The Art of Influence: Hemish Gholkar’s Digital Ascendance

Hemish Gholkar, a rising entrepreneur and digital disruptor, began his journey in the world of media innovation and business leadership at just 17. This venture marked a turning point in talent management, driven by Hemish’s desire to harness the untapped potential of online influencer and music marketing. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hemish’s fascination with TikTok’s surging popularity led him to found Mofinity Management — a platform that managed, represented, and cultivated the potential of top-tier creators.

Fuelled by the digital sphere’s accelerating potential , Hemish set his sights on a bolder vision, forming Happy Studios — a dynamic, curated media agency specializing in Gen-Z influencer marketing. Equipped with an innate understanding of TikTok and their deep-rooted relationships with creators, Happy Studios took the digital world by storm, catapulting records like “Mad At Disney” by Salem Ilese and “LOT OF ME” by Lil Tecca into viral success. Their groundbreaking brand awareness campaigns for global heavyweights like CASETiFY and Depop solidified their status as industry pioneers, pushing the boundaries of digital marketing through grassroots innovation.

Under Hemish’s leadership, Happy Studios built up Reign Talent — a boutique management arm that represented over 100 creators, with a collective reach exceeding 500 million users. Their expertise in talent brokering and mass-scale media buying made them indispensable to music marketing agencies and labels. This crescendo of success culminated in a strategic transition, as Reign Talent exited in 2023, merging into the London-based Apex Creators agency.

Hemish’s pursuit of cultural virality, combined with his innate ability to predict rising trends and upcoming talent, have forged him into a business vanguard. His strategic foresight and entrepreneurial acumen have shaped the industry landscape; his influence continuing during his ongoing post-exit hiatus, taking a break to reflect and observe the digital terrain for new ventures.

As a trailblazer in the industry, could you share your journey of establishing your first creator company at 17 and the pivotal role it played in shaping your expertise in marketing and management? 

As a teenager, I had always wondered how creators sustained such glamorous lifestyles by posting content online. During the pandemic, I ventured down the creator rabbit hole, emailing TikTok creators to learn about their work. Unexpectedly, I found that many TikTok creators did not know they could monetize their image and content. Soon after, I started managing them and developed Mofinity, a 360 creator management company. Mofinity taught me how to interact with creators, sustainably grow an influencer’s revenue flow, and build internal infrastructure that could accommodate a roster business. 

Why did you decide to shut down Mofinity and start Happy Studios? How was that transition? 

I saw imperfections in the campaigns that music marketing agencies were providing to record labels. They were often repetitive, lacked creative strategy, and didn’t convert to streaming uptake. After six months of managing creators and analyzing campaigns, I decided to pitch a marketing campaign for Salem Ilese’s ‘Mad At Disney’. The campaign’s instant success on TikTok provided me with the assurance that we could continue to use TikTok as an instrument to viralise records. 

How did you approach the challenge of running brand awareness campaigns for brands like Casetify and Depop?

Authentic content. We’ve all become desensitized to over-scripted videos that shove a promotional code down our throats. Influencer content needs to naturally align with the creators’ unique style, without changing the character that their fans have come to know and love. We’ve rarely given creators a concrete script – rather, a general guideline that allows for creative liberty when crafting brand-focused content.

What sets Happy Studios apart from other media agencies in terms of its approach to Gen-Z influencer marketing?

We’ve always tried something new with every campaign – whether it be a new creator, CapCut template, or a sound effect. It’s all good to strategize ‘out-of-the-box’ viral tactics, but you won’t learn what actually works without continually experimenting.

You’ve demonstrated remarkable success in revenue generation and artist promotion within the music industry. How did your experience with Happy Studios and Reign Talent contribute to your insights into music marketing and brand management?

I became immersed in the creator landscape. When I started Happy Studios, every day was about scrolling through hundreds of creators’ pages, trying to figure out if they would align well with our representation or upcoming projects. TikTok marketing isn’t something you’ll learn from textbooks or lectures; it necessitates uninterrupted, constant interaction with the platform. This hands-on experience I gained early in my career certainly fine-tuned my skill to instinctively evaluate the potential success of a campaign or artist.

In your experience, what are the key challenges and opportunities in managing and representing creators in the digital media and music industry, and how have you effectively addressed them?

Creators broadcast their lives for the world to see. The nature of their work, especially on platforms like TikTok, means they constantly face the challenge of viral videos bringing constant scrutiny and invasive attention. We’ve often advised creators to take ‘wellness days’ where they log out of their social media accounts and avoid creating content, instead spending the day with friends and family. Managers also need to ensure their creators structure their work commitments; missing opportunities not only causes financial loss but hinders their opportunity to grow with new brands. We’ve ensured that creators recognise the value of professional commitments, and the damage that missed work can cause them and their brand partners.

What inspired you to start REIGN TALENT and why did you choose to focus on creator representation?

I was at home and felt nostalgic for my early days at Mofinity, missing the thrill of building tight-knit relationships with creators. I knew I wanted to jump back into representation and put together a team to lead the project. Within six months, REIGN had partnered with over 100 creators, reaching a global audience of 500M. The rapid growth and stardom of influencer spaces have always reminded me of Hollywood – TikTok has become the digital ‘silver screen’, with new creators rising to the top every day.

How did Reign Talent become the go-to talent broker for music marketing agencies?

In the fast-paced world of music marketing, where agencies often manage hundreds of partnered content posts a month, having reliable talent is vital. REIGN accomplished success by excelling in three key areas: competitive booking rates, transparent communication, and close client relationships. We fostered a reputation for successful partnerships, free from the high overheads typical of corporate agencies, all whilst ensuring our talent’s wellbeing and growth.

Given your involvement in major brand activations and collaborations with leading artists, how have you approached talent management and brand partnerships to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes and sustained success?

Ensuring both brands and artists are content with and grow from paid partnerships is essential. We start by setting clear goals and expectations with both, guaranteeing we neither over-promise nor set ambiguous targets for engagement or revenue growth. We also tailor our partnerships, only taking on projects where we are certain both parties can benefit – the campaign has to feel like a natural pairing for sustainable success and continued collaboration.

In your role as a management expert, how do you envision the future of talent representation and influencer marketing, and what strategies do you believe will be essential for success in the evolving landscape of the industry?

I believe AI is going to be essential at all levels of the creator industry. We’ve already seen brands utilizing AI for algorithmic analysis to increase the returns from their marketing spending through more efficient audience targeting. For influencers, AI will be increasingly useful for content evolution, from content generation on TikTok to chatbots like Kylie Jenner’s ‘Billie’ project with Meta. Harnessing the power of AI will be essential to survive and grow in the world of talent representation.

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