Martin Kirkup, co-founder of Direct Management Group, whose roster includes kd lang, Katy Perry and Au/Ra, died on February 4 at the age of 75. Kirkup managed the above artists with his longtime partners Steven Jensen and Bradford Cobb.
After founding Direct with Jensen in 1985, the Kirkup company enjoyed early success with Echo & the Bunnymen, Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, Bryan Ferry and particularly the B-52s, whose multiplatinum 1989 album “Cosmic Thing” made the company a major player. .
The company enjoyed even greater success in the 1990s with Counting Crows and, over the years, managed artists such as David Byrne, Joe Jackson, Seal and the New Radicals, Tracy Chapman, the Go-Go’s, Adam Lambert and Steve Perry, as well as Perry and Lang.
Born in Tynemouth, Northumberland, Kirkup left the United Kingdom in 1973 to accept a position as visiting professor of English literature at the University of Rhode Island. He moved to New York shortly thereafter, and in 1974 was hired by A&M Records as their East Coast publicity director. Over the next few years he worked closely with artists such as Peter Frampton, Styx, Squeeze, Joe Jackson, the Police and Joan Armatrading.
Jensen recalls: “Martin Kirkup and I conceived Direct Management while drinking raki in a restaurant above the Bosphorus in Istanbul, fleeing the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. We were both fans of alternative pop music and we We’re focused on building a boutique management company to support this exciting genre of music. I am proud to have built Direct Management with Martin and Bradford Cobb to the global presence it has today, with integrity, honor and ingenuity, much of which was contributed by Martin.
Cobb adds: “Martin Kirkup was a man of class, a gentleman, and he was brilliant. During my 25 years working alongside him at Direct, he had a major influence on my development as a manager and a human. Among his many talents, the one I admired most was his ability to take a problem and dissect it to its core, finding a solution with a calm demeanor that gave confidence to everyone around him. Martin had excellent taste in music and he had great respect for the artists who created him. He was witty with a wicked sense of humor. Martin was also warm and genuinely caring, and it was an honor to be his partner.
He is survived by his wife Lale Kirkup, his daughter Melisa Kirkup Blatt and his son-in-law Ben Blatt, his son John Kirkup and his daughter-in-law Lorien Kirkup, as well as three grandchildren, Sam, Abigail and Ivy. Information about a celebration of Kirkup’s life will come at a later date.