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Morgan Wallen, WME, and What Happens When a “Canceled” Client Still Makes Millions

Morgan Wallen
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
November 8, 2021

Have you been following the Morgan Wallen saga at William Morris Endeavor? He’s the country music star who was caught on video in February saying the n-word and was subsequently dropped by WME. Well, kinda dropped; the agency’s chairman Lloyd Braun admitted last week that pandemic-related re-bookings of Wallen shows were indeed being handled by the agency, with commissions going to charity. And then Billboard revealed that Austin Neal, Wallen’s young booking agent in Nashville, was also working on Wallen’s upcoming tour, but was doing so “as a friend,” and outside the walls of WME. Okay…

To many, it all sounded like a very agent-y dodge of WME’s public commitment to accountability for Wallen’s racist slur. After all, unlike most entertainers who have been canceled, this dude (and his ridiculous mullet) has actually become more popular in the past nine months. Wallen now has the biggest album of 2021, according to Billboard. A full 2022 tour could generate tens of millions of dollars for Wallen, 10 percent of which would flow to WME. And he’s 28, with a potentially long career ahead of him. This is the rare instance where cutting ties also cuts off a big chunk of cash.