Kaskade doesn’t just believe in Miami’s music scene. The West Coast dance music superstar has bought into it.
Super Music Group is a 305-based management company that started as a means to represent DJ, producer, and former Miami resident Amtrac. Since 2010, founders Derek Walin and Brandon Kessler have expanded the mission and the roster to include Craze, Robb Bank$, DZA, Sluggers, Ape Drums, Posso, among others.
They got some help along the way when Poplife’s Jake Jefferson and Aramis Lorie joined the team. And now they've gained a huge boost in resources and confidence with the announcement that Kaskade and his management company Little Empire Music, headed by Stephanie LaFera, have acquired minority stakes in Super Music Group.
“We’re always looking to form alliances with managers and artists on our wavelength,” LaFera tells New Times. “With Super, we saw a team that makes a real difference in their artists' careers and continuously fights for their rights. Collaborating with people like that is part of the reason we’re in this business to begin with, and it can only lead to good things.”
It’s an especially big moment for the Super Music guys, and a big pay off for five years of hard work.
“For Steph to come to us and say that she wants to be involved with our company long term, that she believes in us and our roster, that’s exciting,” Walin says. “It’s definitely validating for doing this company for five years on our own, isolated down here in Miami.”
Super Music Group started working with Little Empire through Amtrac. A few years ago, the multi-genre musician and songwriter opened for a few of Kaskade's Vegas dates, which led to the SMG artist producing some official remixes for the Grammy winner, which in turn led to more opportunities.
“I first got to know what Super Music was really about after inviting their client Amtrac to open on the entire Atmosphere Tour in 2013,” Kaskade said in a press release. “It became apparent that not only do we have like-minded taste in music, but that these guys deliver at every possible opportunity.”
For their part, Walin and Kessler admire the professional path that Kaskade forged for himself. And even before the deal, they aspired to follow in his footsteps.
“Amtrac and Kaskade, they both come from a really natural place, where they were both making music that they liked,” Kessler says. “They were never trying to make a radio hit or sell out. It just happened that mainstream music started to align with the music they were making.”
Little Empire Music’s Stephanie LaFera with Brandon Kessler, Jake Jefferson, Derek Walin, Kaskade, and Aramis Lorie.
Photo by SethBrowarnik/WorldRedEye.com
Super Music Group and LaFera also saw similarities in their approaches to business.
“We hit it off immediately,” Walin says. “There’s a lot of people who are in this business strictly for the money or glamour, wanting to be cool. But Steph got into this business for the same reason we did — we saw an artist that we believed in and loved, and grew to more artists we believe in.”
LaFera agrees. As she stated in the official announcement of the deal: “They’re a talented group of executives that operate like a close-knit family alongside their inspired roster of artists,. I’m excited to go deeper into business with Super and to grow with one another.”
Over the years, the two teams have continued to regularly work with one another in both official and unofficial capacities. So when LaFera approached the Super Music guys with the offer to buy in, their acceptance of the proposition was almost automatic.
“All of their artists have camaraderie and friendship, and we’re doing the same thing with our artists,” Walin says. “Our artists feel like they’re part of something bigger, a crew. Everyone is friends.”
Kaskade and Little Empire Music are only minority stake holders, which ensures the Super Music staff members can continue to run things as they always have. The acquisition is more a vote of confidence in SMG's strategies and a way to show the world the relationship between these camps is finally and unquestionably official.
“Steph and Kaskade have been together for ten years,” Walin says. “We saw the value, obviously, in their expertise.”
In return, Little Empire Music gets to expand its presence in the music business, tapping into SMG’s up-and-coming talent without having to directly sign any new artists.
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“It’s exciting to have an official footing in Miami,” LaFera says. “The city has played such a massive role in shaping electronic music in both this country and the world. In the years when few people paid attention to the genre, Miami was always a rare hub for the scene. Now that there’s increased interest, the city’s power to set tastes and influence trends is undeniable.”
In the wake of this deal, Walin and Kessler know that more opportunities mean more work ahead, and the Super Music guys aren't about to rest on their laurels. But they’re not daunted either; they're excited, not least because they believe a score for Super Music Group is also a score for Miami.
“Overall, it’s about the whole cultural, music, art scene,” Kessler says. “Here’s an established company that was based in New York and L.A. that’s now involved in a Miami-Dade company, and they’re not asking us to move to L.A. or New York. They’re attracted to the fact that we’re based here in Miami and have a presence. I think it goes into the greater puzzle of everything that’s going on in Miami. It's another thing to add to the checklist of what’s going on down here.”