Nils Gums, CEO and President, The Complex Group
In just five short years since graduating with a B.M. in music business/management from Berklee, Nils Gums has emerged as a progressive industry executive to watch, having launched the Complex Group, a full-service artist development and management company that also houses a record label and a TV and film production arm. After helping Berklee grads Dawaun Parker (Aftermath/Interscope Records) and Tiwa Savage (Sony/ATV) launch their careers, Gums signed his flagship client Karmin, a pop duo consisting of Berklee alumni Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan, who, under Gums's guidance, is the premier artist signed to L.A. Reid's revamped Epic Records. The group, which released its debut album in May, made its network television debut performing on Saturday Night Live.
Gums launched his career in the industry by working in the digital departments and on the business development side of such companies as Rodney Jerkins's Darkchild Entertainment, WEA's Milan Records, and Fontana/Universal Music Group Distribution, where he was privy to discussions between the latter and Google over how to monetize user-generated content on YouTube. Gums identified a loophole in which such content could not be claimed by major labels or publishing companies, and Gums saw an opportunity to create a significant artist development tool that has subsequently led to major-label recording and publishing deals for the artists on his management roster. He presented his strategy—a combination of search engine optimization and good old-fashioned A&R—to Karmin, encouraging them to record their own versions of top pop hits and to upload them to YouTube as a way to showcase their unique sound and considerable musicianship. The gambit paid off. In less than eight months, Karmin's YouTube channels racked up more than 190 million views and more than 800,000 subscribers—a significant grassroots fanbase that Gums was able to leverage as he negotiated Karmin's deal with Epic Records, which was intrigued by his savvy vision for a new, social-network-driven artist development model.
By joining Berklee's board of trustees, Gums hopes to take an active role in career development, parlaying his connections to the major players in media, music production, and technology, as well as a proven ability to market artists in the digital space to enable members of the current student body to create revenue streams and promote themselves during their college experience, giving them an important head start in a very competitive industry.