Set within an unassuming yellow house on a sleepy street in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills, Little Empire Music is aptly named: The management company has just 11 employees who on a Monday morning buzz around the kitchen and living room. What was once a bedroom is now owner/CEO Stephanie LaFera’s office.
A drum’n’bass fanatic who grew up in Atlanta going to clubs and raves, LaFera is warm and direct -- qualities that have helped her pass on projects she’s not wild about and jump on the ones she loves. She got her start in the early 2000s at MCT Management in New York, where the roster included Moby and Groove Armada. There she signed her first artists, including Kaskade, whose career she had helped guide from tiny clubs to the Coachella main stage. In 2007, LaFera founded Little Empire, and four years later, she moved it to L.A. at the height of the EDM boom. “All of a sudden, everybody wanted to talk about Electric Daisy Carnival,” she says. “They wanted to talk about Vegas and the money and this and that. All of it was happening in L.A.”
When she took Kaskade to middle America on the 2011 touring festival Identity, LaFera says she learned an important lesson: how to drive hard-ticket sales (for venue gigs, versus “soft” sales at clubs) in smaller markets, which remain at the heart of her business. “It’s easy to go to top-tier cities and sell a big electronic music show, but if you’re in Arkansas, it’s a challenge,” she says. “You have to find those kids and know how they’re finding music.”
Little Empire’s roster now features 25 artists. Though Kaskade moved to Roc Nation in 2017, LaFera says such changes have taught her “to be open to what the next thing is. If something leaves, that means you have room for something else. Getting to a place where I’m comfortable with that has been completely freeing.”
Today, LaFera works side by side with husband Brad Driver, Little Empire’s president, who oversees day-to-day operations. She personally manages Dirtybird Records prodigy Justin Jay, 2019 Grammy Award nominee CID, techno queen Nicole Moudaber, dance-pop duo Galantis and venerable experimental artist Santigold. “It’s a good time right now,” she says. “In the last few years, people have breathed a sigh of relief that we can be open to each other, new artists, new sounds, festivals and promoters. There’s room enough for everybody.”
This article originally appeared in the March 30 issue of Billboard.