In May 2020, Alex Halloran graduated Berklee Online’s music business master’s degree program, ready and eager for whatever opportunities came his way; however, at this point in time he was searching in the worst job market of the past decade due to Covid. While looking for his new 9-5, he decided to turn his 5-11 passion project—managing his two friends, hip-hop artists Yung Xander and Davis James—into a real company: Help the Bear Records.

The name “Help the Bear” comes from a freestyle rap by Mystikal that took place on Hip-Hop Nation in 2012, and resurfaced in 2020 as a TikTok trend. “The way he yells ‘help the bear’ always cracked me up ever since I saw it, and I just love the energy and passion he said it with,” says Halloran.

“I created Help the Bear Records as an email address to make myself look more professional when reaching out to people on behalf of my friends, my artists, things like that,” says Halloran. “I didn’t initially have the intention of making it anything beyond that.”

While Halloran might not have had the intention of making Help the Bear anything beyond a side-hustle, Another Great Day (AGD) Entertainment did. Less than a year later, the Nashville-based company bought Help the Bear Records, making Halloran their program manager, responsible for operating their artist development in New York. He still has creative control over his business, and can focus on managing Yung Xander and Davis James.

“What that did is just, provide me an opportunity to go full-time with this and really put my full attention on my artists,” says Halloran. “It’s something that I’ve dreamed about since I started doing this at 17.”

Halloran grew up three houses down from Yung Xander (whose real name is Alex Collins) in Brookefield, Connecticut. From watching Collins compete in their middle school Battle of the Bands, to going over to his house and seeing 100 tabs open on his computer while he was learning production, Halloran says that his friend inspired him to want to learn more about the music business and help him grow his brand.

“I saw the work that he put in and it inspired me to wanna work with him and make this real,” says Halloran. “So, in my free time I got a stack of books and started reading about the music business, figuring out marketing strategies, things like that. I saw him level up so much, and I needed to as well on the business end. His work ethic really inspired me to do so.”

Earning his master’s degree from Berklee was a big way that Halloran leveled up, and it caught the attention of hip-hop artist Davis James, who had collaborated with Yung Xander before.   

“Davis knew I was at Berklee getting a degree in music business, so he started reaching out to me, asking questions,” says Halloran. “‘Should I do this?’ ‘Should I do that?’ So I was kind of advising him.”

That’s when Halloran started managing James as well as Yung Xander, and then suggested that the two artists collaborate on some projects. This resulted in the 2022 Help the Bear EP.

Yung Xander and Davis James’ collaboration on the song “Habit” from the 2022 Help the Bear EP.

Halloran says that one of the most helpful courses that he took in his master’s program was Music Business Revenue Streams, because it taught him that the fan experience is most important from a business perspective. 

“I always tell people in my meetings with artists, one of the first things I learned in that class was artists are gonna make the most money off of merch sales and ticket sales,” he says. “So the big thing I focus on working with my artists is we need to build super fans, people that are gonna come and pay money, because that’s the quickest way you’re gonna build revenue.”

While revenue is important for a growing business, the Help the Bear team knows it’s not possible without their fans, which is why Halloran and his artists make their online community a priority; responding to every DM that comes through on social media, sending fans exclusive clips of unreleased music, and encouraging these fans to connect with one another. You’ll notice that their latest releases feature images of real fan DMs, to show fans that they are listening.

Yung Xander’s latest single “Pieces.”

“You cannot be too cool for your fans,” says Halloran. “These are the people who are supporting us, so I will do anything I can to make sure they feel appreciated by our team. It really is simple, in my mind. Be a good person, and show love to those who are showing love back.”

Yung Xander’s new song “Heartbreak Junkie” featuring 27CLUB is coming out March 25. You can pre-save the track now.