Rob McGee is the founder of Bristol-based international booking agency Electric Harmony. Over the past six years, they’ve build a sturdy reputation for recognising unsung talent, having previously worked with Bristol superstars IDLES, and currently represent swathes of hotly tipped acts, including Bristol’s own Harvey Causon, Rozelle, No Violet and Sleeptalking, to name just a handful.
they’ve build a sturdy reputation for recognising unsung talent, having previously worked with Bristol superstars IDLES
In a typically Bristol fashion, Rob and his team are more interested in pushing genuinely good music over sure-thing, bookable acts. They frequently have a hand in great stuff going on in Bristol, such as DHP Family’s Beat The Streets charity festival last month, or bringing together loads of the city’s best artists, music agencies and platforms under one roof – including BBC Introducing, The Bristol Music Show, Tap The Feed, 1% of One, Leisure Records, Word On The Street and Nitelife – for a not-for-profit, all-out celebration of Bristol talent.
With their offices nestled above Hy-Brasil, they’ve also recently taken on looking after the books for the burgeoning live music venue downstairs.
‘I know the venue quite well. I know where they want to go with it and we’ve got the contacts across Europe, so it made sense for us to take on the books when they asked us.
‘The vision for Hy-Brasil is not necessarily being one of the main music venues, but being able to support the music scene in Bristol and the other venues. We want Hy-Brasil to be more of a creative hub, where people can bring over their nights, new bands can cut their teeth here, new promoters can cut their teeth here…
we may as well be supporting each other and trying to build the city up together, instead of focusing on one individual business
‘With venues shutting down so much, especially in Bristol where they’re dropping like flies at the moment, we may as well be supporting each other and trying to build the city up together, instead of focusing on one individual business.’
True to his own eclectic tastes, Electric Harmony is home to a completely diverse roster of artists spanning from electro pop duo Avec Sans, blues singer songwriter Beth Rowley, indie band Childcare, R&B-hip hop-electronic project Only Girl, and New Orleans-influenced hip hop troupe Lazy Habits, to classical guitarist Will McNicol, with plenty more in-between.
‘If I go to a show and I love the music, I’ll find a way to support them whether they’re an act with no management and no label, or an act who have got everything they need but an agent.
If I go to a show and I love the music, I’ll find a way to support them
‘I live live music, it’s what I do 24/7. For me, the main thing is going to a show and being blown away by a band putting on a performance. I don’t care if anything goes wrong, it’s more about how they handle themselves on stage and the crowd interaction – and that could be with five people or 500 people in the room. If you’re a band, you’ve got to build up your career like any career, but the main thing is that they put on a good show.’
While on the face of things they are an artist booking agency, Electric Harmony strive to give their acts much more than a few shows or a spring tour
While on the face of things they are an artist booking agency, Electric Harmony strive to give their acts much more than a few shows or a spring tour. As well as monthly live showcase events to bring their acts to the stage, Electric Harmony go above and beyond to help new artists build up their careers.
‘We can be pretty hands on as an agency. We’ve got a good, solid roster of artists at the moment and everyone gets the same attention, but some artists need more support than others. Harvey Causon, for example, who only has an agent at the moment – we might meet with him once or twice a week, be talking to him on the phone every day, introducing him to new managers, labels, distribution companies and people who can sit down and help him.
we’re not just here to book gigs, we do take on young acts and help them build themselves up
‘I’ve been working in music for 12 years and in that time I’ve built up a good database of people we can use – not just promoters and venues – other people in the industry from different hubs, whether that’s a manager of a label, PR or radio company. So we’re not just here to book gigs, we do take on young acts and help them build themselves up until they’ve got a solid team around them.’
As with most jobs in the music industry, the improbability of a healthy work-life balance can be a drawback. Luckily, Rob clearly loves what he does, which is what both keeps him sane and fuels the passionately genuine agency’s continuing success.
There are no office hours, 7am starts and no real finishes
‘There are no office hours, 7am starts and no real finishes, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s the best job in the world. I get to meet all these incredible acts, go to amazing shows, book these amazing tours, meet amazing promoters and see beautiful venues across Europe and UK.
‘Another bonus is festival season during the summer, going to festivals and seeing our acts play these big stages – there’s nothing more satisfying than that.
‘Time management is really difficult in this job, because there is always someone who will want something or want to talk about an act, but it’s just finding little gaps to take a break.’
With a growing company in a notoriously difficult industry, Rob explains how he found himself running his own booking agency:
‘I went to university and studied music business. I was in bands before that, but I hated being on stage and being centre of attention, so I decided I wanted to work in the business side of it, but I didn’t know where.
‘I looked at engineer work, promoting and management. Engineer work wasn’t for me and I couldn’t really get into promoting. I tried putting on some shows but it was too stressful, which is why I have the utmost respect for promoters, because it’s such a hard job. Management was really daunting – being in control of so much and lots of different people coming to you for different things about this one act that you’re looking after. I couldn’t really see myself getting on board with that and doing it well.
‘That’s when I discovered booking agents, which I see as between the two. I started researching agencies and looking to join one, but after discovering acts and going to shows and talking to them about what the artist wants from an agency, or what they wished an agent would do for them, I thought, why not just start my own?
I threw myself into it about six and a half years ago and chucked everything I had into Electric Harmony
‘I threw myself into it about six and a half years ago and chucked everything I had into Electric Harmony. It has been difficult, but I wouldn’t change any of it.
‘Don’t get me wrong, I want to make lots of money and being able to retire one day. But if I can make a living and continue on like this and keep building a team around Electric Harmony, then there are no regrets. As I said earlier, it’s the best job in the world.’