 or 20 different countries this year,” Gongaware says. “South Korea, Australia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Belgium, Italy, France, Ireland, Mexico. We are definitely pushing in terms of diversification. We signed Slushii this year, who is fairly well-known already in the U.S. and put out an album this year. He’ll probably do close to 100 shows this year.”
Also on their roster is Aluna of AlunaGeorge, who is set to make history with her inaugural festival Noir Fever in New Orleans, exclusively featuring Black artists, including Kaytranada, Chanel Tres, Duckwrth, Kevin Saunderson and more.
In addition to expanding their reach within dance music spaces, ICM has begun signing drag queens. It’s a fitting category for the department, as dance music largely originated from LGBTQ+ spaces in the late 1970s.
“The most exciting, left-of-center thing that we do that I can see as being a future whole new genre, is we represent a number of drag queens,” Gongaware says. “We do Trixie Mattel and Bob The Drag Queen. I saw Trixie in New York, sold out King’s Theater, 3,400 tickets in advance. And they also have DJ projects, which we’re gonna expand and do residency deals with and really bring them into new places.”
Australian-new Zealand music duo Shouse, featuring Jack Madin and Ed Service, made a name for itself after its 2017 single “Love Tonight” took over TikTok last summer. Dance music legends including David Guetta and Robin Schulz have lent their hands at remixing the inescapable single, which boasts more than 292.4 million streams on Spotify alone.
“When we started working with the guys and the management team, all of us knew we were kind of representing a song at first,” Clarkson says. “And so our job was to sort of figure out all together as a team, how do we put the rubber on the road and [build] this ginormous song into an artist.”
Shouse’s first few shows saw the duo needing to get creative. While they’ve been around since 2016 with their debut singles “Whisper” and “Support Structure,” the duo still only has a handful of songs released. However, the beauty of dance music and DJing is in the mixing.
“Thankfully now that’s off and running and doing great,” Clarkson continued. “Shouse is booked up for the rest of the year, into next year.”
As ICM continues to ramp up with the coming months, Clarkson and Gongaware are back busier than ever.
“We are wrapping close to 100 shows a month right now,” Gongaware says. “I think we will do over a thousand just specific to North America. And this year, a couple of our clients are having big years in Mexico. Tom & Collins are gonna do 60 plus shows in Mexico.”
As ICM’s artists, and the industry as a whole, begin to make their way back out onto the road, different levels of restrictions across country to country have been yet another hurdle to navigate. The U.S. and some parts of Europe are back up and running, while other countries are still trapped in lockdown.
“The U.S. has been a place where everything has been happening and going on for a little while, but of course, because other markets haven’t been open for shows, everyone’s like, ‘OK, we’ll go to America,’” Clarkson says.
“I spoke to someone last week, a manager, who said they had a conversation with one of their clients who was gonna do their third round of a U.S. tour run. They’re like, ‘We would never do that in a normal time.’ But because we don’t have Asia, Australia, all those other markets fully open and back, the artists want to go, they want to work.”
Despite the numerous interruptions that have plagued the industry over the past few years, Clarkson and Gongaware find themselves in good standing for their future.
“So all of those sort of interrupted stories, new artists coming through and established artists sort of reconnecting, I’m excited just about getting back to it and of the new music that we are both hearing and getting to sign as well,” Clarkson said.