Pictured: Jim Osborne, Dennis Arfa
Courtesy of APA/Getty Images
APA has taken a big step to fortify its future as a full-service talent agency by combining with touring powerhouse Artist Group Intl. to create the newly named Independent Artist Group, led by APA president Jim Osborne.
Osborne will become CEO of Independent Artist Group (IAG), taking over day-to-day management of the firm. Jim Gosnell, APA’s longtime leader, segues into board member role with a mandate to evaluate growth and acquisition opportunities for the new venture. Dennis Arfa, co-founder of Artist Group Intl., will serve as chairman of IAG’s Music division.
Artist Intl. Group president Marsha Vlasic becomes vice chairman of music.
Artist Group Intl. was founded 35 years ago and is among the top-grossing and most respected touring agencies in the industry. Arfa launched his own agency in the 1970s with Billy Joel, the Beach Boys and Phoebe Snow before moving to William Morris in 1981. He has worked with Joel — who recently announced that he will end his record-setting Madison Square Garden residency next year, after 150 shows — for nearly 45 years. The company’s other franchise artists include Metallica, Def Leppard, Rod Stewart, Motley Crue, Linkin Park, Janes Addiction, Darryl Hall & John Oates, Norah Jones, Neil Young, The Strokes, Smashing Pumpkins, Ghost, Elvis Costello and many more.
Joining Arfa and Vlasic will be Jarred Arfa, Artist Group’s COO; Adam Kornfeld, president of touring; and the rest of the company’s senior agents and staff. Artist Group staff and operations will move into APA’s New York offices.
APA and Artist Group Intl. were brought together in part because they shared a common investor, Yucaipa Co.’s Ron Burkle. Burkle has stepped up his investment in entertainment-related talent representation businesses in recent years. He provided APA with a lifeline three years ago amid the shock of the early months of the pandemic. APA recently marked its 60th anniversary.
Yucaipa Co. acquired Artist Group Intl. in 2011 “with an eye towards expanding its reach in the live entertainment space through strategic acquisitions and organic growth,” according to Yucaipa.
But the union of APA and Artist Group Intl. was also spurred by the working relationship the two developed over the past year by working together. Dennis Afra and others were impressed by APA’s work on non-music projects on behalf of some of their superstar clients. APA has developed specialities in the areas of branding, brand develpment and endorsement deals that have been beneficial for top Artist Group clients including Joel, Daryl Hall, Perry Farrell, Billy Corgan and others.
“Dennis Arfa and his exceptional colleagues at AGI are revered in the industry, having built a spectacular artist roster and a sterling reputation,” Osborne said. “The great news is we have already established a tremendous working relationship with them through shared representation on some of their most valued artists. This new partnership with AGI and our rebrand to Independent Artist Group is another major step that elevates us within the agency landscape, and we are not done yet.”
APA needed a partnership to beef up its music and touring roster if it hoped to remain competitive in a turbulent market for TV and movie content. Music’s durability as a reliable engine of profit is highlighted even more as Hollywood moves through week eight of the Writers Guild of America strike. APA’s activity in the lucrative touring arena took a hit in 2017 when top comedy agent Mike Berkowitz moved to WME.
“This was the natural next step in our evolution and made in the best interests of our valued artists,” said Dennis Arfa. “We have admired how Jim Osborne and their colleagues have been market leaders in creating brand expanding, non-touring revenue opportunities for their clients and we are excited to build on that success with them and look forward to integrating under the Independent Artist Group banner.”
The APA-Artists Group transaction and the generational leadership transition that it brings is “a great day for us,” said Gosnell said. “I could not be more bullish on this opportunity to combine APA and AGI which gives us an incredible music division with tremendous scale, to go along with the excellent scale we have generated in the past year on the talent and lit side of the business. After 40 plus years at the agency, this is without a doubt the strongest position we have ever been in.”
Osborne joined APA in 2011 from Paradigm Agency. He was named head of talent in 2018 and promoted to president in 2020 in connection with the Yucaipa deal.
“Jim Gosnell has been an incredible steward of this agency for decades and without his leadership, we would not be where we are today,” Osborne said. “Our offices remain side by side and we will rely on him greatly to help guide our future.”
Variety's Cynthia Littleton, Jem Aswad contributed to this post.