LUCY DICKINS:
THE HITS INTERVIEW


Given her longtime role as Adele's agent, WME’s Lucy Dickins already had a sizable profile before she was upped to global head of contemporary music and touring at the agency. Since the ridiculously charming Brit (who joined WME in 2019) stepped into the new post last year and moved her family across the pond to L.A., however, she’s made a massive impression on the biz.

The scion of an influential U.K. showbiz family, Dickins built a powerful roster at ITB—which was, of course, co-founded by her dad, Barry—that included not only Adele but Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and James Blake.

Now that she’s well ensconced at WME’s Beverly Hills office and has her household properly sorted, Dickins has become fairly acclimated to La-La Land. Though talking to us probably didn’t help much.

You made the big move to Los Angeles last year. How’s it going?

The whole family moved over in July and I haven’t stopped since. We got in on a Thursday night with 16 cases and our dog, and by Monday morning I was in the office. It was brutal getting the kids settled into the new house and me settling into a new position and trying to find my way around somewhere new. Now the kids are situated in school, and we’ve gotten into a rhythm. We’re definitely settled. I think I just underestimated the size of the move, acclimating to the new culture and navigating around. We were used to walking everywhere in London, and even though I’m used to driving on the other side of the road, the freeway was terrifying. So I had to tell myself to just get in the car and spend a few days driving around. Now I’m used to it and everything’s fine.

What was it like growing up in a music-business family?

I don’t think as a child I really took on board what it was. You get to go to these amazing shows, and you get to meet amazing people. For us, it was the norm. It wasn't unusual for people we represented to call or come by the house. They never made it feel like it was anything different. I can remember Diana Ross calling our house—that's just not normal, is it?

Diana Ross definitely never called my house.

I mean—she is Ms. Ross, but I don’t think I ever really took much notice of it. I look back at it now and think it was quite crazy. It took a while to realize that what was “normal” for me was not everybody’s normal.

Do you recall the point at which you decided you wanted to work in the music industry?

Initially, I didn't want to go into music; I wanted to go into film. Coming from a music family can be a blessing or a curse. In those times, the expectation for my brother was, there was [Dickins' grandfather] Percy, there was Barry, there was [uncle] Rob and then it was going to be Jonathan. He was like a pedigreed racehorse. When he was a young A&R scout, I remember all this added pressure from people speculating about whether his signings were going to be successful or not. I always loved music, but those kinds of expectations made me steer away.

When did you start to come around to the idea of a career in music?

I think I had two days after finishing my exams and my dad's words to me were, “What are you doing about getting a job? Because you're not sitting around here on your arse.” So I started going for interviews and I kept getting hired, but I wouldn’t accept the jobs. It was really funny because I kept feeling like the jobs weren’t right for me, or it wasn’t what I wanted to do, or it was about the money. That went on for a while before my dad wasn’t having it anymore. So I went to work in his office. And when I tell you I started working at the bottom, I mean the very bottom.


Comedian-actor Stephen Merchant, artist Rick Astley, film producer/Astley spouse Lene Bausager,
artist Mika, WME's Richard Weitz, Dickins, DJ Cassidy and fellow ABBA fans, 2023

What did you like about it?

I liked the business of it. I loved live music, and I loved being part of the conversation from the beginning to the end. I knew I loved the music side, but I still wasn't convinced that live was necessarily it for me. So I went for a job at a record company as a junior product manager. I went through an employment agency, and when I went in for the interview, they gave me this sheet of paper with all these questions they wanted me to answer. I had no idea what any of it meant. I didn’t even know what a product manager was at the time! I suppose that was the moment I proved I would be a good agent because I completely blagged my way through that interview and landed the job. I went in as a junior product manager and left as head of international.

Do you think the role of product manager can be a launchpad for a variety of different careers?

Totally. You'd be there from the A&R process of the product being made to it going out to the show. There were so many things it tapped into. I think it probably contributed to my going into more of the live side. I ended up going back to work at my dad's not knowing what I wanted to do. I said to him, “I've got all these A levels and I'm sitting here not being utilized and I'm really bored.” And he was, like, “Well, if you think you’re that great, here's a map. Here's Alanis Morissette—now have a go at routing her tour.” I sat there with a pad of paper and a map of Europe and had no idea, but I wasn’t going to ask for help. So I took a stab at it, and he looked it over and said, “You’re not bad at this.” That’s how it started.

WME's Sara Williams, Dvora Englefield, Stephanie LaFera, Dickins and Becky Gardenhire, 2023

What did you learn after routing?

You make relationships, right? You speak to different promoters, learn how different markets work and learn about costings, riders, different productions and so forth—all the basics. It took me a while, but by the time Savage Garden took off I was pretty much doing most of it myself. Then I started getting into the settlement side, and eventually I decided I wanted to start signing my own artists.

Had you hung up your own shingle by this point?

I was still doing bits and bobs and working on stuff from my dad, but I had started to build my own roster of clients. I remember Hot Chip being the one that I wanted to go for. I did so much homework on it and really thought about the strategy of where I wanted to take them. I was up against all these agents who've been doing this longer than me. I was sure I was never going to get it. They asked me to go to a pub and meet the band and they were all sitting there in a line looking at me and asking me questions. I was terrified. Then I had a call from [the group’s] Alexis [Taylor], who said, “We've decided we'd love to come with you.” I just remember thanking him for taking a chance on me and his responding, “Thank you for taking a chance on me.” That was 15 years ago, and they’ve been playing to 15,000+ in London ever since. Everyone told me I was just taking on a college band. Right.

