Spotlight: Post Malone's Agent, Cheryl Paglierani of UTA, On Developing a Genre-Crossing Headliner 'From the Ground Up'
"When he tells his story from the stage, it's powerful. He makes everyone in the room feel like they can do anything."
When Post Malone took the stage Thursday night at the Hollywood Bowl, he wrapped one of the surprise tours of the summer -- a large amphitheater run with 21 Savage that reported $16 million in sales, plus what the yet-to-be-recorded final five shows on the tour bring in. Booked and routed by UTA's Cheryl Paglierani, this week's sold-out back-to-back concerts at the Bowl made for an interesting postscript for a relationship that started as a chance run-in at SXSW in 2015.
"We had a meeting that took place at a studio in NYC scheduled for 10 p.m.," Paglierani tells Billboard. "Post arrived at around 1 a.m. We sat on a stoop outside and talked for a half hour. At the end of our conversation he looked up at me and said, 'I like you,' and hired me there on the spot."
Since that meeting, Post Malone has become a global superstar, going from 647 followers on Instagram the day they met to 10.6 million. His 2018 album, beerbongs & bentleys, went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and broke the record for the most simultaneous top 20 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, with nine tracks, including the smash hit "rockstar," which spent eight weeks at No. 1.
“The reason Cheryl is such an effective agent for Post’s touring success is her knowledge for the business," says Post’s manager, Dre London. "She took a shot, with what only myself and very few others saw as an emerging worldwide superstar, early on in his career. Not many agents are willing to do that.”
Post's Live Nation-backed tour with 21 Savage sold more than 200,000 tickets in pre-sales alone, moving 34,000 tickets for back-to-back nights at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday and Thursday. Post's recently-announced Posty Fest, scheduled for the Dos Equis Pavilion in Dallas on Oct. 28, sold all 20,000 tickets before a lineup was even announced, and his recent sets at Coachella were some of the weekends' breakout performances, drawing praise from fans and music critics.
"It was a very competitive sell," Paglierani says of landing Post the Coachella slot. "I think they didn't realize how real it was going to be. We knew we had a great slot but I had people telling me, 'Oh, people are going to leave to go see Beyoncé [who played right after Post's set].' And it was the most thrilling thing at the end of his set to see it still packed. Not one person went anywhere and everybody loved it and it was such a great full circle moment."
Paglierani has a long history in the music industry, working for WME under famed hip-hop agent Cara Lewis before being promoted from assistant to agent and then, in 2012, moving to Creative Artists Agency before shifting to The Agency Group in 2014, which was purchased by UTA in 2015. She now works in UTA's Beverly Hills office and represents a number of clients, including Post and tourmate 21 Savage, as well as Rich Brian, Saint JHN and others.
Paglierani prides herself on her ability to spot talent and said she was first drawn to Post's charisma -- "You can't meet him and not love him as a person," she says -- noting that Post had just dropped "White Iverson," which became his breakout single and landed him a deal with Republic.
"He doesn't see genre lines," Paglierani says, mentioning that early on the plan for Post was "to get him in front of as many people as possible." That included festival slots and college dates, as well as touring with U.K. garage and house producer SBTRKT and, later, trap rapper Fetty Wap. By 2016, he was supporting Justin Bieber on his Purpose Tour.
"We wanted to cross genres on the touring side and show he could tour with a hip-hop act, an EDM act or a pop act like Justin Bieber. We wanted to build him into somebody who could headline from the ground up," she says, adding, "Touring with those three artists really helped him build a diverse fan base."
Besides North America, Post has had success with a sold-out European tour in February 2017. He sold 5,000 and 7,000 tickets in Brisbane and Perth, Australia, respectively, as well as 10,000 tickets in Cologne, Germany, and 18,000 in Stockholm, Sweden.
"He has always had a way of communicating with the audience during his live shows that allows his fans to really connect with him as not only an artist but also as a person," says Paglierani. "This really impressed me early on and still impresses me today. When he tells his story from the stage, it's powerful. He makes everyone in the room feel like they can do anything."
The best advice I've received is if you want to know whether you can fly, you have to spread your wings first. Someone told me this when I was deciding to branch out and build my own roster and it's always stuck with me. I think back to it anytime I find myself in a position where I question taking a risk.
Something most people don't understand is there are no shortcuts in career building. Even when an artist catches a break, it's still about the process and taking the right steps to ensure a career that focuses on longevity and maintaining long-term success.
What's next is continued growth. I'm looking forward to what the next year will bring for the developing artists I'm working with. I made a promise to myself early on to invest in artists who create music that I'm genuinely passionate about and we have some great things brewing. I’m lucky to be in a position to help artists amplify their voices. That’s what drives me and it’s the best feeling.
When you're coming up it’s important not to let the road blocks stop you. There were many times in my career where I thought this might not work out for me. Overcoming the struggles make for the best stories once you've pushed through.