How JVKE’s ‘Golden Hour’ Became a Hit Without ‘A Single Dollar Spent on Marketing Outside of Radio Promo’

At a time when songwriting and production credits often run for pages, JVKE’s “golden hour” is a distinct outlier. From its piano intro and rap-sung verses to the soaring chorus and strings-adorned outro, the genre-defying track is the handiwork of a genuinely DIY artist and his brother, Zac Lawson. Over the course of four months, the siblings chipped away at the song, staying true to their vision and unexpectedly crafting one of 2023’s biggest hits.

“I was blown away by the intricacy of it, both from a melodic and musical standpoint,” Lawson says of JVKE’s original demo. The brothers began tinkering with the pre-chorus and then fine-tuned the chorus. “After the rapped verse, I felt like the chorus should be really singable and anthemic,” he remembers. Instead of rushing, the brothers would return to the song every now and again. After all, it didn’t necessarily scream “single.”

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“It wasn’t as hooky or upbeat as a lot of the other stuff that we were working on, but we knew we had a beautiful piece of art,” Lawson says. “And we wanted to market it as such.” That involved taking a different approach than previous singles “Upside Down” and “This Is What Falling In Love Feels Like,” which both had sizable viral moments, but couldn’t quite crossover from social media to DSPs and radio.

“JVKE had developed a fan base, but we were still up against the whole, ‘Oh, he’s a TikTok singer’ thing, which diminished his artistry,” co-manager Ethan Curtis explains. “We had to figure out how to make it go viral, but also elevate him as an artist.” They settled on creating content that would highlight JVKE’s musicianship and tug at heartstrings such as the mega-viral clip of the artist playing a song for his childhood piano teacher.

“The really beautiful thing about the video is that it captures his artistry,” co-manager Aton Ben-Horin says. “I think that played a big role — not just in breaking the song, but in breaking him as an artist.” From there, “golden hour” caught fire on social media. The emotional lyrics resonated with creators, while learning the piano arrangement soon became a trend of its own. Fanned by a steady stream of content, the song started climbing the charts.

“Eventually through our own content efforts, we were able to get ‘golden hour’ to the Billboard Hot 100 top 10,” Curtis says. “We’re really proud to say that throughout that whole rollout, we didn’t spend a single dollar on marketing outside of radio promo.” Ben-Horin shares that sentiment. “We really pushed the gas on the radio side and hired an independent radio promoter, but a rollout doesn’t really get much more viral than that.”

While team JVKE served up a viral moment, the artist’s label was quick to jump into action to extend and promote it. “You’re just constantly trying to tell JVKE’s story,” AWAL President Pete Giberga, who signed JVKE, says. “So, ‘golden hour’ is a chapter in the story, and while it’s a significant chapter, you’re trying to make the most of that moment to build his profile, so people really understand who he is.”

Under Giberga’s direction, AWAL’s marketing department quickly got to work. “We got the song on Today’s Top Hits on Spotify, we secured the MTV Push program for him, he did special performances at Jingle Ball, we got press looks across the world and across the industry,” Justin Macchio, AWAL’s svp of marketing, says. “We secured TV performances along with the press team — he was on ‘The Tonight Show’ and ‘Good Morning America.’ Anything to really expand his audience across the US.”

The goal was to make “golden hour” inescapable. “A moment that really stood out for me was when I was traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday and someone in a grocery store was humming the melody of ‘golden hour,'” Macchio says. “At that point, it had really just reached everyone from every generation and scope of audience.” Not bad for a song hatched on JVKE’s laptop and brought to life by a wholesome reunion with his piano teacher.


PRODUCERS: JVKE and Zac Lawson

HITMAKERS: Ethan Curtis, manager (Partner/Head of Artist Projects, Plush Management; Founder/CEO, PushPlay)

Zac Lawson, Songwriter and Creative Director

Aton Ben-Horin, manager (CEO, Plush Management and EVP A&R, Warner Music Group)

Pete Giberga, President, AWAL

Justin Macchio, SVP Marketing, AWAL


PUBLISHERS: Kobalt Music Publishing

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