Ekaterina Bazhanova: It’s important to make sure that our artists are financially sustainable

Creativity, Women in Business

Ekaterina Bazhanova is one of the best independent artist managers in Russia. Her experience varies from TV-show production to artist management and being in entertainment industry for more than 10 years she knows how to get a project done to the last detail. She started her career in one of the biggest event agencies in Moscow as a booker for foreign artists and an international projects manager. Since 2010 she became an independent artist manager, working at the moment with On-The-Go, НААДЯ, Sirotkin, Обе Две and others.

She was a speaker at Mastering The Music Business 2022 and we took the opportunity to interview her and find out more about her career decisions and how she sees the industry.

AdHugger: When did you discover your professional path was in the music industry and what steps you took first?

So, when I look back, I think I was always passionate about music and its business side. Since I was a kid, I organized parties, concerts, festivals at school and later my university. Surprisingly, being on stage or on the creative side was never my main goal. The thing I like the most was to find people with different talents musicians, artists, dancers, scriptwriters, etc. put them together and create something great. But when I graduated from the high school, it was hardly possible to find a university or a business school where I could get music business education in Moscow.

So, I started marketing. And in the end, I think this degree is very useful for my career in the music industry. I was looking for a job in some company in the world of music and entertainment in general. Again, I didn’t have much knowledge about who is doing what in the industry, what are the companies I should look for, what are the positions, etc. And I was lucky to find my first serious job. And one of the biggest event agencies where I worked as international booking agent and project manager.

AdHugger: What attracted you the most to the industry in the first place?

I have been in the industry for almost 17 years, and I still think it’s magical in my opinion. Music is a universal kind of glue that unites people, that helps them to reflect their own thoughts and emotions, that help them to forget some problems, that help them to survive through some difficult moments, that help them to leave their happy moments in a better way, etc. When you think about the life side of the music industry, it’s totally magical as well because have you ever been to a concert venue during the day? It’s a really dull, dark place with no light there, so it looks kind of weird.

But then in the evening when you have sound lights, a band on stage and the crowd happy to perceive the music, then it’s definitely magic because people sing along. And for one and a half or 2 hours with the favorite artist, they can really forget about all the stressful situations they had had that day or their general problem. They can unite with other people and the favorite artists. And so, the artist gets this instant feedback from the audience. So yeah, there is magic. And then once the show is over, the concert venue just gets back to its ordinary, dull, dark. No light stage.

AdHugger: How hard is it to make it as a woman in the music industry in Russia? What about worldwide, in your opinion and why?

You know, I’ve been asked this question many, many times, and I always consider myself as kind of a bad example or a good example at the same time, because I grew up in this paradigm that a woman can do everything. So that being a woman is actually an advantage. And my dad raised me with this thought. He always supported me, that really there are no limits, there are no borders, and everything just depends on you and on what you want. So. in my world and my heart, there was never any difference in being a woman or a man in order to be successful. So, everything just depends on what you want and how you see your own development.

However, of course there are some challenges. So yeah, I can’t say it’s hard to be a woman in the music industry or any other industry, but it is challenging and I really think it’s not territory related or country related, but it’s more related to the particular situation you’re in. To a particular company and to a particular person’s you meet on your way.

Because, for example, one of my artists decided to fire me when I was pregnant because he decided that I won’t be able to fulfill my tasks on the same level with a kid. But again, he didn’t ask me what I thought about it. He didn’t ask me what my plan was. He didn’t ask me how I was going to balance my new role as a mom and my role as an artist manager. He just decided it for me. And yeah, at that moment that really felt unfair. And I think that, you know, the fact that as a woman you have to combine and balance a lot of different roles in your life. That’s one of the most challenging parts and that we’re expected to, to balance these roles by the society. This is challenging and that’s why it is more, more difficult and more complicated for a woman in the music industry.

But, you know, I’m really happy to see all the initiatives that exist now everywhere in the world. Supporting equality and diversity in different industry and music industry is not an exception.

AdHugger: You first worked for foreign artists that were coming to Russia. How was that experience? What were the main lessons?

