WXJM's Morgan Schaffner recently sat down with booking agent and WXJM alumnus Justin Bridgewater.
It’s comforting and exciting to see that students involved in the Harrisonburg music scene can and have become music industry professionals with the knowledge and experience they’ve gained here as JMU Duke. Justin Bridgewater, a 2004 JMU SMAD and Music Industry alumni, currently is a booking agent under an international booking agency, The Agency Group. A few of the artists under Bridgewater’s roster currently are: Four Year Strong, Dads, Murder by Death, mewithoutYou, Fake Problems, The Lighthouse and the Whaler, and Killer Mike.
Bridgewater, having been a student DJ at WXJM during all four years of his stay at JMU, was also Assistant Program Director and Business Manager of the station. Something that may have prepared him most for a career in the music industry however was working on the committee in charge of running MACRoCk (Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference) and gaining experience as Label Expo Coordinator, Talent Booker, and Conference Coordinator through his involvement with the still-thriving music conference.
Believe-it-or-not, Bridgewater helped coordinate the bookings of artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, Dashboard Confessional, of Montreal, and Mates of State at Harrisonburg’s very own MACRoCK. These experiences helped Bridgewater realize that working in “the industry” after finishing school was what he really wanted to pursue.
With that, through dealing with booking bands for MACRoCK, Bridgewater was able to develop strong relationships with various agents, one being Nick Storch, who by the time Bridgewater graduated, was looking for an assistant. After a few years of working as Storch’s assistant, learning the ropes and skills needed to be a successful booking agent, Bridgewater was promoted at The Agency Group in New York City as a full-on agent in 2009, where he currently is in his career.
When asked if there was any advice he’d like to pass on to an aspiring music industry professional, Bridgewater suggests to always act professional and treat everyone with respect, specifically sighting that you never know when someone who you used to work with (and possibly even was in a position under you) could excel to a position of being your boss.
He adds to this advice with “It’s a very small industry, so anything you say about other people would definitely get back to them.”
Bridgewater’s own experience with how small the music industry can be, shown by how he worked at WXJM and MACRoCk booking bands with agents Nick Storch (ICM) and Trey Many (Billions). Then, while at JMU, he had a summer internship running shows for a woman named Jacki Becker (Eleven Productions, Lawrence, KS) through the recommendation of Tray Many. Today, as an agent Bridgewater sell his bands to Jacki, his former boss. Then, as he applied to be Nick Storch’s assistant, Jacki Becker highly recommended him to Nick, and he then hired Bridgewater. If you were able to follow that, amazingly enough now he is an agent and peer of both Nick Storch and Trey Many.
Bridgewater, reflecting on what the best part of his job is, eventually settles on the fact of being able to see the results of the tours he books. He says, “When you go out to a show and see the fans and the band performing, you really get a better understanding of why booking agents are essential to an artist’s career. Growing up going to concerts, there were so many good times I spent [at them] with my friends, so to be able to create these experiences for new fans is extremely rewarding.” Rewarding indeed; so with this insight, don’t fret fellow dukes aspiring to work in the music industry, Bridgewater exemplifies that hard work that goes in now can certainly pay off down the road.