Action Bronson’s Booking Agent Discusses the Rapper’s Rise to Fame + Ability to Transcend Genres
As Action Bronson continues to take over the world -- and trust us, he is definitely taking over the world -- we had the distinct privilege to chat with one individual who is working behind-the-scenes, making sure Bronson and his unforgettable live show get to a city and music festival near you. Jeremy Holgersen (of the Agency Group) is Bronson's booking agent, and in addition to the one-of-a-kind rapper, he works with artists like the Dead Kennedys, Glassjaw, the Pogues and many, many more.
With a unique perspective from inside the industry, check out our exclusive conversation with Holgersen below:
First things first: How did you get into this gig, being Action Bronson’s booking agent?
I started out in college -- I came on board as an intern, became an assistant, worked for a few different agents who had acts that ranged from Creed to Goldfinger to Reel Big Fish. I left with one of the agents to come over to the Agency Group -- where I’m at now -- I guess sometime in the late ‘90s. I started building up my roster and have always had an eclectic taste. I’ve always worked with music that I like, regardless of genre or style. Some of the first acts I worked with were Glassjaw, Hatebreed, Blue Rodeo and Dynamite Hack. My philosophy has always been if it’s something that gets me excited, something I can wrap my head around and get behind, then I’ll take it on. Some of the acts I work with are a bit left-of-center, too, but it’s always been stuff that excites me. Action Bronson, he reminds me of a lot of the hip-hop I grew up on.
And what's your role with these artists on your roster?
We book bands all across the U.S., sometimes in Canada, sometimes in Mexico and South America. Basically, I work with these artists on everything in their live career, figuring out how to build their touring business, getting them to festivals, having them support other acts or headline shows -- whatever it is that grows their business, you know?
Action Bronson is on his way to being a headliner across the world. You’re the guy who is at the center of his live show ... why do you think he’s been able to make such an impact? I’m not even talking just in hip-hop, either -- he seems to transcends audiences and genres.
Yeah, he appeals to a lot of different styles because of his own influences, to a certain degree. It’s funny ... I’m older, but people who are my age who don’t really pay attention to newer music or new things, they’re aware of Action Bronson. Like I said, I think he reminds them of acts they listened to when they were growing up. There’s depth with Action Bronson and he draws from so many different influences. He samples Phil Collins and Billy Joel, but he’s also a great rapper. Whether you’re a fan of New York hip-hop or a fan of indie rock, he’s got the best of each. It’s like any great artist -- he’s making his own sound, he’s creating his own style.
There’s a select group of acts like Action Bronson that transcend crowds.
He always does great at festivals even if he’s the one hip-hop artist on the bill. He appeals to everyone, and sometimes he stands out more because he wins over fans who aren’t big hip-hop fans, you know? It’s like Gojira or Tool, they’re the metal bands that people who don’t like metal like. It’s about being a trendsetter in your genre.
Whenever we cover Action Bronson, we always see the crazy stuff. He throws a dude off the stage or he goes to the bathroom and keeps rapping ... he’s known for this great onstage persona.
Yeah, and he’s really been able to capture that with his TV show and everything he does online. I think with a lot of great artists, it just comes natural. That’s what makes it so authentic -- it’s not an act, it’s who he is.
And he’s not hiding it.
Exactly. He’s real. People can tell if something isn’t real. People will see through it pretty quickly if it’s not genuine.
What’s one of the standout moments working with Action where you just sat back and went, “Whoa”?
It happens at almost every show. Every time I just wait ... you never know. At the Roots Picnic last year, he was on top of a food truck out in the audience. At Terminal 5, he pulled out full-screen TVs and handed them out to the audience. Every single show, I just look forward to it. These things resonate, you know? They become the stuff of legend.
How do you as an agent balance working with acts like Action Bronson and Gojira? They’re not exactly the same, you know?
Like I said, before I take something on, I look at it and wrap my head around what I think I can do. If I’m taking on Bad Brains, I just think about what can I do different with this act to really grow them. A lot of the acts I work with are, I like to think, iconic -- so I want to keep that legendary status, I don’t want to water it down. I don’t want to do the same ol’ thing or burn anything to the ground, you know? So I go with new artists who can create that or go with established artists and keep it ... at the end of the day, if I don’t do that, I’ll feel like a failure.
To wrap this up, what sort of advice do you have for readers who might be interested in getting in your line of work?
It starts with drive and hard work and passion. It’s not an easy job to do. It’s a lot of work. You’re out there pounding the pavement and it takes some focus and drive to stick with it. You need to love the music, too, obviously -- that’s where it starts. Then you have to work hard and pay attention and look to the people who have done it before you, see what’s worked and what hasn’t worked. But it all starts with you and the music.