Impact International UK/Euro: Alex Hardee

Alex Hardee
EVP & Managing Executive
Wasserman Music

Alex Hardee Wasserman Music credit Chloe Mallett

COVID wasn’t a good period, but it had some merits, said Alex Hardee, EVP & Managing Executive at Wasserman Music. At times, he said, it felt like everything was falling apart, and you ran on adrenaline for about six months. And while “it can be quite exciting, running on adrenaline,” he knows it’s not sustainable. “I’m the worst relaxer in the world,” he said. “That’s not healthy. I don’t want the next generation to be like that, we shouldn’t celebrate never turning off. You’re a better person, and a better worker if you’re not under stress all the time.”

Thankfully, the mad-busy initial phase was followed by a quiet period. Hardee realized early on that “there’s no point being a busy fool. When everyone was moving these tours every three months, I said, ‘We’re out for a bit of time, so let’s not worry about gigs for a bit, and reorganize the company.’ We had a big diversity problem, which we had time to address. We readjusted our values working from home. We had a lot of time to think. I have a house at the seaside and two kids, so I found that middle part quite nice. And then we came back, and it went a bit crazy again. We’ve had our two biggest years – everyone’s had their two biggest years – but now the train’s going to hit the barriers. After the initial gold rush, the hard work starts, because the world is going into a bit of a harder place.”

While everyone may lose some business in this economy, Hardee won’t lose his humor. When talking about one of his most recent successes, selling out two shows at Knebworth, June 3-4, 2022, the same site where his former band Oasis played two era-defining concerts 26 years earlier, he said: “They say I took Liam Gallagher off his old agent when he was doing 2,000 tickets in London. And within four years of that plan with the management, he went on to sell 170,000 tickets for two days at Knebworth. That is because I am the greatest agent in the world and has nothing to do with the fact that he started singing Oasis songs.”

Sarcasm aside, Hardee is most happy about having gotten through COVID in comparatively great shape, as a diverse agency and with a contemporary roster that “is second to none at the moment,” and he mentioned Drake, Billie Eilish, and Kendrick Lamar as further examples. “The European office is in a very good place, we’ve got momentum, as well. We seem to be winning a lot of fights for new acts when they become available.”

What irks him the most in terms of business are the high production costs, which have made life particularly hard for medium-sized acts. Hardee thinks some suppliers have been overcharging. “We all steamed in there, and costs have gone too high. Things don’t go up 30% to 40%, [but] they knew people were so desperate to get out there. There will be a backlash against that, and they will have to adjust their prices.”

The veteran agent says the dynamics of touring have shifted: “There’s only three things you need to know about the music business right now: social media, social media, and social media. I am not talking about heritage acts, I’m talking about breaking acts. And when I say social media, there’s only Instagram, which is saying, ‘Look at me!’, and TikTok saying, ‘this is what I can do.’

“Someone gets online, they create their own following by putting out content. Once their numbers are high enough, you think, ‘Right, you can put a show on.’ Problem is, a lot of the time they’ve never done gigs before. There’s sometimes a lack of quality. So, sometimes, we’ll let them do a run of shows just to get the experience. We had someone we knew could sell out Brixton, but they’d never done a gig before. I said, ‘Put them in a 200-cap venue, they’re only ever going to go through the gears once, but it’s important.’ Luckily, they did put them up in the 200-capacity club. They weren’t particularly brilliant on their first gig, but all the audience knew every word, and sang along, and they got away with it. It’s a changed game.”

On a personal note, Hardee candidly explained he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer in summer. The reason he shared this was to use the platform to “tell any male to get
tested, it’s a very simple test.” He added that it worked out very well for him, “because it’s not that aggressive a type of cancer. I could handpick the date of when I had my procedure. And I managed to do it in such a way as to miss as many gigs I had to go to as possible. There’s always an upside.”