Slobodan Zlatković: The qualities that I look for who I work with are the same qualities that I would like to surround myself with on a daily basis because that’s exactly what ends up happening.

Born in Belgrade, but now splitting his time between Italy and the UK, Slobodan “Boban” Zlatković has spent over 20 years working all around the world in the music industry. He’s worked as a tour manager and an artist manager in both the classical and mainstream music industry, and he currently represents Vittorio Grigòlo, the Italian tenor, Isabella Turso, Italian pianist and composer, Andrea Di Giovanni, electro pop singer songwriter based in London, and Octave Lissner, singer songwriter based out of Paris. He focuses a lot on personal development and well-being in his work, and on top of his work with artists, he regularly holds lectures around the same topics. Additionally he’s tackled various roles in business development and branding, and currently is the head of the classical music sector at LIVENow.

The charm of the opera world starts from those behind the stage. You are one of those who make things happen, so it’s a pleasure to interview you for the 3rd/2021 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine! Thank you for accepting my invitation! First of all, because unfortunately we can’t ignore the tough times we’ve experienced, how has the music industry changed during the last year, and how have you and your artists been dealing with these changes?

The last year showed every crack in the music industry as a whole- not only in the classical and opera industries, but in mainstream music as well, like pop and rock. It effectively showed their financial dependency on the live segment of the industry, because once that was taken away, we noticed that we were really not left with much to generate income, which is pretty absurd to me as the consumption of musical content has never been higher, in my opinion. I think it showed how much classical music is standing behind mainstream music industry when it comes to digital development in new technologies. Essentially it hasn’t yet come into the 21st century in any way shape or form. From that perspective I think that we’ve noticed how much has to be done. I also think that, even though all theaters suffered even before the pandemic, opera theatres in particular suffered with ticket sales the most, which was not the case with musicals on Broadway and the West End. It was not easy even for the Royal Opera House and Metropolitan Opera to sell tickets even before the pandemic. I can only imagine that this will probably became worse, so much so that theaters like the Met may end up having to cut their fees for artists and probably make cuts in other budgets which will affect what they can do in the future. So really it kind of showed this very big gap between the mainstream music industry and the classical music industry that must be bridged very soon. Classical music needs to come into the 21st century. It’s not doing it as quickly as pop music did in the past 20 years. Hopefully we’ve learned that lesson and in the future we don’t have to depend on individual attempts of states and theaters to compensate for the lack of income of some of the biggest artists and talents on the planet right now. Personally, I tried to reinvent myself as much as I could in the past year and a half. I started with reinforcing my own capacity to manage life in general. I revisited my priorities. I gave time and space for the things that I truly appreciate in life– people that I love, things that really matter to me and to the people that I care for, and to my own health, both mental and physical. Then I also tried to create a plan B, C and D for myself. We always focus too much on “Plan A” and we don’t consider the possibility that it’s not going to be enough. Additionally, I tried to diversify my time in different industries as much as I could. I branched out to different applications of the industry working with different platforms, different types of artists, and different situations in general. By doing so, my means of income are much more diversified. I don’t want for the past year and a half to repeat itself ever again.

Do you remember your first impression of opera? Did you imagine at that moment you would eventually be dealing with this form of art and its performers? How did you end up in the industry? Honestly, I never thought I would be working in the classical music industry.

It just kind of happened by chance and that it actually happened to be with Vittorio Grigòlo in particular. Before that, I was working with another company called Flypaper Management and at the time I was also starting to collaborate with ATC Management. Prior to that I was organizing and running events in different roles within the industry, but it was always pop or rock, it was never classical music. Then I met Vittorio. It was just one of those chance meetings through a mutual acquaintance. Long story short, we ended up working together on a temporary basis. I was just supposed to help him until he found a more permanent management solution, but it just stayed that way. It was one of those “handshake moments” and we have kept working together since. He was very confident that I would learn how to navigate the industry and I’ve tried to pay back that trust by navigating it for the past ten years. I never imagined working in it, really. I would have never imagined even being capable of it. But maybe because my approach was different, maybe because I was not indoctrinated or influenced by certain canons and ways of doing things, I managed to do it – in my opinion – fairly well. Of course you can always do better. But yeah, it was quite a bit of a ride! But hopefully it’s just beginning.

Read the entire interview here, in the 3th/2021 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.


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