Stefanie Purificati has been an agent at The Agency Group for the last seven and a half years. Her love of music came at a young age when she attended every rock and punk show that came through her hometown of Timmins, ON. Her current roster includes many established Canadian household names as well as an exciting array of buzzy and developing talent that can been seen in this year’s Canadian Music Week.
STDC: Walk us through a typical (busy) day in your life, starting from the time you wake up to going to bed.
SP: I usually get up around 7 a.m. and am out of the house around 8:30. I walk 5 km to work every day, which really helps clear my mind before getting down to business. The bulk of my days are spent on the phone and on email, booking shows for my artists. It could be a tour, a one-off, a corporate event, a summer festival… I’m constantly negotiating deals, looking for opportunities for my artists and planning and scheming ways to get them playing in front of more people and for better money. The other very important facet of my job is developing and maintaining relationships with the artist managers, concert promoters, venue buyers, record label folk, publicists, radio trackers and everyone else who makes up the Music Industry in Canada. It’s not a very large group and having strong relationships with your peers is paramount in this line of work.
Evenings are generally split between quiet time at home or out at shows, supporting my artists or checking out new talent. Unless I’m out of town, I make a point to be at every show that my clients play in Toronto and sometimes make the trek out to Barrie, Hamilton, Oshawa etc. to see them and check out other venues. It can make for a very long day and sometimes a very long week, but it’s worth it to see your artists on stage playing to packed rooms and making a ton of new fans.
Describe your career trajectory.
When I was younger I was very interested in music and languages. I speak English, French and Italian fluently and I always thought I would do something in that field. I grew up in Timmins, ON, and went to as many shows as possible, but I never really thought it was something that people did for a living. I went to university and got a degree in Linguistics with a minor in Italian Studies and in my last year, found out about Harris Institute for the Arts (a Toronto-based music industry school) and begged my parents to fund one more year of post-secondary education. My very first internship with an artist-management company led me to be hired as the Production Manager and then Venue Buyer for The Drake Hotel about a year after they first opened. I did that for three years when The Agency Group came a-calling.
Describe a moment in your career where you a) knew for certain this was the field you were meant to be in or b) needed to make a big change in order to be happy.
Definitely when my friend told me about Harris Institute. Before that moment, a job in the music industry wasn’t even on my radar… I didn’t even know how to go about getting a job in the music biz. I loved music and loved going to shows but there were just no role models that I could look up to and say, “I want to be doing what she’s doing.” I saw this course as a foot in the door to learning what I needed and meeting the right people to get me through the door.
What skills/attributes do you need to do your job well?
Confidence is so important in this line of work. This a sales position and you have to be 100% confident in your abilities to get on the phone and hustle. Every day I’m cold calling complete strangers to tell them about my artists or sell them on a great idea. A lot of people hide behind emails and texts but it’s hard to communicate real passion via these mediums.
All of the skills involved in a successful negotiation: not being afraid to say no. There is real power in that tiny little word and it’s a major tool when working on deals. Knowing when to push forward and when to hold back. Knowing when to be aggressive and when to be sweet. I’m surrounded by people who are experts in this field and am constantly picking up new tips.
Good ears. At the end of the day, this job is all about finding great new talent and helping them grow. It’s important to be able to seek out and recognize amazing talent when you see or hear it.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is watching an artist or band, with whom I’ve been working from very early on, develop from playing small clubs in front of small crowds to selling out bigger and bigger venues and playing to hundreds or thousands of people. There’s an immense sense of pride you get when you see them go from the “baby band” stage of figuring out their show and their songs, to mastering the art of writing killer tunes and captivating large audiences.
Do you have any bearing over which clients are on your roster?
All of the agents at The Agency Group have full autonomy over their rosters and can sign whatever they like. If I hear something that I think is great, I have full authority to go out and take them on. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to get grilled about a potential signing. As much as we’re able to sign what we want, our office fosters a real and hugely supportive culture of critical thinking. I work with people who have been doing this way longer than I have and who are probably going to want to know why this signing is a great move.
This is like asking me to name my favourite child! I’m so fortunate to work with so many different artists who excel in so many different genres… and that’s all you’re going to get about that.
What should we check out at CMW this week?
If you’re looking to get your fix of propulsive, dancy indie rock, I highly recommend checking out Fast Romantics (Sneaky Dee’s – 11pm – May 8). Maybe you’re in the mood for something rootsier? Check out folk/pop noir duo Scarlett Jane (Supermarket – 8pm – May 9) and make sure to stick around for the breezy and melodic pop stylings of Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle (Supermarket – 9pm – May 9). Would you rather hoist a couple of beers and just plain rock out? Then The Mandevilles should be on your list too… but you’re going to want to take the next morning off work (Supermarket – 1am – May 8). Or what you really want to hear is some solid roots rock! Don’t miss The River and The Road (Horseshoe – 11pm – May 9).
What is a little known fact about your job?
It’s seriously not as glamorous as you think it is and it bears only a passing similarity to what you have come to expect from watching Entourage.
Is there a big disparity between what people think you do for a living and what you actually do?
For a long time my parents thought my job basically consisted of two things: hanging out in bars watching bands and getting free concert tickets for my friends and family. When I meet people for the first time and they ask about my job, I tell them that I find and develop really great bands by providing them opportunities to grow professionally and artistically.