Besides being the creative founder and head of Belisa Booking Agency, Isabelle Beese is mainly a passionate music lover who above all puts value on quality sound. After finishing school, her career in music started with the Cocoon Music Event GmbH in 2011 where she continued to work with Cocoon Recordings in Frankfurt. She also worked for cosmopop in Mannheim where she gained a lot of experience and know-how in organizing big festivals such as Time Warp, Love Family Park or Sonus Festival. At that time she was also hosting the radio show „Karottes Kitchen“ before moving to Berlin in 2014.
In Berlin, she started working as a booker for the Frankfurt-based label RAWAX and hosted monthly events at Tresor.Berlin (OFFICIAL), where she also worked part-time as an artist host. After some time she decided to open up her own agency with an internationally booked roster of Alexis Cabrera, Barem, Cab Drivers, Ernesto Ferreyra, Federico Molinari, Monika Ross and Nekes. Since then she manages worldwide bookings and tours in Asia, South America, Australia or America and also organizes her own events and parties in clubs like Ibiza Underground, Watergate, Club der Visionäre and Tresor (Berlin), to just name a few.
As for all of us, 2020 has brought many changes and 2021 seems to be the ideal year for new challenges and projects. In this interview, we learn more about Isabelle’s musical path and her new project warmup.berlin, which will start on 26.02.2021.
Can you remember when you were first drawn to music? Was your family musically inclined?
I have a very music-oriented family. My grandfather owned a club in which my mother and aunt have worked, also my dad was a DJ. Therefore and from a very young age, I have learned a lot about music, parties, and the celebration of music itself. It always fascinated me and I used to love hearing stories related to music and going out which always conveyed a sense of experiencing unique moments and having a great time. I remember my mum telling me the wildest stories of her youth, going out to the legendary Dorian Gray Club in Frankfurt. I guess one could say I was simply born into it!
That definitely sounds like it! So you started your career path with an apprenticeship at Cocoon in Frankfurt am Main – why Cocoon? What did you exactly learn and experience there and what was so special about it?
So I graduated from high school in the Black Forest area but have always gone out in Frankfurt all these years simply because in the South of Germany I couldn’t and didn’t really like it. I have always had a deep connection to Frankfurt and its scene so at some point I was certain that I want to work for what I love the most – music!
Already at the age of 16, I was illicitly attending all the festivals such as Green & Blue, Love Family Park, Time Warp, and other parties. Being fascinated by how people manage to organize an event that gives the crowd such a deep and profound enjoyment, in the long run, made me want to do it also. I was also intrigued by artists releasing music and making it accessible to others. At that time I was already spending a lot of hours in record stores and most of my money on them. I remember wanting to be able to physically touch them as well as listen to them at home.
The more I went out the greater the passion for music got. I wanted to contribute to the scene, I mean what better feeling is there than making people happy with good music?
During that time, my regular club was U60311 at Roßmarkt in Frankfurt where a resident made me aware that Cocoon was advertising internship positions. At first, I thought, well, Cocoon is such a huge deal in the scene, I’m sure they won’t take me. But fuck it, I am going to send an application anyway – and actually, it was the only application I wrote. It was by far the most untypical application in the world, containing a picture of me dancing with sunglasses on the Green & Blue Festival, already looking pretty drained from all the partying the nights before, and a few words on why music, as well as parties, fascinate me and why I would like to work in the scene. My grades in high school were rather mediocre, to be honest, so the focus was really just on that.
I remember my dad reading through the application and saying: „Isabelle, this is the most unusual application I have ever seen, but it’s YOU and that is why you should send it off exactly like this!” So yeah – pretty cool Dad and thanks for that actually.
Only 2 days later Cocoon called me and invited me to an interview. It was a huge deal for me and I could not believe that I am actually going into the Holy Halls of ‘Papa’.
Once there, everyone was just great, the managing director introduced himself directly by his first name and „dutzt“ me, everything was relaxed and I felt right at home. So for about an hour, I was asked many many questions, mostly about the company structure, history of Sven Väth & Cocoon, but since I did my homework years before by simply watching Youtube and having spent sleepless nights and countless hours on the internet, reading about Omen, Dorian Grey, etc. the questions seemed pretty easy for me. Finally, they have asked me the ultimate question. „Isabelle, so as you know we work with sound carriers here, we earn our money with it. Have you ever downloaded music illegally?” -the nastiest trick question I would say. Without hesitating, I said: „Well yes, I have illegally downloaded music.” The boss looked at me and said that he was happy with the honest answer – what a cool dude. So yeah, and two days later I received the job! In the beginning, I was working in the marketing department where I gained a lot of experience and learned about websites, social media, and more. Shortly after I ended up in the recordings department which I absolutely loved. I was working on Discogs, listening to and picking out records with Ede who was the department’s head but also labeling and stamping new test pressings. I had vinyl in my hands all day long – heaven on earth.
