Matt Bates, Managing Partner and CEO of Primary Talent International, gave his first interview since the agency’s management buyout.
In 2020, Primary Talent was sold to ICM, then acquired by CAA last summer. In March of this year, the London-based agency reestablished its independent status.
“There was an understanding that trying to integrate primaries into CAA wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone,” Bates said. “It became clear that there was room to put something together and buy back the Primary. It was always friendly.”
The acquisition was led by former ICM founding partner and COO Rick Levy, whom Bates described as “supportive.” Levy has been appointed as his Primary Talent Partner and will act as a Senior Advisor.
“It’s very liberating to be able to reestablish our identity in the music world,” Bates said. music week.
Primary Talent’s roster of over 450 artists includes The 1975, The Cure, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Alt-J, Lina Sawayama, Beabadoobee, Ziggy Marley and Wolf Alice. increase.
The acquisition agreement by management was privately funded.
“There is no external investment. [specific] It’s the profit margin,” Bates said. “It is very unusual for an agency to be purely independently owned.”
The company has promoted agents Laetitia Deskuen, Sally Dunston, Marti Kremers, Ed Sellers and Los Angeles-based Simon Clarkson to partners. Veteran attorney Ben Winchester will continue to serve on the board alongside Mr. Bates and Mr. Levy.
Primary Talent focuses on bookings in Europe, including American artists represented by agents in Los Angeles and New York. Last month, the company hired Pete Nash, who joined ICM in 2020. New York-based primary talent partner artists include Kings of Leon, Pet Shop Boys, Regina Spector, Steve Winwood and Travis.
The division returned to full production last year, and the impact of COVID-19 was a defining moment for the company, Bates said.
“The pandemic has definitely made relationships more business again and relationships more important,” Bates said. “Even without the show, those who remained in contact with the client during that period did well and survived.”
Primary Talent clients such as Rina Sawayama, Beabadoobee and Sports Team really broke through during the pandemic.
“People had big debut albums while they weren’t touring, and it was so weird,” Bates said.
Rina Sawayama, who signed with Dirty Hit, then appeared at venues such as O2 Academy Brixton prior to its closure.
“Lina has grown into a great artist and Sally has done a great job growing her,” Bates said. “She’s a world-class artist who can break anywhere, and she really fits a lot.”
It’s so liberating to be able to reestablish our identity in the world of music.
The agency has booked The 1975’s summer outdoor shows and festivals including Parklife, TRNSMT and Finsbury Park.
“With this campaign, The 1975, we saw ticket sales pick up again around the world,” Bates said. “London’s Finsbury Park gig literally sold out in seconds, but that was after doing a UK arena tour. It was just phenomenal.
“They’re evolving with each album, they’re growing, and their fan base is growing. This summer is going to be a very big summer for them all over the world.”
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will play several outdoor shows in the UK, including Splendor Festival and Bingley Weekender.
“Noel’s ticket sales will never go down. He’s very strong and an important British icon,” said Bates.
For 2022, the Primary Team has booked approximately 4,500 shows worldwide. Their hectic schedule last year hinged on a full return of gigs, including gigs that had been postponed before the pandemic.
“This year is going to be a bigger, better, busier year in every way,” Bates said. “It’s actually bigger than last year. No one thought it was going to happen. Talking to promoters, it’s the same everywhere. So we feel like we’re really coming back as an industry now. Yes, and that’s great.”
Bates emphasized that while the top end of the industry is thriving, it’s tougher for smaller artists, especially new ones.
“With rising costs and fewer people buying tickets, it’s getting harder and harder to find new artists and keep touring,” he said. “The key is how to find ways to provide them with the right foundation to grow on.”
Ticket prices have been making headlines recently, with The Cure intervening over high booking fees in the US.
“No one wants to be seen as exploiting their fans,” Bates said. “Unfortunately, over time, some practices have become practiced without the artist’s knowledge.
“We have to be transparent with our promoters. [artists] Those familiar with tour-related mechanics such as dynamic pricing, platinum tickets, and VIP packages. You can’t force an artist to do that. “
A key priority for Primary is expanding the dance business.
“When we first started talking about going independent, it was the first division I recognized as one that I wanted to grow,” says Bates. “We have always had a solid foundation in the world of dance.
It is still thriving and growing, and I am very passionate about making growing that space a priority for the Primary. “
Bates also places an even greater emphasis on brand partnerships.
“I want it to be a more complete organization,” he said.
As the agency enters a new era, Bates sums up his vision:
“I want to be seen as an agency that digs deep, goes out of its way, and works really hard for the client to get the best for them,” he said. “I want artists to continue to work with the utmost trust so that they can continue to be creative without worrying about business.”