Inside 48 Hours Entertainment, the Company Brokering Deals for Breakout Artists

Alex Wilhelm
Illustration by Ollanski

Alex Wilhelm

This story is part of Billboard's annual 40 Under 40 list, recognizing the music industry’s trailblazing young executives.

Alex Wilhelm
Co-owner, 48 Hours Entertainment

The music business moves fast, but Alex Wilhelm moves faster. At 22, Wilhelm founded the music blog Crazed Hits out of his bedroom in a small town in Germany, showcasing then-unknown artists like Drake, Nicki Minaj and The Weeknd well before they signed record deals. The blog became a go-to source for labels to sniff out new talent, helping Wilhelm relocate to Los Angeles and get senior A&R roles at Warner Records, Capitol Records, Atlantic Records and Artist Partner Group (APG), signing acts such as Bebe Rexha and Calum Scott.

During that time, Wilhelm noticed that new artists — especially those with a viral hit — often lacked the resources to understand recording and publishing deals, landing them in agreements that undervalued them or simply weren’t the right fit. “In some cases, artists wait too long” to sign a deal, he says, missing “a small window of opportunity” to secure the best terms.

Now, Wilhelm, 35, wants to help those artists connect the dots. He left his roles at Atlantic and APG and partnered with former Rolling Stones manager Steve Moir (who now co-manages John Mayer and Mickey Guyton, as well as executives), to launch 48 Hours, an “artist support” company — as Wilhelm describes it — that discovers emerging talent, matches them with labels, publishers and other partners, and then negotiates competitive deals for them. 48 Hours quietly opened for business in April, and while Wilhelm won’t reveal clients, he says it has already brokered deals with every major label group and has seen its artists crack top 40 radio.

“The business model plays to our strengths: identifying and helping advise future superstars, sometimes earlier than it makes sense for the major labels and publishing companies to get involved,” he says. But when interest is high and bidding wars are on the horizon, Wilhelm promises that 48 Hours can help artists find label homes “sometimes within hours.”

Wilhelm insists that the company doesn’t intend to replace the traditional roles of managers, lawyers or A&R reps. “We see ourselves as augmenting all those positions and adding value where we can,” he says. For now, 48 Hours takes a small cut of the profits from the deals it negotiates, ensuring that the company’s interests are always directly aligned with the artists’. “The demand is forcing us to expand more quickly than anticipated,” says Wilhelm, adding that he hopes to spend the next few months continuing to build a “global proof of concept.”

As for the company name, it’s a reference to the thrilling pace of the business. Says Wilhelm: “In the music industry, your life can change in 48 hours.”

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2021, issue of Billboard.