Reggie Mac Interview
(Top Notch Talent)
Reggie Mac is a Nashville booking agent.
He owns the Top Notch Talent Agency.
Reggie Mac only books 2 artists - but the 2 artists he books are well, Top Notch!!
Those artists are George Jones and Janie Frickie.
Reggie Mac took some time off from a busy schedule to talk to us about his business and how he got started in the business of booking musical entertainment.
Q - Reggie, how big of an agency is Top Notch Talent?
A - Actually, we're a very small agency. In our line of business we call it an in-house situation where an artist and agent work one on one, small time. Usually the offices are not even downtown, and in this case my office is not downtown. My office is at my home. I represent two artists, George Jones and Janie Frickie.
Q - Do you have a partner in the business?
A -Yeah. I have a partner, but, I do all the day-to-day. All she does is book-keeping and contracts.
Q - Is Nashville exploding at this time with artists being signed everyday?
A - No. It's not exploding by no means. It's not like it used to be. It's very well laid back. What's all known as the music Row from legendary days when you could walk down Music Row and see all kinds of artists going in and out of record cos. that's no more. That's no longer like it used to be.
Q - So where are the country music stars?
A - I guess they're just being handled more by management and what have you. They don't have quite as much hands on of the daily business as they used to. Record cos. are being very careful about signing acts. There's really no criteria where you can say, 'Man, I know I can get you a deal'. It's just whatever floats their boat at the time. I think we can make some money off this kind and they go for it.
Q - What were you doing before you were an agent or were you always an agent?
A – Well, I’ve been an agent for 39 years. Before I was an agent I worked for a bread co. I was a salesman for Sunbeam Bread Co.
Q – That’s quite a transition isn’t it?
A – (Laughs). Yes it is. Well, at the time I was married to a girl who was in the music business. She was a singer. I just said, ‘Well, hey, I’m gonna give the music business a try. If I don’t like it, I’m young enough where I can go back and do something else’. Well, here I am 39 years later. The wife is no longer there, but, I’m still in the business. (Laughs).
Q – Who were your first clients?
A – Believe it or not, it was Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and Nat Stuckey back in them days, Johnny Russell. I can’t remember all the artists we represented.
Q – That’s a pretty good roster.
A – Yeah. The agency was owned by Conway and Loretta. There the ones that hired me.
Q – But, you had a background in the agency business. Did they advertise this job position or did you just walk in?
A – Well, again the lady I was married to at the time, she was represented by that agency. Just through different functions I’d got to know Conway and Loretta and the guy that ran the agency for them. I guess they just thought I’d make a good on phone salesman, if you want to call it that, to book talent. So, they offered me the job and I said, ‘Yeah. I’ll give ‘er a shot’.
Q – What do you like about the job? Isn’t being an agent a nerve-racking job?
A – That’s part of what I like. Yes, it can be very nerve-racking and frustrating but, it has a lot of rewards, just cutting a deal. Every deal is different. Even though you’re doing the same thing on every phone call, the bottom line of the deal is, every deal is different. Some are a little better than others; some are not as good as others. I just like the challenges of making people money.
Q – You’re dealing with people all over the world aren’t you?
A – Oh, yes. It’s world-wide representation.
Q – So, you’re getting calls from people who want to book your artists in theatres, fairs…..
A – Oh, yeah. Theatres, fairs, casinos. Of course my acts don’t work nightclubs anymore. It used to be nightclubs and everything. Overseas tours, the different promoters that go out and promote artists shows.
Q – What kind of a guy is George Jones to work with? Is he difficult? Demanding?
A – Absolutely not. He’s great. As a matter of fact, in just a couple of weeks George and I will be together 20 years. He trusts me and my decisions of booking him and knowing I’m going to get the best deal possible for him. He doesn’t question it. He’s never difficult – ‘I’m not gonna do that’. I know the guidelines. I’ve been with him long enough. I know what he will and will not do as all agents should know their artists instead of just picking up the phone and saying, ‘Hey, I got this deal for you, but, you got to do this, you go to do this, you got to do this’. They should know in advance what an artist will or will not do.
Q – When you’re an artist like George Jones, why do you even need an agent? Why not put someone in an office with a phone?
A – Well, that’s basically what he’s done. Then that person would become an agent. So, I do it all for him.
Q – Why would George Jones or Janie Frickie not choose a William Morris or Creative Artists Agency for representation?
A – Because it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than one of many fish in a big pond.
Q – I know you were going to say that!
A – (Laughs). What all that boils down to is the hands on, day to day, somebody’s taking care of you. You don’t have nothing to worry about. I know I’m going to get my dates. I know I’m going to get the best money. I know the whole situations gonna be the best for me. All I gotta do is get on my bus and go to Columbus, Ohio to such and such a place and all the details are taken care of.
Q – Is it really a hard sell to book an act like George Jones, who after all is an established artist and has great name recognition?
A – Well, I know it sounds like it would be very easy to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, Joe I got George coming through. I got a Friday night available’. And he’d say, ‘o.k. I’ll take it’. It’s not always that case. Yes, 98 percent of the people I speak to actually want him, but you got to find a date that works in their schedule whether it be a park, a casino or whatever and match that date up with the dates you have available. You just can’t be in Albuquerque, New Mexico one night and Seattle, Washington the next night. Now, you can be in Albuquerque on Thursday and be in Seattle on Sunday, but you got to book that Friday and Saturday in-between.
Q – What happens when the day comes that you no longer want to be an agent? Is that the end of Top Notch, or do you have someone taking your place?
A – Well, George and I got a deal. I’m not quittin’ till he does. (Laughs). When he quits, I’ll be ready to retire myself.
Q – I don’t think he shows any signs of retiring in the near future.
A – No, he doesn’t. He’s 77 years old. Up till this year, up until ’09 I should say, he has worked anywhere from 100-150 dates a year. In the past 6, 8, 10 years we’ve cut it back to 95-100. We were cut back in ’09 to around 70 dates, but we’ll still end up doing around 80. And, for an artist of that age and that caliber, that’s a pretty good work schedule. Janie, on the other hand, she too, would like to work 100 dates a year. But, if we work 60, 70, or 40 so be it.
Q – What are these people doing the rest of the time when they’re not on the road?
A – Well, everybody thinks they work Thursday, Friday and Saturday and go home and kick back Sunday through Wednesday. They don’t. They’re busy doing interviews, looking for new material, some that write will write songs, looking for new material for their next album. A lot of p.r. Just doing something with their time to be creative to keep their business on top of things.
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