Like so many who find themselves working in the music industry, James Simmons fell into his passion. Back when he was in university in Brighton, England, he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. “Hence why I chose a degree in Communication & Media to keep things nice and ambiguous,” Simmons says.
While he was an avid music fan, the idea of working in the music industry hadn’t crossed his mind until he had to enroll in a two-week work placement with a local live promoter for one of his university classes. He explains, “After that period of work experience came to an end, I was asked to stay on doing one day a week in the office where I quickly began helping out the marketing department and booking talent, as well as repping shows and leading artist liaison teams at festivals, etc. So that was my first role back in 2008, and 14 years later I’m still amongst it all.”
As an agent at WME, he no longer considers himself to be young. “A pandemic and a career of late nights will see to that,” he jokes. However, his millennial status allows him a unique perspective on his approach with work. “On the one hand I’ve got a good mix of experience in the bank, which is very handy right now in the post-COVID chaos, but I’ve also still got the energy and drive to stay relevant and keep learning.”
Simmons can easily name the mentor who had the largest impact on his career. Lucy Dickins – who was just named global head of contemporary music and touring at WME – took him under her wing and helped guide his path as an agent. “A lot of senior agents seem to enforce that agent/assistant divide, but she quickly encouraged me to push myself on, meet managers and join planning meetings, even though we’ve been working together for just a few months. We went on to route UK & European arena tours together, we scaled stadiums in Australia and mapped out marketing plans for multiple Wembley Stadium shows – she let me be hands-on, which meant I had a massive head start, and that in turn has given me a much wider breadth of knowledge than many other agents get in an entire career.