Founder & Managing Director
The greatest feeling for an agent is watching an act go from performing in pubs and clubs to selling out arenas and headlining festivals. Alex Bruford, founder and managing director of ATC Live, has experienced this feeling many times, most recently with The Lumineers, who began their journey with Bruford 11 years ago at the 200-cap Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London. Last summer, they headlined shows at both St Anne’s Park in Dublin, Ireland, and Crystal Palace Park in London, England. “They truly embody everything an artist should be – not just musically brilliant, but hardworking, passionate, loyal and always determined to deliver the best possible show they can,” Bruford says.
Other recent ATC Live highlights include PJ Harvey, who sold out her first tour with ATC Live this year; Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ 34 UK and European festival shows in the summer of 2022; Fontaines D.C.’s first-ever festival headline set at the Green Man Festival 2021 in Wales, a moment Bruford will always remember, “not just because of what it meant to the band, but because of the excitement that came with how strong the performance was, and how it was clear to everyone in attendance that this was the start of many festival headline shows.”
One of Bruford’s artists, after her first show back post-pandemic, said to him, “I feel like my life has a purpose again. Helping to facilitate this is the greatest privilege and motivation. Seeing how important live music is to people genuinely life affirming, and in some cases lifesaving, whether you make music, work in it or just consume it,” he says.
Sentiments like this were all the motivation Bruford needed to guide his team through these last turbulent three years. They taught him to “appreciate every day, and every moment, and celebrate the wins. No one feels 100% all the time, but we are privileged to do what we do, and nearly losing it was a reminder of just how lucky we are to be involved in live music.” To make sure this incredible industry has a future, Bruford believes it is important to “be cognizant of the wider live music ecosystem we all work in. Delivering for our artists has to be our first priority, but I believe we have to think past ‘don’t leave any money on the table’ to how to maximize our gross but also leave enough money in the ecosystem for the next generation of artists to come through.”
Bruford launched ATC Live in March 2011, representing five artists. Today, the agency represents more than 450, with a team of 35 operating worldwide out of offices in London, Paris and Glasgow, and providing global touring solutions with U.S. partners Arrival Artists. “And why?,” says Bruford, “because I was told it was impossible.”
He is convinced that “everything starts with the artist. The very best can walk on to a stage and create jaw dropping moments of magic. Without this, there is no live touring business. Our industry is often so focussed on the latest venue/ticketing/marketing/festival/branding/commercial partnership that sometimes the artists are forgotten, or just seen as part of the flywheel. This is wrong, and we collectively need to ensure the industry works in the artists’ best interests – if we do that, then we will continue to have a successful and future-proof live touring business.”
A couple of examples through which this could be achieved include “direct support for grass roots venues or artists; leaving enough money in people’s pockets so that the stadium show they go to is not the only show of the year they can afford; delivering green touring; preventing exploitative secondary ticketing practices that divert millions of dollars out of the industry ecosystem; and supporting the disadvantaged and underrepresented
in our industry to ensure we have the diverse industry we need.”
It’s a long list of agenda items, but Bruford wouldn’t be in this business if he didn’t like the challenge. He says, “You have to be prepared for the fact this business is incredibly demanding, a complete lifestyle choice and will demand your all. There are easier ways to make money!” But not many that are as much fun, which is why the parties interested in this business would be well-advised to cooperate. “It starts with treating people with respect,” says Bruford, “If you do that, it is usually reciprocated, and, the ones that don’t reciprocate, I just don’t work with them. Joe Atamian once told me, ‘It always works out in the end’, and he’s right, it usually does, even if in the moment you can’t see the way through the problem.”