Wasserman Music’s Tom Windish Hasn’t Lost His Passion For Developing New Acts

Were David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross adapted for the music industry, Tom Windish’s mantra — “Keep booking” — could replace the play’s motivational line “Always be closing.”

At a time when agencies are consolidating and many agents are concentrating on their next career move, Windish remains focused on the core purpose of his job as head of A&R and business development at Wasserman Music: building an impressive roster of promising acts and established stars and helping them graduate to larger and larger stages. That roster includes alt-J, M83, Tove Lo, First Aid Kit, Rina Sawayama, Bartees Strange and superstar Billie Eilish, whom Windish helps route with Wasserman Music’s Sara Bowinkle. And this year, he signed one of his first management clients, activist and attorney-turned-artist Danielle Ponder.


“I like finding bands really early and rolling my sleeves up and figuring out every opportunity we can for them,” says Windish, 50. “When I’ve got an artist that’s already established at a certain level, I like going out and finding shows for them.”

The Schenectady, N.Y., native has worked for over three decades as an agent — first as an intern at WMA, where he was fired after three weeks for not being “William Morris material,” he says. After a stint at Billions, he opened The Windish Agency, which he sold to Paradigm in 2017. Wasserman Music launched in 2021 after acquiring Paradigm’s North American live music division. In 2023, the agency earned the distinction of booking the most acts at Coachella.

Windish recently relocated from Vancouver to New York, where he lives with his wife, film producer Emma Ludbrook — actor and 30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto married the couple in 2017 — and two children.

For Windish, discovery and development remain a large part of what drives him. “I probably take on more new things than almost anyone at the company,” he says. “I’m not necessarily saying that’s a good thing, but I tend to find artists that develop slower.”

How are your artists doing post-pandemic?

Last year was hard for artists because of supply chain issues. Just getting the gear that some artists needed was difficult. But this year sales have been very strong, especially in the United States, which has been very beneficial for agents that have international rosters. In Europe, things are much messier, and you see more acts coming to the U.S. a little more often than they used to.

What is your agenting style?

I’m pretty dry. My main responsibility is to send people music and have a conversation about what’s going on and why I’m excited about it. If they react to it or they don’t, I don’t take it personally. I’ll still call them about the next thing. I look for people I can build some history with that are passionate and take chances early.


Do you rely on data to make the case for your artists?

In the last decade or so, I do look at data a lot, especially global data. I have my ear really close to the ground in America and Canada. But I might not know something that’s happening in the Philippines or Korea or Australia because I’m not talking to the people there as frequently. What Spotify for Artists can reveal is interesting, and it’ll lead me to reach out and just ask other people, “Are you seeing this? What does it mean to you? Who is reaching out about it? What type of promotions are going on there? Should we have a tour strategy there? Should we go there?” I’ll also reach out to promoters at the same time.

Shows are being scheduled further and further in advance — deep into 2024. How do these long lead times affect the routing of tours?

I’m usually booking shows before new music is out. Often it’s nine months before it’s out, and I have no way of knowing how people are going to react or how likely they are to buy tickets. But one of the age-old rules of this business is don’t skip steps. So if you sold 500 tickets the last time, maybe you’ll try to sell 1,000 this time. You’re not just bumping up to 2,000 because you have this data that’s indicating there might be more [demand]. One of my strategies to deal with that is to hold a second night or a [venue] upgrade in case it goes really, really well.

Why sell to Paradigm?

I felt like the bigger we got, and the bigger the artists got, the harder it was to compete with these agencies that had a lot more resources. I felt I needed to compete and offer these things so that I wouldn’t lose out on clients. Paradigm had achieved its scale by bringing together independent agencies that all had similar backgrounds to me. Marty Diamond started in the coat closet booking bands in vans. Paul Morris started in the back of a record shop booking Tiësto.

What was that experience like for you, to sell Paradigm to Wasserman?

The sale was prompted by the pandemic. I didn’t know if the business was even going to come back. It was brutal — a lot more brutal for people in our business than others. It was an existential crisis. In terms of what it meant for the agency, I was in the dark about what was going on. There weren’t many people that I could ask because I think we were all in the dark because of the state of the business at the time. No one knew when shows were coming back. No one knew when there was going to be revenue coming back.


How does Wasserman compare with Paradigm?

They’ve been really helpful and great partners. I met [chairman/CEO] Casey Wasserman a few times over the years before it happened and while the transition was happening and was really excited about it. I mean, I was reading books about his grandfather Lew Wasserman for years because I’m a geek for that kind of stuff. I’ve read, like, every book about agents and Hollywood.

There have been complaints that labels are no longer developing and breaking acts. How does that affect the live business?

It’s hard to put it all in one bucket. I do think artist development is falling on the shoulders of the artists themselves and their managers. Labels are looking for artists to make an impact on their social media and to develop their own streaming. The labels get involved after things are moving. It’s “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Have you ever signed an artist that hasn’t played a live show?

Oh, yeah. I remember a time when it was sacrilegious to sign an artist who hadn’t played a show. But if I didn’t sign artists before they had played a show, I wouldn’t be booking Billie Eilish. I wouldn’t be booking Lorde. And that’s the way it is now, and it’s OK.

What’s your perspective on Ron Burkle’s merging of the AGI and APA agencies?

When you look at all the changes that have happened in the last three or so years, it’s pretty wild. There’s a lot of things moving around, and I think that the biggest thing it shows is that we are all still trying to figure it out. We’re not done. Right now, everyone’s trying to perfect the model maybe, or at least improve their model.

What do you think of the emergence of companies like Firebird?

The interesting thing about Firebird is that we’re seeing now how much managers need to do. A lot of it is stuff that labels used to do. One of the more interesting things about Firebird is going to be how management companies evolve the services that they provide. Will there be more big management companies that are backed by groups like Firebird? Or will a bunch of different management companies share resources, like Artist Nation, where they all shared layers of infrastructure?

What genres are doing well on the road?

The thing I’m most interested in right now is just how global things are. I’ve been a student of that for a long, long time. In the old days, I was looking for artists from other countries because my competitors weren’t. So it was easier for me to sign them. There was an extra layer of a pain in the neck because of the visas and all that kind of stuff, but I was just like, “It’s fine. I’ll do it.” I signed Os Mutantes from Brazil and it was harder than booking an American rock band, but I love them. And now everybody’s signing stuff from all over the world in a lot of different genres. That is the way we now find fans. We kind of ignored these fans in the past because they liked acts we never expected. A lot of artists have been ignored because an agent decided they would never work. And looking back, many of them turned out to be wrong.

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