Paradigm Layoffs Hit Senior Agents in Music, Movie and TV Literature

paradigm talent agency

Layoffs at talent agency Paradigm have hit employees of every rank, multiple sources told Variety — including top agents in music and motion picture and TV literature — as fallout from coronavirus continues to mount.

More than 100 agency staffers were pink-slipped last Friday, individuals familiar with the company said, among them New York-based music reps Dave Kaplan and Mike Mori. Kaplan works with acts like the Black Keys and Father John Misty, and Mori handles bands including The 1975.

In the TV lit department, longtime dealmaker Debbee Klein has been laid off, as has motion picture lit’s Adam Kanter, book agent Sally Wilcox, and five junior agents in lit and content, a division that services indie films and digital creators.

“The COVID-19 crisis has brought much of the entertainment industry to a virtual standstill, and Paradigm, like many companies, has had to take immediate steps to ensure continuity of our operations. Last week, we made the extraordinarily difficult decision to temporarily lay off many colleagues and to enact salary cuts across the company,” a spokesperson for Paradigm said.

“It is our hope and plan to bring these colleagues back as quickly as possible, and today, we have already begun to do so. While it is impossible to know the depth and duration of this crisis, we remain proud of the determination and resilience of our Paradigm team to weather the storm and do our job representing artists,” the spokesperson concluded.

Returning employees who had been laid off were able to do so after Paradigm became the first of the major agencies to sign a new franchise agreement with the Writers Guild of America on Monday. This allows the company to resume representing its writer clients after months of gridlocked negotiations with the union. Only a handful of lit agents from film and TV have been dismissed, two others familiar with the agency said. Layoffs have mostly affected support staff from the agency’s Beverly Hills campus, the company said.

Klein has packaged major hit TV shows including ABC’s “Black-ish” and Freeform’s “Grown-ish,” and counts clients like “Desperate Housewives” showrunner Marc Cherry, “The Handmaid’s Tale” executive producer Eric Tuchman, and former “Law & Order: SVU” showrunner Michael Chernuchin.

Kanter works with writer-directors including Bobby Farrelly, Amy Heckerling, and Peter Segal (the forthcoming Dave Bautista comedy “My Spy”). Wilcox is a veteran book agent who joined Paradigm in 2018, after running development for Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures. She spent nearly three decades at CAA, where she is credited with brokering adaptation deals for films like “The Hurt Locker,” “Waiting to Exhale,” and “The Joy Luck Club.”

Despite the loss of visible players like Klein and Wilcox, the music team lost experienced and long-term employees, insiders say. Most of the agents laid off worked in rock music and related genres, while those working in hip-hop and dance music — which constitute many of the top earners — suffered fewer cutbacks. Another insider disputed this, saying cuts were more generalized and affected all categories.

Paradigm has undergone dramatic growth in the music sector over the past 10 years bringing in rock-focused agencies Windish and Little Big Man, home to Billie Eilish and Coldplay, respectively, in addition to the dance-music-centric AM Only. Other earlier acquisitions include Monterey Peninsula Artists, Ellis Industries and Third Coast as well as Coda, which transitioned into Paradigm London. Ed Sheeran (repped in the U.S. only), Shawn Mendes, Halsey, Phish and My Chemical Romance are among the biggest names affiliated with Paradigm. Marty Diamond is head of global music at the agency.

Paradigm is not alone in tough financial decisions. Variety exclusively reported on Monday that United Talent Agency was instituting a company-wide pay cut to avoid mass staff reduction. With touring, film and television production ground to a halt, agencies are especially vulnerable given the commission they receive for the ongoing work of clients. UTA was widely praised for the job-saving move, though its lit and packaging business is observably stronger than that of Paradigm.

Indeed, Paradigm’s bread and butter is primarily in the music touring business, which accounts for 65% of the agency’s revenues, sources estimate. Weighing heavily on the Beverly Hills-based company is its roster of more than 1,000 music acts, a number pruned significantly soon after its acquisition of the Windish Agency in 2017.

The agencies are hardly the only corner of Hollywood impacted by the spread of COVID-19. A union representing crew works and artisans, IATSE, estimated that roughly 120,000 entertainment workers have been displaced by the crisis — to say nothing of movie theater and theme park staff, festival and conference teams, and hospitality workers nationwide. But it’s the live music business that faces a dire future if venues remain shuttered for weeks on end and possibly into summer.