Troy Carter was one of the few people who got it when streaming started to take off more than five years ago. That was when he was doing a brilliant job guiding the ascent of Lady Gaga. Now inside the digital system, working with Spotify. If you’re curious about where this part of the music industry might be going, read this Q&A from Variety.
This week was Troy Carter’s one-year anniversary as Spotify’s global head of creator services, and it dovetailed neatly with the company’s announcement of Secret Genius, a program to recognize and promote songwriters that involves awards, a songwriters’ camp called a Songshop led by hitmaking “Ambassadors” like Justin Tranter (who’s penned hits for DNCE, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez), and more. It’s a high-profile move for the company and one close the Carter’s heart, as the streaming royalty model is considered by many to be unfair to songwriters — including Carter, as he said during a Q&A at the Music Biz conference last month. During his years as a manager at his Atom Factory company, Carter played a huge role in the rise and success of Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor — the latter of whom started out as a songwriter in Nashville — John Legend and others.
Carter stopped managing artists when he took the Spotify job — although his companies continue to work in branding and investment — and he’s dedicated a large percentage of his considerable energy to his role at the streaming service, as the following interview shows. Earlier this year, he also took on the role of special music advisor to the Prince estate — a job that was steeped in controversy almost as soon as he’d arrived, as questions over some of the deals struck by his predecessors, L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman, have begun to play out in court. (Carter declined to discuss his work with the estate in this interview.)
On June 6, one year to the day after his move to Spotify was announced, Variety caught up with Carter as he was en route to LAX to catch yet another 11-hour flight to the company’s headquarters in Sweden — and he spoke at length not just about Secret Genius but also his first year at the company.
Many people feel that songwriters get the short end of the stick in the streaming model. Is Secret Genius a way to try to address that?
Songwriters have been greatly affected by the overall model shift in the business, but even in the past, for the most part it was only writers who were also artists who were celebrated. The whole idea around Secret Genius was about these people behind the scenes who play such a big role in some of the most important moments of our lives. When the general public hears a song, they automatically associate it with the artist who sings it, so we thought Secret Genius was an appropriate name. When I came in, this was one of the areas that I was excited to focus on, so I’m glad that we’re finally able to get this off the ground.