In an April interview, Atom Factory founder/CEO Troy Carter insisted that artist management was still a major component of his business, telling Billboard, "I think the perception over the last couple of years was that I was focused on technology. That’s true; we’ve invested in probably 100 companies. But it’s also important to me that we break artists. Between Meghan Trainor, Charlie Puth and Kamasi Washington, we’re showing that we’re focused on music."
Now, the 43-year-old former manager of Lady Gaga and John Legend looks to be exiting the representation game entirely, accepting a new job at digital music giant Spotify as global head of creator services. There, he will be the streamer's main domestic advisor who will oversee all artist, songwriter and label relations and report to Stephan Blom, Spotify's New York-based chief strategy and content officer. Carter, who will remain in Los Angeles, will work in tandem with another new hire: former VH1 president and radio programmer Tom Calderone, who signed on in March as global head of Spotify Studios, video and content development.
"Spotify needs relationships at a high level that they currently don't have," says a high-ranking insider of what widely is seen as "a good move." Spotify, with a paid subscriber base of 30 million, largely has waited out windowing. But with Jimmy Iovine and Jay Z pushing exclusives at Apple Music and Tidal, respectively, the ability to land big releases and partnerships with high-profile artists has proved to be paramount in the streaming wars.
"The competition is heating up for exclusives, sessions and live performances." says an in-the-know executive, adding that Spotify is also eyeing "original TV-like shows" in hopes of competing with Netflix and Amazon.
Carter's tech savvy and client history are seen as major assets to Spotify's own initiatives. Atom Factory has backed or endorsed dozens of next-wave companies and also operates a tech and culture site and accelerator program called Smashd. Meghan Trainor, Miguel and Charlie Puth are among the artists to have come through Atom Factory's doors (Trainor now will be managed by Jeffrey Azoff and Tommy Bruce at Full Stop), though it's worth noting that Carter's roster has been depleted in recent years, with his biggest client Gaga leaving for reasons that had to do with Carter's role as "a manager more in name than action," according to a source.
On the other hand, adds the insider, "Troy is a very skilled guy when it comes to maintaining his relationships," which may come into play in other ways — namely, recruiting his music business peers to jump over to the tech sector. Like Apple's Beats brought in former iHeartRadio veteran Julie Pilat and Hot 97 assistant program director Ebro Darden, Carter, says a source close to the executive, is already talking to several well-liked people in the business.
"The next question isn't, what is Troy going to do [at Spotify], but who will Troy be bringing with him," adds the insider. (Carter and Spotify declined interview requests.) "Troy is going to make things really interesting. He's smart enough to know the future is undetermined and what will differentiate these companies is not set in stone. Hopefully they listen to him."