MA 30 The Innovators: Bill Palant
Founder and Managing Director, Étude Arts
For nearly 20 years, Bill Palant worked for IMG Artists, one of the world’s largest artist management companies, with close to 200 clients on its vocal roster alone. As a senior vice president, he represented Karita Mattila, Pavol Breslik, Measha Brueggergosman, Denyce Graves, Hei-Kuyng Hong, and othe major singers. As IMG started to undergo major changes in the last several years, Palant joined the exodus of top managers from the firm (including Charlotte Lee, featured in last year’s Musical America 30: The Influencers.)
In 2015, Palant founded Étude Arts with a roster of 13 artists. A little over a year later, the roster has grown to 23, including well-regar Appleby, and Stuart Skelton, as well as two conductors.
What’s the difference between a large firm like IMG and a boutique like Étude? “In a larger corporate environment, there is fundamentally and by design one currency: money,” Palant says. “The arts are a business, of course, and one cannot be blind to the value of money. However, my goal is to invest in and harvest the richness of many currencies such as artistry, creativity, connectivity, and holistic career growth (my own and the artists’).”
Palant is an astute commentator on trends in opera and sits on the board of OPERA America; he notes how much has changed over his two decades in the business: “We are in the age of the stage director; no longer are we in the age of the performer.” As a consequence, singers have to be more concerned about appearance. “Sadly, [opera staging] now is all about what it looks like, not what it sounds like. There are plenty of people who are having major careers because of what they look like, not because of what they sound like. Looks are more important than they used to be.”
And Palant’s advice for young singers is succinct: “If you can possibly do anything else, do it!”