The 10 Best Philadelphians » Best Philadelphians: Sean Agnew
In 1996, Agnew, now 34, dropped out of Drexel to pursue a career in the concert-promotion biz. He was a self-described “punk kid” booking loud, odd shows in warehouses and churches through his one-man R5 Productions, named for the SEPTA regional rail route he rode from his native Ardmore. “Sean has been bringing really cool, weird and big artists to Philly for more than 10 years, in all sorts of different venues,” says celeb DJ (and BlackBerry pitchman) Diplo. “If it wasn’t for him, Philly would be a lot less cool.”
In 2003, Agnew’s profile got a major boost when Harper’s published a cover-story takedown of concert behemoth Clear Channel, painting Agnew as David to the industry’s Goliath. His little business took off. “That was the tipping point,” he says.
Last year he opened the 1,000-person-capacity Union Transfer; on Memorial Day, he helped debut Morgan’s Pier. He’ll open Boot & Saddle, a smaller Broad Street venue, in 2013, all through a partnership with, among others, nightlife entrepreneur Avram Hornik. He continues to produce shows that most underemployed 20-somethings can afford—not for good karma, but for good business. “Keeping shows cheap is important, as it keeps folks coming for years,” explains Agnew. “It builds loyalty.”
Despite the success, Agnew has managed to retain his indie-guy vibe, though he does admit to recently buying a suit. Two, in fact. And that’s okay. We’re sure Larry Magid has a few hanging in his closet, too. —Victor Fiorillo