Outrage as the Arts Council bails out artist agencies

Outrage as the Arts Council bails out artist agencies


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2020

Among today’s handouts to help the arts avoid bankruptcy, two stand out like boils on a bald head.

The artists agency Intermusica Artists Management Ltd has been awarded £198,000 of public money.

IMG Artists (UK) Ltd received £100,000.


This is outrageous in more ways that I can describe.

First, it’s unfair. Other agencies – Askonas Holt, HarrisonParrott, Rayfield Allied and more – are all in the same boat, but two agencies have been singled out for preferential treatment. How on earth is that justified.

Second, what is the public benefit? If an agency goes bust, another will arise in its place. These are not essential services.

Third, what do they contribute to the economy? Apart from a handful of jobs, zilch.

Fourth, IMG’s co-owner (pictured) is a convicted fraudster.

Fifth …. oh, don’t get me started.

This money was meant to be spent on keeping the arts and artists alive, not feeding a bunch of marginal, non-creative career managers.

This is an appalling allocation and it needs to be raised in Parliament.




  • V. Lind says:

    I don’t know anything about the other one, but there is no way IMG needs money. It is swimming in it. If the arts end of this rapacious business is in trouble it is because they are being badly run.

    While people who work in this field are as entitled to consideration as anyone in any other field, I fail to see why they are subject to government bailout. If their livelihoods are threatened — as they may well be — by the shutting out of opportunities for their artists, then your point about other agencies is well taken. What makes these two particularly deserving? (i.e. Who do they know?).

    Yes, indeed, some answers are required here. But don’t bother asking that dolt Dowden. I saw him with Kay Burley this morning and he was uber-weasel. Woudn’t give a straight answer if you asked him which day followed Monday.

    • Nick2 says:

      Just to clarify: IMG Artists has not been affiliated for more than 15 years with the lucrative sports, publishing and model divisions that basically helped IMG Inc. underwrite IMG Artists during Mark McCormack’s time.

  • Mario Mote says:

    Absolutely disgusting, whilst artists starve. Shame on those sociopaths!

  • Rishi S says:

    That’s a shame. They didn’t know it yet but their next jobs could have been in Cyber.

  • Rebecca says:

    I can’t believe one has to explain this. The management agencies represent artists who have seen their income go down to essentially zero during the pandemic. These agencies run off of commission, so if their artists aren’t making money, they don’t make any money. They then go out of business, the artists don’t get hired, and everyone loses. In the case of Intermusica, £198,000 is %0.012 of the money handed out for the arts in the bailout package. Intermusica has nearly 100 artists on its roster – if that £198,000 allows their doors to stay open, helping those 100 artists get work and feed their families, then it is a more than worthy investment. Same goes for IMG. I wish all the other agencies had gotten something as well. You know better.

    • Julia says:

      You don’t need to explain how the business model works – Norman is quite aware of this. His point is a value-judgement about the services, which is difficult to disagree with, having worked in this sector for many years. Plus, the added extra of both agencies being headed up by such decidedly unpleasant individuals – whose artists would be better off if their individual agents struck out alone – makes this particularly bitter to swallow. The artists are suffering because their industry has been made illegal, not because their agencies have been managed badly (although that is also true).

    • Firing Back says:

      Another apologist.

    • Jonas says:

      A good artist gets work with or without agency. Furthermore, if the agency sinks, the artists jump ship, so they could get engagementa through other agencies. IF promoters and orchestras survive. So, the money should go to orchestras and concert organisers, not private agencies.

    • Maria says:

      I can’t believe you’ve written this! Norman is the last person needing to be given a lesson in business administration and statistics. It’s absolutely disgraceful how the money has been doled out to these agents when other agents haven’t and who are much poorer. What about my own agent? Not a penny. And what about all the low to middle tier singers who have had to go stacking shelves in supermarket to put food on table? One of my own students was made homeless in London as she couldn’t pay the rent and the government help so late. Not a star singer but a fine concert singer just the same and was working.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    NL’s opinions and mine rarely overlap completely, but this is one of those rare occasions.

  • Gustavo says:


    Mismanagement of public funds

  • Will says:

    We don’t know its preferential treatment – we don’t know if other agencies applied.

    I agree its odd, but then again the main thrust of this fund is in keeping people in the arts employed, and this will certainly achieve that – there is a whole ecosystem to think of.

  • Nothing Changes says:

    He’s a wealthy white male who happens to be a well-connected Jew in show businesses. Who else would create a huge agency and crave that kind of star status historically? So he had some legal problems. Who doesn’t?? Big deal!

    The kind of people who get upset by all of this normally vote left and will never learn. Most are stuck at home without a job for the last 6 months and broke anyway but they’ll find a way to hate the right as usual.

    • dave says:

      Erm… U ok hun?

    • Jonathan says:

      Is that really all you got, blatant anti-Semitism?

    • Cynical Bystander says:

      How can I put this? Please take your vile anti semitism and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

    • Innocent Bystander says:

      well connected Jew in show business ! How is that relevant ?

