This is Now agency's Adam Gainsborough on becoming an agent, career highlights and advice to talent
Adam Gainsborough runs This is Now agency – a bookings, management and events company specialising in unique acts.
Based in Bristol, UK, This is Now agency represents Will Varley, Beans on Toast, Son of Dave, Too Many T's, Skinny Lister, Oh My God! It's the Church, Afrikan Boy, Animal Noise, Jonnie Common and DJ Format & Abdominal.
Here Adam talks to Mandy News about how everything came together.
Adam, tell us where you’re from, who you are, when you decided you wanted to work in the music industry and how you went about pursuing it?
My name is Adam Gainsborough and I'm originally from the south coast of England from a little seaside town/UK holiday destination called Selsey Bill. I then lived in that big smokey city called London for 10 years before moving to Bristol at the back end of 2016, which is now home.
Working in the music business was a slow but steady progression for me. I promoted events in Chichester and Bognor Regis on the south coast and in London from the age of 20 (I'm now 35) and when I made the move to London, and after I had worked every possible job at a temping company, I was persistent enough (or some might say annoying enough) in getting myself a work experience position at a great company called Get Involved who co-own the Bestival festivals alongside Robby and Josie Da Bank.
That was my first 'real' job in the music industry and I straddled all three of their departments; PR, management and sponsorship. I learnt a lot there and still have a great relationship with that family and tend to have a few acts at each of their shows every year.
Tell us everything about This is Now Agency.
I founded This Is Now Agency in April 2013 after working for three years at another bookings and management company called Finger Lickin' Management (home to Krafty Kuts, Plump DJs, A.Skillz etc). While there I helped transform what was essentially a deejay agency to have more of a live roster and I signed The Correspondents, Too Many T's and (back then) a little band called Public Service Broadcasting (PSB). Even after years of working with deejays (and being a deejay myself), I found that the live sector is what I loved and it was time to give my own company a shot and This Is Now Agency was born.
Within a month of starting the company, a new, fuller roster was signed, the website was created and then PSB shot into the UK album charts at #21 and things have not slowed down since. Although we no longer work with PSB, we have several acts who are on the verge of breaking into more of mainstream position. Acts such as Will Varley, Skinny Lister, Too Many T's and Beans on Toast, with many more in the making.
We specialise in 'Unique Entertainment', which, for a booking agency, is unique in itself. We don't have dozens of 'indie bands' who aren't any different from the next; each and every act stands out from the next and they are totally different to any other act on the planet.
When did you decide to be an agent?
Being an agent just kind of happened. After moving out of a shared house in North London, I became good friends with the person who replaced me in the household, Roland Gurney. He'd be in his room all day making 'funky breaks' and getting more and more frustrated from the lack of inspiration from that dated sound. I once took round a couple of tracks to demonstrate what else was being made in the dance scene (one of which was Rico Tubbs 'Gangsters") and something just clicked for him.
After several bootleg releases online, under the moniker of 2 Bit Thugs, promoters started getting in touch but Roland wasn't the type of person to seal those deals and he asked me if I fancied responding to the emails. "Well, I've not done before, but I'll give it a go", I said. One gig lead to another, which was then a 'weekend tour', and then another, and another, and all of a sudden, Roland was at the forefront of the 'Fidget House' scene and more and more club shows and festivals were booked.
I guess thats when I was an 'agent'.
How was the first year or so being an agent? What did you learn?
The first year was a lot of fun as everything was pretty much a new experience. A new promoter, a new club, a new festival - it was genuinely a dream come true. I was actually making a difference to people and I still love that feeling; a packed room or tent full of music fans all having the times of their life after you've put in (what can be) months and months of hard work. Its quite magical really.
I learnt a lot then and I still am learning, everyday. I guess the biggest lesson was dealing with rejection. You can contact promoters or festivals several times and still not hear anything back so you need to just move on. Not every promoter or booker is going to like the artists you represent, so dig deeper and find the ones who love them, their sound and style, as much as you do.
What does your average day/week/month/year look like? What are your tasks?
Emails, emails, and hundreds of thousands of emails! Ha.
I like to book my tours as far in advance as possible. That way, my OCD is happy with my perfectly routed tours in the right capacity venues for the artists' profile at the point of their career. Booking the right capacity venue is key and gives you a much better chance in selling the show out and then stepping up on the next run. Big touring periods for us are spring and autumn/winter with, on average, around 150 festival shows a year. People generally think the work is seasonal, but its non-stop, 12 months a year.
