CAA, WME, Windish, ICM, Paradigm, AGI Execs Discuss Agents' Expanding Roles at Billboard Touring Conference

Back row, left to right: WME's Greg Oswald, Billboard's Ray Waddell, AEG Live/TMG's Ali Harnell, CAA's Mitch Rose. Front row, left to right: Artists Group International's Dennis Afra, Paradigm's Chip Hooper, ICM Partners' Marsha Vlasic, and The Windish Agency's Tom Windish (Photo: A Turner Archives)

“Be the first one there,” Windish Agency president Tom Windish said when describing his process of securing new acts, like new client Lorde.

“I need to hear about it before anyone else does,” the agent said during a panel on the closing day (Nov. 14) of the Billboard Touring Conference in New York. “Once it’s on the Internet, it’s too late. When I take on an act, it’s very, very new. Sometimes before hardly anyone has heard of them or there are just one or two singles on the internet that are out there.”

Billboard Touring Conference Day One (Gallery)

The “Agents in the New World Order” panel also included Artists Group International’s Dennis Arfa, Paradigm Talent’s Chip Hooper, WME’s Greg Oswald, CAA’s Mitch Rose and ICM Partners’ Marsha Vlasic. The discussion was moderated by AEG Live/TMG's Ali Harnell.

As for developing newly signed acts, Windish offered an alternative: “The thing that we do that is different is that early on an audience isn’t probably going to pay to go see them,” he said. “So we look for unique opportunities, events and parties, setting on the idea that they go play in front of people instead of just clubs and no people.”

The Windish Agency's Tom Windish (left) and CAA's Mitch Rose. (Photo: A Turner Archives)

Discussing certain brand strategies that yielded massive results, CAA head of contemporary music Mitch Rose highlighted the announcement of Katy Perry’s first arena tour. During a live appearance on Facebook with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Perry announced her “California Dreams 2011” world tour.

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“It was the first time anyone had done it,” Rose said. “Over 100 million impressions were had and every ticket sold out. It was sort of revolutionary the way it was done.”

Rose even dropped new details about on-sale dates for Perry’s new tour. Citi has inked a new deal with Perry, running a commercial two weeks before tickets go on sale in January, which will feature the star’s new single.

“I believe it was a $40 million ad spend, which is a great way of blanketing the marketplace before we go on sale,” Rose said.

The “Agents in the New World Order” panel at the 10th annual Billboard Touring Conference in New York. (Photo: A Turner Archives)

Asked if partnerships like that of Perry and Citi increased ticket and album sales, Rose said yes. “Obviously in this day and age, anytime we’re talking with multinational brands, it can get your story out to a wider audience in different ways and it’s always going to pay off in the end in music and ticket sales,” he said.

In today’s market, Madison Avenue is completely tied into the music industry and as each agent on the panel suggested, everyone wants an association with a brand. It’s an unrivaled opportunity for both the brand and the artist to take advantage of what each has to offer.

On the changing positions of agencies in the business’s hierarchy, WME Nashville co-dead Oswald said, “When I started, record companies basically told me what to do. Now we’re a dominant partner in the discussion. An agency will provide a lot more services than they did a few years ago and I think they will provide a lot more in the future.”

The panel unanimously agreed that most of today’s acts want to be multifaceted in the projects they pursue. They also agreed there was no golden rule each act could follow. “You have to take it on a case-by-case basis,” said Vlasic, senior VP of concerts/head of contemporary rock at ICM.