    • Shamika Uday says:

      It’s a textbook case of white privilege

    • Maria says:

      You don’t know what you’re talking about and then drag in and insult the Jews, and make sweeping mindless statements about left and right. This is not America. This is Britain.

    • Howard says:

      I’m concerned that the moderator thinks it is OK for people to make these kind of comments. You have no right to bring religion into this discussion, it is entirely irrelevant as is the way you vote. You haven’t contributed anything positive. My other concern is for the 10 positive votes you got, another 10 anti-semites perhaps?

      • Typical Lefty says:

        People are going broke and homeless while you complain about trivialities.

      • Jonisha #BLM says:

        Blacks have been discriminated against for far too long. The peaceful protests and demands for reparations are finally happening. It’s about damn time.

        • Maybe says:

          You know that you have every right to say this, but please, be balanced about it! There are black persons, who are subjects of Positive descrimination! There are those, who through sheer hard work have risen above terrible circumstances. There are those who remain descriminated against. During times of slavery, blacks were treated shamefully, but because they were a valued commodity, they were not treated like the Jews were, whose mass genocide of men, women and children, was planned. They were not valued, only their assetts, hard labour, human experimentation, and human by-products. Argue with this: Infants were swung through the air by their little legs to have the heads smashed-in. So, by what motivation do you have to discriminate against anyone of us? These are times to come together, in kindness and humanity.

    • Hornbill says:

      As they used to say in Private Eye:

      Ho ho, very satirical

    • Maybe says:

      Nothing changes…….Some things do! You know what anti-semitism enabled, don’t you?

      • Tanisha says:

        No. They don’t teach that in history anymore. Jews are just white so they have no standing like the rest of whites.

        We have black oppression, feminist topics and BLM in the curriculum instead.

        Did something of importance happen to powerful Jews?

  • Stephen Maddock says:

    There were lots of commercial organisations successful in this round – including plenty of pop / rock promoters and venues. It was government money, administered by ACE so (unlike normal ACE funding) by no means restricted to not-for-profit organisations.

    Complete list is here:

  • IAM thieves says:

    Disgusting behaviour of Intermusica, a company in private hands, claiming taxpayer money. All the while, they ask staff to work whilst on furlough, and charging artists £1000s a year to simply feature on the website.

    • An Intermusica Employee says:

      This is not true whatsoever. As an employee of Intermusica, I can say that no one on furlough has been asked to work on furlough time. Working hours have been monitored with almost forensic precision so that no one works above the legal limit. As to your second point, there is not one single artist on the Intermusica roster who pays a retainer to be on the roster. If you want to make such accusations, then please be informed of the facts before you write such harmful vitriol. Readers on this blog do not have any idea of the conversations which happen internally within the agency and the commitment that each manager has to the artists they represent. Yes, including those artists who do not rake in the cash.

      • VO says:

        Shut up Fabienne

      • BAM says:

        As another employee of the same company, I was absolutely asked to work during furlough and I was also told by my manager not to tell anyone. So whoever this is (marketing?) please check YOUR facts. The artists are not charged a retainer, but they ARE charged a large “marketing fee” which no one has ever been able to explain to me or anyone else. Stop trying to defend yourselves, it makes you look pathetic.

      • Whistle blower says:

        I am just flabbergasted that a certain artists manager negotiated a pay rise mid pandemic. Perhaps this is what these government funds will be used for.

  • McGarriglebear says:

    Intermusica made over 20 staff redundant. They should use the money to bring some of them back

    • Will says:

      to do what?

      • AC says:

        To massage Lumsden’s ego of course! What else does he imagine his staff are for?

        • Not Fairfax says:

          This is unfair. Lumsden is not comparable by any standards to the likes of Wissman or Jasper Parrott, if we have to name names. Agencies are suffering and the only way to keep them alive – and through them the livelihoods of artists who depend on them (and they do, regardless of what you may say)- is to get some sort of bailout. Most industries are receiving bailouts and why shouldn’t those in our sector? It may not be “fair”, but the application procedure for these grants is transparent and anyone can apply, so in these times of turbulence in the classical music sector, isn’t it a sign of strength that these leaders put their egos aside and apply for funding where they can find it? Everyone in the music business is suffering, so how can you possibly single put and judge those who use whatever means available to survive, especially when they are transparent and above board?

  • Delia says:

    Oh I see who he is now, why would they award funding to criminals?
    “The criminal history of Barrett Wissman, co-owner of IMG Artists, is well-known..Wissman pleaded guilty in 2009 to defrauding a pension fund of the state of New York. He stayed out of jail by paying a $12 million fine and blowing the whistle on his associates. He got to keep the ranch in Montana”

  • AB says:

    Appalling. At least Intermusica and IMG can waive their artists’ commissions now and re-employ some of the countless they’ve let go!

  • Firing Back says:

    Cronyism, pure and simple.

    And why would Stephen Maddock of the CBSO pipe in here?
    Why is he acting as an apologist for dubious and probably dirty ACE decisions? It looks terrible.

    Join some dots: you may just find a cosy link between ACE’s Darren Henley and IMG and Intermusica.

