Martin Kirkup, Direct Management Co-Founder Who Worked With Katy Perry and B-52’s, Dies at 75

Martin Kirkup, co-founder of Direct Management Group, whose roster includes k.d. lang, Katy Perry and Au/Ra, died Feb 4. at age 75. Kirkup managed the above artists with his longtime partners Steven Jensen and Bradford Cobb.

After founding Direct with Jensen in 1985, the company Kirkup saw early success with Echo & the Bunnymen, Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, Bryan Ferry and particularly the B-52’s, whose multiplatinum 1989 album “Cosmic Thing” established the company as a major player.

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The company enjoyed even bigger 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 U.K. in 1973 to accept a position as a visiting professor of English Literature at the University of Rhode Island. He moved to New York City shortly thereafter and in 1974 was hired by A&M Records as its east coast publicity director. Over the following years he worked closely with such artists as Peter Frampton, Styx, Squeeze, Joe Jackson, the Police and Joan Armatrading.

Jensen recalled, “Martin Kirkup and I conceived Direct Management while drinking raki at a restaurant high above the Bosphorus in Istanbul, escaping the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. We were both fans of alternative pop music and focused on establishing a boutique management company to support that exciting genre of music. I’m 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 class act, a gentleman, and he was brilliant. Over my 25 years working alongside him at Direct, he had a major influence on my growth as a manager and a human. Of his many talents, one that I admired most was his ability to take a problem and dissect it down to its core, finding a solution with a calm demeanor that gave everyone around him confidence. Martin had excellent taste in music, and he had great reverence for the artists who created it. 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, daughter Melisa Kirkup Blatt and son-in-law Ben Blatt, son John Kirkup and daughter-in-law Lorien Kirkup, and three grandchildren, Sam, Abigail, and Ivy. Information on a celebration of Kirkup’s life will come at a later date.

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