In the music world, talent booking agents arrange tours and negotiate details with venues. And in the world of booking agents, The Agency Group was the largest independent company (before their acquisition by United Talent Agency).
This is a world based on relationships: between venue programmers, promotors and artists. While one would think this adds a degree of stability, there is actually a good degree of churn as artists (and agents) move from agency to agency and programmers move from venue to venue. So as one way to remain current, the industry holds regular tradeshows where programmers and promotors can reconnect with all the agencies in the span of a couple days.
The form of currency at these tradeshows is the roster. The roster is a curated list which reflects the most successful acts and range of genres which an agency currently has on offer. It is traditionally printed in two-colors on letter-sized paper — and immediately put in a file when the programmer returns to their office.
Programmers tend to inhabit some pretty dismal offices: often in the basement, near the prep kitchen or in some other windowless box. And the profession isn’t necessarily the easiest road to riches. Programming a club may be one step along the way to a Ron Delsener-like career, but that requires a monomaniacal focus and a good amount of luck. So one can argue that programmers do this job to somehow stay connected to creativity and art.
Therefore, we proposed rethinking the roster so it would be proudly displayed instead of languishing in a file cabinet of forgetfulness. We would turn the roster into an illustrated poster. And we would commission the best illustrators working today, including the legendary George Hardie — the artist responsible for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and the first Led Zeppelin album, amongst many other well-known pieces.
Granted, making a poster is a clichéd graphic design response. 9/11? Make a poster. Hurricane Sandy? Make a poster. But in this brand context, a simple thing like a poster was highly effective.
Since there’s so much churn in the talent booking industry, there’s also a general sameness to how people do things. Besides handing out the letter-sized rosters, tradeshow booths tend to be decorated with glossy headshots of their clients, arranged artfully around the company logo. And after a couple years, The Agency Group’s booth, with the collected posters displayed in place of all the headshots, developed a distinctive look and feel separate from the competition.
In effect, the company’s brand was changed … without touching the logo. Because The Agency Group was able to transcend the transactional and show a commitment to art.
Beyond that, anecdotal reports supported the initial hope that programmers would keep the roster up on their office wall.
And the illustrators involved in the program also benefitted from the series. Melinda Beck’s piece was included in the Society of Illustrators and is now part of the Library of Congress’ collection. Aad Goudappel’s piece was also included in the Society of Illustrators and won the 2014 Award of Excellence from Communication Arts.