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UTA: A YEAR OF MOMENTUM

UTA Music had a busy 2021: It was Samantha Kirby Yoh’s first full year as Partner and Co-Head of Worldwide Music alongside David Zedeck; Scott Clayton joined as Co-Head of Worldwide Music in November; the division acquired Echo Location Talent Agency and bulked up its U.K. presence; and UTA expanded into the Atlanta market, opening an office with partner company Klutch Sports Group.

A new office in Nashville saw further expansion in December with the hiring of Matthew Morgan as Nashville Co-Head with Jeffrey Hasson. The Nashville office also added veteran music agents Buster Phillips, Emily LaRose, Marissa Smith and Elisa Vazzana, comedy touring agent Amy Lynch, Emily Wright as Music Brand Partnerships Agent and Brandi Brammer as Senior HR Business Partner.

“The collective breadth and scope of our new colleagues will be a tremendous addition as we continue to expand our footprint in Nashville and beyond," says Zedeck.  

When it came to artists over the last 18 months, UTA booked record-setting tours for, among others, Bad Bunny and Guns N’ Roses; forged hundreds of brand partnerships for such artists as Post Malone and Chance the Rapper; and scored performers like Bebe Rexha and Dominic Fike their first on-screen acting jobs.

Zedeck says his team owes its success to doing business the way they have since he arrived in 2017, despite the vagaries of the pandemic. “We had strategic conversations with partners, agents, managers and artists in which we emphasized our client-first approach and our focus on cross-departmental collaboration,” he notes. “We have been able to execute for our clients in a real way that has resonated with the industry.” 

UTA’s strategic 360 approach to clients kicked into high gear while touring was not an option.

The agency helped Bad Bunny stretch via a recurring role on Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico and parts in Sony’s Bullet Train and Amazon Studios’ Cassandro, not to mention collaborations with AdidasCorona and Cheetos. The artist was also booked on Saturday Night Live. When his 2022 El Último Tour Del Mundo went on sale, it made history as the third-biggest tour sale of all time and highest-grossing Ticketmaster Platinum sale.

We have been able to execute for our clients in a real way
that has resonated with the industry.” 
— David Zedeck

Rexha made her feature acting debut in Queenpins, delivered a livestream performance honoring first responders and was tapped as a brand ambassador for PUMAAdore Me and Deichmann.

UTA closed deals for Malone to be the new face of Monster Energy and headline the Pokémon 25th Anniversary concert; UTA Ventures, alongside partners Dre London and James Morrissey, helped structure the partnership and deal for his Maison No. 9 Rosé; and the agency facilitated Malone's arrangement with Jägermeister for its #SaveTheNight Campaign, as well as his forays into esports and an online beer-pong tournament. Indeed, UTA has emerged as a frontrunner in the music/brand partnership race, reportedly closing 500+ such deals during the pandemic alone.

"During this time of uncertainty, our team rose to the occasion and successfully found meaningful opportunities for clients outside of traditional live touring," Kirby Yoh confirms. "In particular, our Music Brand Partnerships division didn’t miss a beat and secured a record number of deals for artists across all genres, from rising stars to icons."

UTA facilitated the unveiling of Halsey’s first painting, “People Disappear Here,” and the eponymous NFT series in March. The collection included an array of seven NFTs, which grossed more than seven figures total. Each featured a subject from “People Disappear Here” rendered in 3D animation and included the original artwork.

Amid striking deals, unloading Post Malone’s cases of Jäger and having NFTs explained to them, Zedeck, Kirby Yoh and Clayton agreed to answer a few of our questions.  

Given the many changes delivered by 2021, how is the music department currently structured?

DAVID ZEDECK: Sam, Scott and I jointly lead the global music group. Obi Asika and Neil Warnock co-lead our U.K. office and work closely with the three of us. Having co-heads in our Los Angeles, New York and Nashville offices will be extremely beneficial to our strategic growth, and we are continuing to build out a structure that will take advantage of all our strengths.  

Scott, what made you want to join UTA?

SCOTT CLAYTON: The company culture. The pandemic forced us to reexamine our priorities both personally and professionally. I concluded that I wanted to work at a company that has built a positive work culture around transparency with colleagues and clients, one focused on teamwork and having each other’s backs and taking real action towards diversity, equity and inclusion.

I've also watched the rapid progress [UTA CEO] Jeremy Zimmer has made in building out UTA’s music business, coupled with the momentum David has created over the past few years and the growth the team has achieved since Sam joined. I've worked with both David and Sam in the past and have a number of friends and former colleagues who now work at UTA. Once I considered the culture, the friendships and the strength of the team, it was a very easy decision for me to join UTA. I’m excited and honored to be part of this team.

"During this time of uncertainty, our team rose to the occasion and successfully found meaningful opportunities for clients outside of traditional live touring. In particular, our Music Brand Partnerships division didn’t miss a beat and secured a record number of deals for artists across all genres, from rising stars to icons." 
— Samantha Kirby Yoh

Samantha, you moved to UTA from WME last year. What have you noticed about UTA's culture in that time?

