David Galea is swamped with e-mails. Heaps of neatly stacked papers cover his desk. He receives an inter-office instant message.
Booking a summer tour for platinum-selling rock group, Paramore, requires organization, mind-numbing patience, an illusion of calm, and lots of time.
There are so many pieces involved with a tour of this scope that you need to be in the middle of a lot of those things. I think it’s important as an agent that you aren’t just booking shows, pushing paper, and just moving on. You need to be in the middle of every single detail that you can be involved in putting together, organizing, and delivering tours.
In jeans with a sweatshirt and baseball cap, Galea sits in his office decorated with platinum and gold record record awards hanging across from posters of the band responsible for selling those millions CDs.
SKA musician turned music agent for The Agency Group, Ltd., Galea has a lot of insight in the music industry. Here is what he had to say:
How did you get into the business?
I always loved music when I was a kid, I always had a healthy passion for it. I was in a SKA band at the end of college and we got signed to a local label and had the ability to tour across the country a couple of times and we also went to Europe a several times. We had some modest success but nothing crazy.
When I was 24, 25 I kind of want to move on and be an adult. I tried teaching, but I felt that there was a disconnect between where I wanted to be in my life and where I was. The company that used to book my band was The Agency Group so I got in touch with the people here and got a job as an intern. Luckily, within a week-and-a-half of working here somebody quit to go work for a promoter so I got their paid internship. I keyed into a more successful agent. I knew his assistant was unhappy, so I took his place. I had a few years of being an assistant that were fairly miserable, but I learned a tremendous amount. After three-and-a-half years I was promoted to an agent.
When I was an assistant I had a roster of about 10-15 bands, now I’ve developed it to 30-35.
What kind of bands do you book?
My tastes lean very indie, but my roster leans to a younger demographic. I tend to book a lot of Warp Tour and pop-punk stuff. That is something I started doing as an assistant, even though those aren’t bands that I’d listen to. It’s how I got my start and as I became more successful, it just became easier to do that stuff. I’m trying to graduate to try different things.
My personal tastes don’t seem to lend themselves to my roster but people tend to have certain niches. There’s someone here that books the White Strips and other indie and garage stuff. There’s someone here that books pop, hip hop, and reggae. There’s a guy here who books more indie stuff like Beirut and Passion Pit. There are guys who book more mainstream rock like Nickel Back and Creed. Your roster tends to look a certain way. But I think its important to diversify.
How do you find these bands?
There is no specific way. The industry is very relationship based. It could be a label person, it could be a manager, it could be a promoter that you work with in L.A. or Chicago or Maryland that gives you tips on certain bands. It could be on your own through MySpace or a band you see at a club. There are many different mediums for you to stumble upon bands.
Agents notice if a band I bubbling up. I’m big on instinct, sometimes you just have a feeling. I visualize a lot of things, I visualize an act on stage in Madison Square Garden and you go for it if you can. There’s just a certain intangible line and its inherent in our abilities. If a bands too pompous I wont be interested, but you cant tell that at first glance.
The bands you book, do they play because of their passion for music or are they in search of fame?
Deep down, you rarely come across a band that doesn’t want to be the biggest band in the world. They may not come out and say it, but as a whole, that is always your end game. Yes, there’s a love of the art, but in the end, bands play live shows to spread the gospel of their act, obviously they want to be heard on a larger platform. There is a balance, though. There are certainly a lot of bands that are immersed in their art, bands that have an artistic integrity and mass appeal.
Generally, I think the little things you put together. When bands want to tour with certain bands and you can make that happen, it’s a great feeling. Touring is such an important part of what bands do. It’s something that we do for hopefully 200 dates a year. You keep them incredibly busy, so if you continue to provide that it’s a great feeling.
Specifically, seeing Paramore play to tens-of-thousands of people at festivals, seeing them at Wembley Arena back in December when they sold it out in a day. Stuff like that. You step back and say this is pretty amazing. The award that goes with being able to satiate their desires and the happiness that goes along with it.
Tell me more about Paramore.
Paramore was a band that did a lot of small touring. We booked them to 50-150 people for their first few shows. They’re the perfect example of a band where the critical mass was just there. We built them a touring base so when they were ready to go to radio on the second record, people from the radio would walk into the 9:30 Club in D.C. and see 1,000 people there on a Saturday afternoon or evening and be like, where did this come from? A lot of bands become successful over the radio and then they can do 1000 people, so with them you already had a strong touring base, add radio to that and all the marketing that came with the second album. That’s how it all came together.