Atlantic is reactivating its storied ATCO Records under veteran label executive Pete Ganbarg.
Ganbarg will serve as ATCO’s president and will retain his role as president of A&R for Atlantic Records.
Discussions to relaunch the dormant label started about a year ago, says Ganbarg, who is best known for his work with acts like Twenty-One Pilots, as well as the Hamilton and The Greatest Showman soundtracks. He won a Grammy as co-producer on the Dear Evan Hansen original cast album and signed the show’s star, Ben Platt, to Atlantic. Among the other acts he signed or shepherded recordings through at the Atlantic Group include Christina Perri, Halestorm and Theory of a Deadman.
Atlantic Records chairman/CEO Craig Kallman and chairman/COO Julie Greenwald “have been so great about supporting our creative vision that when we were talking about the future, the idea came up that—in addition to everything that we’re going to continue to do on the Atlantic side, A&R wise— my role is going to expand to help revitalize this legendary imprint,” Ganbarg says.
In a joint statement, Greenwald and Kallman said, “Since joining the Atlantic team 12 years ago, Pete’s been a driving force in our mission to deliver best-in-class music unbounded by genre. He’s signed and developed amazing artists and leads the best A&R team in the business. We’re thrilled to be relaunching the storied ATCO label with Pete’s expert ears and taste. This gives him an opportunity to put his personal stamp on a selective group of signings, while at the same time giving us an exciting new home for future artists. We can’t wait to see what Pete has in store for the new ATCO.”
The original ATCO, an abbreviation of Atlantic Corporation, started as a division of Atlantic Records in 1955. Among its key artists were Bobby Darrin, Sonny & Cher, Buffalo Springfield, Pete Townshend, Donny Hathaway, Roxy Music, Otis Redding, Genesis, Pantera and even the Beatles for one single, “Ain’t She Sweet.” The label merged with EastWest Records in 1991 and the ATCO name was eventually dropped. Rhino Entertainment briefly relaunched the imprint in 2006 with releases from Scarlett Johansson, Keith Sweat, Queensryche and The New York Dolls before it went dormant again.
For Ganbarg, his relationship to the label is personal. “As we expand our footprint at the Atlantic Group, I couldn’t think of any other logo or label that made more sense for me to run than ATCO,” he says. “One of my earliest musical memories was my dad’s favorite song of all time was Bobby Darrin’s ‘Artificial Flowers,’ which was on ATCO. My dad grew up with legendary producer Tom Dowd, who ended up producing ‘Layla,’ for Derek and the Dominos, which was on ATCO. That was my brother’s favorite song. Then, when I was in high school, I was a DJ and one of the songs I played frequently was Yes’s ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart,’ also on ATCO.”
Ganbarg first ATCO signing is Philadelphia-based alternative act Zero 9:36, who came to Ganbarg’s attention through Amit Krispin. Krispin manages grandson, an act Ganbarg signed to Fueled by Ramen in 2018. New music will arrive shortly to coincide with Zero 9:36’s first tour.
Asked to define an ATCO act, Ganbarg calls on the label’s vaunted history. “It’s something that I want to be able to shut my eyes and envision somebody talking about in five, 10, 15, 20 years the way I’m talking about ‘Layla’ or ‘Artificial Flowers,’” he says. “What I love about ATCO is it really just stood for best in class, it wasn’t really genre specific. My goal for ATCO is to have these releases fit alongside the historical ATCO releases.”
Initially, ATCO will utilize Atlantic’s staff, but “as ATCO signs more acts and breaks more acts, the dedicated staff for ATCO is going to grow,” Ganbarg says. “But for now, it’s going to be inside Atlantic.” There are no plans to migrate any Atlantic acts to ATCO.
As far as his new duties, Ganbarg is raring to go. “I just want people to know this is in addition to [what I’m doing at Atlantic], not instead of,” he says. “ATCO is open for business. Let’s sign some stuff.”