Troy Carter’s Atom Factory Entertainment is teaming with Capitol Music Group to form Atom Factory Music, a joint label that has signed two indie-rock bands, New York’s Basic Vacation and Los Angeles’ The Ceremonies. The deal will emphasize innovation and technology-based marketing strategies for both bands, as Atom Factory has an investment portfolio of over 40 startup and tech companies, including Soundcloud, Songza, Spotify and Turntable.fm.
The new venture was first discussed in 2012 shortly after Lucian Grainge assembled the new team to run Capitol Records, led by Steve Barnett, following Universal’s merger with EMI. It also represents a renewed perspective on the value of labels for Carter, who discussed a strategy for The Ceremonies back in March in a panel at South By Southwest (http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/branding/1551295/troy-carter-talks-generation-flux-with-fast-company-at-sxsw-panel) that was decidedly less reliant on a traditional structure.
“They created this record that’s lived in their bedroom for the past year – just three brothers making music,” Carter said at the time. “Instead of us taking it directly to a music label and signing things over, our idea was, ‘Let’s do it differently. Let’s split the royalty with the band. We own it together. It’s not gonna cost us any money to do Instagram, Twitter, all these other places that are free for now. We’re creating these new models as you go along because you gotta be able to take a risk.”
Carter tells Billboard that the “hybrid model” he’s formed with Capitol makes sense and can help take a band like Ceremonies to the next level. Billboard Biz caught up with the busy executive, in New York for promo events with client John Legend and VMA rehearsals with Lady Gaga, to talk about the new partnership and his revised take on breaking new bands.
Billboard: When we met at the Atom Factory offices for a story back in January, I remember a call regarding The Ceremonies. Was that Steve Barnett on the phone?
Troy Carter: It probably was Barnett or Michael Howe [Capitol’s senior VP of A&R.] It was pre-Ceremonies, and I was just really trying to figure out what our strategy was gonna be as a company in terms of developing new acts because for years we developed acts on the management side and finally we started thinking about how do we support artists throughout the process? It’s not just from making a record, but distributing the record and strategy. I sat with Lucian and just talked through it and we decided we would move forward with a partnership. We wanted to wait until after the EMI merger finalized and put this through on the Capitol side.
The last time you spoke of Ceremonies, at South By Southwest, you discussed a strategy that didn’t require a label. What changed your mind?
I’m looking at this as a hybrid model. The way our label is going to work is very independent. We want to get back to being able to develop acts in clubs and building small communities and being able to develop an act live and take our time doing it. It’s tough to do when you have a machine that’s dependent on almost immediate financial success. So where a lot of our records—including the Ceremonies single that’s out now—are starting out completely independent, you’ll see the video online early or a song on SoundCloud and places outside of iTunes and other [traditional outlets]. We want to be able to connect with the audience who wouldn’t necessarily go and purchase music from the beginning. We’ll do a lot of the development, but in terms of being able to scale it globally we want some infrastructure in place. So as far as me having to bring in a music label, it was nice to have Capitol who already have that infrastructure in place.
Do you have a timeframe in place for either of the two releases yet?
The Ceremonies, we’re gonna be putting out an EP on November 19. The Basic Vacation single is gonna come probably within the next 60 days, and then we’ll still strategizing on the date of their EP.
You’ve referred to breaking bands as being similar to building a company. What are some ways you might use some of the companies in the Atom Factory portfolio to help build these acts?
We’ve already started using some of them. Songza has been very helpful in the discovery process. Just on The Ceremonies we’ve already had a few hundred thousand or more streams from Songza, and we just gave them the Basic Vacation single as well. We’ve been embedding them within the radio stations to promote discovery. The guys are tech savvy, which comes with their age. The guys in Basic Vacation are 19-year-olds. And then Ceremonies is two 19-year-olds and their 21-year-old brother. They’re all digital natives.
What will the division of labor be between you and Capitol – will they help you with radio and promo?
Yes, we’ll use their radio team at Capitol, and they’ll marry that to our marketing team at Atom Factory. For us, this was a choice about where to invest our financial resources. Do we put our personal resources to investing in technology, or do we invest our personal resources into a music label? I think it made more sense to do it this way because now both of us can do what we do best.
Will we see the two bands on the road soon?
The Ceremonies leave in five weeks to go out on tour with The Fratellis, so we’re excited about that. And then we’re looking at touring options for Basic Vacation right now.