Nick Middleton and Grant Paley spent their downtime during the pandemic rethinking what the role of a booking agency could look like in a post-pandemic world. Joining forces amid uncertainty in the live music sector with concerts on pause, they emerged with a fresh new business model that accounts for everything we’ve been through while looking ahead to a hopeful future.
Midnight Agency is Canada’s first new independent agency to launch since the music industry drastically changed, and they already boast a roster of more than 30 international artists across a wide array of genres. While live shows previously contributed to the majority of an artists’ revenue, Midnight’s approach includes a significant focus on online streaming and other technological ventures.
With Paley’s decades of experience as a talent agent and Middleton, a renowned electronic musician known for his work with The Funk Hunters, the agency aims to be more artist-friendly and vary their approach based on the individual creative visions of each member. The co-founders have been working together for more than a decade, ever since Paley first signed The Funk Hunters.
“The agency world is so correlated to live music. So when COVID hit, it really sent some shockwaves through the industry,” Middleton says. “But when there’s this big, dramatic moment, I always look at it on the flip side as a moment of opportunity.”
That opportunity manifested itself in the creation of a smaller agency, fostering creativity with closer artist relationships while encouraging a shift for touring acts to also occupy more space online and vice versa. The last year has revealed to many artists that that “normal” life was just scratching the surface of potential, exposing the financial rewards that come from engagement on Twitch and other online music streaming services. With that in mind, alongside musicians like Chali 2na, Too Many Zooz, and Five Alarm Funk, the Midnight roster has recruited several Twitch streamers, including ascendant DJs Jessu and Pyka.
“The numbers are just staggering online, and the engagement is incredible,” Middleton says. “Jessu streamed to one million unique people in the last year alone. When you think about the traditional touring world, and how long it would take to get in front of that many fans, you’d have to be playing Coachella every weekend.”
Middleton argues that fans who are tuned into an artist’s stream through the Twitch chat are likely more engaged and connected with the creator than your average attendee at a live concert, removing the distractions, breaking down the fourth wall and opening up direct communication. This helps to cultivate an audience of “superfans” much quicker than your average musician.
A huge part of Midnight Agency’s strategy going forward will be helping these already popular streamers curate live events, and helping more traditional artists transition over to Twitch. “When live music turns back on, I think the people who spent the last year cultivating a following online will be rewarded. They’ll have all these super fans that are going to be first in line at a real show, and they’ll continue to have this online community,” Middleton says. “Today, artists have global fanbases so there’s no better way to reach them than online.”
For everyone who’s been itching to get back to a live show ever since the very first suggestion to stay at home for a while, Middleton says that an “overwhelming majority” of Midnight Agency’s business will still be focused on working with artists to dream up the most impressive tours they can. However, placing too much stock in revenue earned from live events is a business practice that is quickly becoming outdated.
“Live events are our bread and butter and expertise, still, as an agency. These other things are just trying to create other opportunities for acts,” Middleton says. “I think that’s the more exciting prospect as you take these streaming acts – can we help get them into festivals next summer?”
Whether it’s back in your dearly missed favourite concert venue or through an innovative new live show broadcasted to you while sitting on your couch, more ways than ever to connect with the artists changing the game are rapidly – and thankfully – on the way.
By Stephan Boissonneault
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