Marsha Vlasic on her Wonderful Artistic Journey, As One of the First Women to Rise to Prominence in the Traditionally Male-Dominated Live Music Industry
In this exclusive interview, Marsha Vlasic offers an inspiring and eye-opening voice of huge experience, sharing her views on the evolution of the music landscape as well as the role of a live music agent.
Marsha Vlasic, President of Artist Group International, one of the top independent booking agencies in the world, has represented a diverse menagerie of talent for more than thirty years. She currently represents many of the most distinctive artists in music, including Neil Young, Elvis Costello, The Strokes, Cyndi Lauper, Moby, Band of Horses, Iggy Pop, Cage The Elephant, Silversun Pickups, Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, PJ Harvey, Devendra Banhart, Butch Walker, The Breeders and The Heavy.
Marsha is one of the most powerful and respected of her trade in the business. One of the first women to smash the glass ceiling of music’s boys’ club, she has carved out a long-lasting and outstanding career, which started at a time when few women were breaking into the male-dominated business and were hardly acknowledged, let alone celebrated in the ways they are today.
Marsha is an advisory board member of the Global Poverty Project, where she plays a pivotal role in booking artists to perform at the organisation’s annual benefit concerts. This past year, she was elected to the board of The T.J. Martell Foundation, a foundation that helps fund medical research to find cures and treatment for cancer. She is also a pioneer for women in the music industry and has been honoured annually by Billboard’s Women In Music and has been a part of Billboard’s Power 100 for many years. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Spirit of Music Award by The T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research at the charity’s 39th Annual Honors Gala. This year, Marsha will be a part of the Inaugural Pollstar Impact 50.
Founded in 1986 by CEO Dennis Arfa, Artist Group International (“AGI”) is the largest independent booking agency that represents an expansive roster of musicians, comedians, and sporting events worldwide. AGI collaborates strategically with its clients to identify opportunities for creative growth and financial success in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
AGI is a part of Y Entertainment Group LLC, the Yucaipa Companies’ dedicated entertainment vehicle.
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Here’s a selection of the most insightful quotes or anecdotes from her talk:
Ray Waddell: You work with Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne and on the Ozzfest. Give us a good share on the Ozzy story and the genesis of the the Ozzfest.
Marsha Vlasic: I love Sharon and representing Ozzy Osbourne, there wasn’t a dull moment ever! I also was the guardian to the children… so had anything happened to Sharon or Ozzy… anyway… planning the Ozzfest was amazing. Sharon is a genius, her passion and compassion and his craziness… we sit in the house there and even before the camera were rolling… the camera were rolling! There were never a dull moment and every time Ozzy end up in a hospital somehow, I was at his hospital bed.
RW: You also worked with Lou Reed what was he like to work with as an artist?
MV: I loved him but he was so brutal. I said it to your face, let him rest in peace. He was so conflicted, he just wouldn’t enjoy his career, he wouldn’t enjoy performing. He did enjoy it but he would always find something wrong you know, he was brutal on himself, he really was.
RW: What is the key to making the relationship with an artist last (Vlasic has been the only agent representing the Strokes, Elvis Costello or Cage the Elephant)?
MV: Once you’ve earned the trust of an artist and you’re not faceless and you actually have an opinion, and you just don’t yes the artists. You listen and hear what the artist says. If an artist has a dream to do something even if it’s unrealistic or crazy, it’s worth checking in out and letting them know you have checked out the possibilities to do it and not just say “no that’s crazy, forget about it, it can’t work, you’ll lose money”. I really listen to what they have to say and I go through the motions to see if I could make their dreams come true.
RW: How do you lay out the multiple opportunities for an artist between playing a festival, a tour, etc?
MV: You can’t give a black and white answer I think with every artist, it’s different, depending on what stage of their career they are. For me the festivals are very important, it is like winning the lottery. Whether you are an unknown band or a headliner, just having that enormous amount of people there, unless you’re a stadium act. For me, having the artist being on the same wavelength that the festival, is the important play. Just being on the poster, everybody looks at it, all the festival look at it, it’s like a magnet.
RW: They say that it isn’t about the money but the offer has to be good, so sometimes there’s this thing called “festival money” that’s gonna be props and in a lot of cases higher than it could make headlining. So what do you tell the acts because I think it’s particularly true with the artists you work with that they’re not as motivated by the check sometimes as the esthetics of it.
MV: If you’re looking to maintain and sustain and have a career you don’t take individual offers for the sake of just making the money, you try to make the money overall. If a band could play Lollapalooza in Chicago or play the Riviera Theatre in Chicago, you’re going to take the Lollapalooza offer, you’re going to play the more people. It’s going to help you grow your base, grow your audience and in the long run, you are going to make more money.