SAMANTHA KIRBY YOH: UTA has a client-first mentality, with transparency, innovation and collaboration among teams.

Having joined UTA in the middle of the pandemic, what have been your priorities?

KIRBY YOH: The time away from the road has given us the opportunity to assess what we could be doing differently as an industry. Working closely with Diversify the Stage—a network of music-industry professionals and community-engagement organizers—we're building a more inclusive and equitable events, concerts and touring industry. 

You bolstered your offices in Europe and Nashville over the last 18 months. Was that part of a pre-pandemic plan or did opportunity present itself?

ZEDECK: We were already focused on expanding our global footprint and looking for strategic partners and key agents to join and help grow our department. When traditional touring was put on hold due to COVID-19, we were able to identify a number of amazing hires not only in Europe and Nashville but across our global offices.

I’m happy we were finally able to open our new Nashville office at the historic site of the old Carnegie Library, in the heart of Music City—it was originally scheduled to open in mid-March 2020. We're thrilled that our colleagues are now able to use this beautiful new space. With Scott and many other key new hires, we've really grown the Nashville office and it will continue to be one of our main focuses for 2022.

The acquisition of Echo Location Talent Agency in the U.K. played an integral role in building our international business. Echo founder Obi Asika, who now co-leads the U.K. office with Neil Warnock, is one of the industry’s key players, with an unparalleled reputation in the global music landscape. We also recently hired Rebecca Prochnik, founder of the Earth Agency, as Director of Creative Strategy for U.K. Music. She's known for helping independent talent break into the mainstream music space. Her sense of entrepreneurship and innovation will help the office expand and thrive.

The growth of the music division at UTA began with the purchase of The Agency Group in 2015. Last year saw the Echo acquisition. What were the major moves between those two?

ZEDECK: Since the Agency Group acquisition, we've kept our foot on the gas to continue growing and expanding the division. When we acquired Circle Talent Agency in 2018, we solidified our leadership position in the electronic-music space.

When Sam joined as Partner and Co-Head of Global Music, she brought ROSALIÁ, Grimes, LCD Soundsystem, Florence + The Machine, M.I.A., James Blake, Moses Sumney, St. Vincent, FKA twigs and more. Along with our new hirings, our roster has also expanded to include Halsey, Machine Gun Kelly, YUNGBLUD, Jimmy Eat World, Tori Kelly, Young the Giant, Jamey Johnson, Surfaces, Midland and Skepta.

I'm also so proud of the fantastic global signings we've made in the face of unprecedented circumstances: Demi Lovato, Lil Wayne, Marshmello, Swedish House Mafia, deadmau5, The Kid LAROI and many more.          

What are the biggest challenges in getting to a new normal?

KIRBY YOH: As more artists gear up to go on the road, we all must work together to mitigate any associated risks and meet immediate challenges to ensure a great experience for audiences while still adhering to local and global safety protocols.

"I think many of the country artists in Nashville would like to develop a fanbase that extends beyond the world of country radio. The best way to do that is by developing connectivity within the wider music community. I plan to take this approach at UTA."
— Scott Clayton

Which elements of the Nashville business have translated well overall? Vice versa, what has Nashville been able to apply from Hollywood/New York?

CLAYTON: When I moved to Nashville in 1994, it was exclusively a country-music town. The idea of starting a boutique agency focused on rock acts in Nashville seemed like a crazy idea at the time. The success we had at PGA [Progressive Global Agency] and the later success I had at CAA served as proof that Nashville is a great town for incubating talent of any genre. I've attempted to build bridges between the country-music community and the larger contemporary music world throughout my career. 

There's a tendency to keep the country business separate from the rest of the music department. I believe this siloed approach is not productive for either the country business or the Nashville music business as a whole. I think many of the country artists in Nashville would like to develop a fanbase that extends beyond the world of country radio. The best way to do that is by developing connectivity within the wider music community. I plan to take this approach at UTA as we continue to build on the momentum this team has created in Nashville and across the music division.

ALONG CAME JONES
Alamo adds a COO. (1/13a)
VISUAL ARTISTS HONOR INTERSCOPE
A feast for the senses (1/14a)
GRAMMYS IN APRIL?
(NO FOOLIN')
Vegas, baby. (1/12a)
COACHELLA LINEUP: HARRY, YE, BILLIE AND THE WHOLE THING
The poster has been printed. (1/13a)
UTA: A YEAR OF MOMENTUM
Agency reshuffles the deck. (1/14a)
I DON'T WANNA WORK
I just wanna bang on my drum all day.
I HAVE A HANGOVER
I like to call it "2021."
I DON'T WANNA HAVE A MEETING
My Zoom backgrounds are all outdated.
I MISS CHRISTMAS
When's the next holiday that involves eggnog?
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