21 under 21

How Managers and Agents Are Preparing Young Talent to Tour Post-Pandemic

Jxdn, Nessa Barrett
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Jxdn and Nessa Barrett perform on stage during Lollapalooza 2021 at Grant Park on Aug. 1, 2021 in Chicago.

In late September, punk quartet The Linda Lindas played their first headlining gig since their performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the Los Angeles Public Library went viral in May. Held at DIY space The Smell in their hometown of Los Angeles, the gig sold out within minutes. “It was really exciting to see that [fame] come offline and into a small venue,” says the group’s music agent, Carly James, at Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

Translating virtual success amid a pandemic into triumphant live shows is a conundrum many young artists now face. This year, over half of those included in Billboard’s 21 Under 21 list identified touring as a field they want to learn more about. Meanwhile, agents and managers understand there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for a successful first run.

For example, with The Linda Lindas ranging from ages 11 to 17, a tour has to wait until summer 2022 once they’re out of school. (It will also, according to James, have to include parents and chaperones.) 24kGoldn, however, is jumping right in. Following an opening slot on Cordae’s 2021 tour, the 20-year-old rapper will kick off his El Dorado dates at the 1,500-capacity House of Blues in San Diego in November.

“The main preparation is the grueling long haul of the travel that he might not be used to,” says 24kGoldn’s manager, David Waltzer, of Electric Feel Entertainment. “The most trying hurdle he has to overcome is how to take care of himself [and] his voice to perform night after night.” Waltzer adds that 24kGoldn played a series of festivals this summer, including New York’s Governors Ball, to fine-tune his set for larger crowds.

That tactic has also been utilized by Tate McRae, whose 2021 has been full of festival appearances, from Lollapalooza and Firefly to Austin City Limits. Next year, she’ll launch a headlining tour in the United Kingdom before returning to North America for 25-plus dates. “Festivals have kept her really busy, raised her profile and given her a chance to meet her fans in real life for the first time,” says manager Matt Feldman of Hard 8 Working Group.

By the time McRae hit the festival scene this summer, fans were singing her lyrics back at her despite only playing a handful of shows before the pandemic. “Coming out of the pandemic we’ve had to quickly scale up the shows, and every time she gets better.”

TikTok star Nessa Barrett is scheduled to perform her first headlining shows in New York and Los Angeles in November — both of which sold out within minutes, according to agent Matt Galle at CAA. Given the sales — and the fact she performed alongside jxdn in front of 50,000 festivalgoers at Chicago’s Lollapalooza in August — Galle believes she’s already a headlining artist. Even so, he says the plan is to avoid more than three shows in a row to save her voice.

But his most vital advice? “You only have one first tour. Remember to enjoy it.”

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 9, 2021, issue of Billboard