“The music is the reason I am in this business, music changes lives, one song can alter the course of a life and I believe that wholeheartedly.”
Each month we focus on one woman working in the music industry to highlight her journey, ask for advice and to showcase the difference women are making in the music business. For August we turn our attention to Basak Kizilisik, Vice President of Marketing for Morris Higham Management, a boutique management firm in Nashville, representing Kenny Chesney, Old Dominion, Michael Ray, Ryan Griffin, Walker County, and Brandon Lay. In a recent interview with New York Country Swag, Kizilisik explains how her untraditional, round about upbringing landed her in Nashville.
Born in Turkey and spending her childhood there until she was four years old, she recalls her grandmother telling her stories about how she knew from an early age that she was going to grow up to have an intimate relationship with music. “She found me glued to the TV and the local symphony was on, I was standing three feet away from the TV swaying to the sound of the symphony and that is how she would calm me down,” she tells us. Her father was a surgeon and they traveled during her childhood, living in Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Memphis, ultimately moving to Nashville where she finished high school. She attended college in Orlando but her love for Nashville had already seeped in. “I fell in love with Nashville, as most people nowadays do, I fell in love with the town, the culture the people and the music I fell in love with all of it,” Kizilisik explains.
After graduating college she worked for Shaun Silva, a prominent director, and video music producer who asked her on her very first day to drop off tapes to Kenny Chesney’s home. She remembers how genuine Chesney treated her, even though he didn’t have to. After her internship with Silvas ended, she worked for a publishing company, a startup label, and the digital marketing world. “I made it my goal to learn about every single facet of the business, knowing that eventually I would want to take those skill sets and apply them in management with my own artists and that is what I did, I couldn’t have planned my path, I don’t think I could have planned it, it’s extremely difficult to do in this business.”
Working for clients such as Lady Antebellum, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley for Capitol Records and then eventually UMG working closely on George Strait’s 60 for 60 Campaign, she dove head first into the digital marketing strategy including working towards the Entertainer of the Year win for Strait in 2014. After that accomplishment, she got a call from Morris Higham, a boutique management firm, offering her an incredible position to oversee the digital marketing department and growing their team’s reach. “I am so grateful to be in a position where I can truly mold the marketing of this company and of our roster into whatever it needs,” Kizilisik tells us.
When listing for us her day to day responsibilities, there is almost no part of the music industry that she isn’t involved in when it comes to her roster. From managing digital strategy and social media content to collaborating with the streaming sites to album planning and marketing to touring and album launches, she has the chance to oversee every aspect of an artist’s career and work very closely with the artists and their teams. One of her biggest full circle moments came when accepting the job with Morris Higham, she had the ability to work with Kenny Chesney so many years after first meeting him on her first day on the job right out of college. “It is honestly one of the biggest honors of my life,” she says of the country megastar. “I can hand on heart say Kenny Chesney is everything that you’d hope that he is, and then some, all of it is completely authentic and genuine. There is a reason that he is where he is in his career and there is a reason that he has been able to accomplish what he has accomplished, the man leads with his heart in everything that he does and it’s just evident in all of it.”
Her advice to young women wanting to pursue a career in the music industry is: “Surround yourself with the people that fire you up, that lift you up, that fuel you and that build you up in every sense of the term.” She makes it a point to meet with young people that reach out to her to help guide them in this industry. “This business can be the wild west in a lot of ways and my advice is to work as hard as you can and lift people up whenever you can.
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