Gary James' Interview With
Bonnie Sugarman

A.P.A. - short for Agency For The Performing Arts, represents some of the biggest names in the music business. Their roster includes people like Fleetwood Mac, Robert Plant, Eddie Money, Boston, Judas Priest, Tanya Tucker, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Lee Greenwood and the list goes on and on.

Bonnie Sugarman, one of two senior vice-presidents at A.P.A. spoke with us about the job and the history of the company.

Q - I always thought of Agency For The Performing Arts as more of an agency catering to TV personalities and stand-up comics. When did the agency branch out to include Rock acts?

A - We've always been a concert agency. We have had comics, but the agency started with people like Liberace and Harry Belefonte and major, major music stars. Johnny Cash was with us for 34 years. Tony Bennett was a client for a long time.

Q - What's behind this move of A.P.A.'s into a new building? Is Country music really exploding in Nashville?

A - It's called running out of room. (laughs) That's all that was behind it. We had a lovely building. When we moved in, we had six or seven people. Now we have fifteen. We book everything, not just Country. We don't book comedy. That's the only thing we don't book. There's a whole department in L.A. that does that. We also started a Christian division. We just needed more room.

Q - One of your agents in booking Christian acts?

A - We have two now actually.

Q - So, booking Christian acts is a specialized talent that a regular agent could not do?

A - Well, I've done it and I guess I'm a regular agent. It is special if you're gonna do churches and things like that. But, what we've tried to do is cross over some of the Christian artists into the secular area as well. We have Mark Lind, who was a Christian agent at William Morris and he's very, very knowledgeable about that field.

Q - Would you think that Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler and American Idol have contributed to this widespread interest in Country music?

A - Well, they've certainly brought contemporary Country more to the forefront. I do think it has had something to do with it.

Q - How long has A.P.A. been around?

A - It was founded in 1962.

Q - How long have you been with A.P.A.?

A - I believe it's twenty-four years.

Q - What were you doing before then?

A - I was with I.C.M. (International Creative Management)

Q - How long were you employed by I.C.M.?

A - I think thirteen or fourteen years. I wasn't always an agent. I did not start as an agent. I was in Chicago and they closed the Chicago office. I moved to L.A. and then became an agent.

Q - Who were you personally handling before you joined forces with A.P.?

A - Well, we all booked the whole list. It's not personal. I was personally more involved with Johnny Cash. That was one of the reasons I came to A.P.A. We had the Cash's for Fairs at I.C.M., but A.P.A. represented him in everything else.

Q - As a senior vice-president at A.P.A., what does your job entail? Do you still get involved with booking?

A - Oh, yeah. The president of our company still does booking. It's booking. Responsible agent for some clients. This is a small office. Steve Lassiter and I kind of split that up.

Q - Are you any relation to Bert Sugarman? (Midnight Special)

A - No. We used to get each other's mail years ago. We were in the same building at one point. (laughs)

Q - Some of the people you book, Robert Plant and Fleetwood Mac, do they really need A.P.A.? Couldn't they pay someone to sit in an office and field the calls?

A - Well, for that matter, any artist can do that. There are several artists that have their own company. A large agency obviously has access to all the venues and all the buyers and maybe a little better knowledge of making deals when you have other clients.

Q - Is there a difference between A.P.A. and William Morris or C.A.A. (Creative Artists Agency)?

A - Well, they're all bigger. But basically, no. We represent our roster and we try to do the job for them in all areas.

Q - Are you actively scouting for new talent to sign or is there enough work to do with your established clients?

A - Oh, we're always looking. The younger agents are out more, looking at Rock bands and new Country bands. We just signed Al Jarreau and that was done on the West Coast. An established artist. We're looking at all levels. We're purposely not signing everybody we see. We're keeping it relatively limited.

Q - You're very selective then?

A - Yes, we are.

Q - And what are you looking for?

A - Well, the quality of the music of course and people involved. Is there a record deal? Is there management and who is it? There's all different factors.

Q - If there's no record deal and no management, is that a turn-off?

A - Not necessarily...not if we're passionate about the artist.

Q - I recently spoke with a Country singer from Syracuse who moved down to Nashville to get, for the lack of a better word, "discovered". He played the clubs, but could not get the industry people out to see him. He said Nashville does not work the way it used to. Is that true?

A - I think it depends who it is. Obviously if you have some connections, if a manager asks us to come see an artist he's representing, someone we know, we'll do it. I mean, there's so many clubs and so many people playing. It's tough. It's a tough business. I think it happens to a lot of people. The same thing with songwriters. They pitch and pitch and pitch. It's just a matter if something hits someone the right way or if you get in to the right person. But on that level, it's very difficult.

Q - For you, where do you go from Senior Vice-President of A.P.A.? Do you go on to the Presidency of A.P.A.?

A - No. (laughs) This is probably it.

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