Atom Factory's Troy Carter: 'Music sells everything but music'
Troy Carter is one of the biggest names in the music biz. He's perhaps most famous for helping to break Lady Gaga, but he's also behind the success of Eve, Meghan Trainor and John Legend, just to name a few. He is the founder and CEO of Atom Factory, a full-service talent management agency that has become famous for utilizing technology and social media. West Philadelphia born and raised Carter's childhood was tough. His parents divorced when he was two years old, and he spent his early years living with his mom in a kerosene-heated, two-bedroom apartment that often had no running water. Carter's mom, Gilda Carter, worked at Children's Hospital cleaning surgical instruments and when he was seven years old, his father shot and killed his new wife's brother and spent 12 years in prison. Carter found solace in music, dropping out of high school at 17 to pursue a career in rap music with his group 2 Too Many. Here's a music video from the group (Carter is in the red sweatshirt and backwards cap): I grew up carrying crates of records for Will Smith and those guys. I thought I was going to be a rapper as a kid and used to hop the train down to Jazzy Jeff's studio for like six months straight waiting outside of the studio for the big break, and one day we got in the studio and played our demo for Will and Jeff and quickly learned that we weren't that good. But Will and his partner James Lassiter saw some potential in our hustle and kind of took me under their wing. Carter went to Los Angeles with Smith and Lassiter when "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" went into production. He ended up back on the East Coast and while working as a concert promoter there, he met Sean "P. Diddy/Puff Daddy" Combs. He was one of the first young entrepreneurs that I met and he was kind of commanding the room and I said, "I want to come work for you." And he said, "Your first job is to get me that girl from behind the bar.' I got him the girl behind the bar and I started working for Puff. While working at Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment, Carter rubbed elbows with Notorious B.I.G., learned how to be a young entrepreneur and met a 19-year-old singer named Eve Jeffers. He launched his own talent management company to market Eve, building her up through a clothing line and a TV deal. Eve and Carter parted ways after several years, and that's when Carter discovered the artist whose name is now synonymous with his. Her real name is Stefani Germanotta, but she would be introduced to the world as Lady Gaga. Carter bristles, however, at the assertion that he "made" Gaga. You can't make an artist like Lady Gaga. You can help support, you can help develop the vision — I think you can add to the vision — but you just can't make an artist like that. That's like saying Lebron James' high school coach made Lebron James. Lebron James made Lebron James from the time he was able to put in at the gym, and I feel the same way about her. Music manager Troy Carter —founder, chairman and CEO of Atom Factory — speaks during the Digital Life Design conference on January 23, 2012 in Munich, Germany. ( Nadine Rupp/Getty Images) Carter's real genius came from how he marketed Lady Gaga. He used social media to build a following and was an early adopter of Spotify for his artists. He says that the music industry has been slow in realizing "music sells everything but music," and there's plenty of money to be made out there. Music as a whole industry is growing exponentially, but in terms of the actual music file when you look at the actual value there to me The Beatles catalog should be worth more than Spotify. So I think the industry has done a very poor job in terms of value capture. Carter launched a start-up called The Backplane in 2011 that pairs artists with brands for non-traditional endorsements, and around the time he and Lady Gaga parted ways, he got into angel investing. One of his first buy-ins was Uber. When I first got pitched on Uber I thought it was the dumbest idea ever. I get on the phone with (Uber founder) Travis (Kalanick) and I'm like, you're going to buy all of these black cars? Where's the model here? And he's like, 'no, you idiot, this is a logistics platform.' Once he explained it then I got it. Carter talks about his experiences in the entertainment world, and startup culture: via TechCrunch Carter now has investments in 90 companies including Spotify, Dropbox and Warby Parker. He has also recently launched his own venture capital firm AF Square, but he still doesn't describe himself as a venture capitalist. That's because he doesn't like labels. Carter says one of the biggest dangers in business is "the box." People get stuck in a box. For all the negative things people say about Millennials, the one thing I love.... My grandfather worked for Campbell's Soup Company for 35 years, my mom worked at Children's Hospital for 30 years, and a lot of employers have this retention problem with Millennials because they say they jump from job to job or whatever, but I do think there's something in these multiple experiences and not being locked into "this is who you are" and "this is what you are."
