One of the creative minds behind July's Classic East and Classic West festivals on the vitality of classic rock and the evolving role of agents
Even Rick Roskin, one of the most prominent talent agents in the music business, says he finds Creative Artists Agency's towering, O-shaped headquarters -- known as the Death Star -- intimidating. The Tulane graduate's office in CAA's executive suite looks out on expansive views of Los Angeles as valets whisk away cars below.
"It's a bit daunting, but on the music side we tend to be a little more casual. We don't wear suits," says Roskin, CAA co-head of contemporary music for North America. The 51-year-old began working in CAA's mailroom 30 years ago, as a kid who loved music but whose "only redeeming skill was I knew how to operate a keg." Roskin became an agent in 1991, and over the years his client roster has grown to include Eric Clapton, Santana, Kelly Clarkson and Cheap Trick, the lattermost an especially thrilling signing, having been the first band he ever saw in concert.
This year, Roskin also helped conceive one of 2017's highest-profile concert series: the Classic West and Classic East festivals slated for this summer at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium (July 15-16) and Citi Field in Queens (July 29-30), headlined by the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac with support from Steely Dan, Journey, The Doobie Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire. After last year's Goldenvoice-promoted Desert Trip festival, Live Nation is putting a bicoastal twist on the classic rock format. "It was an idea that was ruminating, and the opportunity came at the right time," says Roskin. "We moved at warp speed to get it going."
Could the Classic shows become a franchise, with Classic Northwest or Southeast or Midwest editions?
Potentially. We're offering a great night of music. That's the brand. It's really about taking those careers and sustaining them and continuing their incredible growth 30, 40 years into a career, and doing the same thing with up-and-coming acts. Whether it's Leon Bridges or Harry Styles or Dua Lipa, that's the goal, and that to me is what Classic represents.
Is this a heritage rock show?
I don't use "heritage." They're rock bands that have dominated the industry for generations and continue to connect with new fans. Look at who attends an Iron Maiden show; it's a young audience.
In 2017, does an agent's craft go beyond booking shows?
Absolutely. Opportunity lives in this building, and our job is to be a conduit to that opportunity. The industry has evolved; artists have evolved. Some desire to be global brands, some desire to be great musicians, which is fantastic. It's our job to facilitate their ambition.
What opportunities are you seeing in the festival space?
There's huge opportunity in being specialized and catering to a specific audience. Look at destination festivals: We had our eighth sold-out Kid Rock cruise this year. It's about building a community.