One unremarkable fall day in downtown Toronto, circa October 2015, the staff of Live Nation Global Touring were summoned to the conference room for a meeting. Most were hoping it’d be short because they had two major global tours on the road on different continents, U2 and Madonna. Both were demanding and time zones mattered.
They found seats and assembled in front of the TV screen where the person who asked for the meeting, unbeknownst to them, was the boss they worshipped, ‘live’ via video link.
‘There’s no easy way to say this…’
And just like that, the staff of ‘lifers’ were given 24 hours to clear out their offices. It came out of nowhere, of course you could look back and see signs, but that’s hindsight, and everything’s obvious in hindsight.
These are my friends and former colleagues, and this is how they described it to me: Mass confusion, complete and utter shock, numbness…..’U2’s truck rental payment is due tomorrow, do I pay it?’ The people who reported directly to an executive in LA or on the road called their bosses immediately, still not believing what they were just told. A couple were able to make contact, their bosses were in shock too, of course they had a head’s up, but they genuinely felt horrible. They said their goodbyes with best wishes and promises to find them another job, or at the very least be available for a reference, information or just to check in.
Well, that didn’t happen, they never called or returned calls. I’m sure they intended to, but with no assistant, they got a taste of just how intuitive and incredibly hard working their assistants were, and how hard their lives were going to become. Eventually, too much time had passed – that’s just a guess, but in my mind’s eye I see them as Lady Macbeth trying to scrub the ‘spot’ off every time they’re tempted to call their former charge to ask them how to solve something. I want to tell them, it isn’t a spot, it’s cirrhosis of the soul.
Forgotten and abandoned, shocked and angry until finally, the all-consuming sense of betrayal takes over. Some had been with the company since its alphabet days (never trust an alphabet company) now they’re collateral damage because the new God demanded human sacrifices.
Because it was handled the way it was, the damage lingered. A common refrain was ‘How did I not see it coming? It’s like the rug was pulled out from me and my whole world makes no sense.’ With everything inside them in turmoil, they then have to put on a fake smile and start the daunting task of finding work so they could keep a roof over their heads – but all everyone wanted to know was ‘what happened at Live Nation?’
Some got out of the industry altogether, although they confess to periodic phantom vibrations where they used to clip their blackberries. Others went into freelancing, others found jobs; some permanent (for whatever that term is worth) some temporary. But that shock and betrayal still live with them, if only it paid rent.
Meanwhile, about 20 blocks away, a very prominent Canadian talent agency; aptly titled The Agency Group, was watching the ink dry on their deal with the devil. Their new masters would be a Hollywood alphabet agency with a giant chip on their collective shoulder.
It was obvious from the press release that UTA was only interested in expanding their territories and their roster. They were desperate to be mentioned in the same breath as the ‘Big Three’ alphabet agencies, but didn’t want to waste time earning it, so they ‘acquired’ or raided to fulfill their mission. They’d scrape off the meat and toss the bones aside.
The Agency Group (Canada) was a terrific agency with a great reputation, they were loved by their clients and everyone they dealt with. They worked their way up to becoming one of the most prestigious agencies in Canada with an enviable roster. I don’t know why that wasn’t good enough, it was for UTA.
I’m sure UTA covered their asses, I hope The Agency Group did too, Non-Competes, Key-Man Clauses, etc. can be messy. But when I read all these comments, tweets, etc., wishing Ralph and Jack the best…..know this, THEY WILL BE FINE, they will be inconvenienced, but they’re not paycheques away from being evicted.
Jack and Ralph ARE great guys....but take a moment to think about the people without whom The Agency Group (Canada) would not have reached the heights it did. The staff is blameless in this debacle, but they’re the ones who will suffer the most. Their lives have just been turned upside down. My thoughts and prayers go out to them!