Photo by R.J. Lewis
When a young Emma Hoser told her parents she wanted to be a music agent, they said “You can do that for now. Then you’ll get a real job.” What she got instead was an enviable and ambitious career.
The New York City-based agent boasts a roster with 23 of the hottest names in techno, house and underground, including luminaries Adam Beyer, Cirez D (Eric Prydz) and Jamie Jones, as well as up-and-comers like Ben Böhmer.
Hoser was introduced to electronic music as a college student in Florida. She became a regular at Simon’s Nightclub, the 20-year Gainesville mainstay that hosted big name acts like Carl Cox and Paul van Dyk. It was here that she developed the love for techno and underground sounds that would later carry her career.
Hoser befriended DJ Dan, one of the regular DJs at Simon’s, and he later offered her a job selling mixtapes. She started networking and attending even more shows, therein meeting the movers and shakers of the electronic music scene.
In 1999, she was offered her first internship with New York-based Producer Artist Management. A year later, she would officially begin her career working full-time for the same agency.
In 2008, Hoser re-connected with college friend Paul Morris, founder of the powerhouse booking agency AM Only which would later come to be known as Paradigm. It was under Morris that Hoser’s career truly flourished, building a roster of artists she now considers family.
Hoser’s parents eventually came around after reading about renowned DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold in an in-flight magazine. At the time, Oakenfold was represented by Hoser’s then agency. Her mom called as soon as they landed.
“I get it now,” she said. “This is a real job.”
Just a few weeks ago, Hoser announced her latest move to boutique agency Liaison. Festival Advisor caught up with her to chat about the move, her deep love of music, and what it means to be an agent in the era of livestreams and drive-ins.
The career of a music agent can be incredibly taxing, and being successful requires working odd hours and late nights, as well as an innate work ethic and passion. What part of the job makes it all worth it for you?
I love the actual music. I would go to the shows even if I wasn’t working with these artists, because I love their music. I also feel like you don’t have to be at every show. We’re all human. You need to be in the office, et cetera, but when you go to the big shows - the important shows - and the artist sees you, they’re so happy you’re there. It’s amazing. Seeing what you work on come to life and just knowing that you were a part of it - that’s who I am. That’s what I love.
Is there a specific moment that stands out to you as a highlight in your career or an experience you’ll never forget?
I’ve had a couple of really standout times. Paul [Morris] and I worked on Eric Prydz for the last few years, and [Prydz] does a visual experience show. He has the best team production-wise you’ve ever seen. We put this show on sale for three nights last December in the Bronx; 7,500 people per night, and all three sold out in less than an hour. I went every night, three nights in a row, and every night, I watched that show with a little tear in my eye thinking: “What a headache it was to get here, and here is the reward.” Also, the first time I booked someone at Coachella was a moment for me. It was like: “Okay, this is the real thing.”
You’ve recently moved agencies from Paradigm to Liaison. Paradigm is a larger talent agency that focuses on representing artists of many different disciplines, whereas Liaison is more boutique. Can you talk about the benefits of moving into a tighter-knit community?
With the pandemic, I have felt that I wanted to get back to my roots. I wanted to go back to that smaller, intimate family vibe you don’t get at corporations. The music that I love, the underground stuff, is niche in some ways. I want to be around the people that are supporting that.
When the pandemic hit, I had some time to reflect and I was like, “Ok, what do I want to do for the rest of my career?” I want to book these artists that I believe in and that I love. I needed a change. Liaison is basically the top agency in America, boutique-wise, that does the type of music I love, while also expanding into other genres. The corporate companies are going to have a hard time getting out of this pandemic, because there is so much more money on the line. I just want to go back to the days when the most important thing was me working on my artists and pushing the boundaries for them.
Besides the decision to change agencies, how has the pandemic affected your work? How have you and your artists creatively marketed the work? How do you continue to find opportunities for the artists you represent with live shows largely on hold?
Livestreaming is one way that a lot of artists have kept busy, but most streaming doesn’t pay. Because artists have been giving [streams] away for free for so long, we’ve had to kind of turn it around and say “Yeah, they’ve done streams in the past years for free, but that’s because they were getting paid at a festival.” Now, it’s different. It’s very hard to tell audiences, “You’ve been getting it free forever, but now we want you to pay.” It’s a very fine line.
As far as other things my artists have done, one of my artists did a sample pack. Up-and-coming producers can buy those samples. A couple of my artists have done drive-ins and Florida nightclubs are open with restrictions, so there are a couple people playing those. Some artists are doing private shows, but because most of my artists are from Europe, they are mostly not playing at the moment. They’re working on music, they’re working on their labels, they’re working on whatever they can do to come back guns blazing.
What advice do you have for those who are interested in a similar career path? What advice do you have for artists looking to book gigs or connect with an agent like yourself?
If you want to become an agent, you have to start from the bottom and you have to be patient. The only way to become a great agent is to learn every side of the business. You have to go out as much as possible and hear music.
[For artists,] if this is your dream, spend a lot of time practicing and trying to make music. Go out as much as possible in your local town. Go see these DJs and figure out a way to meet them if you can. If you have a track that is ready, give it to them. Make as many friends as you can, because a lot of the time, it’s that one record that you hand to one DJ [that opens the door]. That’s what happened with Eric Prydz and Cristoph. Cristoph made one record that Eric Prydz heard and called his manager and was like, “This guy’s amazing.” That’s how Cristoph became my artist.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.