The Lumineers’ Activist Artists MGMT Team Talks Music’s Secret Superstars

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Studio Session: (from left) Matt Maher, partner at Activist Artist Management; Simone Felice, longtime Lumineers collaborator; Jeremiah Fraites, The Lumineers; David Baron, producer, mixer, engineer for The Lumineers; Wesley Schultz, The Lumineers; Anna Kolander, artist manager & senior director of A&R/Creative, Activist Artist Mgmt.; Bernie Cahill, partner at Activist Artist Mgmt. The photo was shot at Sun Mountain Studios in Boiceville, N.Y., when the band was recording their fourth studio album, Brightside. Courtesy of Activist Artists Mgmt.

The Lumineers‘ performance at Denver’s Coors Field may have been the highlight of “The Brightside Tour,” but the loop’s second stadium performance and final show — at a sold-out Wrigley Field in Chicago — was a triumphant culmination.

“It was absolutely. Chicago fans are amazing. The energy was off the chart. The band’s energy was off the chart. It was such a fairy tale ending to this leg of the domestic tour. We are still buzzing,” Matt Maher at Activist Artist Management says.

That the team at Activist, which in addition to Maher, includes partners Bernie Cahill, Liz Norris, Caitlin Stone, Greg Suess and Kristina Tanner, would even be there for this culminating event was no guarantee; in fact, five years ago, it felt like a long-shot, even to those on the inside at Activist.

It’s 2017 and The Lumineers are in the market for management.

Their second album, Cleopatra, is platinum, just as the self-titled debut had been.

The band was already deep in the process of seeking new management by the time the team at Activist even got involved.

“Jonathan Levine at Wasserman flagged it for us, said they’re taking meetings, noted for us that we were late in the game, that they’d already taken like ten meetings I think,” Activist’s Cahill says. “And so to say late in the game would be an understatement. But luckily he connected us with Joe Atamian, who’s their great agent and one of the good guys in the business … and they were kind enough to put our name forward and the band decided to meet with us. And then myself and Matt Maher and a couple of others from our team flew to Denver. 

We sat down with them and somehow we got lucky.”

Luck may have a played a role, but so did Activist’s experience and success with a roster that now includes the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, Dwight Yoakam, Empire of the Sun, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Brittney Spencer and Dead & Company’s (co-managed with Azoff/Moir).  

Since Activist got on Team Lumineers, the band has released two more chart-topping studio albums and wrapped a wildly successful tour of Europe and North America and are seemingly on the cusp of being the next big stadium act.

“We’re doing real business in South Africa, incredible business all throughout Europe, including selling out O2 London, real business in Asia, real business in Australia. They are one of the biggest bands some people may never have heard of unless they’re fans,” Cahill says.

And it’s great for everyone involved that the band is “doing real business” worldwide, but Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites are doing it in a way that’s grounded, understated, authentic and hardworking.

“They don’t get caught up in the business of it like some other artists might, that’s just not their style. They’re both family men, they both have new kids and growing families and they’re really good at striking a balance, but they love touring and they love touring globally,” Cahill says.

Maher says the band never balks when it’s asked to take another step: “The thing people have missed is that they are growing and maturing and stretching. They never stop rehearsing and growing. Every single time we give them bigger shoes to fill, they prepare and they fill those shoes. We knew they could sell arenas and bigger amphitheaters. It was definitely something the team had as a goal, to do these amphitheaters with big lawns with lower ticket prices for a younger audience. … Every time they get themselves ready.”

The band still isn’t terribly far removed from their hungry days busking and working three jobs in addition to playing club shows. 

Part of The Lumineers’ origin story is the time the band’s gear was stolen from their van parked near the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. That was in 2011, really just a blink of an eye ago. So recent, in fact, that’s it’s relatively easy to find message board posts and blog blurbs urging fans of the folk and Americana scene to help the band out via various crowdfunding platforms.

That experience, Maher says, is part of the reason the band is so committed to MusiCares, the non-profit that has helped so many artists through health and addiction issues over the years and that became a clearinghouse for COVID-related assistance during the height of the pandemic. The band’s annual Christmas single benefits the non-profit.

In addition, the band has partnered with Shatterproof, a non-profit focused on de-stigmatizing addiction and recovery, and with REVERB, which works with artists, venues and fans to take action on environmental issues and helps tours reduce or mitigate their environmental impact.

When Stars Align: The Lumineers Step Up To Stadiums