1. Hello, Saji! Tell us a bit about yourself and your story. How did your career as a booking agent start?
I’m from UAE. Right after I finished my studies, I moved to LA. I really love music, so naturally, life took me in that direction. It was nothing special, nothing planned, it just kind of happened. I was meeting a lot of artists while living in the States for 3 years, and I realized that pretty much no one, at that point, was coming to the Middle East to do shows.
My love for music was really what kickstarted my career. I was having conversations with different musicians about coming to Dubai and Oman and Saudi Arabia. Very rarely were American artists performing in this part of the world, they would only sometimes have concerts. But never at the club… So I had the idea to get them to perform at clubs, bars, and restaurants over here in the Middle East.
My team and I are now the people who are bringing big names to Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt… People like Jennifer Lopes, Nicole Scherzinger, Rita Ora. We are really proud and happy with our work!
2. Tell us a bit about the music scene in the Middle East. How is it unique or different from the American one?
Music has always been a huge part of our culture here in the Middle East. What I really appreciate about today’s generation is their openness when it comes to different styles… Tons of people here love K-pop, for example, and you know, that’s music which I didn’t think my people would necessarily fall in love with. It’s really far from our culture, but music has the power to connect people beyond language, religion, and so on. Moreover, we really love American music, and so artists coming from the States to perform here are always receiving huge respect and enthusiasm from the local audiences.
3. The current situation has had a big impact on the entertainment and events industry. What is it like being a booking manager and promoter in the midst of Covid-19?
Covid-19 destroyed everything. Thank God, we are still surviving. It has had a huge effect on our business… Our music business — it belongs to the people. If we don’t have people to attend our events, then we are out of work.
We had a lot of plans for 2020. We were organizing events with Michael Bolton, Tyga, Bruno Mars, and many more incredible performers. And it was shows that were going to be taking place all over the world too… Asia, the Middle East, Europe. We lost lots of money, but we’re hoping that next year we’ll have the chance to do all these shows.
4. You’ve been working with some huge names like Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa, and Rae Sremmurd! How has that experience been for you and what have you learned?
I feel blessed and I’m very proud to have the opportunity to work with such talented people. I’ve also worked with Tarkan, Black Eyed Peas, Mariah Carey, Diplo, Ty Dolla $ign, Dua Lipa, and more. Every single time has been a very positive and insightful experience, I’ve learned a lot from these people and their teams.
I’ll share with you something about working with Justin Bieber, for example. He is someone who likes to have dinner with the entire team. You can tell how much he loves and respects his entire team. He’s a massive name, but he’s so down to earth. He works closely with the people around him and does everything he can to support each and every individual. I feel like it’s so important to remain humble and positive, wherever you are and whatever you do.
5. How do you imagine the future of this industry? How is everything going to be different in a world post-Covid?
Well, as we’ve been seeing, virtual shows have become the new normal. I think that it’s still going to be mainly (if not only) virtual shows until April, but we’re hoping that things after that will change. We already have a lot of shows booked for summer 2021… Many tours with different artists around the globe. All the performances from 2020, we will need to do next year.
Things are looking good and I’m positive. Everyone at my company is very positive and hopeful about this year!
6. What role does technology play in your work? As an early Evedo adopter and a company advisor, how have you been taking advantage of the platform?
First of all, I’d like to say that I’m very happy to be a part of Evedo. I’d like to say a big “thank you” to Stoyan and the entire team! I feel proud to be a part of something like this… I’ve seen the company start from zero and then evolve into something bigger and bigger.
Evedo is making a big impact on our business and industry. For the customers, it is very convenient to get their tickets online. Moreover, it’s enabling the organization and promotion of virtual events from anywhere in the world. The whole process has become very quick and easy!
7. Do you miss real-life concerts and shows?
My last event was in February 2020 with Boyce Avenue in Sri Lanka. After that, I came back to Dubai, then back to Vienna. Until the end of November, we didn’t do any shows… Our last one was on November 30 in Dubai.
And yes, we do really miss real-life concerts. It’s very special to be a part of something we get to experience in person, but at the same time, we need to prioritize people’s health. This has truly changed our lives, and not only professionally… In the entertainment business, we entertain people. We are happy when we witness people dancing, laughing, singing, enjoying life, and music together. When that happens, we feel good about ourselves and the work that we do.
At our company, we work with many different genres of music too. Working with different artists, in different countries, and in different languages, we feel like we can touch the lives of so many people around the world. We miss all of that.
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