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How a Small Management Firm Is Connecting Young Executives (At a Sunset Malibu Happy Hour)

today10/23/2023

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At the top of 2020, Nick Mueller found himself in the throes of his first Grammy week. “I was lucky enough to be at a lot of the events because of what was happening in my business at that time – but there were a lot of people that weren’t,” he recalls, speaking of his peers, many of whom were also in their early twenties. “That week specifically is very power driven; You’re not invited to certain things unless you’re of certain stature and you’re doing things at a certain level. And I wanted to create something that didn’t feel like that.”

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Growing up in Dallas, Mueller (now 25) started unofficially managing local high school acts his junior year. After graduating in 2016, he worked for Austin-based production, promotion and management company Scoremore. Two years later, he moved to Los Angeles to ultimately pursue management full time. 

By 2019, Mueller was enjoying his first major win as his client Ant Saunders scored a viral hit with the melodic pop song “Yellow Hearts.” Less than a year later, Mueller founded Golden Kids Group alongside his business partner Lil Fogarty and in 2021 he not only launched the company’s label arm but decided to make good on his promise of creating an event that felt more aligned with his position in the industry – and Golden Hour was born. 

“Lil and I discussed, ‘How can we create an atmosphere for young people?’ And by young, there’s no age restriction, it was more the energy that people brought to the environment,” says Mueller. “How can we create an event where people feel like they’re equal to each other and build relationships and friendships, whether or not it translates to business…It’s more about connecting people with similar interests on the same journey in L.A. and watching what comes of it.”

The first Golden Hour – hosted at the picturesque Harbor Studios in Malibu – was held in fall 2021 for about 120 people. “The feedback was immense,” says Mueller. “People would come back to us and say, ‘I got a job from this.’” In its second year, Golden Hour doubled in size. And this year, Mueller estimates the event hosted over 300 attendees.

“The music industry can be so fiercely competitive but from the beginning, Nick and I have seen how powerful it is to choose to be collaborative instead,” says Fogarty, 26. “The business is a tricky world to navigate – especially as a young exec dealing with a lot of industry firsts – but it’s a lot less tricky when you have a community of people to lean on for guidance. Not only is it empowering to share knowledge, but by collaborating we get to put our artists in better situations too.”

Golden Kids is a small but mighty team of three, with Zoe Burbridge assisting with administrative work. The company’s size is something Mueller says he and Fogarty discuss often, considering how much the roster has grown. To date, the management side alone boasts 347aidan, Ant Saunders, Sky McCreery and TELYKAST. (SEB and Anees round out the recording roster.)

“We have such a system in place that allows us to operate at a high level without feeling overwhelmed, but still being able to bring the utmost value to everyone that we touch,” says Mueller, “which is kind of the MO of the company.”

Below, he explains what drove him to launch his own firm and why creating space for young executives to connect remains as much of a priority as helping an artist catch their big break. 

How do you perceive the role of a young manager in this business?

We have to always be of the mindset of, ‘How can we help people win?’ It doesn’t matter what they can bring to us or provide for us. If we can do that, opportunities are going to present themselves. And maybe it’s cliche, but life is short and this business is small, and at the end of the day, yes, we’re impacting people and we’re building careers and changing fans’ lives through the music, but it’s not that deep. One day when it’s all gone, if you didn’t have fun and you didn’t help people along the way, then it’s pointless in my eyes.

How does that approach and hosting an event like Golden Hour help you and your company’s visibility?

When we’re in meetings, people will bring it up and say, ‘Oh, my friend that lives in New York has never even been, but that’s how they know about Golden Kids.’ We’ve seen that where the company is recognized not because of the artist, but because of the event, which is spectacular and at the end of the day when you bring people together and you have the intentions that we have, naturally, it’s going to help the brand build. I think that goes for anything. And I think it’s important to us that we’re providing an atmosphere to grow and to win. When you do that, things work out. 

How would you describe where Golden Kids is at right now?

We’re in a very pivotal point of the company and a lot of the artists are at that cusp where they could either break or they don’t. And so for us, the focus has to be 10x what it was when we were just starting with them and that’s why we can’t take on everyone that we would love to. But we still find ways to advise or consult. Artists call me all the time and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this? Should I do this deal? What do you think about this manager? What do you think about this agent?’ And I’m always open to that. And there’s no strings attached.

For other young managers whose artists are on the cusp of breaking, what’s your advice for navigating that window of time?

I think the most important thing is the relationship that you have with the artists, because as artists grow and get bigger, there’s a lot of people and a lot of voices that come into the mix, whether it’s a label, a publisher, bigger managers that want to partner with you… you have to be extremely tight with the artists and with the crew around the artists in those moments, because the easiest place to derail a team is at that moment when they’re breaking. Because it’s exciting, there’s a lot of things happening, there’s a lot of people that want to talk, there’s a lot of people that want your attention. And that’s the nature of the business that we work in. But you have to trust the decisions that you and the artist want to make, and go with those. 

Looking back on the past year, what are you most proud of?

I’m extremely proud of how we operate and how we’re building the company, the artists and each other up. As a manager and as an executive it is so important to make sure [our artists are] happy and that they’re constantly excited and feeling like [their break is] just around the corner, because the second that they lose hope is a very dangerous thing. So for me, the biggest achievement in the last 12 months is just where all of our artists’ heads are at.

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