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Faculty Spotlight: Joe Bogdan

September 4, 2012

By Sean McEntee ('13)

Joe Bogdan said he failed as an entertainer. And it’s OK.

Although Bogdan considered himself a creative type into his early 20s, he wound up finding his place as a lawyer in the entertainment industry and has more than 20 years of experience in the field.

Today, as an assistant professor in the Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management (AEMM) department at Columbia College Chicago, Bogdan shares his professional success story with students to remind them that no matter how daunting the road ahead may look, it’s still possible to reach their destination—even if the destination isn’t clear yet.

As a teenager growing up in Cicero, Bogdan wanted to become an entertainer, specifically a musician. After accepting that he couldn’t sing and was a mediocre guitar player at best, Bogdan says he knew he didn’t have “the gift.” But he still loved the entertainment industry, and he decided to take that passion and apply it to the business side. He graduated with a degree in English and government law from the University of Illinois in 1985 and received a JD from the University of Southern California in 1988.

He specialized in intellectual property throughout the ‘90s, helping artists protect and profit from intangible assets—copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets—all over the country, including Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Texas and Fairfield County, Connecticut. As a former aspiring entertainer, Bogdan took advantage of being familiar with both sides of the entertainment world—the artist and the representation—and represented big-name musicians including Guns N’ Roses, Alice in Chains, and Metallica.

“It’s very difficult for artists to form relationships with and trust business people,” he said. “So having the passion and the exposure really helped me to bridge that gap.”

In 2000, Bogdan caught the technology bug and became interested in the way entertainment content was offered through new media. This led him to work with online-streaming companies, a start-up video game company, and World Wrestling Entertainment.

After 20 years working in corporate America, Bogdan said he felt disconnected from the artists and performers.

“In a nut shell…when I went to LA to be a music lawyer, I thought it was going to be all Heineken and backstage passes, and at the end of the day it was just a bunch of fluorescent lights,” he said.

Bogdan started teaching full-time at Columbia in fall 2011, reuniting him with the creative atmosphere he craved.

“One of the great things about teaching here is being in the environment with all these students who have the gift…but don’t know it yet, like I didn’t know it,” he said. “It’s surprising to me that some students come up to me and say, ‘I came here to be a dance major, [but] about sophomore year I realized that wasn’t for me so I switched to AEMM,” and I’m like, ‘Hey, me too!’ That’s something that I can identify with.”

For both the students who know where they’re going and those who don’t, Bogdan uses his experiences, both of success and failure, to inform students that persistence and hard work can pay off.

“One thing I always try to drive home with is, ‘It’s possible,’” he said. “You can get there, and I can drive that lesson home by telling my story.”