Cocoon was like a family to me. Together we were a great team, they knew each other for years and the atmosphere was fantastic. At that time artists like Ricardo Villalobos, Raresh, Onur Özer, Dinky, Cassy, Andre Galluzzi, Dorian Paic, DJ Wild, Dominik Eulberg, and many more were signed with Cocoon. What I always appreciated and loved was the relationship between the colleagues was being based on an equal footing. At that time I was only sweet innocent 19 years old however they have always made me feel comfortable as well as accepted. I was receiving professional insights into the world of music and obviously, they also gave me the opportunity to travel around the world. Well and of course working with the boss himself was an absolute honour. At first, I could not really estimate how Sven would be, is he aloof? Then I got to know him and he instantly gave me the feeling of meeting on the same eye level. He took hours of his time to talk to me about music and showed it to me. I saw the sparkle in his eyes that I had also developed. After all these years he stood in front of me, still being able to see and feel his love for music which inspires me up to this day and always will!
So yes, I learned a lot of procedures, but it also shaped my understanding of a good team spirit and this is what I want with colleagues and artists in the future – namely with esteem, respect, and a lot of good humor. And nothing succeeds without a sincere passion for it! After all, that’s what it’s all about. I thought it was great that certain values that I generally developed during parties were also relevant in the professional surrounding of Cocoon.
This really sounds like the ideal work surrounding! Well, tell us what happened after and why you moved to Berlin?
After Cocoon, I completed a 2-year apprenticeship at cosmopop where I was taught a lot about organizing festivals, planning, production, and marketing. I also co-hosted Karottes Kitchen for 2 years where I was responsible for editing and planning – that was a delightful time indeed. We always used to have a lot of fun, me and Peter and it was a great feeling to explore and work on my own project where I could develop freely. Already back then I invited Nekes as a guest who is still with me today and one of my artists in the booking agency. I was able to invite my friends and acquaintances. At that time, for example, Arno & Frank Frost were planning the label Pressure Traxx, so we could talk about it on the radio and I could promote the stuff that I myself was very interested in. Since then Pressure Traxx has established itself as one of the most influential labels in my opinion. Shout outs go out to Frosti & Arno!
Well, and Berlin was always attractive to me and where I wanted to move to before I graduated from high school. The party scene was just as unique as the general vibe in Berlin. This urban dirty look and all the possibilities, just a free and authentic city. I am also very interested in art and have been to many museums and galleries in Berlin.
Also during my time working for Cocoon I was regularly attending Berghain and went out a lot in Berlin. The parties were always massively good and intense!
After some time though in Frankfurt & Mannheim, I have realized and experienced a lot of changes in those cities. There was a turnaround – club closures, one of the best record stores in the world has closed – Freebase & many labels and agencies have moved to Berlin. Somehow the air was out and the bubble I was working in has thereby grown pale. Therefore after my time at cosmopop, I have made the decision to move to Berlin because this was where I wanted to continue working in music and I saw the biggest future for it the city. I’ve always been someone who likes to explore new things and doesn’t always stay in one place so I also know that Berlin will not be my last stop.
Still, Frankfurt will always be the beat of my heart.
Talking about Frankfurt. Can you tell us then more about your first real club experience? Where was it and how did it feel?
At the age of 14, I was already on the road at parties, also in many clubs in the south of Germany. Whether Hip Hop or Techno / House. As I said, I have been to great hip hop and house festivals at 16. But the first real club experience I had was in U60311! I will never forget how I ran into the basement, the bass boomed so hard that I could feel it in my chest, the sound was blasting, the lights flashed in my face, it dripped from the ceiling, the air was stuffy and filled with cigarette smoke from 7 days – man that was a rave! I knew from that moment that I never wanted anything else! That was exactly my thing! I loved it.
In southern Germany partying was different. Although I had my crew and friends around me we were more to ourselves than in clubs. As a girl alone in the women’s bathroom you would always feel the look of another girl on you but not in a nice way. To me, it felt like they took themselves too seriously. But going out in Frankfurt felt good to me – it was authentic. From skater boys, shufflers, baggy pants and cappy, to hippy, goa or Adidas suit or girls in high heels and sneakers – everybody was dancing.
The diversity of these people formed a unity. And what I loved the most is that all of them danced the way they wanted and nobody moved the same way. At that moment all of us were equal, this is what I love about music and what I felt instantly when going out in Frankfurt. I remember chatting to complete strangers in the toilette for hours, exchanging thoughts about music and life in general. This was exactly what I needed during that time. The energy the music provided was something I have never felt before. Everyone feels the music in their own way, one feels the baseline, the other the hi-hat, no lyrics needed to enjoy the pure pleasure of beats and the magic of the rhythm unifying the people on the dancefloor. No words are needed in order to understand each other. My experience there felt like pure freedom! Since then I have not left the dancefloors.
What happened when you arrived in Berlin? Did you always want to have your own booking agency?
