The Feldman Agency is on a roll with the addition of Don Simpson as its newly installed COO and a business development plan that has produced record-breaking year-on-year income.
Put simply, it’s the hottest music talent agency in Canada by a country mile, and company president Jeff Craib wants me to know it is not good fortune that has brought this about but the result of a strategy put in place several years back.
“Our success has been built on six years of reinvesting in our staff and our acts,” he tells me in his office on Elm Street in Toronto, across the way from Barberian’s Steak House.
What’s more, the company’s success in the past year hasn’t been magnified by any one mega-tour.
“We didn’t have a situation where a number of our most established artists toured in the same 12 months to magnify the numbers,” he tells me.
“What we have accomplished, we have done over a period of time by growing and adding staff including agents, administration, and interns who are developing the expertise with oversight of our senior TFA staff – while continuing to strengthen relationships with our most important clients, the artists. All this is taking place while seeking out new business opportunities.”
On the internal side, he points to Vice President Tom Kemp who signed Glorious Sons. The band enjoyed a successful summer festival season, two back-to-back hits and has now developed to the point where they were recently able to sell out three nights in Toronto, as well as shows in Edmonton, Regina, and Winnipeg.
Joe Clark is a junior agent developed internally at TFA who has worked at building his roster within the agency, notably signing Daniel Caesar who has had an incredibly successful first-run North American tour that winds up with a four-night stand at the Danforth Music Hall. His debut album debuted at 25 on the Billboard 200.
The Feldman Agency also produced 24 shows for Celebrate 150 in Ontario this summer and is closely aligned with Bell Media in booking and staging the iHeartRadio concert programs.
What follows is an interview with Jeff at the company’s headquarters in Toronto.
Jeff, tell us about how pillars that have afforded growth for TFA.
TFA’s growth has come from developing talent both inside the company with our staff and outside with the artists represented on our roster.
Festivals have added a dimension as well, but there are always festivals and as some decline others pop up. We are seeing more city-run festivals now, and they are becoming more professional and using bigger marquee talent on their stages.
And the club scene?
Growth in this sector is harder to achieve, but it’s not because the clubs aren’t operating well.
We are in a period where it is becoming challenging to get people’s attention and get them into the venues. There has been a shift in the social mindset, a sort of rite-of-passage we had in the past that isn’t so dominant with younger fans today. We see this on campuses and even in high schools. In the past, we all wanted to see live shows, but this just isn’t the case as much anymore. It’s about how much student audiences have to spend and where they want to spend it. The culture has changed.
What we now see is an appreciation for established artists who have built a relationship with an audience. This business is substantial, and these audiences have disposable income.
On the flip-side, the younger bands, regardless of genre, are using a different rite of passage and finding new ways to reach and build an audience. Take Meghan Patrick. She won Best Female and Rising star at the 2017 CCMAs. Through the efforts of Vinny Cinquemani, her responsible agent, and a team of TFA agents we were able to book her on a series of high-profile summer festivals, including the Calgary Stampede, Manitoulin Country Fest, and the Havelock Country Jamboree. She also supported Tom Cochrane on his 25th anniversary Mad Mad World tour which put her in front of many different crowds who became fans.
And then there’s Ralph who we had working across Ontario this summer and is on the west coast this fall in support of her new release on 604 Records. She’s playing the Mod Club in October with The Darcys after a variety of summer festival plays.
We expect significant growth from The Beaches, Blaise Moore, Neon Dreams, and numerous other artists this year. It’s an exhilarating time for the artists, their managers, agents and the extended teams involved.
As a team at Feldman, we have multiple meetings where we brainstorm, communicate and find openings to develop newer acts and get them in front of audiences. Of course, it is challenging, but the challenge is what is always driving us to help our artists achieve success.
Another area of growth is in theatres. These comfortable and often intimate venues are a community-based setting for older demos in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who don’t want to stand or travel a substantial distance to watch and enjoy a concert.
A lot of our business growth now is in these sorts of spaces: small theatres in smaller cities and towns, and there are hundreds of them that we can route artists through in Ontario, Alberta, BC, Quebec and the maritime provinces.
Have you any fix on the number of venues in Canada?
My guess is that there are 200-300 smaller theatres across the country. As for the number of clubs, in some cities today the choice of where to place an act has narrowed from maybe six down to very few. There’s no getting around the fact that the club scene isn’t what it once was and in this respect we have been fortunate in off-setting this contraction by developing new business opportunities.
Because of the stability of the company, and its core business, we can make the right decisions and wait for the newer bands to develop properly without pushing them into places or timing that aren’t a good fit for their development. Because of our size and breadth, we can look for opportunities we are involved in, or tours that we believe are a good fit and help speed up their progress. That’s a real advantage that The Feldman Agency provides for its clients and has in the marketplace.
There is a tendency in the live music business for people to be reactionary, but it is much better to be patient. When investing in talent one has to understand that it takes as long as it takes to establish a career. All of us can be impatient at times—but in reality, if played out right, the span of time flies quickly – and correctly.
We have seen a flurry of new agencies opening. It’s a bit of a Klondike Gold Rush.
I don’t know if it’s like the Klondike Gold Rush (laughing), but I am confident that there are a great many new opportunities out there. Time will tell if all the new agencies can thrive—but they are staffed with experienced people, and we wish them well. They will have some victories and losses, and probably so will we; but we have a great farm team, we have been a market leader for 46 years, we have our plan, and it’s working.
How would you characterize TFA as being different from its competitors?
Simple! We do the work; our bands are active, and we’re not talking about what we’re doing all the time. We’re doing it!
Surprise me with some facts about the company that people might not know.
We do a lot of consulting. Because we have been in the market a long time and because of the wealth of experience within our team, we do a lot of corporate events and talent buying.
If someone calls up for an event and needs an idea, there’s no question that we are the best suited because we have been in this business for a very long time with vast regional and national experience. We have deep relationships with production people, lighting, design people, and we can provide a wealth of knowledge about where and how to stage an event with the right talent.
We are involved in over 2,700 events a year that get contracted out of the company, so this is a valuable asset for us to watch over and gain insights from.
All of these interactions create the data and experience we have in our collective TFA knowledge bank, and we can lend out that knowledge to people as part of our consultancy.