Update: Amplify has learned that seven total agents have left Billions, including Steven Himmelfarb who left for Feldman Agency in June, as well as Andrew Morgan who left to join Ground Control.
It has not been a great 2018 for David “Boche” Viecelli at Billions Corp.
The venerable agency boss, whose own site is emblazoned with a manifesto that proclaims “The Billions Corporation honestly believes that no other agency is as truly artist-centric as ours,” has lost five agents to major agencies in seven weeks and the bulk of the artists on its roster, with many scratching their heads regarding what is happening at the Chicago-based agency that was once thought to be the gold standard for independent-minded representation.
In March, Andrew Colvin and Adam Voith left Billions Corporation to join WME’s Nashville office, bringing along acts like Bon Iver, Dawes, Brett Dennen, Robert Ellis, Jason Isbell, Lucero, Kevin Morby, Mumford & Sons, Erin Rae, The Staves, Justin Townes Earle, and Vampire Weekend.
Then on June 1, agents Ali Hedrick and Trey Many also left, this time to join Paradigm, Billboard learned, bringing along a number of artists including Sufjan Stevens, Neko Case and Fleet Foxes.
And today, another Billions exit, this time from podcast agent Josh Lindgren, who had represented popular podcasts like Stuff You Should Know, The Last Podcast on the Left, Radiotopia Live, FiveThirtyEight Politics, Hello from the Magic Tavern, The Flop House and Radio Ambulante.
That leaves Billions with four agents, including Viechelli, and a handful of headliner talent like Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie (in Australia and Asia) and Old Crow Medicine show — a far cry from past rosters that dominated the summer festival headline slate and served as the tastemakers of the industry.
So what is going on over at Billions? We’ve made at least half a dozen attempts to connect with Boche, both through his assistant and directly to him, to no avail. The agents who have exited have not spoken about their decision to leave, and perhaps out of respect, many who have worked with the company in the past have been extremely cautious about saying anything negative about Boche.
And still, it’s hard not to wonder what is happening at the agency. Some say the exit of the band The Head and the Heart in October may have been a sign of things to come. The band signed with Bobby Cory at CAA and seemed to foreshadow a need for better representation in film, TV, branding and digital.
In fact, the pool of independent agencies has decreased in recent years as the industry undergoes a period of consolidation. Earlier this year UTA purchased Circle Talent Agency’s electronic division and at the beginning of 2017, Paradigm purchased the Windish Agency and AM Only after more than a year of collaboration.
Signing with a large, major agency has a lot of appeal for most artists — it means access to departments dedicated to branding deals, digital content producers, corporate engagements, film and TV projects and other opportunities. Those are important revenue channels for artists, who need to find more ways to make money than touring and streaming.
It also puts pressure on bands with agencies that can’t offer those same opportunities, bands like Dance Gavin Dance, which was part of Circle Talent Agency until their agent and the rest of the non-EDM touring division was cut loose as part of the UTA acquisition.
Dance Gavin Dance is now the marquee client of 33 & West, an agency recently formed out of the ashes of the Circle firings. While the company’s founding agents say they want to offer expanded opportunities for TV, film and branding, it’s unclear if anyone on staff has skill sets that go beyond touring or can likely do much for the 13-year-old band besides a slot at the Monster Energy Aftershock Festival in Sacramento.
There’s also plenty of rumors about inner turmoil at Billions, especially following the exit of Voith who had been a senior agent at the company and whose decision to leave had come as a surprise to the company. Whatever the reason, Voith’s exit seemed to have a spiraling effect at the agency that might have led others to leave and now has cast serious doubts about the future of the agency.