Breaking news: Duda's on the move again

Breaking news: Duda's on the move again


norman lebrecht

August 27, 2010

Just under six months ago, the world’s hottest conductor shocked the music industry by walking away from his management agency and joining a rival firm.

Resisting appeals from Simon Rattle and others, Gustavo Dudamel followed his close friend and agent Mark Newbanks out of AskonasHolt to join former IMG chief Stephen Wright at the newly reconstituted Van Walsum Management. It was a huge coup for Wright with Newbanks, a former cellist, taking over as head of artist management and heir apparent.

That was then, this is now.

Last night, after tense discussions, Newbanks issued his notice to quit Van Walsum to set up on his own. And Dudamel, ever loyal, is following him into the unknown.

Why Newbanks had to go is unclear and both sides are keeping lips tight. But my ear to the ground picks up whispers that the sensitive manager was unhappy at the flak he was taking from old-time Van Walsum staff and artists and decided, with the Dude, that he would be better off without having to manage people had had not chosen himself.

It’s a tough call and he is going to face a difficult time establishing himself with only one artist, albeit the most desirable on earth. Dudamel is unlikely to suffer from the backlash.

Wright and Van Walsum are reeling from the defection, coming as it does close on Costa Pilavachi’s departure to head the classical division of Universal Music. But the company has moved swiftly to reshuffle its top team, with Wright taking a more hands-on role and major changes planned in the very imminent future.

So no winners, no losers? Not quite. The music business itself is the loser.

Every time a major artist like the Dude sets up independently outside the infrastructure, the business falls deeper into disintegration. Events of the past few months, reported here, reveal the old guard to be in dangerous flux. This latest move won’t help, and there’s more to come.

Just watch this space.  


  • Anon says:

    Isn’t the music business the winner, here? Many would argue that the less power is in the hands of the biggest few agents the better; the more freedom artists may have, and the same for promoters – it’s a good thing.

  • The “old guard” needs shaking up – it shut me out years ago and seems to be basically an unfair “old school tie club” (one of the remaining few). As in the Christian music markets, going independent with both labels and management is an increasing necessity for survival and the only viable option for many artists and experts; including me, Newbanks and Dudamel. You’re right: there’s more to come.

  • Rick says:

    First of all, Mr. Newbanks can’t stay in one
    place for more than 5 minutes. I would seem
    to think that Maestro Dudumel might not start
    to question his judgement? Secondly, he’s
    not so hot himself. When he left Askonas Holt,
    only one of his artists went with him! Thirdly,
    his judgement was questionable in the first place for joining Stephen Wright!
    In terms of Van Walsum, this is a puff piece of a company. There is no there!
    Without Van Walsum running the company, there
    is nothing.
    Why don’t you write an article one day about the good managers? Blackburn, Enticott,
    Sobol, Hildrew, Treuhaft, Rattray and so on?

  • MogulMan says:

    To come straight to the point: who cares?
    I don’t, nor do most of ticket-paying and recorded music buying public I would guess. Dudamel is a great guy but he is being marketed as a “flavor of the month” to make maximum quick money for others, principally. Being “flavor of the month” is great but hardly a long term prospect

  • Martin Savage says:

    Newbanks: Thinks too highly of himself.
    Dudamel: Nice teeth
    Wright: Apart from his enormous CD collection which was paid for by IMG, he has nothing of interest.