Charles Koch is the CEO of Koch Industries, a company that was founded 75 years ago, making its name in oil and gas. Koch has grown to be the second-largest privately held company in America with 100,000 employees in more than 60 countries. But it all started small with Charles' father, Fred Koch. Fred still looms large over his son's office, with a bronzed bust and a framed painting above his desk. A painting of Charles Koch's father, Fred, hangs over his desk in his office. (Tommy Andres/Marketplace) Charles and his brother David took the company over when their dad died in 1967. It was worth just north of $20 million then. Today, Forbes values it at $115 billion. In his new book "Good Profit," Charles talks about the strategies he used to guide the company's growth and the business landscape today. But he also turns to what has made him and his brother household names in the past 15 years or so: politics, and specifically, the role of government in business and society. Kai Ryssdal spoke to Koch in his Wichita, Kansas, office, offering a rare inside look at the man who has been described as a "reclusive billionaire." Charles Koch (left) and David Koch at home in 1955. Charles would begin working at Rock Island Oil & Refining Company (what is now Koch Industries) in 1961 after graduating from M.I.T. with masters' degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering. (Courtesy Koch Industries) Charles and David begin to lead When Charles and David took over the company, they changed the name of the business from Rock Island Oil & Refining to Koch Industries in honor of their late dad. Over the next several decades, they began to diversify, getting into everything from broadband to pizza dough. Koch said they made a lot of mistakes, but ultimately found what worked for them and what didn't. Today the company largely trades in fossil fuels, minerals, metals, agriculture and forest products. Koch Industries still refines 600,000 barrels of oil per day. Charles finds a Mrs. Koch A decade after taking the reigns as CEO, Charles married his wife, Liz, in 1972. The couple has been together 43 years, but it didn't start easy. When the couple was pouring the foundation of their first home in 1973, the house they still live in today, Koch Industries future was unclear. It was the height of the Arab oil embargo. Charles Koch stands next to the home he and his wife, Liz, built in 1974, a year after getting married. They still live there. (Courtesy Koch Industries) "All the markets turned upside down. We had price controls. I mean, it was, I thought we were going to go broke. And I remember sitting there with my legs hanging over into the hole in the ground, saying, "Honey, we got the money to fill this thing back up, but I don't think we've got the money to finish it." Then, he quoted Lenin: The Kochs raise a family Charles and Liz raised two kids in Wichita. Elizabeth Koch is a writer and publisher, and Chase Koch works for Koch Industries. But when it comes to succession, Charles said nepotism isn't the plan. Charles Koch (center) with his wife Liz (left), his mother Mary (right), his daughter Elizabeth (front left) and his son Chase (front right) in 1983. Elizabeth is a writer and publisher who just launched an independent book publishing company called Catapult, and Chase works at Koch Industries. (Courtesy Koch Industries) "I want in this company is to have a meritocracy, and division of labor by comparative advantage. That is, as I raised the kids, that is, everybody focus on where they have an aptitude and what they have a passion for. It will give them fulfillment. And so, if my son ends up being the best person to run the company, that's great. If he's not, he shouldn't be...." Brothers in political arms David Koch, left, and Charles in 2008. (Courtesy Koch Industries) Charles and David, known widely as "The Koch Brothers," got into politics in the early 2000s. Even though much of their financial support has gone to the Republican Party, it was the presidency of George W. Bush that lit a fire under them to get involved. I've been working in this arena for over 50 years, and for the first 40 we didn't get into politics. Then in 2003, because of what the Bush administration was doing, we said, "Gosh, we've got to get involved in politics." Increasing destructive regulations which led to the Great Recession, getting us in wars that were counter productive, and so on. In his campaign, he said a lot of things we could agree with, but then the actual practice was so different, and that's what we find with politician after politician. Charles said his political network will spend an estimated $750 million on the upcoming presidential campaign, backing candidates he believe will push for deregulation. His network of foundations, advocacy groups, corporations and think tanks has been called the "Kochtopus" by critics. There were reportedly more than 53,000 attack ads mentioning the Kochs in the 2014 election cycle, and Charles said he has personally received more than 150 death threats last year and that he's on al-Qaida's hit list. Charles Koch admitted he may be like Darth Vader to the left, but he said he doesn't like politics. What I believe is that both parties are taking us down the road to serfdom, creating this two-tiered system and heading us toward a financial crisis, but the Democrats are doing it at 100 miles an hour, and the Republicans are only doing it 70 miles an hour.
Musk is CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, with an interest on the side in getting people to Mars. Last week, we headed to the Tesla factory in Fremont, California for a chat with Musk about battery technology and the future of global transportation.
Domino's Patrick Doyle on making a 'perfect pepperoni'
Back in 2010, Domino's admitted it had a pie problem. CEO Patrick Doyle apologized to customers, telling them the chain would strive to make better pizzas. Since then, Domino's has been seeking to reinvent themselves. Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal gets a slice of all the pizza-making action by visiting Doyle at the company's headquarters.
The first step in starting a successful business is having a good idea, but sometimes even a bad one can work. Brian Chesky started Airbnb on the risky premise that people would agree to open their homes to strangers, and it worked. He didn't just build a $10 billion company, he changed culture as we know it, helping to usher in the sharing economy.
Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti hops in line with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal at the restaurant's original location in Manhattan's Madison Square Park to talk about how the company evolved from a hot dog cart into a publicly traded international company with more than 70 locations.
Jen Hyman on Rent the Runway's "dream fulfillment"
Jen Hyman started Rent the Runway right out of business school, and the young entrepreneur says she never dreamed she would be the boss of 250 employees and serve four million customers, let alone run the largest dry-cleaning facility in America.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square and co-founder of Twitter, sits down with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal to discuss Square, his life since Twitter and what the future holds for a visionary that many have called "the next Steve Jobs."
Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover and President of Production Mike Farah sit down with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal in the production company's Hollywood offices to talk about the changing landscape of media and how its name is also the key to its survival.