King Princess’ Manager on Postponing the Singer’s Harry Styles Dates (and Everything Else)
This is the second installment of Rolling Stone‘s Music in Crisis series, which looks at how people all across the music industry are coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
Early this year, King Princess — rising singer/songwriter Mikaela Straus, backed by a band of close friends — was preparing for a big European tour with Stevie Nicks’ favorite modern star, Harry Styles, followed by a summer of shows in Asia and Australia. They had 26 shows scheduled, starting on April 15th at the U.K.’s 16,000-capacity Arena Birmingham and ending on June 3rd at a 14,000-seater in Moscow. Those crowds would have been 10 times the size of what King Princess drew at the top of 2020 during a headlining run.
King Princess came out of the gate sprinting in 2018 with a career-defining single, “1950,” which has since been streamed more than a quarter of a billion times on Spotify. Immediate momentum pushed her into two straight years of headline shows, festivals, and private events. With eyes now set on arenas, the time finally came to take the next step — until the coronavirus pandemic slammed down on the pause button. Here, Fated Future co-founder Adam Herzog, who manages King Princess alongside partner Andrew DiDio, tells us about the experience, and the ramifications of this difficult moment for both his artist and the larger music world.
The Harry offer came in and immediately King Princess wanted to do it, so we got to work on making it happen. It’s significant because Harry has been a supporter out of the gate. He reached out about her supporting his show at Madison Square Garden when “1950” came out, which was before she had played a single show as King Princess. To see it come back around, to have him be the first artist King Princess is fully supporting on a seven-week tour, just felt right.
We had just released a record, Cheap Queen, that we were supporting with a show already firing on all cylinders — set list, lighting design, arrangements, etc. Now, we have no idea exactly what is going to be played when we start touring again, especially 11 months from now, when the Harry tour starts [in February 2021].
We’ve thankfully kept King Princess’ losses to a minimum. We were able to have all flights, hotels, and touring logistics, like freight and bus, credited to the postponed dates, which were just announced for February until April in 2021. Unfortunately, it’s the members of our crew, our band, and other people tied strictly to the live revenue from King Princess who will feel the pinch.
There’s no real certainty when artists will be able to tour again, but there’s a good chance it will be before we hit the road for our first make-up dates in October, so we could lose some personnel who have been there from the beginning. There is an obvious comfort and confidence you have onstage — knowing your monitor mixes will be right, knowing the sound in the room is right, or if an amp blows out that your stage tech is on top of it — that we may have to work to build up again if we’re forced to hire new people. That’s the biggest concern on my mind right now — taking care of our crew, so they are there when we start the touring back up again.
In January, we were in the process of planning to confirm [August] dates for our first headline run in Asia and the Asian Pacific. We ultimately passed on that tour at the end of January because of the [coronavirus] activity we saw down there, while simultaneously feeling incredibly uninformed regarding the virus as a domestic threat. I’m a fairly paranoid guy, but industry people with a greater purview than mine seemed unalarmed by it all. We had an unannounced Australian run, including a confirmed Splendour in the Grass play, we were looking at [doing around] the Asian run .
By the first Monday in March, the virus had grown from Asia and was on the worldwide radar — led by European countries. We had music executives traveling into L.A. that were cancelling their trips and postponing meetings and meals with us, which felt slightly alarmist at the time. By the time the following Monday rolled around, COVID-19 was all that was on my mind. I remember being in an Uber on the way to see Tame Impala at the Forum on March 10th. We got a call from our Aussie agent Brett, who said Splendour was postponing.
That’s when I knew this was global and the dominoes we’re all going to fall in the week that followed. Everyone at the venue and in the Forum Club was consumed by talking about the disease, not shaking hands, talking about the company measures that we’re going to be taken. It was all incredibly ominous. There was an element of danger and taboo, but also a shared desire to savor the moment. We had a direct-support slot for the Strokes booked at the Forum for that Saturday, and I already knew in my gut that show wasn’t going to happen. It was going to come down, I was sure of it.
Our Lollapalooza South American run was the second thing to postpone, followed by the Strokes support — 24 hours before the show — and lastly, the Harry run. Now our entire touring schedule is basically pushed back to October 2020 until April 2021.
Everything is pretty much at a standstill. Top-tier artists who put out albums just a few weeks ago are completely debilitated from marketing their music outside of radio promotion. You can do phone interviews, you can do livestreams, you can do Zoom writing sessions, you can brainstorm and ponder, but that’s really about it. There are no shows, there are no photo shoots or features that don’t revolve around COVID-19, there are no music-video shoots, there are no meetings or HQ office visits for media, and there are no corporate sponsorships or partnerships. We were able to do all our damage control, postponements, and cancellations, in the first 10 days. Now, it’s just a waiting game.
We also manage some producers and mixers, including Rob Kinelski, who won four Grammys for mixing the Billie Eilish record. Thankfully, work for them has gone largely uninterrupted, but it has definitely been altered. No one is going to the studio — they’re instead choosing to work remotely without the attendance of artists or their assistants, who handle some of the more laborious, monotonous parts of the process.
It pains me to say, but I don’t think [there are any creativity-related silver linings]. I think your tier-one artists like The Weeknd were ready to go with half a million presaves [of his latest album] on Spotify, but for most artists in the label system, they’re stockpiling or postponing music releases. You can’t book a tour, you can’t do any photo shoots or music videos. You can basically livestream from your house, and even that feels like it’s got a short lifespan before it gets routine and people just tune out.
My thoughts are with the indie artists and career singer-songwriters who’ve been doing authentic artist development for the last five years and just lost that waitressing job that was paying the bills right as they were about to break through. Ultimately, I think the artists we lose, because they just have to focus on paying their bills, will be greater than the art or artists we gain from any surge in creativity.
That said, outside of music, great things are happening to the environment during the halt of our human quest for productivity and growth. People are wrapping their heads around the idea of “socialism,” why it isn’t such a dirty word, and why it might actually be a good idea in the U.S. Money and care are finally being provided for the homeless in L.A. and around the world. [That’s been] a huge problem gone hugely ignored. If you look, the silver linings are thin, but definitely there.