Paladin Artists’ Chyna Chuan-Farrell On How Agenting Drew Her Back Into The Biz

Before Chyna Chuan-Farrell broke into the agenting world at ICM Partners she knew she wanted to work in live entertainment though she initially didn’t care “whether it was an agency, a PR film, management – anything.”

She spent a cumulative 22 years at ICM, working her way up from an assistant to a concert agent and eventually landed in the corporate/private division where she tailored deals for clients including Boyz II Men, Migos and Jerry Seinfeld. Chuan-Farrell took a six-year hiatus from ICM — during which she worked as a creative liaison at an underwear company and launched her own company, Chyna Entertainment & Design, to pursue her passion for photography as well as creating and producing events – but it turned out agenting had a hold on her.

In early 2020 she was hired by APA as a senior vice president in the private/corporate speaker department, which was a short-lived role because of the pandemic. The next year she joined Paladin Artists, which was launched by former APA agents Steve Martin and Andy Somers in a strategic partnership with Wayne Forte of Entourage Talent Associates and Karrie Goldberg of The Kagency.

Chuan-Farrell, whose role at Paladin Artists has expanded to managing the company, caught up with
Pollstar to chat about her love for negotiating a deal and the importance of enjoying what you do.

Her clients include Harlis Sweetwater and Dave Holmes, along with Jane Leo (co-RA with Brandon Zmigrocki) and Morgan St. Jean (co-RA with Sara Schlievert).

Pollstar: How did you first get your start at ICM?
Chyna Chuan-Farrell: Eons ago, I modeled and so while modeling, I signed up at a temp agency just so during my down times I was still able to make some money. So it happened ICM needed a temp to come in because one of the assistants was on vacation or something like that. I was in an office with a junior agent [and] we got along really well. She asked me at the end of the day, “If an opportunity ever came up at the agency, would you ever consider it?” Three weeks later, I got the call and she’s like, “We had an agent that came over from William Morris looking for an assistant. Would you be interested in applying for it?” I literally got the job on the spot and that’s what started my road to being an agent … I wanted to learn everything that I could possibly learn. I didn’t care what was thrown at me and raised my hand for everything. They’re like, “Who wants to do this? How about this?” I’m like, “I’ll do it.” It was kind of that saying: throw you in the pool, you either sink or swim – I swam. (laughs)

What inspired your return to agenting?
I tried getting out of the industry. (laughs) It just drew me back in. I think one of the exciting things about being an agent is having relationships and building relationships whether it be with clients, promoters, buyers … When you go to a conference and then see somebody that you’ve known for 30 years, that’s exciting.

Also, I love the negotiating part. I get very excited about negotiating a deal, whether it be negotiating a tour or a corporate event. Negotiating is so exciting for me because I get to see what transpires from a phone call all the way to the finished product. If I’m able to go to the event, seeing the audience and how much they’re enjoying what me and the client and the buyer put together — that to me is joy.

Can you talk about how Paladin Artists was the right fit for you?
It’s been almost three years and it’s been such a great journey. We have such a great group of people that work with us here on the West Coast and the East Coast, and it’s so good to see people who are passionate as I am about artists, about the business and wanting to collaborate with each other.

There’s definitely a lot of collaboration and teamwork within our company. One of the mottos that we have at Paladin is that we don’t hire assholes.

I’ve been with big companies and this opportunity that came about was something that was different for me. And when Steve Martin approached me with this, I got a really giddy feeling in my gut, which I haven’t had in the longest time. I was just like “Wow, this is something that I should probably go for.”

I worked with Andy Somers back at ICM; Bruce [Solar] and Steve I worked with over at APA; and all these other guys I’ve known like Brandon Zmigrocki, who co-RAs with me on Jane Leo, we worked at ICM together and so we have a lot of established relationships already. … Paladin is such a family and we may be small, but we’re pretty mighty.

What are some of your clients’ upcoming tours or projects?
Jane Leo, who I co-RA with Brandon Zmigrocki, just wrapped up a sold-out West Coast run and then they’ll be on Bottle Rock later this month.

And Morgan St. Jean, who I co-RA with Sara Schliever, toured supporting the X Ambassadors in Europe in February, and they also previously supported We Three. We’re doing a headline tour for her in June on the East Coast. [They’re both] working on music.

Harlis Sweetwater, I’m trying to find opportunities for him at this point right now, whether it be on a support tour, festivals and stuff like that. He’s putting out new music every month, which is great.

And then Dave Holmes, he actually just came out with a podcast that is about the rise and fall of MTV called “Who Killed The Video Star?”

Do you have a philosophy that’s guided your career?
We just have to enjoy what we do. I always tell people we’re not curing cancer and we’re not doing open heart surgery. This is entertainment. Either enjoy it or don’t do it.
I believe that we are all in this industry for a reason. And if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, then go find something else to do. For me, I love doing it. We all have trials and tribulations … but at the end of the day, if we learn from those successes and the failures, then we’re ahead of the game.