Rod MacSween on why artists need agents
ITB’s Rod MacSween responds to industry commentator Bob Lefsetz`s question "Do artists still need agents in times with worldwide promoter like AEG and Live Nation?

Rod MacSween:

Hey Bob. Let me respond to your email with WHY artists need an agent.

The focus of my work as an agent is on territories outside of the USA, especially in Europe, Latin America, Australasia, Japan/Asia etc. Many large acts do sell the ‘Whole World Tour’ to LN or AEG. However all tours still have to be routed and there are places where the ‘big’ promoters do not have companies or local relationships.

Often, with tour routes that we have helped to create (many times with those ‘big’ promoters), we include additional and useful ‘sell off’ shows. We also act as a buffer between the Manager/Artist and the Promoter. There are often difficult decisions to be made on logistics, local compliance rules, movement of equipment, local tax issues, currency fluctuations, insurance for pandemics and much more to make a tour run smoothly.

We also check the books (although vanishingly few promoters are dishonest, as you suggest). The point I’m making is that we agents have always provided a good ‘old fashioned’, time-honoured service. Here are some of the reasons I say this:

We have geographical understanding gained from years of experience. Local ‘on the ground’ issues are informed and resolved by a wealth of knowledge about locality, culture, company, client, that we have accumulated over time.

We store fundamental information such as how long it takes to overnight from A-B (drive times), the network of ferry links, transport restrictions, crew swaps, air-freight of equipment, charter flights and the many behind-the-scenes activities that collectively make a tour work (we do all this in association with artist production managers and transport companies)

Sure you can leave much to promoters but an AGENT fighting for the artist in their corner provides a crucial and significant service. We’re a vital cog in the overall process. As well as handling regular fee negotiations, much else of what is done by the agent maximises earnings for the artist. At a basic level, your premise that the manager just calls Michael Rapino and makes the global deal (thereby cutting out the agent) could be perceived as short term saving. But believe me, in the longer term, this ‘by-passing’ of our role and function would be more costly because of the reservoir of accumulated knowledge and pivotal insight an agent is able to bring to the party.

The artist relationship with a bigger promoter is partly founded on big bucks advances and guarantees. Undoubtedly this alliance has a role to play as financial certainty helps to keep the world running. Nevertheless, and for reasons I have indicated above, the contribution of the agent remains critical to the success of the enterprise. I would also add that territories outside of the USA represent about half the touring world and an agent ‘on the ground’ with local knowledge is an indispensable element in the equation.

The concept of ‘agent’ is not antiquated and the function is much more than paperwork. We help break talent by assisting younger acts to get a leg up. We foster record label, radio, tv and social media liaisons. We also have excellent relationships with all the top managers. Those guys appreciate the added value and hard work that an agent invests in their artists’ success. The strength and depth of the relationships that we have forged with a number of strong headliners has also been influential when it comes to negotiating with promoters, festivals and other venues. The presence of an agent will be significantly more consequential to an artist, adding value and helping to build or sustain their career in such an uncertain world we now face. The desired end result of an agent’s presence is to allow the artist to concentrate on their performance and give of their best to their audience, free from any external concerns which may have arisen.

The holistic nature of the agent’s relationship with an artist/manager means we’re always there for them, supporting, protecting, nurturing through thick and thin. Our agency representation list and enduring artist bonds speaks for itself.

The pendulum of live music swings between the power of a) the artists and promoters and b) the public who pay good money to see the music performed. In the present climate of uncertainty, the law of the jungle applies so let`s allow the market to determine “who agrees what”. You can’t blame Rapino for trying to close the gaps. He is a caring and intuitive man who has given up his own salary for the cause.

Rod MacSween
(International Talent Booking) ITB AGENCY London