Sam Hunt became an agent by journeying through the prerequisite entry level music biz jobs. The Berkeley-native worked as a store clerk at Reckless Records in Chicago, a utility-man at Chicago’s Empty Bottle and did press and PR for label Thrill Jockey before meeting Tom Windish, who had just started the Windish Agency.
“His roster was all of my favorite artists at the time. I was working as a publicist at Thrill Jockey and burning out on sending all the unrequited emails,” he told Amplify.
After a few meetings, Hunt had the job, jumping into the agency game that had been mostly dominated by the big Hollywood and New York agencies, working out of a small office with Windish.
“I did not really know a thing about booking/touring at the time, I just knew I liked his clients,” Hunt said. “I had no interest in being an agent or really advancing beyond being an assistant, and that was the case for probably three to four years, well into the time when I was functionally acting as an agent.”
Windish essentially willed Hunt into becoming an agent, forwarding the majority of his emails to Hunt, who slowly took on more and more responsibilities.
“Eventually he lengthened my leash bit by bit and I started working on college shows for Animal Collective and random one-offs for Diplo, both of whom at the time were relatively new unknown acts at the Windish Agency, but both of whom were things I was hugely into.”
He began taking on more ownership of the assignments that had been passed along to him. The first act he signed was Death Vessel, “a singer-songwriter from Maine, whose music I still think is some of the best to come out in the past 20 years.”
Next was Girl Talk, who quickly went from playing college campuses to headlining major festivals and becoming a bit of a national phenomenon with his fast-paced mashup albums and crazy live shows.
“He had no manager and was very much my contemporary both culturally and socially,” he said. “We developed a close relationship and by working with him I learned (or in some cases created) the various elements needed to do my job.”
Hunt’s now with Paradigm following the 2016 official rebranding of Windish nearly a year after the companies first merged. His roster reads like a Coachella lineup poster with artists that include A-Trak, Animal Collective, Best Coast, Chromeo, Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, Diplo, Dirty Projectors, Matt & Kim, Run the Jewels, Solange, The xx and Yeasayer.
Earlier this month he was awarded Pollstar‘s Agent of the Year award during the 28th annual Pollstar Concert Industry Awards at the Novo in Los Angeles. As part of his long career, Hunt has attended thousands of concerts and saves the stubs from every show he’s been to. Below he shares his five most memorable shows with Amplify’s Dave Brooks.
Primus, The Melvins & M.I.R.V. at the Greek Theater, Berkeley
October 1, 1993
This was the first real concert I ever went to. I was 13, and inexplicably, a group of like 20 13-year-old friends went together as a birthday celebration for someone. I moshed, I got super close, I sat up in the lawn, I chanted ‘Primus Sucks,’ I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever done. It was. It probably still is.
The Greek Theater in Berkeley is also, still to this day, my favorite venue in the country. I graduated from high school on its stage, I attended this show (among many others) and now I have the occasional privilege to book shows there.
Foo Fighters at The Fillmore, San Francisco
July 26, 1995
The Foo Fighters had been through a few months prior opening for Mike Watt and I was not allowed to attend that show because it was a school night (something I’m still medium-upset about), so this was my next real crack at them. Their debut record had just come out, I was obsessed, but had also slept on getting tickets (which sold out in a second). My friend and I showed up 8 hours early to line up for tickets released at the door. Pat Smear came out, went to Taco Bell, then came back signed autographs for everyone in line. YES ACTUAL PAT SMEAR! Shudder to Think opened and someone threw an apple at the guitarist and he tried to go fight the guy who threw it. I thought they sucked (I was 14) and was very into this potential fight.
The show was one of the most high-energy blow-outs that I’ve ever seen. I try to retain perspective given that I’ve seen like 5,000 shows by now and at the time I had seen maybe six, but I still think it was one of the greatest ever. They closed with Gary Numan’s song “Down in the Park” as featured on the X-Files Soundtrack and it was a perfectly weird/mellow end to an amazing explosion of a concert.
Animal Collective at Metro, Chicago
May 17, 2007
I actually do not have too much to say about this one other than that sometimes you see a show and the cosmos align — right night, right band, right venue, right show. This was one of those nights where EVERYTHING was dialed in. I watched mostly from the Metro’s FOH booth, which is basically THEE perfect place to watch any show from. Everyone was just dialed in, it was just, like, a magical show. I don’t remember what they played, probably a bunch of songs I’d never heard, in fact it was probably when they were touring playing “Merriweather Post Pavilion” songs for the first time. Like I said, I do not have very clear *specific* memories of this show but I always think of it when I am thinking about the best concerts I’ve ever been to.
Jay Z + Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” Tour at United Center, Chicago & MGM Arena, Las Vegas
Nov, 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 9, 2011
I went to this show thinking it’d be pretty cool and fun to see two legends, and ended up fully blown away by the scale of it all — the massively over-the-top production, the number of high songs both artists had, the personality-cult/extreme fandom level of the audience. And of course getting to see “N***s in Paris” played (I think) nine times in a row. I couldn’t stop— thinking about the show all day long and went back for night two. I still couldn’t stop thinking about it and flew to Las Vegas a week later to see it again with a similar group of folks. For some reason, in retrospect, this show does not have the same level of gravitas as the others on this list but I absolutely remember the feeling of excitement in the building those nights, and the frenzy that resulted each time they played “Paris” and what a strange and high-concept idea that was on such a massive/mainstream scale.
Prince + 3RDEYEGIRL at DNA Lounge, San Francisco,
April 23, 2013
When this show opportunity rolled around, the idea of seeing Price and actually enjoying it was starting to feel impossible. His shows were all either at arenas and felt impossibly expensive, or were like last-second club shows that started at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. And there were no safe bet on what sort of show you’d get. I had seen him at Coachella and my main memory was trying to find a place where I could see anything, then giving up.
This was everything that was not. This club has a small capacity as it is (I think 1,000) but it feels TINY inside. I managed to make it to the front of the balcony, which is relatively low to the ground compared to most balconies. I was close enough that if I had stuck my foot out it would’ve touched Prince’s hair. He played some new songs, but played a ton of his hits/favorites and it felt like the luckiest, most amazing opportunity I’d ever had to see a legend.
Also, from where I was watching, which was actually slightly behind the front of the stage, I could see Prince’s teleprompter (he’s old, he has like 8,000 songs, he uses a teleprompter — give him break). Watching him shred on guitar was awesome and I was completely transfixed by reading the lyrics on the teleprompter, which were all fully in Prince-ese; the word “you” was always “u,” the word “to” always “2.” Words were subbed in for symbols and characters whenever possible. He was the real deal through and through.