2019 American Music Awards

Spotlight: WME's Kevin Shivers On Tyler, The Creator's Carnival of a Career and Finding His Dream Job

Courtesy of WME
Kevin Shivers

"He's creating his own playground for fans to have a unique experience," Shivers says of Tyler's upcoming Camp Flog Gnaw event. "That's why it works."

When Tyler, the Creator takes the stage at Dodger Stadium this weekend to headline his own Camp Flog Gnaw festival in Los Angeles, it’ll be a victory lap and then some for the hometown hero wrapping his Igor Tour behind the Billboard 200-topping album by the same name released earlier this year.

Booked by Tyler with assistance from 4 Strikes, Goldenvoice and ideas from Kevin Shivers, the event -- which launched in 2012 as a parking lot carnival for a couple thousand Odd Future fans — will welcome 80,000 attendees over two days at Dodgers Stadium from Nov. 9-10 with additional performances by Solange, H.E.R., Brockhampton, Juice WRLD, Daniel Caesar and YG, to name a few. And as Los Angeles’ predominant music festival, it highlights Tyler’s success as a creator far beyond music. 

"A lot of the time, people have an idea for a festival and they just want to slap their name behind it but there is no theme, no real identity behind it," Shivers says. "What Tyler has done is given it an identity. He’s given it a theme. He has given it a direction."

Aside from featuring top talent, Tyler, the Creator has built Camp Flog Gnaw as an annual reunion for super fans equally as excited about his music as they are his Golf Wang clothing brand, filled with carnival games, rides and more. It’s also proven the multi-dimensional artist to be a tastemaker and influencer, as Shivers notes the festival was early to support Billie Eilish, Chance the Rapper and Brockhampton. Tyler was also instrumental in bringing Post Malone and Pharrell onto the bill and introducing a younger generation to Lauryn Hill.

"He's creating his own playground for fans to have a unique experience. That's why it works," Shivers adds. "I think the festivals that don’t work are ones where the lineup is all over the place.... You’re confused. You don’t know what you’re going to see."

Shivers says the massive appeal for the festival comes from the ‘safe space’ Tyler has created where kids can be themselves.

"We live in a world where so many events are struggling, so many of them are shuttering and then to take a hip-hop festival, put it in Los Angeles, which already has so many shows going on," says Shivers. "This is all about Tyler and his event and his relationships." And that extends to Tyler’s fans. 

"Your parents can drop you off and nobody is messing with you," says Shivers. “Tyler creates this world where you can come out here, enjoy the music, laugh, have fun and that’s the tone for the whole weekend.”

Heading into its eighth year, Camp Glog Gnaw was at the forefront of the artist-curated festival space. Since Tyler’s creation arrived in 2012, other artists have followed suit with Post Malone hosting Posty Fest, Travis Scott putting on Astroworld, Pharell’s Something in the Water and more, all of which have stood out in the crowded festival market thanks to each artist’s already established brand. 

Much like how Tyler, the Creator got his start as a trouble-making teen with the raucous Odd Future collective he helped found, Shivers’ made a name for himself early on in Austin, Texas, for sneaking into shows and parlayed it into a career move. 

“I knew the door guys; they would let me into shows,” he says. “One time the owner of Stubb’s Charles Attal, he goes to me, ‘How are you getting into all these shows? You didn’t pay for this.’ He said, ‘You don’t got to lie. I see you around. You’re a nice guy.’ Then we became buddies.”

Hanging out at Stubb’s tapped into Shiver’s love for music as a kid who grew up listening to Diana Ross, The Commodores and Motown greats. His college roommate at the University of Texas worked at Stubb’s and continued to introduce him to new music like The Flaming Lips and Ween to add to Shiver’s knowledge of locals The Ghetto Boys and superstars like Michael Jackson.

When Shivers interviewed about a job at William Morris Agency, he reached back out to his Austin music contacts to give him the extra edge.

“I would email Benjamin [Scales of William Morris] every Monday and ask him for a job. He emailed back half the time,” Shivers says. “One day I called Amy Corbin who works at C3 [Presents] and said, ‘I’m really trying to get this job. Can you help me?’ Her and Charles Attal called me and the rest is history. I got the job here.”

“The first day I walked through the door [at William Morris], I was like, ‘Holy shit. I found the place that I needed to be.’ And that is how I feel every day,” says Shivers. “It made me feel really grateful. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life and they were just jobs. I would do this for free.”

Since joining William Morris in 2008 (which transitioned into WME in 2009), Shivers has acquired a range of clients in sports, politics and music, including Solange, Brockhampton, Kid Cudi and popular political podcast Pod Save America, which gave its largest show to date at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles this September.

With Tyler, the Creator, like with the rest of his clients, Shivers says it’s all about supporting their vision. “We’re just out here trying to add value and help him figure it out,” he says, noting Tyler still hand picks the majority of the lineup and remains extremely hands-on with his management team. “Help him find the right partners using our relationships any way we can to help him pull off his dream.”

SPOTLIGHT

When you’re coming up always do all the easy things. The easy things are showing up early, staying late, calling everybody back and being grateful. Say please and thank you. Those are the things I try to do, even now. Also, be patient. Everybody wants things now. You’ve been an agent for a day or two and wondering why you haven’t signed a big act. Just be patient.

My big break was being lucky enough to be mentored by Brent Smith and Dave Wirtschafter. It has having somebody I could talk to all the time about different scenarios. Their doors are always open. I’ve been able to get my footing know those two people had my back.

Something most people don't understand is how much effort it takes to book artists for the whole year and how much thought we put into their career. There is so much detail in why we do certain things.

The easiest thing is just fucking showing up. I love coming to work so that’s the easiest thing. I like to have a weekend, but on Monday I am in the office at 5:30 a.m. I naturally wake up early and I like to get a head start. I get so much done before 9 a.m.

When I start to strategize I start to build a list of everything that needs to be done. It could as little as 10 or it could be 100 things. Then I start honing it in and getting it down to a science. I list out my goals, where I want to be in five years. When it is for a client I ask them where they want to be in five years. 

Spotlight is a Billboard.biz series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact spotlight@billboard.com.


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