Music agent sets up UK pitch

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The Independent Online

The Firm, the American music-management agency behind such artists as Mary J Blige, the Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit, is setting up in the UK.

Despite being founded only in 1997, the talent agency is said to be the most influential force in the American music business today, representing 22 platinum-selling artists. It also markets the film rights of music stars, owns a sports shoe brand and develops its own TV shows, including Arthur, the children's cartoon that has just been bought by the BBC.

Its biggest current success is Enrique Iglesias, the son of crooner Julio whose single "Hero" is top of the UK charts.

"It's a pretty good place to start," says Richard Griffiths, the former European boss of the BMG record label who has been hired to head The Firm's European operations. An office will officially open in London on 1 March.

Mr Griffiths left BMG last year, when the German-owned record label was in merger talks with EMI. The talks fell through, leaving EMI looking exposed.

Late last year it parted company with chief executive Ken Berry and brought in former Polygram chief Alain Levy. He has made his mark on the group, paying $28m (£20m) to get rid of artist Mariah Carey and rationalising the group into two brands, EMI and Capitol.

Mr Griffiths said the arrival of The Firm in Europe would bring a new dimension to an industry where the power balance is heading back to the artists after some years when record labels held all the trump cards.

The Firm aims to forge a presence initially by purchasing a couple of rival agencies, though it expects to build up a roster of European artists.

"There is nothing like The Firm in Europe," said Mr Griffiths. "The only agency of any size in this area is 19, and that is focused mainly on teen artists."

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