As expected, Casey Wasserman has raised the curtain on Wasserman Music, a new powerhouse player in music built on the back of Paradigm’s former music division.
Wasserman on Wednesday completed the complicated transaction that saw Paradigm sever off its music operation for sale as the company faced a spiraling financial crisis last year amid the hardships imposed by the pandemic.
Wasserman Music will be headed by music business veterans Marty Diamond, Jonathan Levine, Jackie Nalpant, Sam Hunt, Corrie Martin, Lee Anderson and Matt Rodriguez, who will oversee day-to-day operations. Tom Windish, Joe Rosenberg, and Lori Feldman will round out the team to provide business development, operational, and marketing support, as well as working to operate and integrate all branded entertainment. The company has about 130 employees overall.
Some of the artists on Wasserman Music’s roster include Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers, Dave Matthews Band, Janelle Monáe, Kacey Musgraves, Old Dominion, Phish, Ed Sheeran, Lorde, Sturgill Simpson, Black Pumas, Brandi Carlile, Kaytranada, Diplo, DJ Snake, Jack Harlow and Skrillex.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but last year an industry source pegged the value of Paradigm’s collected music operations at $150 million-$200 million. In 2019, Paradigm went far down the road with UTA in negotiations for an outright sale of the agency for what sources said was a little more than $300 million in cash.
Wasserman Music, not surprisingly, is banking on a strong rebound for the live music business in the second half of this year as the nation emerges from pandemic lockdown conditions.
“I have worked side-by-side with this remarkable group of people to build a blueprint for success and I am continually impressed with their tenacity and care for both their clients and the business. But most important is our shared commitment to cultivating a culture of forward progress so this new business appropriately reflects the artists and fans we serve,” said Casey Wasserman. “This is a dynamic opportunity to create new collaborations between the family of brands and talent that Wasserman currently represents in a meaningful and impactful way, and I am excited to get started.”
According to the announcement, “Wasserman Music has made a commitment to build a more inclusive business and as such will benefit from Wasserman’s track record and dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a starting point, Wasserman Music has forged a partnership with the national advocacy organization Color Of Change,” which has also partnered with the Recording Academy. “Additionally, Wasserman Music will have broad access to the tools, solutions, and social change strategies advocated by Wasserman’s Inclusion Council and its women-focused unit, The Collective, as they work to embody a more inclusive business.”
While all agencies in the music space have been throttled by the sudden shutdown of the concert and event businesses, Paradigm was hit harder than many, with multiple agents either laid off or leaving the company. Paradigm had bulked up with a number of acquisition of music booking agencies and artist management boutiques in recent years, leaving it with substantial debt to service. The abrupt end of the touring business left the company in a financial pinch that forced the layoffs of more than 100 staffers and pay cuts for other employees in March of 2020.
Paradigm continues to represent talent and literary clients, is in active discussion regarding strategic partners for its Talent and Literary business, and will be revealing that strategy at a later date. Paradigm plans to enter into a shared services agreement with Wasserman to ensure continuity of service to all music clients for its talent and literary services.
Wasserman’s interest in a traditional Hollywood agency focused on music is evocative of his lineage. Lew Wasserman, who rose to become an innovative studio mogul with his purchase of Universal Pictures, first made his name booking bands for legendary Music Corp. of America founder Jules Stein.
Wasserman was represented by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. J.P. Morgan Securities LLC acted as Wasserman’s exclusive financial advisor. Paradigm was represented by Venable LLP.