UTA's David Zedeck Talks Circle Talent Agency Acquisition and More at Billboard Live Music Summit

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David Zedeck and Dave Brooks photographed at the 2018 Billboard Live Music Summit + Awards at the Montage Beverly Hills on Nov. 14, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The head of music also talks merging cultures and artist-curated festivals.

After five years with the nation's largest promoter, David Zedeck left Live Nation in July of 2017 to run the music department at United Talent Agency. In a Q&A conversation with Billboard's touring and live entertainment senior correspondent Dave Brooks at the Billboard Live Music Summit on Nov. 13, Zedeck explained that one of his main objectives was fulfilled with the acquisition of Circle Talent Agency in April.

"Once of the priorities of me joining UTA was establishing and expanding the electronic music division," Zedeck told Brooks at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. Circle co-founders Steve Gordon and Kevin Gimble "built out one of the largest independent electronic music agencies and they had met with somebody at UTA before. We met and we hit it off right away."

Zedeck explained that he was in talks with Gordon and Gimble for roughly a year when they sat down for a lunch meeting and hashed out the acquisition details in an hour and a half over matzo ball soup. Circle brought over large portion of its electronic roster to UTA including Marshmello, Kaskade, Excision and Illenium.

Brooks asked Zedeck about how UTA successfully merged the three cultures of United Talent, Circle and The Agency Group that was brought into the fold in 2015.

"I think it starts with the personality of the people. Everyone is a self-starter and if there is a common goal, everything else you can get around. How can we help each other out and how can we help our client," said Zedeck.

Zedeck added: "I think what really works and part of the success is that there aren't a lot of silos. We have this great collaborative spirit in the agency."

According to Zedeck, that collaborative spirit is essential for a full-service agency now. With artists searching for new outlets for revenue beyond streaming and touring.

"Before, if an artist was getting an endorsement or playing Vegas, people would think they were selling out. Now these endorsements make them bigger and better," said Zedeck.

Zedeck added that artist-curated festivals are also a big-ticket item for clients right now.

"Who better to curate for the fans than the artist themselves?" Zedeck said.

UTA has worked with several clients on curated events such as Kaskade's Sun Soaked festival in Long Beach, Calif. and Post Malone's Posty Fest in Dallas.

Since many festivals take years to become profitable, Brooks asked how these artists were financially benefiting from these events so closely associated with their brands.

"If you are going to a place that has infrastructure, you're starting off well," said Zedeck, who added that building these events from scratch was a quick way to end up in the red before a ticket was even sold.

According to Zedeck, the ample amount of sponsors trying to align their brands with certain artists also goes a long way in making the curated events profitable early on.

"How do you decide to book the tour market by market by show or do a national tour deal with live Nation or AEG?" Brooks went on to ask the former Live Nation executive.

"The real decision comes down to the artist and a lot of the time it comes down to the manager. Smaller managers don't have the infrastructure of a national promoter," Zedeck explained, adding that the decision is never in the hands of the agent.

Brooks continued, inquiring if an artist needs an agent when they sell a national tour to a promoter like Live Nation or AEG.

"Absolutely, they need an agent," said Zedeck. "As agents, it is our job to still service every show. You're working with the promoter to make the best merch deal, to look at your ticket scan, to look at the marketing. Not every show sells out at the on sale. So you need to go through it."

Zedeck added: "It is not just making the deal, it is servicing the tour."


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