IAMA takes on the big issues

The International Artist Managers’ Association (IAMA) is preparing to host its 28th annual conference. It runs from 23-25 April at Kings Place in London.

There is no overall theme for this year’s event. Instead, conference chair Ben Rayfield – managing director of artist agency Rayfield Allied – has decided to take on a broad range of serious issues facing the sector such globalisation, the movement of artists, sexual harassment, diversity, identity, data protection and relevance.

“The main theme running through the conference is the relationship between globalism and regionalism, and how that is dictating artistic change,” says IAMA chief executive Atholl Swainston-Harrison. “For example, it’s often been said that the brass section of the Chicago Symphony has a distinctive edge and that Hungarian orchestras have a particular string sound. If globalisation leads to everything sounding the same is this something to be worried about?”

Sexual harassment has been in headlines over the past 12 months and IAMA will also address this subject, though from a broader perspective in a peer-to-peer session.

“Our association chair, Aino Turtiainen-Visala, however, believes that the emphasis should be harassment in general – or the abuse of authority where there is a situation of vulnerability,” says Swainston-Harrison. “What strategies should the artist manager employ if an artist causes harassment or is a victim of harassment? Outlining a problem needs to be accompanied by practical advice and steps so that our artist managers feel equipped to deal with the situation if it arises.”

Rayfield has also sought to include genres that previous IAMA conferences have paid less attention to, such as opera and new music.

Atholl Swainston-Harrison

Atholl Swainston-Harrison

Comments Swainston-Harrison: “Ben has always felt that the IAMA conference has underrepresented opera as a genre so this is being addressed on the first day of the conference. There is great merit in meeting the intendants and casting directors face-to-face, and discussing what needs an opera house has or how their planning works. We hope the IAMA conference will become a fixture for opera houses through this development.

“Ben is also a strong proponent of contemporary music. We agree that the world of contemporary classical composition is very exciting in its depth and level of activity – it is a good indicator of a positive future for classical music. All our showcases will feature music by living composers.”

As for diversity, IAMA is keen to widen the debate beyond the Western perspective. “While the Anglo-sphere see this from a particular frame of reference, we find that the meaning across the membership is far wider. What does diversity mean for those in Japan, China or Spain, and what common elements can be found in the language that will ensure classical music is seen as an inclusive part of human existence?

“For IAMA, a diverse membership with more Southern European representation is a pressing concern. Why are Northern European networks so poor at including those in Southern Europe and what more should IAMA be doing?”

Elsewhere, IAMA deputy chair Helen Sykes will lead a session on Brexit; new data protection rules are explained in “GDPR (Data protection rules in the EU) Don’t panic!”; experts from Smith & Williamson and GG Arts Law will be on hand at the tax and legal help desk; and touring is considered in “What’s the Point of Orchestral Touring: do orchestras sound different enough to make it worthwhile?”

Swainston-Harrison adds that IAMA is also launching its first training sessions for entry-level artist managers: “Our management short course will be held for the first time from 10-11 July at Somerset House. It’s intended for assistant artist managers from member companies and we hope to be able to contribute to raising standards in the profession.”

Companies signed up to this year’s conference include Askonas Holt, BBC Proms, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Columbia Artists, Ibermúsica, IMG, Nordic Artist Management, Opus 3, The Cliburn, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra.


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