Just under six months ago, the world’s hottest conductor shocked the music industry by walking away from his management agency and joining a rival firm.
Resisting appeals from Simon Rattle and others, Gustavo Dudamel followed his close friend and agent Mark Newbanks out of AskonasHolt to join former IMG chief Stephen Wright at the newly reconstituted Van Walsum Management. It was a huge coup for Wright with Newbanks, a former cellist, taking over as head of artist management and heir apparent.
That was then, this is now.
Last night, after tense discussions, Newbanks issued his notice to quit Van Walsum to set up on his own. And Dudamel, ever loyal, is following him into the unknown.
Why Newbanks had to go is unclear and both sides are keeping lips tight. But my ear to the ground picks up whispers that the sensitive manager was unhappy at the flak he was taking from old-time Van Walsum staff and artists and decided, with the Dude, that he would be better off without having to manage people had had not chosen himself.
It’s a tough call and he is going to face a difficult time establishing himself with only one artist, albeit the most desirable on earth. Dudamel is unlikely to suffer from the backlash.
Wright and Van Walsum are reeling from the defection, coming as it does close on Costa Pilavachi’s departure to head the classical division of Universal Music. But the company has moved swiftly to reshuffle its top team, with Wright taking a more hands-on role and major changes planned in the very imminent future.
So no winners, no losers? Not quite. The music business itself is the loser.
Every time a major artist like the Dude sets up independently outside the infrastructure, the business falls deeper into disintegration. Events of the past few months, reported here, reveal the old guard to be in dangerous flux. This latest move won’t help, and there’s more to come.
Just watch this space.