After college, he worked for Rolling Stone and Spin, but left for Atlantic Records, and then Elektra. In 1996, according to a suit he filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, a friend of his asked him to shop an unknown pop trio of very young brothers. He passed them along to his girlfriend, a senior vice president at Mercury, which is where Hanson sold millions and millions of copies of their debut album.
The suit was settled, and the young daughter of one of his then-nemeses, Stirling McIlwaine, is now best friends with his 7-year-old, the oldest of three. “It was impossibly hard to get her to move from L.A.,” said his wife, Abra Potkin, the senior vice president of programming and development for CBS Television Distribution. “They’re best friends and they Skype to pick each other’s clothes.”
Even Michelle Branch, who was his most important client, opened for Hanson after the suit. He had discovered her during a tour of timeshare units in Sedona, Ariz. His guide called up her close friend’s teenage daughter, who played the guitar, and told her that a “man from the music business” was there. Ms. Branch, who was at home with her little sister, drove over in a friend’s golf cart.
Mr. Rabhan spent a good portion of the last decade as a partner at the Firm, the management behemoth. “I learned how to do things on a grand, worldwide level,” he said. Afterward he co-founded his own shop, called Three Ring Projects, where he worked with people like Mr. Yamin, whose 2007 debut was enormous.
“We had this stunning house, this architectural home; you’d walk out and the birds were chirping. You open the doors and you’re up in these stunning hills,” Ms. Potkin said. “You smell the most insane jasmine.” Their 7-year-old even got into the prestigious Oakwood School. “It’s like Harriet Tubman. If you get one child in, all the others get through,” she said.
She was in Sydney Harbor one day when the Michelle Branch smash “Everywhere” started blasting off of a boat. “I thought, ‘God, he has made such an impact,’” she said. “Yet I also knew he was not feeling fulfilled.” On another trip to Mexico’s Maya Tulum, they met a professor named Dacher Keltner, the co-director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Mr. Rabhan thought that teaching might be a good idea. “I sent Dacher 50,000 songs, two hard drives of every great record in the history of music,” he said. “How else do I know how to thank somebody who inspired me?”
In an email, Mr. Keltner fondly remembered their “beach-strolling talks,” and said he considers Mr. Rabhan “a sparkling force.”
Mr. King, the program’s artistic director, was in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards, and the two had brunch to talk about something like a guest lecture. “I kind of gingerly said to him while we were eating, ‘Have you thought of anything more? You could apply to be a faculty member. Or chair.’”
New York City has caused newfound allergies and bad skin, Mr. Rabhan said, but, besides that, he’s never been happier. His kids are enjoying P.S. 3, where, although lots of the parents are from N.Y.U., his 4-year-old son’s mohawk has gotten funny looks. “I’m like hey,” he said, “it’s music.”