It sounds like this was something of an object lesson in the power of passion and preparation.

To this day, if I'm going for an absolute baby band—and I still sign baby bands—I do the exact same amount of work and preparation with the same passion I did then. I think artists appreciate that, and it doesn't happen enough. I get personally connected to my clients and I just don't ever wanna let them down, or let myself down.

Hot Chip live in 2016 (photo by Krists Luhaers)

What came next?

Things went insane after Hot Chip. I signed Jaime T, who was this really hip kid putting on this show called Panic Prevention Disco at a club in London. People still talk about it. It was basically his own residency, and I ran and promoted it. We started bringing in all these up-and-coming artists, and that’s how I ended up signing Laura Marling, who was 16 at the time. My next signing was Johnny Flynn. After that was Jack Peñate, Adele, Mumford & Sons and James Blake—it just kept going.

What was your initial impression of Adele?

I was going to see Hot Chip at a club in London and I asked Jack Peñate if he wanted to come down. He said yes and asked me to put him on the list plus one, because he wanted to bring his friend who he said was this amazing singer. So I’m at the venue, and Jack's there with this girl and she says, “Hi, I’m Adele.” She was just the most hilariously funny, warm, lovable character. I told her that I’d heard she was a singer and asked if she had any music. She said, “Hold on a minute” and tapped this guy next to us whom she’d just given a CD. She made him give it straight back to her so she could give it to me! The next day I’m home doing housework and I popped her hand-written demo into my little JVC stereo system. The first track that came on was “Daydreamer,” followed by “Hometown Glory” and “My Same”—it was the most insane thing I’d ever heard.

How did all this ultimately lead to your current role at WME?

Adele was doing Wembley Stadium and Mumford & Sons were doing multiple arenas across the world. It’s pretty rare to have two artists break on both sides of the pond, but even though I had accomplished a lot, it still felt like I had to keep proving who I was. I’d been working in live for 20 years, and I was still dealing with a mentality from some people that I’d only gotten where I was because I'm Barry's daughter or Jonathan's sister. When I started taking meetings and all these agents and agencies were coming out of the woodwork, I realized that if I wanted to put an end to it, I needed to stand on my own two feet. I still deal with that mentality, but the truth is, I’ve gotten what I got because I’ve worked bloody hard and I’m good at what I do. When [former head of WME's music division] Marc Geiger came along, he was, like, “You don't realize how good you are.” He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I also thought the agents at WME were the best I’d come across. That’s why I ended up choosing WME.

Did it feel like a bigger challenge?

It was a huge challenge. It was scary. You walk out on your dad's company with your roster of clients after 20 years with all eyes on you and people saying, “Wow! She's left her dad's place.” I'm also one of those people who’s always pushing myself for a challenge. I never sit comfortably. I'm never satisfied. I can always be better. If I was able to leave my dad's company, go somewhere completely alien to me and set something up, I'm not afraid to do anything—because that was an emotional tie as well as a career thing.

Since you’ve relocated to the U.S. have you had a chance to connect with any of the other highly placed women in the industry?

When I arrived, Nancy Josephson, who’s on the talent side here at WME, organized a dinner for me to meet loads of women in the industry. Honestly, it was so incredible what she did, getting this major crew together from all parts of the entertainment industry. I was randomly seated next to Jody Gerson, and I just fell in love with her. I have to say that Jody has been my absolute angel, and whether it’s been Michelle Jubelirer, Jacqueline Saturn or Jen Mallory—they’ve all been really welcoming. In addition to Nancy, there are women here at WME who’ve been really great, like Stephanie LeFera, who runs our electronic department, Dvora Englefield, who heads up artist strategy and [WME partner/music agent] Cristina Baxter.

WME's Stephanie LeFera, UMPG boss Jody Gerson, Dickins and Capitol Music Group topper Michelle Jubelirer

What can you share about your current roster?

I won't go through every single act, but there’s Mumford, Rex Orange County, Olivia Rodrigo, James Blake, Stormzy, Little Simz, SALT and Bryan Ferry. Jessie Ware is another one who’s getting love, and I have a new guy called St. Harrison. I think Cleo Sol is phenomenal. She’s known back in the U.K. and she’s starting to make an impact here. Reneé Rapp is another signing who’s terrific. I’ve also started to have the pleasure of working with a lot of Afrobeat artists, like Ruger—who I think is absolutely going to blow up. I’m also working with an artist called Raybeka and there’s also a girl called Libianca. Miss Monique is a new signing in our electronic department who I think is going to be really hot. Peggy Gou is obviously having a moment I think is going to get even bigger, and there’s also Nathy Peluso, a Latin artist I’m working on. Then there are a few I’m in the process of that I can’t talk about yet. I’m always following new things and I love all types of music.

How often do you get back to the U.K.?

I go back at least every six weeks. I go to London next Tuesday, then I come back for three weeks, then back to London for a month to cover European festivals and Glastonbury. Then I go to Australia because Mumford & Sons are headlining Splendor in the Grass. Then I come back and have a little bit of time at home and probably won't go back to the U.K. again until later in the year. But yeah, I'm there a lot. There's an awful lot that comes out of the U.K. that's incredible. And I think people don't give credit where the credit is due. The music is insane, and so is the culture. I love going there and then bringing a bit of that back here.

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