The Windish Agency, one of the most successful independent booking agencies in the music industry with acts including alt-J, Diplo, The War On Drugs, and Lorde, has entered the Paradigm fold in a deal described as a “partnership,” Billboard has exclusively learned.
Financial details were not disclosed. Asked to clarify the deal, Windish tells Billboard, “It’s a partnership.” As a proven success in artist development with a robust roster of acts active at festivals and hard ticket shows, Windish Agency has long been believed to be ripe for acquisition, but, “it really has nothing to do about money with me,” Windish says. “I don’t have big plans to go on vacation or something. It’s more about who do I want to pair up with that can help my clients and the people that work at my company get to places they’ve never been before and they want to be.”
A force in the electronic and indie rock spaces, the Windish Agency was founded by Tom Windish, 42, in 2004, and boasts a roster of about 750 acts booked by about 30 agents, all of whom are expected to continue with Paradigm. Among those acts are Chvrches, Chromeo, Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus, Flume, M83, Odesza, The xx, The 1975, Tove Lo, and recent Windish signee Big Boi.
“We’re great at finding artists that find audiences very quickly, and I don’t intend for that to slow down,” says Windish. “I’ve got 29 agents here, and almost all of them are really kicking ass. I wanted to give those guys the tools so that when these acts get to that higher level that they feel comfortable and confident and that they have the skills and tools to be able to book them.”
Asked how the Windish Agency fits strategically within the existing Paradigm operation, Paradigm music division chief Chip Hooper cites the agency's "really interesting roster of clients that are in a place in their evolution where this makes sense for everyone. But, No. 1, they’re good people, because if they weren’t, there’d be nothing to talk about. We all looked at each other and said, ‘this makes sense, for a lot of good reasons.’”
Windish says feedback from clients has been universally positive. “Most of them were like, ‘oh, that’s great. We were wondering when you were going to do something, we know people have been calling you forever,’” Windish says. “No one has said, ‘we’re not into it.’ A lot of them have asked, ‘are you still gonna be booking us?’ and I say, ‘absolutely, I will 100 percent still be booking. I’m hoping to use this as a lightning rod to be booking even more artists.”
After booking bands as a student at SUNY Binghamton, Windish entered the booking business from a bedroom at his parent’s house. He relocated to Chicago “because it was cheap” and launched his own Bug Booking from a third floor apartment above famed Chicago nightclub Lounge Ax. He then moved to L.A. to work with David “Boche” Viecelli at the Billions Corp., where he not only built a roster of promising indie rock bands, but also made headway in the DJ space as that sector began to explode, booking scores of acts in both genres into the also-exploding festival scene.
Windish, “was a little of both worlds, and as the DJ culture began to grow, Tom was in a very good position to leverage and bring so many more bigger DJ names into his roster,” says longtime Windish associate Joe Shanahan, who owns and operates both the 1,100-cap Metro and the 500-cap Smart Bar dance club in Chicago, booking 25 Windish acts in the former and 50 DJs in the latter in the previous year. Shanahan says Windish is, “really in the development business, hence one of the reasons I think Chip Hooper really sees this as a good move for Paradigm.”
Marty Diamond, who leads Paradigm’s New York operation, can, 10 years after bringing Little Big Man under the Paradigm umbrella, offer Windish a unique perspective. Asked what he advised Windish, Diamond says the past decade has, “played out beyond my expectations, in the grand scheme of things. I told [Windish] that I feel a part of a team that has a very special culture, a really big company with the heart of a boutique, which is really important.”
The Windish team has “impeccable A&R instincts,” Diamond says, adding that the agency “meshes really well,” with Paradigm, and is particularly “synergistic” with the AM Only roster and team. “It starts and ends with the bands you sign and how you build them, and Tom has done an amazing job in that space, as have [Windish agents] Sam Hunt, Mike Mori and Ben Buchanan,” he says. “Where Tom and I are kindred spirits is we view ourselves as being truly in the artist development business. Whether that’s alt-j with Tom, or Ed Sheeran with me, or Phish and Dave Matthews Band with Chip, or Imagine Dragons with [Paradigm agent] Corrie [Christopher], and it’s the same thing with AM Only with Disclosure or Skrillex, the list goes on. We’re all in the business of building careers, really big careers.”
