Women In Music Awards 2023: Live Music Inspiration winner Natasha Gregory

Women In Music Awards 2023: Live Music Inspiration winner Natasha Gregory

At the Women In Music Awards 2023, we celebrated the achievements of 13 game changing executives and artists as the industry came together to honour their work. Music Week has spoken to all of the winners to tell their stories.

Interview: Anna Fielding

Natasha Gregory (née Bent) is the winner of the Live Music Inspiration Award at Women In Music 2023.

The executive launched Mother Artists with her brother Mark Bent a year ago. The live agency and management firm represents a boutique roster of Idles, First Aid Kit and Amy Macdonald, among others.

Prior to Mother Artists, Gregory held positions as a booking agent at The Agency Group, UTA and Paradigm. Gregory is overseeing the continued expansion of Mother Artists' team, while earlier this year, she joined the newly-formed board at Independent Venue Week to help steer the event into 2024 and beyond. 

Here, she reflects on what life is really like as an agent in music, talks motherhood and making a difference

How do you feel about winning the Live Music Inspiration Award?

“It’s actually the most important award I’ve ever received, because it’s about the human side of this business. We so often focus on the biggest gig that’s been booked or who is the best agent… I like work and working hard is a given if you want to do well in business. But to be called an inspiration is special. I can sometimes feel alone in how I do things and what I stand for, so to be given an award like this, to actually have someone say, ‘We see you, we hear you,’ is something of a relief, to know that you can have the right positive impact on the right people.”

You set up a live business in December 2020. Did that feel like a risk? 

“I remember lots of people saying, ‘Oh, you’re so brave,’ and being fiercely independent, I remember thinking, ‘Are you saying this to the guys who are setting up businesses?’. But in hindsight, I was brave. The whole industry was in turmoil. The whole world was in turmoil. But also, what I was doing was also about self-protection and self-preservation. We all had time to consider what was important to us during that period. I thought the best thing to do was focus on my family, my kids, as a priority and to protect myself by making everything smaller around me. I had a small roster of artists I love, who loved me back and I could give them all the attention needed without burning myself out in the process. I was in business with my brother who is also my best friend and biggest cheerleader.”

There’s a nervousness and a vulnerability in young people vocalising what’s important to them

Natasha Gregory

You once told Music Week that if as a society, we put as much effort into raising our young children as we did our jobs, and if that work was celebrated, we would see some needed change in the world. Do you think that could happen in the music business on a wide scale?  

“I don’t. And, again, this is why this award means so much as I do feel alone in how I do things. I think a lot of people in this industry do feel it and recognise it and wish for it to be that way. But the reality is that this is a competitive and fast-paced industry and you are recognised for working the hardest and going to the most shows and for putting work first. So I think there’s a nervousness and a vulnerability in young people vocalising what’s important to them, they might not get a promotion or they might not be hired because they want to have kids and that’s going to take away from them being the last in the office or signing the most bands or bringing in the most money. 

“I think often we all forget that life is very short. I lost my dad in 2009 and when you lose someone you're very close to, it obviously brings you an awareness that life is short and quick. I live every day as if it's the last day and what is it that I'm going to look back on at the end of my days? It is going to be that I was there for the kids, that I supported them, that I helped them grow to be good people for society, and that they look at me and see that they mattered.”

What is the least parent-friendly thing you’ve seen in the music industry? 

“I think it’s mostly a lack of understanding. It’s the judgement looks that I often had. I had both my kids at work with me as babies. I was breast feeding them both and I wasn’t going to stop that, but I also wanted to work. Years ago, I was told by a manager, who thought they were giving good advice, not to talk about my kids. And I found that really sad. When women started to join this industry, I feel they had to mirror men to have success. So I hold no grudges towards the people who survived and listened to their mentors before them. But we’re in a different environment now. And I’ve still had comments saying that festivals aren’t a place to have children, or a manager saying that I must have an important band on because I don’t have the kids with me, when in fact I bought my kid the day before for my most important band.” 

Family comes into your professional life in a wider sense too. You’ve mentioned your brother, but you also work with your partner? 

“Yes, he runs the IT side of things, organising it for the company and setting people up with computers. My brother [Mark] does the management side. And his wife is the most incredible person on the digital side, with all the merch and the online sales. It’s totally a family business. And because our relationships are unconditional, it means you can be totally honest with each other. We don’t always agree, but we can be honest. And with my brother we can wake up the next day and just be siblings. I feel really lucky. It must be really hard to find a business partner that you can trust in that way.”

Years ago, I was told by a manager, who thought they were giving good advice, not to talk about my kids. And I found that really sad

Natasha Gregory

You have said that you will only contribute to panels that create positive change in the music industry. Does that still stand, do you see change?

“There has been a big awakening to mental health, to the more human side of the industry. The pandemic has catapulted that up as a priority, and there are a lot of artists who are choosing their health first, which didn’t used to happen as much. But in terms of panels, we’re still in the small rooms. In the main room people will be talking about festivals and the business side. So we’re still in the small room, but we do have the panel there.”

What state do you think the live industry is in post-Covid? 

“It isn’t like it was before. There’s still an immense collective trauma. There’s exhaustion from an incredible pressure to deliver in a time of immense stress. I mean, the list is endless. Nobody has any money, at all levels. Top acts will always do well, but for smaller bands breaking, they can’t afford to tour. The costs have gone up astronomically. Brexit has added visa costs. There are crew wages, production wages, trucking costs. But people can’t raise the ticket prices too much because the ticket buyers have no money. It’s really tricky. And that’s another reason I’m glad we’ve kept the roster small, so that we as a team can deliver on the clients we work with. There's a lot more pressure on people. “

Live is often seen as a sector where women are underrepresented. Do you agree with that?

“There aren’t a lot of female promoters. The women promoters I do know are fucking awesome. I absolutely love women, and I love men as well. I think having women at the table, as well as men, brings greater depth in conversation and opinions that you can't have when it's just men, or it's just women. That's what representation means.”

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