When Adam Kornfeld and Dennis Arfa launched the QBQ agency in 1986, they liked to tell people that QBQ wasn’t an acronym, but more of a philosophy about the level of service the company provided.
“The name didn’t officially mean anything,” Kornfeld said. “But our philosophy was Quality Before Quantity,” he told Amplify. Arfa and Kornfeld had been agents at William Morris— in fact Kornfeld had only graduated from Syracuse four years prior. By joining Arfa, he was taking his destiny into his own hands and helping another New Yorker by the name of Billy Joel develop his career and eventually become a superstar.
“The artists we repped didn’t necessarily fit into the territorial booking system,” Kornfeld said, noting that at QBQ, Arfa booked all the dates for Billy Joel. A couple years later QBQ became AGI and “now over 3o years have passed and we are still rockin!”
As Kornfeld likes to say, Artist Group International is a boutique agency with a roster of superstars. AGI books over 100 artists including Cage the Elephant, Hall & Oates, Iggy Pop, Linkin Park, Megadeth, and Rammstein. Kornfeld covers three of AGI’s biggest bands — Rush, Metallica and Def Leppard — while also overseeing the agency’s North American operations.
“The best part of my job is knowing my work helps facilitate both a positive effect on the artist’s career combined with the fun experience all the fans have,” he said. “I always get a rush at the sound board watching an artist perform and seeing the reaction of the audience.”
Below, Kornfeld takes us through his own rock ‘n roll journey and shares his list of his five most memorable shows.
Bruce Springsteen at the Palladium in New York
October 29, 1976
Being raised in NYC, I was fortunate enough to see many great shows, mostly at Madison Square Garden since seeing my first show there, Deep Purple in 1972. However my first Springsteen show changed everything. I was 16 years old and went with a best friend, his parents and my Mom. It was bit awkward with her there, but it was such a special night. The Palladium was a great theater to see shows, and Bruce was electric. Only a few days earlier, Bruce had met Gary “US” Bonds, and he came out as a special guest and it was the beginning of a special relationship between the two that has lasted decades.
Rush at Meadows Music Center in Hartford, Conn.
June 28, 2002
This was my first show representing Rush and the band’s first live show in five years, kicking off the Vapor Trails tour. The Rush family had deep roots and now I was the new kid on the block. I thought it might be awkward but they welcomed me with open arms. And as amazing as the show was, the dress rehearsal the night prior in an almost empty amphitheater was insane as well. It was the beginning of a relationship I still cherish.
Billy Joel at Shea Stadium in New York
July 16 & 18, 2008
I have been blessed to be involved in so many special shows with Billy Joel, but looking back, this is one of the most amazing sets of shows in history! Aside from Billy being incredible, throw in appearances by amazing talent such as Tony Bennett, John Mayer, Roger Daltrey, Steven Tyler and many others and then closing the final show with none other than Sir Paul McCartney. It was a perfect and fitting ending to the show and the stadium.
Billy Joel & Bruce Springseen at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York
October 16, 2008
Billy and Bruce were playing a benefit for Barack Obama, who would be elected President of the United States a month later. Obama even made an appearance at the end of the night, but the best part was watching Bruce and Billy Joel performing each other’s songs, joking and laughing through it all in a small venue. If Bruce didn’t know the words to one of Billy’s songs, he would teach it to him right on the stage. It was a great night!
Metallica at the Apollo Theater in Harlem
Sept 21, 2013
I have had the privilege to work with Metallica for over 25 years, but nothing could beat them playing “my local theater” – The Apollo. I live just a few blocks away and having them in my neighborhood was a treat.