Legal and Management

Longtime Pearl Jam Manager Kelly Curtis Retires: Exclusive

Pearl Jam
Danny Clinch

Pearl Jam

Kelly Curtis, who has guided Pearl Jam for the entirety of the superstar rock band’s career, is retiring.

After 30 years, Curtis is passing the title of band manager to longtime management team member Mark Smith, the Pearl Jam organization confirms to Billboard.

Curtis, who had scant management experience before connecting with the band three decades ago, oversaw its meteoric rise to global superstars. His role with the band has often been compared to that of former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who similarly helmed the rise of the Irish act U2 until he stepped down in 2013.

Under Curtis, Pearl Jam, which formed in 1990 in Seattle, broke through with its debut album, 1991’s Ten. The set catapulted the group into instant superstardom and, along with Nirvana, they were leaders in the grunge movement.

As their stature rose, the band didn’t hesitate to use its power to protect its fans, including filing an antitrust complaint against TicketMaster in 1994 over its service fees. Curtis was a steady hand over other difficult times, such as 2000, when nine fans were trampled at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

But Curtis oversaw far more joyous occasions than sad, including all 11 of the band’s studio albums debuting in the top 5 of the Billboard 200, with five starting at No. 1, and sold out tours around the world. The band’s most recent set, March’s Gigaton, debuted at No. 5 and was to be followed by a North American and European Tour that has been postponed due to COVID-19. The band will headline London's Hyde Park in 2021.

Curtis, who the band thanked when it was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

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