When veteran agent Jack Ross spoke to Billboard following the Aug. 1 announcement that UTA would shutter its Canadian office in Toronto, which he helmed as COO along with CEO Ralph James, Ross hinted at big news within two weeks. The interview somewhat quelled the bad news that the respected staff of 20-plus agents and assistants would be out of work and its artists without dedicated representation. Several managers messaged Billboard off the record confirming their loyalty to their responsible agent (RA); Nickelback said as much in their exclusive statement to Billboard.
Many in the industry had a feeling that everybody would be snapped up by another agency or reopen for business under another name. And they were right.
Last week three announcements arrived within 24 hours: Rob Zifarelli and Adam Countryman were going to open Paradigm’s first Canadian office in Toronto; James and Ross would do the same for the first APA office and bring along Stefanie Purificati and Mike Graham (former coordinator at UTA, now promoted to agent); and Canadian-owned Paquin Artists Agency would hire Adam Kreeft, Rob Thornton and Sarah Litt.
As for the other staffers, Ross tells Billboard that Lorraine Webb and Jean Wilkinson remain at UTA cleaning up their affairs, while Andre Guerette also joined Paradigm; a message to Zaed Maqbool has not yet been returned.
Ross says they are “operating seamlessly and remotely. We are just closing a deal on new office space.” Billboard reached out to various members of the Canadian music industry for comment about the new landscape for the country's music industry.
Neill Dixon, president, Canadian Music Week
“I really thought a new Canadian agency would spring from the ashes, but that was not to be. It also struck me as Ironic that UTA thought it didn’t need a Canadian office, but Paradigm and APA did. Worse, their decision lost them a stellar roster of Canadian artists and talented agents. Overall I’m happy to see most employees landed on their feet and CMW looks forward to doing business with all our old friends in their new capacities.”
Steve Kane, president, Warner Music Canada
"I'm glad to see that many talented friends and colleagues have landed on their feet. It's great to know that our artists’ live businesses have not been adversely impacted and that we can continue to work closely with great agents on developing careers.”
Erik Hoffman, president, Live Nation Toronto
“As they say, with change comes opportunity. It couldn’t ring more true in this particular case. Over the past few weeks it’s been thrilling to watch these great industry players do what they do best... make deals. Seeing the creation of two new agency offices in such short order speaks to how much international interest there is in our domestic live music industry. Jack, Ralph, Rob and all the great agents and staff who found a new home this week are perfect representatives of this business. I couldn’t be more excited to witness their new stories and successes.”
Michael McCarty, chief membership and business development officer, SOCAN
“I’m not surprised this great group of agents landed on their feet so quickly. The fact that there are now two new booking agencies entering the Canadian market affirms what SOCAN’s data shows -- that Canada is the hottest source of music talent in the world right now.”
Scott Warren, general manager, Core Entertainment (FirstOntario Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall & The Studio, Spectra Venue Management)
“My initial reaction to the UTA closure was personal. These gifted agents are friends and colleagues. While the closing of UTA’s Toronto office felt deflating, the news of two respected agencies opening in Toronto was a powerful testimony to the strength of Canadian music and markets. I look forward to working with these great agencies to further solidify Hamilton as a top music market in Canada.”
Alexander Mair, music industry consultant, former owner of Attic Records
“So glad that the industry grabbed these guys while available -- all great people. Canada is the third largest exporter of music after the U.S. and U.K. Much of that success is because of our support systems, including having great agents who know the market intimately. I'm most excited about the opening of APA in Toronto under the auspices of Ralph and Jack.”
Allen Moy, president, Divine Industries Inc.
“There was no doubt in my mind that these key players like Ralph James, Jack Ross and Rob Zifarelli would land on their feet quickly. I am thrilled that Ralph and Jack are opening a Toronto office for APA. My clients continue to be in good hands. Overall, the agency business in Canada just got more interesting and, really, I think more exciting. Two new and lean agency offices emerge, both with great international components. This will cultivate new opportunities for the agents, concert promoters and most importantly the artists.”
Chris Taylor, global president, eOne Music; head of Last Gang Artist Management
“It’s been a chaotic few weeks, but it’s a testament to all these agents that they all found welcoming landing places. It certainly shifts up the competitive agency landscape in Canada and more competition is a good thing for artists in this country.”
Jake Gold, CEO, The Management Trust Ltd
“We went from having two bigger agencies in Canada to now having four, two of them with worldwide reach. It’s going to benefit everybody because all of those companies are going to want to expand. APA is going to want to expand and bring on more agents; Paradigm’s going to want to expand and bring on more agents, which means that there’s going to be more opportunities for bands to have more agents. That’s been the biggest problem right now, in Canada, is there’s a lot of bands booking themselves. I’ve even been in the same situation where I’ve had to do it myself; now there’s going to be more agents out there that are going to be hungry and new young agents. It’s a good thing.”
RoseAnna Schick, president RAS Creative; manager and publicist for Midnight Shine
“Ralph is taking Midnight Shine along on his new APA roster. So glad to know he landed on his feet and will continue on doing what he loves to do. He told me he believes in us 100 percent and we believe the same in him. We’re excited for our new future with Ralph.”
Michael Hollett, co-founder and managing director, NXNE
“It’s no surprise that all of these talented people more than landed on their feet, but it’s pretty impressive how quickly it all happened. I ran into Ralph James and Jack Ross next to the NXNE offices and teased them, saying it was a “We're getting the band back together" moment. But it is. They’ve done great work with APA’s Steve Martin back in The Agency Group days and will again I’m sure. And with Zif and all of the folks moving to Paradigm, instead of losing representation with UTA closing, Canadian acts have gained with two solid international agencies opening up new offices in Toronto.”
Jeffrey Remedios, president, Universal Music Canada
"What we are seeing play out is that UTA’s decision to pull out of the Canadian marketplace is not a reflection of the strength of the artistic or the executive talent in this country. Paradigm, APA and Paquin have made smart hires to take advantage of this opportunity. Zif, Jack and Ralph are leaders in their field and I’m honored to continue working hand-in-hand with them in discovering and breaking artists."
Yvonne Matsell, Toronto promoter and co-founder of NXNE
"The opening of an additional two new agencies is excellent news for the Canadian music business. I think this will stimulate growth for music venues, which have had a really tough time lately. More agents will be looking for new venues to place their acts in and the venues are going to benefit from the support of agents looking to develop their acts. This is good news all around. Upcoming acts that have been looking for an agent will now have a stellar choice of representation. I see this as a win-win situation for all concerned. I wish all these amazing, talented people huge congratulations and foresee an exciting time ahead."