Biz news: Shifting deckchairs on the good ship Columbia

Biz news: Shifting deckchairs on the good ship Columbia


norman lebrecht

April 23, 2018

Dough Sheldon (l.) becomes chairman of the tilting agency, it was announced this morning.

Press release:

April 23, 2018 – Columbia Artists, the legendary performing arts firm founded in 1930, today announced additional details of its new corporate strategy which began with a rebranding in September 2017. Reflecting today’s ever-changing performing arts landscape, the firm has formed a new internal structure that will lead to expanded strategies and broadened collaboration for global artist management, performing arts attractions, touring and event production, and staged and semi-staged theatrical productions.

Four key business groups will now form the core of Columbia Artists, a substantial departure from the firm’s historic structure of manager-led, multi-disciplinary “divisions,” which internally competed for artists, projects and bookings.

The business group designations are being announced along with new executive and staff appointments:

 Classical Music

Well-established as the world leader in the management of leading classical music talent, Columbia Artists continues its commitment to the classical music business. Newly-elected Columbia Artists Board Chairman and veteran artist manager with the firm for more than five decades, R. Douglas Sheldon, together with Senior Vice President, Stefana Atlas, lead the Classical Music group of artist managers and associates who focus on the career management of classical musicians, conductors and music directors, international touring orchestras and development projects throughout the global classical music market.

The Classical Music group is expanding with the recent addition of artist manager and booking representative, Martin Wittenberg, and promotion ofKatherine Smith, associate manager. This group has long been associated with the touring of leading orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra, and the careers of international classical music superstars such as Anne-Sophie Mutter, Denis Matsuev and Valery Gergiev. The growing roster of established and emerging talent include recent additions of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the new Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Jaap van Zweden, Music Director Designate of the New York Philharmonic.

Performing Arts Touring and Events

Columbia Artists is well-known for the creation, production and representation of touring performing arts attractions and projects.  Under the direction of Columbia Artists President and CEO, Tim Fox, together with Senior Vice President and COO, Alison Williams and Vice President, Emily Yoon, thePerforming Arts Touring and Events group’s efforts have been broadened to include dozens of major American touring projects across all performing arts and entertainment disciplines and genres.  This group of artist managers and producers is also active in the development of new programs for symphony orchestras that feature popular music in symphonic performance, including collaboration with performers from rock and pop music, Broadway and Hollywood, along with the development and management of an elite roster of conductors and music directors who specialize in popular and non-traditional symphonic repertoire, including Rob Fisher, Sarah Hicks, Keith Lockhart, John Mauceri and Ted Sperling.

In further exploration and development of fresh concert hall programming, the Performing Arts Touring and Events group established an international license agreement with Disney Music Group that has helped Columbia Artists lead the world-wide expansion of symphonic live-to-screen symphonic concert events, which includes a growing roster of beloved Disney feature films and animated classics. The team continues to successfully produce unique large-scale live events with Hollywood titles featuring live music and star-studded live performances in iconic music venues around the world including the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, Royal Albert Hall and Tokyo Forum.

Opera Vocal

Reinforcing its leadership as managers of the careers of the opera world’s most distinguished performers, the Columbia Artists Opera Vocal group is led by three veteran managers and Vice Presidents: Michael BenchetritDamon Bristo and William Guerri.  To further enable the dynamic collaboration of this group in the international opera market, Francesca Condeluci and Nathan Wentworth have been promtoed to associate managers, providing greater support to the entire vocal roster.  Highly regarded vocal manager and Columbia Artists veteran, Elizabeth Crittenden, continues to provide valuable artist management and support as artistic advisor and consultant to the Opera Vocal group.


As the North American market for touring theatrical productions continues to evolve into three separate and distinct tiers, Columbia Artists Theatricalsgroup continues to acquire, manage and distribute properties capable of moving among the week-long, split-week and one-nighter markets.  Under the long-time direction of its President, Gary McAvay, Columbia Artists Theatricals has diversified its roster to include the iconic Broadway and Off-Broadway productions of CHICAGO and STOMP, as well as Theatrical Concerts, Tribute Shows, Variety, Cabaret and International Attractions.  Columbia Artists Theatricals works closely with an impressive range of artists, producers, managers, agents, venues and presenters to deliver hundreds of performances each year on subscription and box office driven specials with track records for return engagements which are singular and unprecedented. 

Looking Forward

This new internal structure merges the iconic firm’s founding principles of creativity, innovation, integrity, and passion for excellence with its new team-oriented and collaboration-first business practices. This guiding philosophy empowers Columbia Artists’s managers, producers, and agents to continue to shape individual artist careers and develop national and international touring and live performance strategies, and further the organization as a global leader in arts management.


  • John Borstlap says:

    The bigger and more important a music agency is, the heavier the burden of overhead: salaries, organizational facilities, offices at top locations with rising costs, etc. etc. In today’s climate where classical music as such is eroding at the edges, such pressures force big agencies to ‘extend their activities’ for financial reasons. Hence the increasing contradiction between the two concerns that have always shaped music management, for better or worse: musical considerations on one hand, and commerce on the other:

    “……the iconic firm’s founding principles of creativity, innovation, integrity, and passion for excellence with its new team-oriented and collaboration-first business practices.”

    Big book publishers sometimes keep in business by producing inferior pulp which brings-in the money, to be able to continue their high-quality publications which otherwise would undermine their existence. But since a company can do without the latter, it is only to be hoped that CAMI will cling to its ‘founding principles’ in one way or another. If commercial considerations take-over all other concerns, big agencies become one of the worst threats of the art form.

  • Hank S says:

    This sounds like the last attempt of a dying breed of agency “super powers” to remain relevant by grasping at whatever revenue they can to keep their absurd salaries coming in. This business does not belong to CAMI or any major agency anymore, but rather the smaller shops that do it because they have a passion to see music / performing arts survive. Look at half the crap CAMI represents now, and you’ll see they don’t care anymore. When Grossman was still there, he duped presenters into presenting the same orchestras every year, but under two different names as if they were separate entities. Believe there was a NYT article in 2011 about this.

    This may be a death knell for CAMI, and if it leads a newer generation into the spotlight to lead the charge of music management, I can’t wait. Let it burn.

  • Nick says:

    From the 1980s onward, if not earlier, and even after its downsizing and the move from West 57th Street 13 years ago, I am not sure anyone can argue that CAMI clung to its “founding principles”. Whatever Ronald Wilford’s qualities in managing artists, I’d suggest commercial considerations were pretty close to uppermost in CAMI’s dealings with performing arts managements and promoters.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Their roster includes Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Who cares who represents who? All that matters are the musical results.

  • Patrick Lacoste says:

    Mutter, Matsuev, Gergiev….Van Zweden, Grazinyte….and What,s the matter with Juanjo Mena? Ok…..he does not deserve to be on the list.