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Agent’s Kitchen-Counter Music Festival Is Invite-Only Industry Smash – Variety

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It’s the second profession (or “profession,” in a unfastened, charitable method of talking) that prime agent Richard Weitz by no means would have imagined he’d have, as just lately as a month in the past.

“I’m like a booker,” laughs Weitz, a associate at William Morris Endeavor (WME) and co-head of its scripted tv division, nonetheless stunned at his dominant new position throughout the quarantine. “I’m actually reserving music mini-festivals. Like, there’s no Coachella for anyone. I assumed, how can I do a family-friendly occasion…”

The rolling pageant that Weitz is producing is clearly not going to step into the Goldenvoice hole: It’s being produced from his kitchen countertop, is strictly invitation-only, and has a day by day attendance cap of 500, with an viewers which may be extra CEO-heavy than any gathering this aspect of the annual Solar Valley media convention. However for anybody who will get slipped a password that goes out simply prior to every new installment, and who’s prepared to pony up with a couple of dollars (or few grand) for one in every of his designated COVID-19 charities — and whose music tastes possibly skew barely older than the Indio median — Weitz’s weekly or semi-weekly internet exhibits are turning into the music occasions of the shut-down season.

Among the many performers who’ve popped in for the primary half-dozen installments of “RWQuarantunes,” which have tended to final for about three hours a pop: Alan Menken, Liam Payne and Charlie Puth (all pictured above), plus, in no explicit order of significance, Randy Newman, Josh Groban, Hozier, James Bay, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, Marcus Mumford, Lauren Daigle, “Frozen” songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bizarre Al Yankovic, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182, Rick Astley, the Struggle and Treaty, Curt Smith of Tears for Fears, Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet, “Best Showman” singer Loren Allred, Natasha Bedingfield, Florida Georgia Line, Michael Bolton and Chris Isaak… amongst others.

Invited friends who may pop in between songs to change a number of phrases — or who may cover out quietly in one in every of Zoom’s many tiny home windows — have included Bob Iger, Clive Davis, Amy Adams, Dana Walden, Tina Fey, Ken Ehrlich, David Foster, Rodney Jerkins, LL Cool J, Jeff Shell, Jimmy Jam, Jeff Ross, Run DMC’s Rev Run, and Jeffrey Katzenberg… together with loads of much less bold-face names, together with some medical employees from the charities which are benefitting. Final Saturday’s installment kicked off with a number of stay phrases from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, which segued instantly into the primary variety of the lengthy afternoon, Newman at his piano singing “I Love L.A.”

“This isn’t a WME sponsored occasion,” Weitz emphasizes. “That is simply nice individuals and gifted artists who need to share. I don’t characterize these individuals. I’m only a fan. All of the folks that I’m choosing are an eclectic group of musicians that I’ve cherished and which are a part of the soundtrack of my life and everyone else’s, and I’m attempting to create intimate gatherings.”

It’s a household affair, as Weitz has a co-host and notably a co-fundraiser. “My daughter, Demi, has actually been the star. That’s actually the factor that’s come out of this — while you see her, and also you see how articulate she is, she’s actually the one who’s forcing themselves to donate. My favourite line was when Marcus Mumford stated, ‘Demi for president.’ And the opposite unsung hero is my assistant Coco Weaver, who I name the manager producer. The quantity of e-mail and time modifications backwards and forwards that she is doing as I’m on the fly doing this with assist from my WME music associates… She has actually been terrific in ensuring now we’ve a ready room, as a result of we’re maxing out at 500.”

Up to now they’ve raised greater than $350,000 for 2 causes; having began out with the Saban Group Clinic, they moved onto Cedars-Sanai Hospital (with choices on the donation web page to earmark cash for both nurses or different workers), and are wanting subsequent at discovering the correct place to funnel donations that may profit New York Metropolis’s extremely beleaguered well being care employees. They’re not simply concentrating on large spenders for the donations to get into the gig: Weitz says most have been within the $25-1000 vary, though there have been two separate $50,000 donations, one anonymously given and one from Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herde.

Because it’s gotten to the purpose the place not even everybody in Weitz’s huge circle is assured to get in among the many 500, he’s trying to promote a certain quantity of $5,000 assured entries for every Zoom present. However he additionally desires to verify it doesn’t get so unique that the viewers doesn’t embody these on the sub-EVP stage of the totem pole.

“I’ve all walks of life” tuning in, Weitz says. “I’ve individuals which are hairdressers or work within the nail salon or are tutors or academics or VC — it varies. However individuals need to give they usually need to say they participated, and that’s actually all that we’re asking for. I’m not attempting to be elitist. Final Saturday, we had nurses from Cedars and the Saban Clinic, and we’re increasing that this week to nurses and docs in New York and London and Nashville. What I’m going to do is, as a result of WME purchased the On Location app, they’ve put collectively a safe web site the place I’m capable of ship a hyperlink privately to the hospitals we’re elevating cash for thus the docs and nurses are going to have the ability to stream what we did throughout their breaks, and permit them to see the entire present. ”

However permitting most people entry would destroy the vibe, he believes. “I’ve had provides from a few streaming platforms to place the present on so it’s a much bigger viewers. I don’t need to try this,” Weitz says. “What makes it particular is the privateness and intimacy of the group of individuals, most of whom I do know, or at the least household or associates I do know, so it’s not going to random followers or stalkers or anyone that may put this on the Web. And there’s no social posting of the complete performances, though we did with a few them early on. It’s respecting that (privateness), and it’s only a good time.”

