Leaked e-mail: how an agent can make your life hell

Leaked e-mail: how an agent can make your life hell


norman lebrecht

August 20, 2010

Things are getting tense at the classical artists agency wing of Universal Music. There’s a big merger coming up and three top singers – Elina Garanca, Barbara Fritoli and Luca Pisaroni -have decided they want out.

So when a fourth singer, whose identity I shall withhold for the moment, muttered that he was also thinking of changing ships, the email he got from his agent – leaked to me in the dark of night – gives a rare insight into the balance of terror that prevails between a soloist and the person who supposedly has his or her best interests at heart.

I have deleted three names. The rest is verbatim, the stuff of nightmares. Here’s the email, dated last week:

From: (name withheld)

Sent: 11 August 2010 16:55
To: (….)
Cc: (name withheld)


Dear (…),


Thank you for your recent e-mails. I am still very surprised by your reactions, and I want the chance to discuss this with you. You are making a major career decision, and I think you need to be very careful with your next steps.


You have been clear with (…) and me over the last few months that you need to make more money. What I don’t understand is the following. You may have earned less in the past two years, but the next three years are excellent for you in terms of your income, and we did this for you. Your financial situation now may be very hard, but it will get better very soon. We have shown this to your accountant, and she has accepted this.


In the past two years, (….) and I have done for you things that no one else could have done. We made a recording contract for you with Deutsche Grammophon during a time when very, very few singers get recording contracts. You said yourself that we made your dream come true. In the years to come, these recordings will enhance your career and bring you better work and more money. We have also brought you new productions and brought you to new theatres. In short, your career really is better than it has ever been. I understand that in this economic environment that you are making less money. This is in part due to the prestigious new productions in which you are performing (with long rehearsal periods), but (….) and I have made sure that your income will increase greatly in the next two years. Your career is better now than it has ever been. I promise you that no other managers can do for you what we have done. I know this is true.


I need to be very, very clear with you. If you leave Universal, my boss will make very strong decisions about what we can do for you in the future. I have seen this before, and I can predict with great accuracy that Universal will do the following:


Start a lawsuit to demand immediate payment of the money you owe Universal.
Stop ALL recordings with Universal, including the potential of not releasing your second recording.
Suggest that we remove you from our current recording.

You and I have a great friendship, and you have the same with (….), and even (….). You must know that no one can work better for you than (….) and me. We are now working on making some dates for you that earn a great deal of money. NO ONE has more access to these private dates than we do.


Also, I need to point out that you are singing in London and Paris in the future. Only Salzburg is left, and I have asked you to give me a few weeks to try to confirm an engagement for you there. 


I think you are making a terrible decision for very emotional reasons. I want to speak with you about this with the hope that you will give us a few more weeks or months to show you that we can bring you the income and the engagements (theatres) that you need. We have also hired a new Italian agent who can help to bring you some large fees for the work in Italy that you need.


None of what I write is a threat to you. You know that you are my friend and that (….) and I love to work for you. I think you are making a terrible mistake and you need to allow us to address your concerns.


Can we speak about this on Thursday or Friday? I am sure that you are making a terrible decision. I want the best for you. Please be careful with the decision you make.


Big hugs, 


(name withheld)






  • MWnyc says:

    This isn’t pretty, certainly, but it seems perfectly understandable, and not unreasonable, for Universal to decide not to record an artist who abruptly walked away from a management contract.
    The singer is well within his rights to jump ship if he wishes, and Universal is within its rights to cease doing other business with him if he does.

  • William Lang says:

    Why would you post this? Anyone with 5 minutes of spare time and an inkling of inclination could figure out who this is.
    If it was leaked to you, it was probably with the intent to hurt/humiliate someone in someway.
    I don’t know what you expect people to get from this. A musician’s life is a hard one. People know this. There is no need to drag anyone’s personal, private e-mails into the fray.
    I would ask you on behalf of musicians everywhere to think harder before posting personal info like this in the future.
    NL replies: Hurt? Humiliate? No-one gets hurt here. It’s a rare opportunity to see the workings of the delicate relationship balance between artists and their agents. In 20 years of covering the field, I have seldom seen a more candid expression of those tensions.

  • Joyce DiGheorghiu says:

    Why don’t you just say tell us who this world class tenor is?

  • Miss Terry says:

    So what part of Universal do you work for MWnyc ?

  • Slipped disc says:

    What makes you think he’s a tenor?