David ‘Boche’ Viecelli did not take the news that his longtime agents Andrew Colvin and Adam Voith were heading to WME very well.
Shaken and upset that two of his best agents were leaving to join newly hired music co-head Scott Clayton, Viecelli became withdrawn and incredulous, Amplify has learned after interviewing a half-dozen former employees at Billions, as well as those close to Viecelli who said the exit of Colvin and Voith in May began the downfall of what had been one of the last great independent agencies.
Boche appeared distraught, sources say, wondering how he — one of the great indie booking agents of the past three decades whose own site is emblazoned with a passionate manifesto — could have two employees poached from underneath him. Sources tell Amplify that on the Friday after the exits were announced, Boche addressed his staff and hinted he that was considering shutting Billions down.
“We didn’t hear from him over the weekend, but when he came back Monday, he seemed to have settled down,” one former employee tells Amplify, who said they were happy to see Boche feeling better but also knew it was time to look for a new gig.
Others described Viecelli as withdrawn and uneasy. Losing artists like Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver and Dawes with the Voith and Colvin exit obviously was bad for the agency, but Viecelli didn’t seem interested in trying to rebuild. There were no pep talks about loyalty, and when more agents started to leave, Boche didn’t try to stop them. His only request, Amplify learned, was that the departing agents not talk to the press about what happened.
First to leave was Andrew Morgan, who joined Ground Control two weeks after Voith and Colvin left and brought with him artists Angel Olsen, Sleep, Jenny Hval and Bully as well as podcasts Welcome to Night Vale, Criminal, Scharpling & Wurster and ClickHole Live. Next were Ali Hedrick and Trey Many, leaving 24 days after the Voith and Colvin exits, landing at Paradigm. Five days later, Billions main man in Canada Steven Himmelfarb was gone, bringing with him artists like Lord Huron, Wolf Parade and the New Pornographers. And then on June 25, podcast agent Josh Lindgren, who had represented popular podcasts like Stuff You Should Know and The Last Podcast on the Left, exited Billions and joined CAA. In total, seven agents quit the company in a period of seven weeks.
Through it all, Boche has remained silent and not responded to multiple phone calls and emails from Amplify for comment. He still has four agents working for him at the 29-year-old agency, including his right-hand man Bobby Cudd who represents Gillian Welch, Old Crow Medicine Show and Robert Earl Keen. And Boche still has the Arcade Fire, The Jesus Lizard and bands by Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus.
In the wake of the exits, several agencies tell Amplify there were multiple attempts over the years to purchase Billions Corporation, but Viecelli never expressed any interest in selling his company or joining forces with a modern full-service agency that offers clients branding opportunities, digital deals and roles in TV and film projects. In an era when artists are looking for new ways to augment their income, it’s no longer enough to just book an artist tour and many small independent agencies are feeling the pressure from firms like WME, CAA and Paradigm.
Viecelli still retains ownership in the management company Brilliant Corners Management, which he formed last year with Zeitgeist’s Jordan Kurland and Joe Goldberg, as well as Alex Kadvan, and Josh Rosenfeld of Barsuk. As for the long-term future of Billions, it’s unclear what will happen bext. Some former employees think he might sell what’s left to an agency like APA, where he is friends with several senior department heads.
Those close to Boche also say we was generally not happy with the direction the music industry was going. While so much emphasis is placed on follower counts and how many people are looking at an artist’s Instagram feed, Viecelli was more concerned with the quality of the live show and thought too much attention was being given to social media. One former employee said he relied more on his gut than data, and was often critical of festivals with aggressive radius clauses, which he would often lobby against.
“Boche believed in the power of long-term relationships, and really taking the time to build an artist’s career and create a sustainable business,” one former agent tells Amplify. “He valued loyalty and expected it in return. He had lost agents before, but the exit of Andrew (Colvin) and Adam (Voith) shocked him. He didn’t see it coming.”