I think that I was very, very lucky that I had this opportunity to work with like top international artists when I just started my career. So, it definitely gave me like a lot of knowledge about the industry because, you know, Russia and United States, for example, at that point in terms of the industry development, were at different stages.

And so, the fact that I worked with international artists just taught me a lot of how the industry works, of what are the requirements, of how you should prepare everything in order to make sure that the show happens and that the show happens at like 100%. So that was that was definitely a great experience and that gave me the solid basis for my future career as an artist manager because, you know, when I work with the international artists, it kind of set up the standards for work. So, of everything that you need to do, no matter what is it like what kind of show you’re preparing, if it’s a private show or if it’s like a big arena show or if it’s some small concert, no matter what, you have to always work at 100% capacity of your own.

I mean, all the details should be there. Everything should be well prepared. And I think there was like the main the main lesson for me. Everything should work according to the same standards. And that actually influenced the way I later built my company, for example, and work with my artists.

AdHugger: What were the best pieces of advice you received at the beginning and really helped you along?

Actually, there is one advice that I will remember for my whole life and I give it to people in the industry who work with me or to my students. You know, when I worked with Eric Masotti, his tour manager, actually at some point told me that, you know, that we are not surgeons, so we are not doing the surgery when we are preparing the show and we really don’t need to rush. So, there is always time to stop for some breathing. Breathe out. Look at the problem, issue, situation, from different points of view, from different angles, and then take your decision.

So, I think it is a really good advice because sometimes we are really trying to do everything in a rush, we are trying to solve some issues and sometimes it feels like it’s the end of the world. But luckily in our industry, it’s not. And we really have this opportunity to take a minute to step aside, to reevaluate the situation and to take a decision with kind of cold hat.

And another advice that I also got when I was younger, at the beginning of my career, and that I always give to other people in the industry is about the borders that you need to build in your professional life. When you’re an artist manager. It’s really important to have this, to make sure that the artist understands what your role is, what you’re doing, like when you’re supposed to, to do something professionally and where is like your private life, so you don’t really mix it and you still have time.

For yourself, for your own mental health, for your family, etc., so that you really set up your borders well in this work, because there is the special thing about the music industry. It’s kind of like a 24/7 world, and if you don’t build your borders in this industry, you can really burn out easily. So, it’s important to take care of yourself and to build these borders.

AdHugger: What are your professional goals and how do you intend to reach them?

Wow, that’s an interesting question. Usually, I ask the artists that we start working with this question because I always ask them like “where do you see yourself in five years?” And on those answers, we start building the strategy, because, in my opinion, it’s really important to have this vision in common, with an artist. So, we have similar goals and we build the strategy to get there together. Because if there are controversial visions between an artist and manager, it just won’t work in the project, in my opinion. And if we get back to my professional goals, you know, I always wanted to, as you already know, work in the music industry and I always wanted to do something internationally.

So here I am. The main professional goal is to keep developing the company on the international level, to work more with artists from different countries, to be able to balance between established and up and coming artists, because it’s a really important part of our company goal to be able to help new emerging talent to get there and to become successful. And if we talk about the big professional goal that we have as a company and that I have personally, it’s important for us to make sure that our artists are financially sustainable. And the point where an artist can quit the day job, for example, it’s kind of always a turning point at the career of an emerging artist that we work with.

So yes, this financial sustainability is one of the goals, but, and my professional goal is obviously to make sure that it all happens, that established artists keep growing. Emerging artists can get better positions in their career and can get to a higher level in terms of audience, in terms of different markets, in terms of finances. Yeah. And the other pathway that I’m really passionate about is the music business education. And I really want to keep developing in this area as well. And that’s what I also do.

More about her

Ekaterina has a PhD Degree in Economics, her research covered different aspects of cultural life organization in big cities. She consults state agencies and corporations on how to use music as part of communication strategy; organizes concerts, festivals and city events. In 2015 Ekaterina founded Music Development Russia – a 360 company providing services in different areas of music business. MDR key activities are artist development, music business consulting, publishing, events and music export. Since 2018 Ekaterina runs Music Business program in Moscow Music School (part of Universal University) and lectures at International Music Business School (Barcelona).