For a smalltown gal from Indiana, Sara Newkirk realized some rather big-city dreams early in her adult life. The William Morris Endeavor agent knew by her mid-teens that she wanted to be in the music business, and moved to New York at age 19 already managing the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, one of the pioneering bands of the ska movement. By the time she could legally buy a cocktail, she had built a music management company, Cornerstone Promotions, signing Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine as her first client. Nas, Maxwell, TV on the Radio and M.I.A. were soon to follow.
In a nutshell
Job title: Agent at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
Role models: “The educators in my life.”
Career mantra: “At the end of the day, it’s about the artist.”
Leisure pursuits: “I have wonderful friends, and we convene at my house and I cook and then we play vicious games of charades.”
Philanthropic passion: Walnut Hill School for the Arts, which Newkirk attended. “I really try to be supportive of their endowment and the kids who are entering and leaving the school.”
Now that the music biz is just as dependent on brand building as it is on record and concert sales, Newkirk has carved out a unique niche for herself, crafting several marketing-focused deals for WME’s high-profile music talent.
She was a key architect of an innovative pact between Polaroid and Lady Gaga, making her creative director of her own “Gray Label.” Newkirk was also instrumental in partnering Kanye West with Nike to create the exclusive Air Yeezy, which immediately sold out its initial 10,000-unit run.
Newkirk, very much of the “there’s no ‘I’ in team” mentality, takes pains to point out that all of her efforts are the result of the WME braintrust as a whole, and also cites the phalanx of support from the West and Gaga camps, which are considerable.
“Marc Geiger runs the (WME) music division, and inspires everybody to think out of the box,” she says, “People are encouraged to think in a way that is unlimited.”