So when I moved to Berlin I was meant to work for Artist Alife which had its office-based and opened up in Kreuzberg. It didn’t work out though when I arrived in the city and despite having good references I wasn’t able to work in the industry due to the fact that agencies and clubs didn’t demand more staff. So I started to hand out flyers on Warschauer Straße and after connecting during a few raves I ended up working in the record shop black.round.twelve. It was great to work there as I have been missing it since my time at Cocoon. I felt like being home again between all those records and working with a great team. Additionally, I started working for the Frankfurt-based label Rawax / Pleasure Zone. This is how I slid into the bookings & events field, also hosting parties for the label at Tresor which quickly became another coherent part of my journey in Berlin. I instantly clicked with the staff and it felt just like it did back then at U60311 and Cocoon. I love the Tresor team because of its authentic and positive vibe! On some nights I used to work behind the bar or managed the guestlist and entry. On Mondays and on some weekends I was responsible for the artist’s care. After a while, I got to know more and more artists who asked me if I wanted to be in charge of their bookings. First I managed them ‚undercover‘ till I had for artists under my roof: NYMA, Nekes, Johnny D, and Miss Jools. The only thing missing was a name. So this is how everything started!
Sounds like you were destined to do exactly this. In the last years, you really did build up a nice roster and 2020 must have not been easy on you. How did it affect your work at the agency?
Yes. It wasn’t and isn’t easy at all especially because in the last few years we have grown a lot. We had international bookings and tours as well as ourselves parties were always a great success. For the first time, I would have joined my artists who would be flying and touring in South America, Australia, or Asia. But what can I say, everything is on hold and it’s been a tough year for everybody, not only in the scene – something that nobody has ever expected. For obvious reasons, I was very concerned about my artists but we had several meetings and long talks about how we are going to proceed. It was and still is very challenging emotionally as well as financially but on the positive note, it has proven what a great, strong team we are and that after all these years I have managed to build this little, independent family which makes me proud and happy every day – in good as well as in bad times! My artist managed to redirect their abilities, focus on new challenges and thrive from the current situation. On one hand, livelihoods are perishing but on the other, there is more time for reflection and contemplation. Artists have more time to produce, create and do all these things that they aren’t able to do because they aren’t at home and constantly touring. Creativity can thrive and we are definitely going to witness a new wave of good music.
Also for me, 2020 had some positive as well as negative outcomes. In the last few years, I was constantly on the run, managing bookings and planning my life around Belisa Booking. On the weekends I was working at Tresor so there wasn’t much more time left for anything else besides that. I realized that I listened to less music which usually was never the case. I was simply overwhelmed with work but luckily I have a very strong team that always had my back and helped me with discharging certain things. During the crisis and the lockdown, I was also able to rest, recover and heal again, mainly by listening to music every day again and going into nature. I also found the time to start my absolute heart project warmup.berlin which I have longed to do for years but never found the time to actually do it.
Yes! Finally, the new project is coming up – warmup.berlin. How long have you been working and planning on it already? Can you tell us a little bit about the project and the concept behind it?
So I’ve had a similar concept in mind for several years. During my time in Berlin, I realized that the story and the vibe behind the music as well as the scene are getting a bit lost, fewer people go out for dancing, somehow it seems that partying in Berlin mostly evolves only around drugs, sex and yeah – basically that’s it. In my life, I spent hours doing research about special moments and periods of time such as Woodstock, Disco, Studio 54, the gay movement and also Love Parade – where everything is about unity and freedom. In fact, electronic music can be seen as the last created music in history. It has a very political and revolutionary charm and a strong message. Music has always been an expression of feelings, emotions, love as well as opinions. In the history of music, a minority of people who had the same opinion got together and expressed their feelings through music, fighting for freedom. There are so many examples to give but we somehow stopped talking about them and also stopped experiencing these feelings and this community vibe. Music in general means everything to me – it is the universal language that everyone understands and has been understanding since the beginning of time. Music has such power!
With my project, I want to draw more attention to the origins of music and educate the next generations, the 18-year-olds of today who are starting to explore their first raves. I want to spread musical history and evoke the spirit of that time again, give them insight into their idols‘ lives, and also into other luminaries of the scene. I want to talk to people who are participating behind the scene, who have shaped it, and who want to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next one. Without all the stories and all these people, we would not be where we are today.
And most importantly the aim of warmup.berlin is to show and play the music that you have most likely never heard. You know, sometimes it seems that for many people the horizon is very limited, but there is so much beautiful, timeless music out there – no matter what genre. That’s why it’s really important to me to expose more than „just“ electronic music and give an inside look at music in general because a lot of young people simply don’t have access to it.
I personally love to hear what the „older“ generation has to say. We will take a trip back in time into their musical life by having each guest bring the music that has had the biggest impact on them, and we are going to listen to it together. I think it’s important to talk about the past in order to be able to experience and feel the present as well as the future. To some it might sound a little bit lifted and exaggerated and maybe not everybody will feel the same way about it, which is absolutely okay but this is just how I feel. Personally, I cannot wait for my heart project to finally start and enjoy some proper warmups with all of you! 🙂
Thank you Isabelle for this very insightful and personal interview. We also can’t wait for this project to go public soon! Stay tuned for more info here: www.warmup.berlin