Published in The Music Network
Let’s start at the art of the booking agent. What does an agent do? An agent has a myriad of responsibilities and skill requirements. Firstly, there’s the traditional agent role of developing new and existing artists’ touring platforms. Agents realise that all factors; be it venues, ticket prices, packaging, repeat markets, tour marketing/promotions, publicity, TV programming and on-sale dates all combine to aid an artist’s success. Secondly, l feel strongly that the modern agent’s role is also finding additional ways to assist in monetising an artist’s brand, by acting in the realms of sponsorship and advertising, synch or by using social networks and other technologies of music distribution – all of which adds value to an artist’s career and to its longevity.
When you launched Artist Voice, your company’s mission was to “revolutionise” the traditional concept of talent booking. How are you doing that? I’m not sure it is possible to totally revolutionise the traditional model of agenting. However, we are taking the Australasian agency landscape into previously uncharted territories. Artist Voice has been the first Australian agency to expand offices into New Zealand (Auckland) and open offices in Hong Kong and in Singapore. Artist Voice has a partnership in Asia with [Untitled Entertainment]. We’ve also announced a partnership with M&C Saatchi, arguably the country’s biggest advertising agency, which will enable us to collaborate in bringing brand initiatives for our artists. Artist Voice also has a stake in affiliate marketing website posse.com, which allows our artists fans to sell direct to one another through word of mouth and social media. Another way Artist Voice is changing the standard agent model is by looking at non-traditional tours that have a unique appeal for audiences. As such we just launched our first Heavenly Sounds tour concept in churches and cathedrals around Australia (in conjunction with One Louder) that was a sellout in every venue and received much acclaim from audiences everywhere.
Chuggi has been beating the drum about a pan-Australia Asian touring circuit for years. Is that becoming a reality? We’re already starting to see that happen. I’ve witnessed the change in the last few years with digital media opening our artists to new frontiers, and at an incredible pace. The number of new promoters appearing in fast-growing economies like Indonesia and Singapore is astounding. This is why Artist Voice has decided to try and get a foothold there.
Does this arrangement in Asia mean not only Aussie acts will be further exposed to Asia, but also Asian acts to Australia? It definitely means more Australian acts touring in Asia. Recently we had Gypsy & the Cat touring Hong Kong with Friendly Fires, and we’ve had The Naked and Famous touring five cities in Asia with Metronomy, The Jezabels and Bombay Bicycle Club touring in the same territories. Unknown Mortal Orchestra are playing a one-off show in Singapore. We’re also looking to bring the best of the Asian talent to Australia and New Zealand. Whether it be Cantonese pop, K-pop or the best of Asian contemporary bands, we are definitely open to a reciprocal touring network.
Some Australian promoters blame overseas booking agents for charging too much for talent. Whose fault is it? I certainly wouldn’t isolate overseas agents because domestic agents also have similarly worn a lot of criticism in this area of talent-pricing levels. In the same way, local agents have also benefitted from the increased demand for talent in our territory. If promoters are paying a premium on an artist due to extra demand and due to competing engagements, then that is the market value.
What trends do you see ahead for the live music industry this year? There will be softening of the festival circuit, which has been noticeable over the last six to twelve months and indeed has resulted in the cancellation of quite a few festivals. As a consequence, many artists are now looking to do a lot of their own touring to make up the absence of numerous festival bookings. I definitely see a return to the 1950s style of touring, with three and four-band packages, which generates value-for- money shows. This will become more common and a key component of an artist’s career. The agency landscape will continue to become more regionalised. Managers will expect knowledgeable and experienced on-the-ground representation, which may mean more consolidation in the agency landscape internationally.