Agency Intel: WME’s Justin Edwards (2023 Festival Issue)

Justin Edwards August 2022

Justin Edwards specializes in alternative rock and rock-leaning festivals at WME, booking the agency’s entire client roster.

“They give me the entire sandbox to just dive in and book everyone else’s acts as well as my own,” says Edwards, who represents The Revivalists, recent signing Dinosaur Jr., The Main Squeeze, GUNNAR and Gable Price and Friends, among others.

“My festival list hovers somewhere between 60 and 70 annual events that occur across North America at any given time.”

Edwards joined WME in 2017 and was promoted to agent in 2021.

An Indiana native now based in Nashville, Edwards is enjoying working on two Indianapolis festivals that started in 2022, Wonder Road and All In Music Festival.

“It’s been a major bucket list to be able to give back to the Indiana music scene in the community,” says Edwards. “For a long time, the Indianapolis market, for whatever reason and to no one’s fault, struggled with getting a festival off the ground. I got to book both headliners on Wonder Road this year, so for me, as somebody who grew up in the scene and now got to book both headliners for the new festival in the market, it was a cool moment and kind of full circle.”

Edwards says he is optimistic heading into 2023’s major festival season after a couple of difficult years brought on by the pandemic and a “new normal” that is still shifting.

“Most of my promoter partners are feeling pretty optimistic just with the lineups that have gone up and where they’re at in sales patterns,” says Edwards, noting the difficulty of staging events in 2020-21, which led to increased activity and pent-up demand in 2022.

“It was a massive return to live music,” he said. “What we saw last year in 2022 was there had never been a time period where there were more tours and more options going out, and the consumer dollar was starting to be spread thin by inflation. Tours were pretty hit or miss – we saw across the board it was a little bit soft. So festivals were no exception to that rule, where we had a handful that were softer than they had ever been.”

That’s understandable considering the number of events taking place at once, while consumers were feeling the pinch of inflation and rising living costs.

“I think it was just because people had so many options last year and there was so much activity that just the supply and demand was a little bit out of whack, where this year we’ve seen it normalize a bit,” Edwards said. “People have gotten back into the rhythm of touring around record cycles and not just touring for the sake of touring.”

Coming up in two cut-throat sectors – major talent agencies and music festivals – Edwards doesn’t blink at the mention of impending challenges in 2023.

“All in all, I think this year we’re feeling pretty optimistic, even with the impending recession that economists keep talking about,” Edwards adds. “So far, we haven’t seen it necessarily reflect in ticket sales. People are still buying toward the future and spending money as though it’s going to be there. We make the decisions based off of the information in front of us. It’s a fun puzzle every year.”