UTA has expanded its inclusion efforts, with its UTA Proud initiative leading to a Pride-specific booking group that has continued momentum, bringing gigs to clients and making a cultural impact.
“We’ve essentially tripled the business that we were able to do for our clients in our second year as a Pride group, which is something that we’re all really proud of,” said UTA music agent Zoe Williamson. Made up of UTA’s Janet Kim (North America), Tessie Lammle (South America, Latin America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand) and Emily Robbins (EK/Europe), the Pride-specific group booked more than 70 appearances for clients this year.
“It just takes an extra amount of humanity and relationship building to get that trust and to get that rapport,” Williamson adds. “That’s something that we dedicate a great deal of time doing, when we pick up the phone and we say, ‘Hey, this artist would be phenomenal for your event,’ there’s a level of trust there and understanding that we’re not just trying to get a win for ourselves, we’re also trying to get a win for them and for the community.”
The Pride bookings group is often working to develop relationships with Pride organizations and event producers that may not host touring artists regularly, but also works with established players. For example, the Paris Hilton DJ event at Central Park SummerStage in New York was in partnership with Jake Resnicow Events and Live Nation.
“Live Nation very much helped program the Pride Island event that Christina Aguilera headlined on Sunday, too,” Williamson said. Another high-profile, hands-on project was UTA client Tinashe headlining the “Night Out” event at Knockdown Center in Queens, New York, put on by Pitchfork Presents and Them magazine. The event also featured Pom Pom Squad, Papi Juice and drag collective Bushwig.
“By the time Tinashe went on, the entire crowd’s energy was phenomenal,” said Williamson, who also represents Pom Pom Squad. “It made us understand that there’s so many Pride events in New York and so many opportunities for Tinashe to play, but this was truly the perfect event for her to play this year. That added another element for our group on what it means in major cities to book a client on an event, whether it’s the standard Pride or an LGBTQ-focused event and what the best environment is going to be for them.”
A member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, Williamson says the launch of UTA Proud as part of the company’s inclusion groups gave her a different perspective on the agency and the industry itself.
“The coolest thing about that group was to have had our first general body meeting and to realize just how big the community is within UTA,” added Williamson, 28, who was named agent in 2021. “So it was like UTA Proud partnering with us to make sure that we’re using every opportunity we can to get colleagues together and having fun and building that community.”
The effort extends beyond the specific UTA Pride bookings department, with client Halsey partnering with Hard Rock International for three shows and a partnership raising money for LGBTQ+ charities, including a $250,000donation from Hard Rock to the Human Rights Campaign and Outright International.
“We helped intertwine a completely unique, one-of-a-kind show with an integral part of all storylines,” said UTA agent Matt Meyer, who represents Halsey.
The shows, featuring a string ensemble, kicked off at New Jersey Performing Arts Center and continued with Hard Rock Live dates in Florida, Indiana and California. Meyer credits UTA brand partnerships agent Sara Schoch, Hard Rock Live president of entertainment Keith Sheldon and, of course, Halsey.
“What transpired was even bigger than what we anticipated,” said Meyer. “Yes, we’re selling shirts that are generating money for charity. Yes, we’ve donated over a quarter million dollars. But also the artist has come off stage from this first show and said, ‘This is a whole new integral part of who I am as an artist’ and was so overly thankful of how deep the curation was, so that it could be organic and true to what they stand for.”
Schoch said that, for the Halsey shows, it was important to make a social impact beyond ticket sales, although the shows were sold out.
“A lot of credit goes to Matt and Keith for seeing an opportunity not just to book like a traditional run of shows, but to use these shows as a platform to speak to Halsey’s audience and who Halsey is in a bigger way,” Schoch said. “We wanted to see if we could lean in and tell a bigger story and generate some social impact beyond selling tickets and getting Halsey in front of brands. Hard Rock committed to a $250,000 donation and we were able to sort of exercise some other creative muscles by creating two T-shirts that are sold on the road and in Hard Rock Cafe stores across the globe.”
Meyer adds that the extra effort paid off, and as a group effort, to make a statement and do something more than just a show.
“The way that the UTA team intertwines with an artist, it’s so hands-on and completely collaborative,” Meyer added. “It’s just so much TLC that was delivered to execute this vision. I mean, we had nothing — we had ingredients on a table, we had no idea what we were making (laughs). The approach to what we’re doing here is very meticulous, very artist-forward. This was thousands of text messages and emails and calls to deliver three shows and a T-shirt, as simple as that sounds.”