As co-president of Atom Factory, J. Erving oversees an active artist roster that includes John Legend, Meghan Trainor, Nico & Vinz and Miguel as well as investments in Tuition.io, Backplane and PopWater. With his most recent artist signing Charlie Puth at No. 1 on the Hot 100 with Wiz Khalifa duet “See You Again” and a business venture with Usher on deck, the 40-year-old son of basketball great Julius “Dr. J” Erving is flexing new muscles at Atom Factory alongside CEO (and fellow Philly native) Troy Carter and co-president Ty Stiklorius.
How did Charlie Puth get on your radar?
We signed him about six months ago. He was brought to us through his lawyers, and we heard the music and just fell in love with it as soon as we heard it. Some people don’t know that he’s a phenomenal producer and songwriter. He actually produced and wrote on the “See You Again” record, but he also produced and wrote on the Trey Songz record “Slow Motion” that’s [No. 38] on the Hot 100 right now. We’re finishing up an EP now that we’re looking to release in May before he goes back on tour with Meghan Trainor in July.
In addition to an active music and tech roster, you’re prepping your first line of school supplies, Street Smarts, with Yoobi in Target stores for back-to-school this summer. How did Usher get involved?
Troy knew the owner of the company, so I pitched him on the idea of how to make school supplies cool, because it felt like it was getting to a point where it was more cool to not be involved with school. We wanted to pair a celebrity with a street artist, so Usher will be our celebrity and Jonni Cheatwood will be our street artist. For every backpack sold we’ll give one to a child in need, so the goal is to give away 150,000 to 250,000 pieces this coming school year to kids who don’t have the money to buy school supplies.
You began personally managing Nelly last year. What’s next for him?
He’s a free agent on the label side now, and is working on a country-based “Heartland” EP, which should be really interesting. He may be one of the first hip-hop artists to jump into that space in an authentic way with Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw, so we think he has an opportunity to grow that base even more.
Atom Factory may be one of the few major management firms that doesn’t have an artist involved with Tidal. What’s your take?
I think the fact that they could pull that kind of star power together for anything has been an amazing feat. But I think we’ve made a conscious effort to really have deep relationships with the Spotify, Soundcloud and Pandoras of the world because we have to be able to play ball with them. So we have to be a little neutral, but I’m sure we’ll work with [Tidal] on some level.
A version of this article first appeared in the May 2 issue of Billboard.