By: Joe Morgan
Hollywood, California (The Hollywood Times) 7/11/16 – As I approached the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, I felt something that I had not felt in quite some time. Apprehension. I was about to meet Mitch Blackman, the big-time talent agent from ICM. In my head, I had a stereotypical image of what I thought I would encounter; an empty suit with slicked back hair, delivering arrogant yet shockingly stiff answers to any question I posed. You know “Show me the moneeeeyyyyy!!!”
As it turned out, that image could not have been more wrong. The man I was here to interview was… how can I put it?… cool. Shortsleeve shirt. Tattoos. A guy you would want to hang out with.
Mitch Blackman may be a well-known Hollywood talent agent but don’t let that fool you. Mitch is a musician, a player. He attended the prestigious University of North Texas on a jazz studies scholarship. He became a successful professional musician during his time at North Texas playing gigs all around the Dallas area. Mitch could have continued playing gig after gig in Texas but something on the music business side bothered him. He saw how the musicians were constantly being taken advantage of. Money promised to the musician prior to gigs wouldn’t be there after the work was completed. So Mitch decided to head to New York City in hopes of finding something new. By chance and a strong interview, he took a job with Oscar Cohen, known most famously as Louis Armstrong’s manager. Very quickly, Mitch began to sign his own clients. It was then that Mitch’s musical background began to separate him from the pack. As Mitch says, “I’m a musician, a jazz musician. I need more substance. I need more quality. Not just some fast food music.” Mitch worked hard, pounding the streets of New York music scene to find what he believed to be the next wave of musical talent .
For a talent agent, the experience of living in the shoes of the artist cannot be underestimated. Many music talent agents have never picked up an instrument or have ever felt the immense pressure of having to be “on.” This is where Mitch Blackman has the edge. Mitch knows what it is like to be the artist. He understands the pressures and the day to day life of a musician desperately trying to make a living. For Mitch, he would rather book a gig for a client in a smaller venue with a packed house than book a larger venue that is half full. Mitch knows, an artist NEEDS to feel appreciated in order to perform at his or her highest level and to be able to perform with an open heart.
As Mitch describes it, being a professional talent agent requires a huge amount of effort and subtlety. His clients need to know that they are being taken care of and that he has their best interest in mind. But don’t think that this job is only one-sided. A talent agent must also make sure that the promoter of an event is equally satisfied. A talent agent needs to be ready to “improvise” in order to “seal the deal.” Fortunately, the art of improvisation is not a foreign concept to Mitch given his training.
Mitch is known in some circles as the “urban agent” as he represents many hip-hop artists including Kid Ink and Busta Rhymes. (Mitch also represents jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington and the legendary Chaka Kahn). However, Mitch would like to be known differently. “I don’t want to be known as the urban agent. I just want to be known as the guy who gets the deal done.”
It’s not every day that you get to sit down and talk with someone as driven and passionate about their career as Mitch Blackman. Mitch loves what he does. He thrives on finding unique talent and putting that talent on display for the world to enjoy. He has respect for both the art and the artist. Of course, when you’ve been the artist yourself, you know of what you speak.