Barrett Wissman by barrettwissman


Barrett Wissman international arts manager article

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                                                                                                                       profile                   International Arts Manager
                                                                                                                                                 January 2006

          Global reach
          Since Barrett Wissman became involved with IMG Artists,
          the company has been expanding with new offices and festivals
          around the world. Robin Newton reports

                 HERE WAS A TIME NOT SO LONG
                 ago when IMG, along with CAMI,
                 dominated artist management.
          The power they wielded gave them an
          unprecedented level of influence and
          control; and that was quickly turned
          into serious money.
              The foundations of IMG, however,
          lay in sport where the constant influx
          of new stars and the constant exposure
          of existing champions provide
          seemingly endless revenue opportuni-
          ties. The arts, with the exception of a
          few proven long-term performers, did
          not yield such riches. By the beginning
          of the 21st century, the artist manage-
          ment branch of IMG was failing; some
          reports claimed annual losses of £1m
              Clearly, something had to change.
          IMG decided to sell its artist manage-
          ment arm but found buyers hard to
          come by. In 2003, Mark McCormack,
          the founder and heartbeat of IMG, died
          suddenly, making the situation more
          urgent: there was no clear way forward
          but swift action
          was essential.                                              considerable recovery:      directly with the public. We have to re-       Wissman at work with
              S e e m i n g l y ‘We are in danger of                  turnover has increased      enliven the arts and not just take money       Maxim Vengerov
          out of the blue, losing our audience if by 40% in two years                             out. Our job as arts managers is to move
          Barrett Wissman                                             and is expected to grow     in new directions and, because we’re in
          appeared. His we don’t nurture it’                          between 10% and 15%         touch with so many artists at the same
          offer to buy a                                              more in 2006. Add to        time, we’re in a perfect position to do
          majority share                                              that a new Singapore        exactly that.’
          of IMG’s artist management business office opened in October 2005 with                      The challenge facing artist manage-
          was accepted with alacrity and a new era another opened earlier in Italy and            ment, Wissman feels, is combining
          began. Now rebranded as IMG Artists, things certainly look good for IMG                 global reach with local understanding.
          70% of the company is owned by Artists.                                                 In some ways there is nothing new in
          Wissman with the remaining 30%               Wissman’s belief is that the world of      this concept; larger agencies with an
          remaining in the hands of IMG.           artist management must change rapidly          international remit have commonly
              Not surprisingly, Wissman’s appear- if it is to build a future for itself. ‘There   relied on small, local agencies for infor-
          ance generated more questions than it is so much going on around the world              mation. Wissman’s modification,
          answered. Although his background today, not just in our kind of music but              however, is to have many smaller offices
          showed a love of music – he trained as a in all areas, that we are in danger of         all under a single management
          pianist, has a degree in music and losing our audience if we don’t nurture              umbrella.
          married the cellist Nina Kotova – there it. We as an agency cannot behave as we             ‘Local knowledge is vital,’ he says. ‘It
          was nothing apparent in his profes- used to, simply booking artists into                is important to be global because we
          sional past to suggest why he might engagements the world over and taking               need to be aware of all the potential
          want to take over IMG Artists.           commission. We have to work on                 opportunities for our artists. Without
              Wissman, however, has been great building our audience. We have to give             knowing what is happening on the
          success. IMG Artists has experienced a our artists the opportunity to be involved       ground, though, we would never
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              International Arts Manager
                            January 2006

                                                                                                                                      ture. Not only that, he also introduced
                                                                                                                                      food and wine events into the mix. ‘The
                                                                                                                                      idea is that people come and try
                                                                                                                                      different things and gradually become
                                                                                                                                      more and more involved. It might take
                                                                                                                                      a couple of days or three years but we’re
                                                                                                                                      encouraging a new audience. The
                                                                                                                                      Tuscan Sun Festival has been so
                                                                                                                                      successful that we’ve extended the idea
                                                                                                                                      to include Napa Valley in the States
                                                                                                                                      that will unite the world’s best and
                                                                                                                                      most adventurous music making with
                                                                                                                                      the visual, literary and culinary arts.’
                                                                                                                                          Singapore is interested in hosting a
                                                                                                                                      similar event and in China IMG Artists
                                                                                                                                      started a huge music education festival
                                                                                                                                      called the Canton Summer Academy
                                                                                                                                      with Charles Dutoit as music director.
                                                                                                                                      More than 800 students from all over
                                                                                                                                      Asia participate in concerts and master-
                                                                                                                                      classes during a week and a half of
                                                                                                                                          None of this is to suggest that IMG
                                                                                                                                      Artists is no longer engaged in the day-
                                                                                                                                      to-day business of negotiating and
                                                                                                                                      scheduling for a large roster of artists.
                                                                                                                                      Wissman, however, is convinced that
          Wissman (back row, second        discover these opportunities. The             ways of getting people interested. I         without generating new interest, there
      from left) and friends at the        reason we have offices in all these           don’t believe that we should necessarily     will be nothing to book his artists for.
                 Tuscan Sun Festival       places – which now includes New York,         copy that and I am absolutely certain        ‘The notion of arts management as a
                                           London, Paris, Lucca, Kuala Lumpur            that our art should remain pure but I        booking service is gone. The landscape
                                           and Singapore – is build relationships        am quite sure that there are other ways      has changed dramatically in terms of
                                           with local organisations, ministries of       of getting people interested. We want        funding and in terms of what people
                                           culture and so forth.’                        things that become infectious; success       actually want. We have to keep the
                                               Nevertheless, building such a             stories that everybody wants to buy          business alive and at the moment I
                                           network is only valuable if it is used in     into. ‘I want to try to create events that   don’t see other agencies doing this. It
                                           the right way. Wissman believes that          bring people together, events that           might mean that we don’t get rich but
                                           the key to unlocking this potential lies      artists really want to come to, events       we have to generate successful
                                           in creating events. ‘It is essential for us   that encourage audiences to get              platforms for our art. If our festivals are
                                           as managers to keep the business of           involved and to engage more with the         of a high enough quality and create the
                                           music making alive. You see this on the       performers.                                  right atmosphere then they will be such
                                           pop side of the fence with constant               Four years ago Wissman founded           platforms.
                                           thinking about marketing and                  the Tuscan Sun Festival, which is a              ‘As long as we don’t actually lose
                                           publicity – always coming up with new         combination of music, art and litera-        money, its worth it to me.’ IAM

                                                                            Reprinted from International Arts Manager magazine, January 2006 edition
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