'There's an appetite to grow the business': Iain Watt on YM&U's global management ambitions

Iain Watt

What’s in a name? Well, artist management superpower YM&U is hoping its new unified brand will help establish it as “the pre-eminent global management company”.

Iain Watt, managing director of YM&U’s music division, stars on the cover of Music Week’s print edition this week in a hard-hitting interview about his life as an artist manager and the company’s ambitions. Watt previously ran Machine Management, one of many companies – including Deckstar, Hall Or Nothing, 10 Management, James Grant Group and Loud – now amalgamated under the YM&U banner.

And Watt told Music Week that the expansion won’t stop there, with further acquisitions on the agenda.

“There is an appetite to grow the business and recruit managers who are maybe on their own or with a small team who might benefit from the scale and resources that we can offer them in the US and UK,” said Watt. “If it’s the right thing to do, we’re obviously on the lookout to see if there are other companies that we can acquire with the right fit culturally, artistically and in terms of personality.”

Watt, shortlisted for Manager Of The Year at the 2019 Music Week Awards, acknowledged that there are fewer and fewer independent management companies out there as corporate companies come into the sector, but said the new YM&U – which also has film, TV, sport and literary arms and large offices in both London and Los Angeles – will also compete for superstar-level artists seeking new management. Artists managed by YM&U already include the likes of Take That, Manic Street Preachers, Clean BanditYears & Years, Steve Aoki, Wu-Tang Clan and Bush.

“If there was a big global artist on the market, Machine probably wouldn’t have been on the list [of possible management companies],” he said. “But now, people in the legal and label community have that real understanding of our joined-up global thinking and they’re going to say, ‘We should put these YM&U guys on the list’. Then it’s down to us doing the best possible pitch and getting on with the artist to see if we can get it over the line. That’s the whole reason for us doing it.”

And the end game? Watt pulled no punches when he sets out his plans to take on the biggest management companies out there.

“We want to be the pre-eminent global management company,” he said. “We want to have proved the concept by having one or two globally successful clients that are managed out of LA and London with a team in both places. We’d love to have a bigger team, be more successful and deliver more hits, but that’s the key. In five years, if we can be really joined-up in our global thinking and have proved it by making one or two artists successful, I’d be over the moon.”

* To read the full, exclusive interview with Iain Watt, see the current print edition of Music Week, available now, or click here. To read our 2018 Take That cover story, click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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