William Morris Endeavor IMG is expanding its global footprint through the acquisition of Artist Voice, a top-shelf Australian booking agency which has offices in various Asian territories, Billboard can confirm.
Artist Voice was co-founded in 2010 by CEO Brett Murrihy, former senior booking agent with Premier Harbour Agency; and his business partner Matt Gudinski, managing director of the Melbourne-based Illusive Entertainment, through a joint venture with Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group. The business launched with an HQ in Sydney, and has since expanded with offices in Melbourne, Auckland, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Through the new deal, Artist Voice is now 100% owned by WME IMG with the U.S. company concluding Mushroom Group’s shareholding.
The Australian-based company boasts a roster of more than 40 artists, including 5 Seconds of Summer, Angus & Julia Stone, Broods, Chet Faker, Chvrches, Cloud Control, Empire of the Sun, Jagwar Ma and Neil Finn while WME’s clients includes Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Miranda Lambert, Rihanna, Sam Smith, The Band Perry, Jack White and Pharrell Williams.
Going forward, Artist Voice is to be absorbed into its parent’s music division, with Murrihy taking the new role as head of Asia Pacific for music. Murrihy will be tasked with expanding and managing the agency’s presence in the music space throughout the region, reporting to Marc Geiger, WME’s head of music, whose team of agents booked more than 33,000 dates in 2014 (up from 29,000 in 2013).
Geiger declined to reveal the financial terms of the deal, though he admits he’s thrilled with the prospect of working with Murrihy -- a recognized star in his trade -- and stepping-up his company's activities in Asia Pacific.
“Asia, there’s a lot of growth still to come,” Geiger tells Billboard. “We’re going to redo how we do things internationally anyway, to keep pace with the digital world. It’s at the five yard line in the development of Asia Pacific. Lots of people historically have made entries or stabs or dabbles in markets. We’ll hopefully be there on a consistent basis for a long time. We have a lot of presence there with IMG already. We’re going to leverage that, stay close, and get into the markets deeply. In some ways I see us just starting on this path. And the Artist Voice piece is the first real start for ultimately a lot of growth for us in Asia Pacific.”
Murrihy is looking forward to new challenges. “The modus operandi for Artist Voice was always to find and develop the best talent in Asia Pacific and help export it to the world,” he tells Billboard. “WME Asia Pac will definitely continue to focus on this, while also providing the best regional and on the ground booking service to the WME roster.”
WME, he notes, was “founded on risk-taking and creativity. The chance of working with a visionary like Marc Geiger day to day and being encouraged to bring new ideas to the global table is an opportunity too good to pass up for our agents, artists and managers.”
Murrihy, who will be joined by six agents from Artist Voice, adds that the existing WME IMG presence in the region “gives us even more synergies and platforms to keep growing the business.” IMG has offices in cities including Hong Kong, Beijing, Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore, Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo, and WME's partner company Droga5, which is staffed by “music freaks,” Geiger quips, has its second largest office in Sydney.
Mushroom Group chairman Michael Gudinski comments: “We have enjoyed a strong working relationship with William Morris Endeavor over the past 35 years and William Morris Endeavor opening its doors in Australia can only help put further international attention on Australian artists. I wish William Morris Endeavor every success and look forward to continuing to work closely with Marc and Brett in the future.”
The deal comes at a particularly eventful time in Australia’s live music scene. The Big Day Out changed hands last year, and its new owners C3 Presents (now part of Live Nation) have scrapped the fest for the foreseeable future. In more recent news, the multi-city Future Music Festival has been scrubbed from the calendar.
Geiger blames overcrowding, though he has a strong opinion of the Aussie music scene. “Australia has always had too many promoters and too much activity given the size of the territory. Everybody knows that," he explains. "There’s going to be shakeout as there has been. The shakeout was also caused by the non-reinvention of those entities and festivals. They haven’t really kept up with what I call global standards. Australia is a vibrant territory. It’s always been exciting, the music is sophisticated, even though it’s a crowded market.”