WME Suspends Music Agent Brent Smith for ‘Behavioral Issues’ as Insiders Detail Internal Tension

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Courtesy of WME

WME has suspended agent Brent Smith, citing “behavioral issues,” Variety has learned.  The agency has initiated an investigation, according to Deadline, which first reported the news.

Smith has represented a handful of high-profile musicians, including Drake, Calvin Harris, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Pharrell Williams, Childish Gambino and Frank Ocean. While it’s unclear what provoked the agency to take such action, multiple sources tell Variety that low morale and infighting have dominated the day-to-day goings-on internally. Those insiders describe the overall presence of bullying and “aggressive behavior” stoked by a power vacuum as the upper ranks of WME’s music division have shifted. One source notes that a workplace “culture change” — namely: corporate intolerance of bad behavior at work — has been somewhat of a rude awakening for agents long ensconced in the “old way of doing things.”

WME declined to comment on Smith’s suspension.

Smith has worked in the music industry for over 20 years, starting out at Frontier Booking International working for Ian Copeland. He then transitioned to WME and eventually became a partner, building an impressive clientele with staggering streaming numbers and massive arena tours to match.

But with the coronavirus pandemic, the touring industry has been upended, losing some 90% of its revenues in 2020 as artists and fans have been quarantined at home. Agencies across the board have faced layoffs and furloughs. Just last week, Paradigm permanently laid off 180 of its 600 employees, six months after those agency staffers were temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June, WME saw Marc Geiger, the agency’s global head of music, exit after 17 years. He was followed by co-head of music Sara Newkirk Simon, who transitioned to a consultant role with WME parent company Endeavor.

In their stead, Lucy Dickins was upped to co-head of WME’s music division, joining Scott Clayton and Kirk Sommer, who also retain the titles of co-heads. The three run the agency’s music division whose roster also includes The Weeknd, Shakira, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Luke Bryan and Eric Church, among others.