Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Other Side with Windish Agency Booking Agent Sam Hunt

Having worked at a record store, a concert venue, and a record label before settling down as a booking agent at The Windish Agency in Chicago, it's safe to say that Sam Hunt is a man of many talents. As a high school student, he even picked up a bass guitar and toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but after his band Think Tank fizzled out when the members left for college, Hunt quickly realized that he preferred to be behind the scenes rather than on center stage. He explains, “I wasn’t good at playing bass and I really didn’t enjoy doing it, so rather than playing music, I decided I was better off helping others [with their music careers].” These days, Sam Hunt “helps” a number of famous friends, including Best Coast, The xx, Chromeo, Girl Talk, King Kahn & the Shrines, Low, Ra Ra Riot, GZA, Unkle, and CMJ Music Marathon returnees, School of Seven Bells, by booking their U.S. and international tours.

In between checking e-mails around the clock, booking shows, and seeing The Windish Agency's artists in concert, Sam Hunt (pictured above, working hard as usual) managed to squeeze in a little time for Green Light Go, to tell us what it’s like to be on the other side:

Green Light Go: How long have been a booking agent and what inspired you to get into this field?

Sam Hunt: Music is something I have always loved. I worked at a record store, a label, and a venue, [before becoming] an agent. I’ve been working at The Windish Agency for about 6 years, where I started out as an assistant. I can’t really imagine working in any other field. I still get excited about going to concerts and I still can’t believe people let me backstage…working [in the music industry] rules.

GLG: What is the day-to-day like as a booker?

SH: I check my email from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. If someone gets an email from me at 8am, it’s likely that I just woke up and am laying in bed, going through the messages that I missed while I was asleep. I spend most of the day emailing and talking on the phone. When I leave the office, I go to the gym, eat dinner, and then get back to work (ideally while watching baseball). I also go to shows 1-3 times a week and I travel 2-4 times a month to attend bigger shows or festivals.

GLG: What are some of the most noteworthy artists you've worked with in the past or are currently working with?

SH: All of the artists [I work with] are noteworthy in their own right, including: Animal Collective, Atlas Sound, Best Coast, Black Kids, Chairlift, Chromeo, Dan Deacon, Death Vessel, Deerhunter, Dirty Projectors, F**k Buttons, Girl Talk, GZA, King Khan & the Shrines, Lightning Bolt, Major Lazer, Matt & Kim, Panda Bear, Rjd2, and Yeasayer.

I work with bands that I think are awesome; that comes first. If I really love an artist, there’s a good chance I’ll want to work with them. My clients come from all around the world and play different types of music, so I don’t really specialize in any one [genre].

GLG: As a booking agent, how do you know that you are a good match for a band? What things do you have to keep in mind before agreeing to work with an artist?

SH: I work hard and so do my bands. [The artists I work with] like to make music and play it live, so I aim to help them [be successful]. If a band has totally unrealistic expectations, I will probably not work with them, because I’d be setting myself up for failure. I find it appealing when a [band is made up of] good people with good intentions, because I work closely with all of my clients and have a good relationship with many of them. It’s a lot more fun to work with people who I like personally and consider friends, as well as clients.

GLG: What is the best piece of advice you’d give a band that thinks they are ready to head out on the road for a tour?

SH: Figure out a budget before saying “yes” [to a tour] and keep expectations reasonable.

GLG: What is your favorite thing about booking bands?

SH: Seeing how bands grow and develop. It’s amazing to watch a band play before a huge, enraptured audience and remember seeing them for the first time in a basement to 15 people. It’s a very satisfying, exciting feeling.

GLG: What’s your least favorite thing about your profession?

SH: [My job] is difficult to get away from. Time is always passing and emails are always flying in. I start to feel like I’m falling behind the moment I step away from my computer…as a result, I rarely do!

GLG: In addition to the music you are working on, what current albums have you been listening to lately?

SH: I’m listening to D-Lo (care of my little sister), La Roux, Soundgarden, Sharon Van Etten, Big Boi, Wavves, and Cartel Adams. As dorky as it sounds, I spend a lot of my time listening to the bands I work with. They make awesome music, I can’t help it!

GLG: What is one band that you’d love to work with and why?

SH: The Beatles. They were so good and seem like such nice dudes. [If I worked with The Beatles], I’d be the richest person alive…and I would have super powers.

The Other Side highlights the talented folks behind the scenes of the music we listen to. The Other Side features producers, engineers, booking agents, photographers, radio DJs, management teams, and label representatives.

This week’s The Other Side is brought to you by: Lauren Roberts

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