A 5 a.m. wakeup call alerts some of the top music executives in Los Angeles every Friday morning, but not for meetings with clients or labels. Instead, these execs head to Runyon Canyon in their workout gear to join the Music Industry Hike Club, founded by veteran music lawyer and creators-rights advocate Dina LaPolt.
It began in April when LaPolt, whose clients include Fifth Harmony, Steven Tyler, deadmau5 and Britney Spears, suffered septic shock after a rare infection in her neck spread to her vital organs, temporarily paralyzing her, and she underwent emergency surgery. After months of intensive rehab, fellow industry executives began stopping by her home to see how she was doing. Sidelined from SoulCycle, LaPolt had one catch: "Come see me, but you have to walk me across the block."
The walks started with slow laps around her neighborhood, with a small group including Maverick's Dan Dymtrow, who manages Fifth Harmony and Noah Cyrus; In2une senior vp of promotion Lori Rischer; Apple Music's Julie Pilat, Beats 1 operations; and the Beats 1 content team's Prophet. As LaPolt became stronger, the crew grew and the short laps became long-winded hikes up the rocky canyon trail. The fifteen regulars now include Stephanie LaFera, manager of Galantis and Santigold; Talia Boone, a sports branding agent; and Eddie Francis, the co-host of Dr. Dre's Beats 1 show, the Pharmacy, all of whom had been valet parking until recently at one hiker's apartment building nearby.
"As we were walking, everyone had a paradigm shift in what their priorities were. What's really important is family, friends, and your health, and when you put those three things first, it's magical and anything happens. All of a sudden," LaPolt tells Billboard, "We started cross-pollinating."
Part networking and part therapy, the hikes spark ideas. Some materialize after follow-up calls; others fade as the hikers descend from the cliffs overlooking LA's often hazy skyline. Projects that began on the hikes include funding for LaPolt's non-profit "Urban Fitness 911," Fifth Harmony's collaboration with Apple Music, and a group investment in Ying Bank, a startup in which members bank time for volunteer work and earn credits. Miley Cyrus's manager Adriana Arce agreed to donate Miley sweatshirts for an annual retreat of the Youth Mentoring Connection that Rischer and Pilat help run.
"It's sharing ideas of what we're passionate about, of what we're involved in," Rischer says, noting that it's not all "shop talk."
Prophet says that "in a place like Los Angeles where most networking or mixing is a bit more pressured, people feel like they need to put on a mask, lead with credentials, or walk into a room with a certain level of confidence. There's something about nature, something about the walking that makes a great setting for impromptu, organic communication that turns into something. You come from a more honest place."
At a recent industry luncheon, a group of music executives crowded around LaPolt asking how they could join. They'd seen her post an official-looking "Hike Club" logo on Instagram in September, along with a warning: "If you are not IN, then you are not IN THE KNOW."