James Grant Group readies rapid expansion in US market

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James Grant Group just became a bit of a big deal in the US.

MBW broke the news yesterday that the UK-born firm had acquired well-respected Los Angeles management company Deckstar – home to the likes of Blink 182 and Steve Aoki.

In the wake of the deal, Deckstar’s co-founders, Lawrence Vavra and Matt Colon, aren’t going anywhere: they’ll not only continue to run Deckstar, but have also become shareholders in the wider James Grant Group – which works with talent across music, sport, TV, literature and more besides.

As part of the merger, JGG’s current LA-based team will now relocate to Deckstar’s Wilshire Boulevard offices.

The deal brings JGG’s total global headcount above 250 people – and its ambitions in the US market certainly do not end there.


Following a management buyout in 2014, James Grant Group is now co-owned by its senior exec team in tandem with private equity partner Metric Capital.

As a result, it is a well-funded and acquisition-hungry operation, with grand ambitions in the music business.

The company’s CEO Neil Rodford tells MBW. “We’d love to do more of this kind of [acquisitive] activity in the US. We hope and believe we can consolidate more [artist] management businesses – whether that’s company acquisitions or individual hires – and that each time we can become greater than the sum of our parts.”

He adds: “Money isn’t an issue for us in any expansion – we have to find the right culture and fit. It took me a long time to persuade Matt, LV and the Deckstar guys to come across. I’ve been going to LA for probably 10 years trying to find the right partner.”

“What doesn’t yet really exist today is a truly integrated transatlantic management company. Live Nation is an exception to a degree, but even they don’t cross all the verticals we do.”

Neil Rodford, James Grant Group

Comments Deckstar’s Matt Colon: “In our search for the right partner, it became increasingly apparent that today’s artists require a worldwide footprint with resources outside the traditional music industry to face the demands of a global entertainment audience.

“By combining our talent roster and knowledge base with James Grant’s stable of TV, film, music, sports, digital influencers and talent executives we are now able to service a wide spectrum of our clients needs via in-house solutions and services on both sides of the Atlantic.”

(The total value of the Deckstar merger, according to MBW’s sources, cost JGG north of $20m – a figure which includes a $12m cash injection the company received from finance partner Investec.)


This is the latest expansive move by private equity-backed JGG, which has quickly grown its presence in music over the past few years.

In 2012, the business acquired London-based Hall Or Nothing Management, bringing the likes of The Script and the Manic Street Preachers to its roster – which also includes ex-One Directioner Louis Tomlinson, plus The Horrors, Fleur East and James Arthur (pictured).

“Music is a very exciting area to be in,” says Rodford. “The streaming world is especially exciting, because the barriers to entry between an artist and how they release music have come down. There are more opportunities for artists and managers together than ever before.”

Rodford acknowledges that tackling the powerful artist management ‘roll-ups’ operated by the likes of Live Nation and Red Light in the US poses a significant challenge – but is confident that there will be enough room for JGG to leave its mark.

“Money isn’t an issue for us in any expansion – we have to find the right culture and fit.”

Neil Rodford, James Grant Group

“There has been considerable consolidation [in artist management] and some have done it very successfully,” he says.

“Scale gives you more influence, and we’re very  mindful of that. We’re excited to see increasingly aligning interests between artists and managers – ie. investing in developing artists at an earlier stage like we’ve done recently with James Arthur.”

He adds: “What doesn’t yet really exist today is a truly integrated transatlantic management company. Live Nation is an exception to a degree, but even they don’t cross all the verticals we do – music, TV, social, literary and sport.

“We think there are big opportunities for clients in these sectors to have true representation and management on both sides of the Atlantic.

“In an ideal scenario, a client would join us in London, Los Angeles or New York, and then reap the benefits of an international business with local specialists. That’s our vision.”


Rodford continues: “It’s a great time to be in artist management – and the US opportunity is very significant.

“Good management, in my opinion, is about earning trust and respect more than it is being popular. It’s about giving honest and objective advice that benefits artist careers. We’re geared up to operate that way at the highest level, and offer a range of services.”

One client more than any other perhaps speaks volumes about James Grant Group’s approach to artist development – and its growing ability to make an impact in the US market.

The story of British act James Arthur, who fell out of favour with local media after winning the X-Factor in 2012, is a remarkable case study in the ability of an artist to turn their career around.

“Good management, in my opinion, is about earning trust and respect more than it is being popular.”

Neil Rodford, James Grant Group

Arthur’s Say You Won’t Let Go, released last year, has now racked up more than 425m plays on Spotify, going No.1 in five countries and recently reaching No.23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

“We met James when he was considering changing management and we went to see him perform live,” says Rodford. “I defy anyone who sees him on stage to conclude anything other than he’s incredibly talented.

“Allied with that, he writes the majority of his music. So for us as a company, while James wasn’t always necessarily a priority from a label perspective, we just backed his sheer musical ability, and his ability to connect with an audience.

“It’s a positive success story in every way, and we’re really enjoying being part of it.”Music Business Worldwide

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