Weitz desires to go gentle on the charitable exhausting promote. “I’m so delicate that everyone is furloughed or is taking a reduce in pay. I imply, this isn’t a time to be fundraising to the max. I’m not attempting to promote tables. I would like individuals to take pleasure in a time of isolation when there’s solely a lot Netflix and HBO or no matter we are able to watch — solely a lot we are able to watch on our apps, on our telephones. This now offers individuals now one thing to stay up for. And everyone says, how can I be invited once more? I would like it to be a present. … .(Artists) have been saying, what a good way for us to play our music, as a result of we don’t actually have a spot to do it. We’re doing it for neighborhood, proper? The charity is simply the cherry on prime.”

Weitz didn’t begin the “Quarantunes” exhibits with the expectation of going all-star or fundraising in any respect. The origin story is that, in late March, for Demi’s 17th birthday, the agent received one in every of his favourite pianists, Chicago-based Dario Giraldo, to play a set for her, together with her associates invited to observe alongside on Zoom. As everybody now admits with a chuckle, he fully misjudged the teenager room, and Demi’s associates began zoning out as a substitute of Zooming in because the solo piano efficiency progressed. However he did make it as much as her by organizing another informal internet music get-togethers, one in every of which included John Mayer, one thing that hit a little bit nearer to the Demi goal demo.

From there, in fast bounds over a interval of about three weeks, it’s grown into one thing that also feels extremely casual however is getting mentioned on, say, the Howard Stern present. For all the large names concerned, each on the artist stage and amongst attendees, the present feels extra like an old style guitar pull than VIP occasion, with informal chatter amongst members, as, say, Payne passes the baton to Puth they usually talk about their encounters through the years.

“I’ve began to have rehearsals, like, 15 minutes earlier than,” says Weitz, laughing as he nonetheless adjusts to his new booker/producer position. “So it’s virtually like a backstage inexperienced room the place Rick Astley is speaking to Florida Georgia Line, who’re  then speaking to Tony Hadley after which speaking to Randy Newman and Loren Allred, they usually’re simply popping up on the display screen and I’m like, holy s—. And it’s solely like six or eight individuals, together with their managers or somebody who’s taking part in, they usually’re all getting an opportunity to fulfill nearly earlier than we let 500 individuals in and do our factor.”

Pop favorites like Payne and Puth apart, the collection has been a present tune lover’s dream, with Menken joined by his daughter to do a medley of best hits from “Colours of the Wind” on again to his seminal “Out of the blue Seymour,” Adam Pascal doing favorites from “Lease,” Alfie Boe (a prime European “Les Mis” Jean Valjean) doing “Deliver Him Dwelling,” the Lopez-Anderson-Lopezes bringing again the hits of “Frozen,” and Auli’i and Allred, the off-screen diva voices behind “Moana” and “Best Showman,” respectively, doing songs from these musical movies.

Though music shouldn’t be his day job, Weitz can also be having fun with that some lesser-known artists, like Jac Ross and the Struggle and Treaty, are getting uncovered and even touchdown gigs. “I didn’t know the Struggle and Treaty a month in the past,” he admits, and now he’s such a convert to the male-female duo they’re one in every of two artists he’s together with on each present (the opposite being Rick Astley — this can be a internet collection that will be Rick-rolled, always).

“I used to be trying to get someone for my Chrysalis occasion that I co-chair, and, and I’d requested them, they usually have been already on tour; they have been about to tour with John Legend over the summer time. And sadly for all of them this occurred. And so once I determined to do the Zoom, they have been the primary individuals out of the field that I wished they usually simply crushed it. Final Friday for my birthday, I made them sing ‘Shallow.’ And for Invoice Withers I had them sing ‘Simply the Two of Us’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ they usually discovered it and crushed it.

“And Emmy Raver-Lampman did a Lizzo music and crushed it and received two jobs out of it. . That’s not the motive, however it’s good to see that it’s gotten traction with manufacturers and other people or colleagues who could not have recognized who a few of these persons are and are seeing how gifted they’re. In order that’s a plus.”

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Demi Weitz and her father Richard Weitz

He additionally thinks a star is being born on the house entrance. Offscreen, his extra camera-shy spouse and son, Danny, are concerned, too. However “for me and my daughter,” Weitz says, “it’s been probably the most wonderful bonding expertise that I’ve ever had together with her. I referred to as Demi the pinnacle of philanthropy. She is the face of actually asking individuals to donate and to passionately speak about the place the cash goes. She simply turned 17 and he or she’s giving again and studying what it means to be an awesome human being.”

Says Demi, “I like my dad and we’ve all the time had such a close-knit and robust connection, however it’s on a very totally different stage now because the quarantine. It’s been loopy how speedy this all was, and I’ve discovered so many expertise, and I need to preserve doing this for the remainder of my life. Any individual that contacts my dad about desirous to make a donation, my dad will put us in  a gaggle textual content. I believe it’s so necessary to present again, particularly in instances like this. It’s not nearly doing it by way of my household now — I need to elevate cash. It’s been life-changing for me and I do know it’s actually impacting individuals in want. And it simply occurred as a result of we wished to make individuals smile and simply make them really feel like they’ve somebody or someplace to come back to.”

Is she glad her associates have been tired of the piano participant he employed for her birthday, so her dad needed to provide you with a barely extra razzle-dazzle expertise for them? “I’m blissful my associates weren’t into it,” Demi laughs, “as a result of now it’s this, and I wouldn’t change something about it. I’m so blissful that we discovered a optimistic and a little bit gentle and made one thing out of nothing.”

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