Welcome to the latest edition of Six Questions With..., a regular short and sharp interview with a live music figure. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to take part or recommend someone for inclusion.
This week's Q&A is with agent Paul Ryan of UTA, host of tonight's official pre-Kerrang! Awards cocktail party in North London. The rock specialist's roster includes the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, Lamb Of God, Trivium and Bullet For My Valentine.
What was your first job in music?
My first proper job was as the in-house booker for The Arts Centre in Colchester. Jon Dunn (Parallel Lines) had been the promoter there previously so he had paved the way, building relationships with all the key agents. I had been volunteering as a lighting technician while also promoting artists independently. Jon and I became friends and he supported my passion for live music. Before he left, he taught me how to do everything thoroughly - then he recommended me for the job. We hosted shows for Coldplay, The Strokes, Sigur Ros, God Speed You Black Emperor and The Super Fury Animals in my time there so it was very exciting. Jon was a big influence in my career path, as was the director Antony Roberts. The Arts Centre was, and still is, a fantastic environment to work in. It is a cracking venue (in an old church) - one of the best small venues in the country in my opinion.
How long have you been in your current role?
Seventeen years. When I first became an agent at The Agency Group, I thought that if I could work there for five years and achieve a decent level of success, then it would be an achievement. The rollercoaster hasn’t stopped since.
What is your favourite thing about working in the live music industry?
It’s a privilege to be around artists and their creativity, playing a part in their journeys and taking in all the experiences and challenges that the music industry brings. It's a unique space where every artist you work with is one-of-a-kind and their pathways to success all differ, so it is always exciting because new developments are happening all the time.
What is the one thing you would like to change about the business?
I would love people to use the telephone more and email less. Emails are of course very important but it’s easy to become too heavily reliant on them. Not only is the sheer volume draining but it can numb the true passion that used to be the backbone of this industry. As Bob Hoskins said, 'It’s good to talk'. I always see the benefit from a good chat with like-minded people, especially when discussing artists we care about. You can never truly express your feelings for an artist to a promoter over just email.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I've been blessed with so many special moments so far. It is such a privilege to be a part of the growth of acts like Architects, Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine, Kill Switch, Lamb Of God and Trivium and countless more. However, I will always be deeply proud to have helped with two shows for Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall with both Bullet For My Valentine and BrIng Me The Horizon. It’s quite overwhelming seeing people come together in that way for such an important cause which makes a real difference to people's lives when they need it most.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
Again, I’m blessed to have seen and be involved with many amazing shows, and I’ve witnessed scenes and movements which have been incredibly exciting, but Dead Can Dance at London's Hammersmith [Eventim] Apollo this year was a great example of the power of music. I’ve always wanted to see them but I didn’t know what to expect, and that show took me on a magical and enchanting journey. I will never forget it. I felt like I had been “let in” to some kind of secret club with the whole experience. It’s how I would describe the feeling of being around the acts that I work with and the wonder and excitement of where the road we are on will take us, whether that’s the continuation of a path with established acts, or the early shows with newer breaking talent... it’s a powerful experience.