My Rhythm and My Blues: Dennis Ashley & Rob Gibbs of ICM Partners

Hollywood agency ICM represents artists, actors, writers, athletes - talent of all types. They boast clients like Spike Lee, Kehlani, Shona Rimes, Wanda Sykes and so many, many more. In this episode of My Rhythm and My Blues, ICM execs Dennis Ashley and Rob Gibbs of ICM talk about their journey, their mentor-mentee relationship and what they want their legacy to be. Take a look:
My Rhythm and My Blues: Dennis Ashley & Rob Gibbs of ICM Partners

Intro:

I'm Dennis Ashley, I'm a concert agent at ICM Partners.
Robert Gibbs, head of music at ICM Partners. Actually, Dennis and I have worked together now, as of May 13th, for 20 years.
Dennis: I met this young guy who was at that time, I believe, at another agency out of Philadelphia. He would bring me deals as middle agent, and we just struck up a friendship.
Robert: At that time, I was at another boutique agency in where it was just straight commission-based. I didn't get a salary, nothing. So I ended up, not only was I booking shows, but I had a part-time job. I worked at Blockbuster Video at night. I keep getting this 310 number blowin' up my phone. I end up stepping out of the Blockbuster meeting and it's Dennis, and he's like, "Yo man, tryna reach you. You ever thought about coming to LA?"

Growing Up:

Robert: Growing up in a multicultural household, we listened to just about everything. Michael Jackson, Robert Cray and The Family band. My mom loves 2Pac. I mean, literally would drive around in the car with the windows down, playing 'Pac.
Dennis: Growing up with music in the house, so everything from The O'Jays and the Four Tops and Curtis Mayfield and Rick James, or Michael Jackson. Even if you go to N.W.A., one of those groups that were really on the edge of society, but they still had something to say. All those things shaped how I thought of music. What sparked my interest in music was just actually the agency business. It was a summer job that I got at ICM, close to year and a half spent in the mail room, just really understanding the different departments of the agency. I never left the building because I was either in another agent's office or I'll be with Phil Casey, understanding how concerts are booked or whatever the case may be. So I tried to just get a well-rounded education. Once I stepped foot in, I said, "Wow, this is for me."

Why ICM?

Dennis: Artists come to us and they wanna become a brand. And so, it's just not about picking up the phone. It's not just about quoting a number. We build careers, which, arguably, is just as important as making records.

What's next for ICM?

Robert: You will see more people across the agencies that look like us. That is not only a personal goal of mine, but a company goal from the top down. And so for me to now be able to be in a position of Head of Music, there's never been a Black executive to sit in that seat, from a decision-making standpoint for Black music and Black culture to lead, I think it says a lot.

Dennis: Black executives should uplift each other. It gives you a sense of value. Just knowing that there are other folks that look like you, that you can knock on their door or if they need something, they can come to you. Listen, the first time that I was trying to sign Destiny's Child, not everybody got it in the beginning. But Andrea, she got it. Being able to go to someone who you can relate to and be able to have that conversation, and having those alliances in agency business is very important. We empower each other to go further in this business and to have a bigger voice.

Mentorship:

Robert: We worked alongside each other for 20 years. To me, that is what true mentorship is. He literally said to me, "I'm going to take the time and teach you this business. All I ask is that you give other people an opportunity along the way." You don't hear too many stories where the mentor-mentee relationship goes for 20 years, and you don't hear Black stories like that a lot. You know what I mean? And it's so important for growth, and there's still a ways to go.
Dennis: Rob says I'm his mentor and I truly appreciate that, but I just feel like I gave him an opportunity and he did the rest. He showed that he wanted to do it and he took that opportunity, and he's going to new heights.

Legacy:

Dennis: I could show that a Black executive could represent talent at a high level and that I was able to support and help other folks come through the business.
Robert:
There's a quote that I came across, "Carve your name on hearts and not tombstones," which was like, wow, that's powerful. Just goes back to being there for people and hopefully inspire other people that look like us throughout the industry to wanna sit in that same seat.
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