AM Only president Paul Morris, who cut a similar deal with Paradigm three years ago, says, “The most important thing that I've learned is that there is no smarter move to make than to find partners who share the same values, both in business and in life. Paradigm felt like family from day one, and our continued success comes from that strong bond.”
With its robust film, television, digital, and literary departments, as well as marketing, branding and sponsorship divisions within the music operation, Paradigm offers growth opportunities for Windish clients, and, “clearly that’s something that I can only assume those guys [at Windish] were looking for,” Hooper says when asked what Paradigm brings to the party for a firm like TWA.
Windish is the latest strategic move in a slow-but-steady music division expansion that began when Paradigm, founded by Paradigm chairman/CEO Sam Gores, made the leap into music a decade ago with the acquisition of leading indie Monterey Peninsula Artists, quickly followed by New York-based Little Big Man. Several other key agencies followed, including Ellis Industries, and Third Coast Artists Agency. The 2012 addition of AM Only, a powerhouse in electronic music, gave Paradigm an immediate presence in that space, and the Coda deal last year planted a Paradigm flag in the U.K.
“Each one of our partnerships have extended our scope of artistic representation,” Hooper says, but adds that the moves weren't purely about building their presence in a hot space. "If AM Only had dominated the EDM market… and been a bunch of jerks, it wouldn’t have been interesting to us," he says. "With any great relationship, there has to be something in it for both parties, so that’s what has been so great here, dating back to when Monterey Peninsula Artists partnered with Paradigm, through to when Little Big Man, AM Only and when Coda joined us. We came together because there were reasons to do it, and we’ve all become really close with each other.”
Paradigm represents such superstar clients such as Aerosmith, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, David Guetta, Disclosure, Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, Phish, Skrillex, Tiësto, Toby Keith, and Zedd, to name a few. The agency has offices in Los Angeles, New York, Monterey, Calif.; Nashville, Austin, Texas; and London; AM Only has offices in L.A. and Brooklyn, and Windish has offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Toronto. Presumably, there will be some consolidation of office space down the line but, with Windish’s New York team just moving into “the first real nice office we’ve had” in Soho two weeks ago, and the L.A. team in the midst of a build-out for “awesome” space in Chinatown, Windish doesn’t seem crazy about the idea. “Paradigm wants us all to be under one roof,” says Windish. “I told them, ‘I think that’s a great idea, but I want to be agreeable about the parts of town. As long as we can all agree on that, you guys go find a space, negotiate the lease, build it out to a level where all our people are happy, when you get that done, let me know where we go, and we’ll move in. Until then, I have amazing offices in New York and L.A.'”
That said, Windish admits, “It really makes sense, and would be better, if we were all in one place. I think agents benefit from being around agents.”
Windish says he will be actively scouting for new talent as he moves forward with Paradigm. “To me it’s the most exciting time in music,” he says. “There’s incredible music being made constantly. I get blown away by stuff I hear almost every day. And, yeah, I like booking and signing stuff.”
Asked how the alignment will manifest itself in the coming months, Hooper says, “The honest answer is, ‘I’ll tell you a year from now.’ This is one of those things where you begin a good relationship, you go into with the best of intentions, you take each day as it comes, and as situations present themselves, you address them. If we looked in the rear view mirror at how wonderful the partnerships have evolved with Little Big Man, AM Only and Coda, we’ve never had one go bad. So, we hope it goes just like those have. The future is exciting, we’ll see where it takes us, come to work each day and see what ideas we have and figure something out.
For Windish, “the hardest work is yet to come,” he says. “I’m really excited about this. These guys [at Paradigm] are awesome, and it’s really nice to know that they’re now fully on my side, and want me to win, and I think we’re going to be able to some really great stuff together.”