    Norman may well get his wish of a parliamentary review of all this sooner than he thinks…

  • Little Miss Angry says:

    If you want Outrage, try this : St.Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square have just been awarded £659,000, part of which is to “rebuild our much-loved music”, which would be lovely, if they had not just thrown out all the ensembles, choirs and hundreds of freelance musicians who had created that “much-loved music” in the first place, over the past 30 years. It is quite frankly obscene and the Heritage Lottery Fund needs to investigate urgently. https://www.concertpromotersofstmartins.com/press-release

  • John Willan says:

    Agreed Norman. But what do we expect. It’s hardly surprising.

  • viola says:

    These agencies have been sucking public funds through artist fees they WERE charging for many years. Why such fuzz now? I only hope this is the pandemic, when the old school artistic agencies died and it will never happen again a conductor or soloist would earn more on one night than an orchestra musician playing with them on that night earns in one year.

  • TB says:

    One wonders whether the other agencies – Askonas Holt, HarrisonParrott, Rayfield Allied and more, as you put it – may not even have thought about applying… oops!

  • Same old, same old says:

    Here we go again, acting like artists managers don’t play an important role in the arts ecosystem. The “public benefit” of the arts depends on all parts of this system working. I think if you ask the artists on the IMG roster whether they need their managers, the answer will be yes. If the application guidelines allowed for companies such as IMG to apply and successfully win funding, then the criticism should go towards the guidelines, not these companies. And if the other for-profit companies missed the boat, then too bad for them.

    • Marie says:

      Crooks, leeches, layabouts, cycophants. Who needs them.

      • McGarrigle says:

        Calling you out on this. Please back up what you are saying with examples. You have no idea and tarring the whole profession on some bad eggs. Your attitude is incredibly damaging to hard working and dedicated artist managers

  • Johanna says:

    Indeed outrageous. The funding should go to the organisations who employ the artists, from whom the agents earn their commission. And there should be a more robust furlough scheme to assist agents (as employers) to retain their staff and weather the storm. This award to IMG and Intermusica is completely unfair on other agencies who have furloughed their staff, sub-let their offices, and left a small number to work tirelessly to keep their artists in work. Believe it or not, the majority of agents are extremely hardworking and caring.

  • Sharon says:

    I do not know how campaign financing works in England but in the US it would be assumed that the firms’ owners contributed to the ruling party or the prime minister’s electoral campaign in some way

  • FiddlerNearlyWithoutaRoof says:

    It’s nonsense to claim that agencies don’t contribute to the economy, since they are an integral part of the concert machinery. Try telling any hard-working manager that they don’t count. Who should or should not be bailed out is another matter.

    Meanwhile, those of us freelance artists lucky enough to have maintained a tiny percentage of our concert schedule are being asked to take huge reductions on our negotiated fees. We understand that economic fallout to promoters etc. is huge, so we’re playing ball out of solidarity. But none of the organisations that have received bailouts are contacting us freelancers to offer even a tiny percentage of that small windfall to even begin compensating us for those cancellations, either past or future. We have our bills to pay, too!

    On a personal level, I find it more than dispiriting to have received not one single phone call or message from any of the promoters I’ve worked with over decades. No word of commiseration, no gesture of solidarity, nothing. Not even basic friendship. Silence, except for the requests to cut fees. Who is speaking up for us? And don’t tell me we’re the “privileged” ones. Without work or income we, too, face rapid bankruptcy. We’re all in this together.

    • Ruby says:

      Sorry Fiddler :'( I think we were lucky enough to have always had a great promoter. They were devastated when they called us all up to tell us the news of not being able to withstand this pandemic, and they fought tirelessly for parliament to pass the bill allowing furlough to freelancers which after a couple months was passed. This even in the midst of St Martin-in-the-fields brutally throwing them to the wolves, while gaining massive public funding themselves. I know of truly great people in this industry, unfortunately I think we all know of truly horrid people in this industry too

  • Will Duffay says:

    Raised in Parliament? Get in line, Norman: there’s the case of the missing £12bn on track and trace, the hundreds of millions on PPE overpaid to start-up companies run by Tory pals, the wasted summer lockdown… etc, the catalogue of Tory corruption and incompetence and mis-management is endless.

    I agree, though: this is a completely inappropriate use of public money. It should be going to venues, so they can employ musicians, who can then pay their agents. It should not be starting with the agents themselves, however decent and hard-working.

  • Howard says:

    Whilst I don’t condone the donation of tax payers money to artists agencies, I am disgusted by this article and the way that it applies a vitriolic brush stroke to the entire agency industry. My partner is a one man band, has represented creative artists for many years and works as many as 60 hours a week for a very small return. During Covid the artists have been represented commission free (where possible) and my partner has made very little money during this period. There are a lot of people that work very hard in this industry for small returns and deserve every penny. Finally, none of the artists are forced to stay at the agency, they are free to go. They remain because of the great service they get and also because negotiating a contract and everything that goes with it is not necessarily their forte. Norman Lebrecht, you should hang your head in shame if this is the best you’ve got. And what exactly are you adding to the economy BTW?