It's a lot more than pounding out emails on my laptop everyday; we're fully involved with everything to do with an artist's career. Designing posters, editing videos, feeding back on new material, social media, running events, finance, sponsorship and even a bit of tour managing from time to time.
It's a very creative business and you need to be on point at all times. There's never really time for error, although we all do slip up once in a while!
There's been a few and I'm hoping their are a lot more in the pipeline. My first ever main stage booking, which was at Bestival with The Correspondents just before Mumford & Sons. That was a good one. Beans on Toast drawing the biggest crowd ever seen at Avalon Stage at Glastonbury in 2016 was incredible. And that was at 2.15pm in the afternoon!
Encouraging DJ Format and Abdominal to get back together and touring again which then lead to them making a new album will never be forgotten. I get quite a few props for that as they're loved by so many people. Hosting several stage take overs at some incredible festivals; Blissfields, Greenpeace stage at Glastonbury and Shindig Weekender.
Getting to work with and befriend the extremely loved and missed Howard Marks. I toured with him for over a month in the UK, which was just insane. I originally met him at the first Camp Bestival after I had just waved off Chuck Berry as I'd just looked after Chuck and his touring party for 24hrs. From one legend, straight to another. My tiny mind was blown! I could go on and on…
What scenes, genre and cities (in UK and otherwise) are exciting you at the moment?
Independent promoters working in independent venues giving new artists a chance is what I find exciting. It's the foundation of the whole music industry and it's THE hardest part of anyone's career. A peer of mine, Simon Jones from AEG, regards promoting as 'professional gambling', and he's not far wrong.
Taking a chance on something you love but others might not is a big risk. But believe in what you do and persist, persist, persist, and you might just have a chance in changing people's lives forever.
What advice would you give to somebody one day looking to be a music agent?
Get involved and get stuck in. But be patient and don't be a d*ck! Agents have been tarred with the same brush of being hard to deal with. I've had a lot of experience myself with agents from promoting events and found this to be quite often true. But not every agent is like that. I pride myself in not being difficult to deal with but it still amazes me how many people are quite rude when enquiring about artists. Maybe they've been bitten in the past, too and expect to be bitten again.
I'd say try to learn every aspect of the booking process and that would start by putting on events; it gives you the perfect insight into what is needed from start to finish, which will be extremely beneficial in the long run.
And what advice would you give to an act just starting out looking for representation? What’s important for you in an act?
Get some sold-out shows in your home town under your belt. Build your following up from there and, if you're actually really good, the rest should hopefully follow.
When emailing agents or managers looking to be signed, don't CC a load of people into the same email, or worse; BCC with no personal start to the email. Take your time, and email the right company for your band. Sure, every band wants to 'be signed', so make sure you stand out from the others by being original and unique!
And tell us what your artists have coming up!
Where do I start??? Animal Noise released their best single to date a couple of weeks back called 'FLY' and currently playing a run of shows around the UK to support he release. Beans on Toast is releasing his 9th studio album, 'Cushty', and has finished a European tour supporting Skinny Lister as well as a double headline UK tour with Skinny (which is also his album tour) at the moment. We end at KOKO on the 10th.
DJ Format & Abdominal have just toured the UK again and it was incredible. The London show at The Garage was the best I've ever seen them play. Great to finish on such a high. We also recently released a remix album of their last LP 'Still Hungry'. Jonnie Common is busy in the studio finishing up his next album after his BBC debut the other week. He scored the TV theatre production of 'Missing Episode'. Make sure you check that out.
Oh My God! It's The Church just completed their 'Seven Deadly Sins Tour'. They were also nominated as BEST LIVE ACT OF THE YEAR at the Association of Independent Festival Awards which was really cool to be recognised there as they smash every festival they play.
As above; Skinny Lister toured both Europe and the UK with label mate Beans on Toast and also released a deluxe version of the most recent album' The Devil, The Heart and The Fight' which includes a load of live tracks as well as a brand new track called 'Things Like That', which, if you ask me, is a hit!
Son of Dave has released another studio album and toured the UK and France. The new album is fantastic and some of his best work to date. Too Many T's released their debut album in September – the beautifully-crafted 'South City' LP – and just came off a UK tour. And last but not least, Will Varley has just recorded his 5th studio album and my god; it is simply incredible. I can't stop listening to it. I'm positive anyone reading this will be hearing it everywhere very soon as it is released early next year.
All in all, everyone is seriously progressing, which is great. Watch this space.
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