Rob Woo discusses life as an agent in electronic dance music
The life of an agent is an interesting one, and a side of the industry that is often overlooked by fans. An essential cog in the dance music puzzle, agents are the lifeblood of the industry and help fans the world over experience the music that they love. We sat down with Rob Woo of SPIN Artist Agency to discuss his experiences as an agent, the trials and tribulations that come along with it and his expert opinion on what acts are ready to pop in 2014.
“How did you embark upon a career as an agent?
Quite unceremoniously; my first day was spent cataloguing expense receipts. I didn’t ever plan to be an agent but my passion was always music. When I realized I didn’t have sufficient talent to be a professional musician nor the desire to follow my education into the financial sector I targeted a middle ground for the business side of the music industry. A mutual friend who knew that intent introduced me to David (the owner of the company) when he was looking for an administrative assistant and I grew into it and worked my way up to becoming an agent from there.
It was by chance but I don’t think I would ever change it. I love working without the confines of a corporate model but also having support from a structured team. I feel that we focus more on personalized artist development as a smaller boutique agency than some companies that are fundamentally more sales/revenue driven and we try to work with the artists for additional opportunities beyond bookings using our relationships to help them grow their profile.
“Which of your artists are poised for a take off in 2014?”
Can I plead the fifth? That’s a tough one since it’s all relative and everyone is working on amazing things in their own right. What if I just look at significant things that happened in the last 7 days?
The Arty album that just got announced sounds incredible and I’m so proud of him as we’ve been working together for 3 years and I know how much of his heart he’s put into this.
CAZZETTE’s new single I’ve had on repeat for a few weeks as it’s just that good and the response was overwhelming when it came out, they’ve been waiting ages to release it and we couldn’t be happier with the result and there’s more to follow.
I heard HELENA’s new music this week that sounds fantastic and her last release “Levity” with Shawnee Taylor and her Drai’s Vegas residency have definitely put her profile firmly on the map.
Oliver Heldens’ new single has 250k listens in a week and the music video we previewed is equal parts fascinating and disturbing, he’s going to have a breakthrough year for sure.
Rebecca & Fiona’s H&M summer campaign kicked off last week and they just wrapped up a really successful 2-month album tour playing pretty much everywhere, I definitely see a lot to come for the girls who are so talented.
There’s a ton of new music coming from everyone be it Aly & Fila’s or Hard Rock Sofa’s albums, big summer hits from Ben Gold, Lucky Date, Paris & Simo and Swanky Tunes, or high profile remixes like Ashley Wallbridge’s take on Krewella’s “Ring Of Fire” to follow up on his remix of AVICII. Emma Hewitt’s projects are really special and going to put her out there as a much bigger well-rounded live performer. I could talk all day about this because everyone’s doing the work and pushing their own boundaries which is what gets me motivated.
“How do you feel about the Live Nation x SFX arms race? Does it affect your work in any way?”
Businesses have been getting vertically integrated since the world’s oldest professionals provided alcohol, rooming and services all under one roof and called it a brothel. It’s to be expected with any growing industry and there are obvious advantages to being able to negotiate a broader deal across multiple markets for your artist. I work with both groups and have done so with all of the separate entities before they combined. I don’t think any company wants to book all of my artists within their business model nor can any company comprehensively offer everything an artist needs for their career entirely on their own. There has always been competition in each market and promoters collaborating in multiple territories so it still comes down to the fundamentals of good communication to ensure you’re being fair to those who are supporting the development of each specific artist as long as they continue to provide the right opportunities and that also includes some great independent companies.
“3 reasons why someone would want to be an agent?”
Everyone’s different and some people seem to like the Ari Gold power trips or the scene or the money, but I think we all love the music.
One thing I’ve always needed that I get as an agent is for every day to be different, not just repetition of the same tasks ad nauseum and waking up feeling that I don’t want to go to work.
I wanted the opportunity to travel to new places both personally and professionally and you get to go out to important shows. As long as I have an internet connection and a smart phone I can still do my job. You build relationships initially by phone and email but traveling also allows you the opportunity for a better relationships which are key in this industry.
The best thing about being an agent though is the creative environment and the feeling that it gives you. The more obvious side of that is the music the artists give you and that inspires you to work harder for them, but helping to develop their careers can generate an even more powerful response. With a basic understanding of the market value and a contact list most people can book shows, but creating new ideas for how to elevate your artist’s profile to ensure their success is the most exciting thing to me whether it’s a passion project, a special event or the smallest artist getting a great opportunity. At the core of it all there is no fixed roadmap so thinking outside of the obvious options and delivering something different is exciting and when you get it right there’s nothing better.
“3 toughest things that comes with the territory?”
Basically the same things that I enjoy about being an agent, just from a different perspective.
With everything being different each day it’s tough to make sure you do everything in the right order so that you get things done. Since there isn’t a checklist you have to make sure you can structure and prioritize what’s important or time sensitive as you are still responsible to each of your artists needs and managing your time effectively to get it all done can be complicated.
Getting to travel is a blessing but you’re in the office all week, the shows are predominantly at night and/or on the weekends, and coupled by working with managers, artists and clients in pretty much every timezone worldwide potentially means you could be summoned at any time. I’ve been at a show til 4am, on a 6am flight back to LA, first in the office at8am and closed it down at midnight. Balancing office time, travel and having a life outside the industry can be really hard.
In trying to execute all of the ideas you want to create for your artists you suffer continuous rejection; sometimes it’s from the buyers you want to do the show with and sometimes from the artist’s side who may not be able to accept all the opportunities that you present because of extraneous factors restricting the possibility, which can be frustrating and requires a thick skin. You just have to keep trying and the catharsis of successfully implementing what you have been targeting is a big factor in why it feels so good when a plan comes together.