Say hello to the distinguished dozen who make up IQ's New Bosses 2020, which celebrates the future leaders of the international live music industry
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Continuing a series of interviews with the 2020 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Bilge Morden, an agent at CAA UK
By IQ on 20 Nov 2020
The New Bosses 2020 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 93 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, and A&R and production experts that make up this year’s list.
To get to know this year’s cream of the crop a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2020’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success. Catch up on the previous New Bosses interview with Virág Csiszár, international booking manager at Sziget Cultural Management (Hu) here.
The next New Boss in the spotlight is Bilge Morden (26). Istanbul-born Morden started promoting shows while studying at Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA), putting on sold-out events with artists including Bastille and James Bay. In his third year at LIPA, he interned at promoter Communion Presents, where he starting working with various booking agencies.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to be an agent,” he explains. “I always saw CAA as the pinnacle, and when they introduced a two-month internship programme that summer, I jumped at the chance to get my foot in the door. Emma Banks gave me a shot, and three years later I became an agent.”
What are you working on right now?
For the most part, I have now moved my shows from 2020 to 2021 and it’s been nice focusing on some new tours which are being announced over the next few weeks. I am also spending increasingly more of my time having conversations to create opportunities in areas other than traditional touring such as podcasts, live streaming, brand partnerships. This stuff has become more important than ever.
What are some of the highlights of your career to date?
There’s been a few stand-out shows that I’ve been involved in: Lennon Stella’s two sold-out O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empires; Sam Fender’s three sold-out Omeara shows before winning the BRITs Critics Choice Award; and Maren Morris at the Royal Albert Hall. Helping grow our podcast business at CAA has also been a highlight.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt working in live music?
To always follow up, be candid, and go with my gut on new talent.
“For an industry built on personal relationships and human interaction – the new normal is certainly unusual”
Did you always want to be an agent?
I wanted to be a lawyer from the age of 10 because I was obsessed with the TV show The OC and I thought Sandy Cohen was the greatest man alive. However, when I was 16 I put on a gig with some local school bands and in that moment, my lifelong dream of being Sandy Cohen was over. I rejected the law schools I’d applied to for university and I went to LIPA where I really got into promoting shows. The more I dealt with agents, the more I realised I wanted to be one of them.
What impact has Covid-19 had on your job?
There’s been no touring in the past six months so there is a clear financial impact across every part of the food chain which presents all sorts of challenges for agents and the wider industry.
From a social aspect, we have been working from home during this time and I miss walking up to someone’s desk and having conversations in person, or overhearing people on the phone and gaining information in all sorts of ways that does not rely on video conferencing. I can’t wait to never use Zoom again!
I’ve also not gone this long without attending a gig since I was a kid and I’ve realised how much of my professional and social life revolves around live entertainment. For an industry built on personal relationships and human interaction – the new normal is certainly unusual.
Despite the very real challenges our industry faces, I think I’ve become a better agent at this time. I’ve got more perspective than ever, and I am more astute and creative in the way I approach problems. It’s opened my eyes to other ways I can service clients as well as shine a light on the new clients I’ve taken on over the past few months.
Do you have a mentor in the industry?
I’m lucky to have a few, and I could name any senior music agent at CAA, but I’ll highlight two. Nigel Hassler has given me several breaks throughout my early career and has definitely made me a better agent. He might be the most selfless and certainly one of the nicest agents in the business. Paul Franklin has given me countless pearls of wisdom over many tube rides and meals out, which has focussed my thinking. I’m very grateful.
“I’ve got more perspective than ever, and I am more astute and creative in the way I approach problems”
What does the live music industry do well, and what do you think we can do better?
Two things that live music does very well, historically, is fostering culture on a global scale, and raising money for causes and charities that it gets behind.
Clearly, one thing the industry needs to improve on is inclusion. It just makes sense that people from a variety of backgrounds, races and genders etc have not only an equal opportunity to work in the industry but also a proportional seat at the table. The people representing the talent should actually be representative of the talent.
What advice would you give to someone who’s new to the business?
Stretch the boundary of your job title, make friends fast, and don’t be sucked into gossiping about others.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing currently?
There’s a whole host of new challenges to deal with this year. Uncertainty is the biggest one. It’s a strange time to be an agent. Agents like to have control over situations and be able to plan and have all the answers… Of course, we are trying to move tours to periods in the year we think they’ll have the best chance of going ahead, but we just don’t know with certainty when gigs will come back without social distancing. There are some tours which are on their third or fourth routing. There are also the associated challenges with moving tours further back in the calendar year.
Lots of artists, especially those on their way up, have lost momentum because they are unable to tour and do promo like they used to. I think everyone is trying to find interesting ways to start building momentum again.
It’s an uncomfortable time for our industry, but when shows come back, I think we’ll see a period of growth that we haven’t seen before.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
Living in a nice house in Chiswick where my kids go to private school and playing golf on Fridays. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re successful in the music industry, right?
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