A Musical Fantasy Come True: An Interview with Gulce Turek

By , Columnist
Gulce Turek is a young person who had a dream and decided to jump into the deep end and try to make it come true. She was born in Istanbul in 1992 and from her earliest years was obsessed with music. It was in her blood and she knew that unless she pursued it, she would feel incomplete. First Turek took piano lessons as a child, then switched to drums at 13. Music was such an important part of her daily life almost everything else went away. When her iPod’s battery died or the headphones stopped working in the middle of the day, everything stood still. Turek went out to see as many shows as she could and spent most of her money on concert tickets, CDs, and books. After beginning college she started to work at festivals and venues and then, after graduation, decided to get a certification in music business. 

Gulce Turek moved to Los Angeles and secured a job at Fantasy Records in order to be part of an exciting marketing team. Since then she has had the chance to work with legends like Paul Simon and James Taylor, as well as more recent artists like Nathaniel Rateliff and Valerie June. It is like Turek was meant to be exactly where she is: in the middle of a musical life in the United States. The following discussion with Turek only enhances that sense of destiny.

1. When did you feel your first love of music?

Growing up, music was always a part of my daily life. Both my parents are music lovers, and so we had these big speakers that my dad bought from Germany with his first pay check and a console, and they would play music in our house all the time, and had a huge CD collection too. They took me to a ton of shows and it had become natural to me to be around that environment. I guess though the game changing event was, when I was around 8 or 9 years old my parents’ friends bought me a CD player for New Years and a bunch of CDs, and I remember the first thing every morning I would do was to put on my headphones. So I guess the answer is, I felt it my whole life, but after having my own CD player and my headphones, it became a part of my existence.

2. How did you discover what to listen to then?

Initially it was whatever my parents would play me: The Beatles, Queen, bunch of local rock bands, Nirvana, and Pink Floyd. One of those CDs that I received as a gift was Pearl Jam’s Ten and I was totally blown away by that type of music, so I started with grunge and went from there. I spent all my money buying CDs and these three bands/artists have dominated my high school years: The Smiths, Jeff Buckley, and Placebo.

3. What were your first thoughts for how to find a career in the music business?

I took piano lessons when I was very young, but my heart was always with “the beat” so when I turned 13, I told my mom I wanted to take drum lessons, and after a little back and forth she said yes. I thought my path was to be a drummer like Sheila E. and I had intensely worked on it until senior year in high school. Then one day I realized I was more fascinated with the whole “brains” side of music so I decided to study Ethnomusicology. Throughout college I worked in many festivals, shows and venues and my career in the music business started from that live scene. My graduation thesis was about music management and that sort of opened my mind about the importance of music marketing.

4. What are the differences you experienced in music scene in America?

It’s far more competitive here in the U.S. Back in Istanbul, whatever music has had crossed over seas is being accepted without much of a resistance, except the more American genres like country. The audience is always welcoming, especially in the live scene, because unfortunately Istanbul isn’t always a destination in major European tours. And as for the local bands, artists have a fairer chance because the market is tiny compared to U.S. However, in America the industry and the audience is a lot more selective because it’s the center of the entertainment world and options are endless.

5. How did you start at Concord Music?

I started as a marketing intern at Fantasy/Stax Records while I was studying Music Business in L.A. I cherished every moment I spent there and just soaked in everything. The more time I spent, the more I realized I had so much to learn and that kept me motivated. I received a job offer after six months and been here since. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by all these experienced, bright and humble people. Couldn’t ask for a better team.

6. In the marketing department, how do you approach formulating a plan for new releases?

In my opinion, initially the most important thing is to identify the demographics you’re working on carefully because it’s different with every project. Every audience consumes music differently, and even if the medium has a broader name, like let’s say streaming, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the fans will be using the same platform. Some artists do better on Apple than Spotify, so it’s important not to generalize things. It’s a fact that the physical sales are declining, however we work with artists that have a solid career and still heavily lean on CD and vinyl sales. I guess the short answer is, know every audience is different, be current with the industry and technology, target your audience the right way, don’t generalize. 
Bentley-accessory-business-cardboard-351073.jpg 7. What are your biggest challenges in doing your job?

I think personally my biggest challenge is I emotionally get attached to projects I’m working on. After all the dedication and hard work that comes from both the artist and the team, you know that the product is beautiful and meaningful, but sometimes it just doesn’t resonate. On a more realistic level, we’re competing against major labels and they dominate certain areas through their connections and financial power. It can be frustrating to know that even though we have great material, sometimes we get overlooked because we don’t have the same resources as majors.

8. What are your biggest rewards from your job?

I get to work with a lot of talented, creative and conscious artists. To be able to participate in telling the stories of people whom I respect is just powerful. I get to see how fans connect with the music that our artists have created, and even to have a tiny contribution on that sense is all I can ask for. Plus, I get to see a good deal of shows, and that’ll always be the best part of my job. 

James_Taylor_Photo_Credit_Timothy_White_General2.jpg 9. Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s a tough question, knowing that the music industry changes and evolves faster than other fields. I want to be able to work more closely with the artist and be more involved with the creative process, both during the production and after the release. It’s so fascinating to me that every day I learn something new about the business, either it’s a cool new technology, or a new fan experience that presents the music differently. I want to be doing what I do now but better, and more confident, and still be hungry.

Paul Simon Photo Credit: Myrna Suarez; James Taylor Photo Credit: Timothy White

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Bill Bentley got his first drum set in 1965 and still has it. He's been a deejay, record store clerk, publicist, writer, concert promoter, record producer and a&r director, sometimes all at once. He's worked at KUT-FM, Austin City Limits, L.A. Weekly, Slash Records, Warner Bros. Records and Vanguard…

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