Breaking: Biggest classical agency goes into liquidation

Breaking: Biggest classical agency goes into liquidation


norman lebrecht

August 29, 2020

Columbia Artists, formerly CAMI, will cease trading on Monday.

Under Ronald Wilford’s command, the agency represented more than 100 conductors and many star soloists.

Since his death in 2015, it has struggled.

Here’s the statement:


Statement from Columbia Artists Management, Inc.

It is with a heavy heart that, having endured a prolonged pandemic environment, we must announce that effective August 31, 2020, Columbia Artists Management, Inc. will close its doors.  Throughout our 90-year history in supporting the arts and artists in New York and around the world, it’s been a joy to be your advocates in your careers.  We still believe in every one of you and your creations and are hopeful that the world will come back performing and creating like never before.

Columbia Artists has engaged with a fiduciary to enter into an assignment for the benefit of creditors, a form of insolvency proceeding where assets are liquidated, and claims addressed in an orderly manner.  We are working tirelessly to provide each of you individual, concrete guidance on your specific situation over the coming days.  In addition, we’re working together with the fiduciary to see a safe place to land for your Columbia Artists relationship.

The consequences are global, affecting every artist and musical organisation. We assess the outlook for the music industry here. It’s not good news for anyone.

These are the artists immediately affected.


  • Dori Armor says:

    How can there be no comments? This world renowned agency basically became a clearing house for managers and their acts. There was no vision for the future and how the agency would succeed. Had there been a vision for the agency as a whole there may have been a modicum of hope that they would weathered this unprecedented storm.

  • Money RULES! says:

    So much for “re-imagining” operas and concerts, etc. as well as standing by one’s artists even after government aide…

    Sadly, ALL agencies are in basically the same sinking ship along with our treasured artists.

    Liberal government over-reach in the form of onerous ever-changing regulations, fines and arrests of violators have yielded their ultimate victory; failing business starved of income with more on the way… Thanks Cuomo!

  • Larry T says:

    Very sad news. Having worked there for 21 years I know the dedication of the staff to work at the highest level. They will be missed.

  • What a great tragedy. I am inconsolable. The doors are closing on so many potential arts workers and would be artist managers. Say it ain’t so, and turn back the clock on the splendiferous days of CAMI, when Matthew E. Epstein was King, along with the many illustrious names who made classical music business what it once was. Honorable mention goes to Kazuko Hillyer, Shelly Gold, Sam Niefeld and of course Sol Hurok, Maggie Carson, Thea Dispeker and my mentor Alix B. Williamson. I admired and envied each of them in golden past.

    • Nick2 says:

      Helene Kamioner might also have mentioned Ann Colbert who had a very prestigious list. Herbert Breslin may have been loathed by many but he also introduced a number of major artists to the USA. Like Breslin Herbert Barrett had started in PR before forming his own agency.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The time of the big agencies, and big record labels, i.e. big power conglomerations in the music ‘business’, are a thing of the past, and that is a good sign.

    The art form is best supported by small organisations dedicated to music in the first place. Music is NOT for making money, but the other way around – the money is for the music.

    • Sam McElroy says:

      Easy to say, when you don’t make your living from music.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The money should come from parties who invest in the art form, i.e. who pay the musicians and all the expenses involved, so that performers can make their living from music.

    • Nijinsky says:

      Apparently it’s not easy to say, given the response.
      If you make music for money, that’s something else, it’s called a commodity, not a genuine expression. But if you truly have something to say, then that can take care of itself, even financially, if not, you might be better off not taking part in the whole circus. Or is being human something that’s bought with money?

  • Henrique Defour says:

    So, where did all of the money go from at least one government source as far as these “too big to fails”??? Shuddering is rather drastic and shows one how fragile leadership really is. Sad.

    Mr. Lebrecht published an excellent piece only on 7 July about how three of these agencies received immediate funding under Trump’s decisive leadership.

    His article stated “The forms we have seen says each of them received a loan in the range of $350,000 to $1 million.”

    Paycheck Protection Program loans were quickly granted to:
    Columbia Artists
    IMG Artists
    Opus 3

    Also, what other actions have the Americas taken since to support their vital arts sector? What of their concert halls??