We had the good fortune of connecting with Isaac Ziman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Isaac, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I was on the more traditional career path for about my first 5 years out of college – working in healthcare, making my way up the corporate ladder etc. I was doing “well” by societal standards, but started realizing I had this pretty empty feeling that was beginning to make its way into my day-to-day. I saw exactly how I needed to present myself in order to succeed in those environments, and as my mindset continued to evolve & my self-awareness grew, I realized I was stifling some fundamental parts of my character for the majority of my days. In parallel, I started to observe superiors of mine in the workplace who were 10, 20 years older – and realized the jobs and lifestyles they were leading just didn’t seem to align with what I felt was right for me. I trace all of my creative pursuits to music, it’s my compass. I’ve always been super passionate about music – whether it was going to shows, discovering new artists, sharing playlists with friends, DJing, etc. As my awareness continued to evolve, I began to realize that the more I surrounded myself with a community of people who shared that similar energy – I was able to channel and experience a version of myself that I loved, and hadn’t truly given much time to explore up until that point. Conversations became more engaging, my excitement for life shifted, and new opportunities began to organically develop and spur out of the most innocuous experiences. Anything I’ve accomplished since I’ve made the shift towards a creative career has truly been because I’ve presented a genuine, and much more complete version of myself than ever before. In my opinion, a creative career allows for you to be that much more present in your daily life. Once you make that mindset shift towards embracing creativity, everything looks different in a completely novel way. Suddenly, anyone you meet could potentially inspire you for a new idea, or be a future collaborator. Of course, it’s less “stable” and takes a certain tolerance for risk – but for how I’m wired, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Over the past couple of years I’ve developed an approach towards my work and the projects I take on in a way that’s very specific to my interests, skillsets, and genuine curiosity. I’ve truly learned to trust my intuition and have been continuously refining how that manifests in my work. I believe the best way to learn anything is to do it yourself, dive-in, and experience it first-hand. I’ve embodied this approach in the different freelance opportunities I’ve taken on – whether it was managing a DIY-music & arts venue, being a Brand Partnerships Project Manager with Sofar Sounds, managing the social media for a radio promo and music licensing agency, to starting the community & events-series BKyard Boogie. The obvious through-line here is that each of these opportunities touches on music in some capacity – however each experience has its own novel learnings that I’ve gained from them. In addition, each of these roles has given me a rich network of incredible people and communities. I’m definitely most proud of starting BKyard Boogie – which is essentially a manifestation of my approach above. It’s a community and event series that I started (alongside two friends and my sister) in my Brooklyn backyard. Each event featured different local Brooklyn DJ’s and musicians – people I sought out after seeing them perform and feeling like they’d fit the energy that aligned with the experience I was trying to create. From the onset, I was also very intentional about who I was telling about the events. Not in an exclusive/elitist way – I just know that the motives for how people choose what events they go to wildly varies – especially in a city like New York. If your main focus is drinking, or rolling with a big crew of people – that’s totally cool! I just know it’s a whole different energy that goes along with those intentions. I personally connect with like-minded people who are open-minded, curious, deeply care about music, and similarly seek out vulnerability. So from the jump – those types became the nucleus of the community. It’s a beautiful thing when you “find your people” and naturally those people will tell others who would enjoy the experience. Over the past couple of years (pre-Covid obviously) we had 12 events, a bunch of incredibly talented artists and DJs, and built an authentic brand that I’m super proud of. The concept is currently on ice until we can safely gather again – but I definitely plan on bringing it back. In addition, I’m now really excited about launching a Creative Marketing Agency with my sister and good friend. Many of the insights I’ve gathered from my experiences above have led to the idea of creating an entity and platform that allows for creative freedom, and the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded people and brands, in a more formal way. The main lesson I’ve learned is to really trust your intuition, continue doubling-down, and seek out like-minded people who have a similar level of ambition, curiosity, authenticity, and care in their work. If you build with the right people, show up, are consistent and genuine in how you navigate – opportunities and new ideas continue to flow outwards from that approach.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is coming from a pre-Covid NYC, so here it goes: Going-out wise, New York of course has everything, so it helps to have an angle in terms of how you want to navigate the city. You can experience music in so many ways here, so first I’ll start with my favorite spots we’d hit if we want to hear some dope DJs: -The Lot Radio – in Willamsburg, is a dope little shipping container & yard where renowned DJs from all over the world will spin during the day (before their sets at clubs/venues later that night). You can grab a coffee or beer, sit outside and kick it. -Public Records – is a really dope venue Brooklyn. They’re known for their amazing sound system, well curated menu, and they usually have a lineup of amazing DJs and shows. It’s a beautiful space. -La Milagrosa in Williamsburg – awesome little speakeasy, known for great DJs, mezcal. It’s tiny, but the sound in there is awesome. Cool lil vibe. -Mister Rogers – the venue I used to manage! Really fun hidden space in Crown Heights. It felt like you were dancing and hanging in someone’s living room in the 70s. -Jupiter Disco – fun lil spot with dope DJs, awesome drinks, small and intimate dance floor -Mood Ring – you never know what you’ll get here, all sorts of people/vibes/energies in this place. ***Man I miss running around this city!*** -Prospect Park is a beautiful place to hang out, people watch, picnic, etc. -We’d definitely hit Miriam – a restaurant close to Prospect Park. Some of the best Israeli food in the city, always playing great music. Great lunch spot. -Probably we’d hop on some Citi bikes and bike around BK, maybe head over the Brooklyn Bridge for amazing views, iconic NY stuff you know. -My favorite late night spot was Wei’s in Williamsburg. Awesome little Chinese restaurant, you could get fresh soup dumplings at 3 AM and hear Fela on the speakers. -The Black Flamingo – across the street from Wei’s. Dope DJs, great food. There’s so much more – but these stick out to me! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to shout out Sofar Sounds. They’re an organization that I started working with back in 2015 in Chicago. I didn’t have any experience in a “professional” sense that involved anything related to music – however for me they really served as a gateway for me to find “my people” and served as a springboard for me into my creative career. Sofar Sounds puts on intimate live shows in unique spaces, with up-and-coming (sometimes very established) musicians around the world. Back then, they provided a really cool opportunity for anyone who wanted to be involved – as long as you were passionate and like-minded in the support of experiencing live music, with an authentic focus on the artists. Within a few weeks of meeting some of the organizers on the team in Chicago – I was helping in the production of shows, meeting talented artists, and getting my legs under me as I started to build my identity outside of my 9 to 5. I quickly began to realize that I needed to orient myself around the types of people I was meeting on a consistent basis. Sofar was really a dope way to get your “feet wet” in the production of live shows, interacting with artists, and to see how community could be built via music. I owe a lot to how I think about bringing people together, working with artists, building community, and some of my favorite people in the world to my experience with Sofar Sounds over the years.