My Music Class Story: CAA Darren Murphy

My Music Class Story: CAA Darren Murphy

Darren Murphy

The weekly column “My Music Row Story” features prominent members of the Nashville music industry selected by MusicRow Editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and enhance the success of our industry. This column highlights the invaluable people who keep the wheels spinning and the music playing.

Darren Murphy He is a music agent for the leading sports and entertainment agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and co-chair of the CAA Music office in Nashville. It represents many of the world’s leading musicians, including chicksAnd the Sam Hunt and Keith UrbanAnd the Hottie and BlowfishAnd the Dan + Shay, Maren MorrisAnd the Little Big TownAnd the Darius RuckerAnd the Mickey Jetton and Jake OwenAnd the Lindsey Illamong other things.

Murphy graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Business Marketing. He served as president and chairman of the Academy of Country Music and a member of the Country Music Association. Murphy was named Talent Agent of the Year at the 2015 and 2017 CMA Awards. He also served as Governor of the Nashville Grammy Chapter Board.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, which is about 70 miles north of Manhattan, and lived there until I was 11 years old. My mother got married when I was 11 years old. My stepfather was in the army. Once they got married, we started moving in as military families do. From upstate New York, we went to Virginia, went to Kansas for a bit, and then finished my high school years in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Darren Murphy, Maren Morris, Meredith Jones

Were you a musician when you were a kid?

not at all. My natural dad owned some nightclubs when I was young. So I will go and watch the shows. I was going to clean the bars in the morning with my grandfather during the summer. I was exposed to live music at that age.

How did you get to Nashville?

I played tennis for Belmont. I was a business marketing major and worked for an investment company for the past two years to get college credit, so I was heading down this stock broker path. Then the stock market crashed in 1987, the beginning of the year I graduated. It centered on my mind as I was nearing graduating from college. In my last semester of school, I took an introduction to a music business class. I had a great time with the class. My teacher gave me some great advice. He said, “You should look at the agencies in town. You’re good at dealing with numbers, you love music, and you have a great personality. You’d probably be a great client.” So I did. Fortunately for me, after canceling some resumes, I got a call from William Morris Agency for an interview for a job that was opened to work with an agent, Steve Lassiter.

Darren Murphy and Sam Hunt

At that time the list was Charlie Daniels and the Oak Ridge BoysThey had a lot of different old school country dispositions. I just like the pace of it. I like the sales side. I loved how they had to fill in the dates in the calendar and sell. The essence of being an agent is selling and filling out calendars, and I felt good about that. I’ve always loved music and I think once I started working in offices etc I knew where to make my career.

So I worked with Steve outside of school, just writing contracts and answering phones. A few weeks into the party, I was digging it up. I was digging energy. I loved the flow of days there, but musically I wanted to be in a different place.

What was then for you?

In the end I was accepted into the agent training program [in Nashville]I moved to Los Angeles later that year and made my way up through the Los Angeles office there to the contemporary department.

How long have you been in Los Angeles?

William Morris acquired another agency in 1991 called Triad Artists and it sadly left me. I had a few bands I was booking that didn’t arrive yet or made enough noise, so I was one of the guys who got rid of them. This sucked.

Then I went to Bill Silva Presents in San Diego for about a year where I was able to see the other side of it – the buying and merchandising part, which was great. We did a lot of great shows and we worked with all the different agencies. I mostly focused on the club activities that we did in the area. It was a very busy company, and we had a lot of different great places in Southern California. This was a great test. Then I was assigned again to William Morris, but to the Nashville office in ’94. I worked there until I started at CAA in ’98.

Russell Dickerson and Darren Murphy

You’re now helping direct tourism jobs at Sam Hunt, Keith Urban, Dan + Shay, Maren Morris, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, and more. When do you feel satisfied with what you do?

I try to get to the office early every day. It’s a quiet way before the phones start ringing. I try to set an agenda every day of what I want to try and accomplish. [A big part of my day is] I obviously keep in touch with the managers I work with, as well as my clients and buyers, and make sure I review the list, so to speak. The best part of my day is when a deal closes, or when a sell-out round starts and a great performance, or I get a call from a buyer who says, “Oh my God, that act killed her last night. I can’t wait to get them back.” When those moments happen throughout your day, it still gives me goosebumps and I feel so good about it after all these years. These are the little things that are still big to me.

Do you feel that you still have the same drive and drive that you had when you started?

100%. Especially coming out of what we’ve all been through with the pandemic. It reminded me of how wonderful it is – whether it’s at a club, arena, stadium or amphitheater – watching people have a great time on the show from someone you work with every day. Just being around the live music of our customers and [other acts] Who are not our customers, it was definitely a big part of what I missed.

Darren Murphy and Loretta Lynn

Did you have any guides along the way?

I have learned from many different people. I learn from the people I currently work with. Ron Bird He was a really good teacher to me when he was here. I would go to Ron for advice, and he would come to my office to check in and see what I was doing. I felt comfortable going to him about any issue with a promoter or client. It will give me a different point of view. I still think about some of those conversations today.

john [Huie] And the Stick [Essig] I’ve been here since the beginning and they are great friends as well as guides.

If you could go back and talk to yourself as a new Belmont graduate, what would you tell him?

Put on the seat belt. It’s a trip. It’s the way you treat people. There is definitely a level of hustle to have in the beginning. I also like to remind the younger version of myself to be careful with how I talk to people. [Laughs]

What is one of your favorite professional experiences?

From time to time when I’m on a show and I haven’t seen it Loretta [Lynn] After a while, she would call me and ask me to accompany her out of the stage. It was unbelievable and one of the most amazing experiences I tell my kids. I’ve had the privilege of doing this many times over the years. This is so special, he escorted her off the stage after the show. Couple that with spending time with her on the bus and listening to some of the stories she was going to tell… She had an incredible memory.

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