Ryan Matteson Launches Ten Atoms; Management Roster Includes Wye Oak, The Mountain Goats

Image Courtesy of Ten Atoms
– Ryan Matteson

Ryan Matteson, who has spent the last seven years with C3 Management, has formed his own management firm.

The company, Ten Atoms, has a roster featuring Wye Oak, The Mountain Goats, Whitney, Japanese Breakfast, Black Pumas, Bully and Strand of Oaks.

Prior to his time with C3, where he learned under Charles Attal, he worked as public relations director for Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater Group and ran the blog Muzzle of Bees.

Matteson took some time to talk to Pollstar about why he is setting up his own shop and Ten Atoms’ plans for the near and distant future.

Pollstar: Why did you break off from C3?

I learned so much from Charlie Walker. [But] the entrepreneurial spirit within me was burning pretty [bright] and I went to him a few times in the course of a couple years and said: “Hey, I love it here, you guys are family, but my instincts, my wants and desires are to have my own shop.”

I look at what those guys built, at C3, coming together and I think, “If I could have a dream scenario, it would be to build something that great that I could call my own.” I have lofty ambitions, but I don’t know about lofty as what those guys have, but they were great role models and great mentors and they really paved the way and taught me so much in the industry.

How did the conversation with the bands about the change go?

I figured if I never took the chance at this, I’d always regret it. My relationships with my bands are great, so when I sat down and I talked to them about why I wanted to [start my own shop], everybody was supportive.

What is the infrastructure like for Ten Atoms now?

I’ve got an office on East 5th street in Austin, which isn’t too far from where my office was with C3. I’ve got a couple of day-to-day people and digital marketing people that work with me.

At this point, it’s a core group of four people, I’m hoping by the end of the year to slip into a fifth. Slow and steady wins the race as far as I’m concerned right now. Giving the same attention to these clients that I’ve had with the same team, and then slowly adding people into the mix as I’ve been able to find the right people has been the first order of business since I opened the doors April 1.

Did anyone come over from C3?

Julian [Wilkey] did, yes. The rest are new people.

What are some of your goals for Ten Atoms?

Starting the digital background that I had at C3 – and have had my entire career – that is something that I’ve wanted to drill into and focus on a little bit more.

It was a need that I quickly facilitated by bringing in people that are much smarter than I am in terms of the digital landscape, and they’ve been able to say “look, we need to be able to be better, faster and stronger in the digital landscape and rely less and less on the traditional ways of marketing tours.” …

And then beyond that, we are adding a layer on top of what I would consider traditional management services. Exploring licensing and synchronization and bringing someone in that can handle and oversee that for us, supplementing the label services that a lot of artists rely on.

I’m seeing, more and more of those responsibilities are going into the management office, so it’s my goal and responsibility to the artist to make sure that, if there is a wobble-y leg on the table, we need to help prop that up and maybe hold it up completely if we have any concerns.

Can you talk more about sharing responsibilities with labels?

Labels have a lot of responsibility to a lot of artists. As best as you try to oversee those bottlenecks at labels, sometimes they are going happen. A team needs to work as a team and a manager needs to sit above that team and kind of quarterback everything that’s happening.

There’s going to be times, and I’m not just pointing the finger at labels saying that they are coming up short, but how do we put ourselves as managers, in a position where, if a label needs help with opportunities on publicity, or relationships with record stores, or licensing and synch, that the team I’m trying to build here can supplement and be immediate value added?

You should know, when you’re working with Ten Atoms, you’re not just getting a solo person who is managing bands, you’re getting a team around those artists that are putting their boots on the floor every day and saying, how can we help move the flow forward, how can we help increase awareness and ability to sell more records. The same thing applies to the booking agency.

How do you think management has evolved to take more of that responsibility?

I think more and more these days responsibility falls on the manager to introduce opportunities and to assist. I just want to be able to be out ahead of it and to be able to say “look, if it makes more sense for our team, to jump in and work on marketing, we’re happy to do that. If it makes more sense for us to help with digital ads for vinyl sales online, or anything like that, please use us as a resource because our ultimate goal, for every client we represent, is to do what’s best for them and to do what’s best for the overall album campaign, the tour.” Our job is to come in and be a big boost of energy and a big boost of, hopefully, opportunities, and to help however we can.

I think there’s a lot of times where some of the business of putting out records or promoting shows, it can get to a point where it feels like you’re just going through and checking boxes. I think a manager’s job is to go in and say, there are certain boxes that absolutely have to be checked. But if we look at it from a marketing perspective, how do we get creative with this, how do we get creative with a band that’s put out three or four records, why does somebody need the fifth? Our job here is to go in and say, lets go through and check all the boxes, but let’s make sure we’re not just checking boxes to check boxes, but are actually giving you more creative opportunities that are going to galvanize a fanbase and are going to get an artist excited about things their doing around their art. There’s so much time, effort and coordination artists put into this work, we as a team, deserve to put as much of our effort and manpower into that, to make sure they are maximizing the result of their efforts.

Whitney’s Malcolm Brown
Photo by Garrett Duncan / courtesy of Pitchfork Music Festival
– Whitney’s Malcolm Brown

Are you looking to grow the Ten Atoms roster?

Long-term, we’re absolutely in the business of finding like-minded managers who tap into a philosophy of super-serving their clients. I don’t expect this to just be me and my core team, I expect to bring in other managers who have rosters that are aligned with what I am creating over here. Being an alternative to what else is out there. The team that I’m building and the expertise that we’re developing in-house is gonna be something that I look forward to opening the doors to other managers for in the near future.

What do you look for in potential partners or clients?

All the artists that I work with, they work so incredibly hard. That is definitely something that has to be there at step one with me.

Myself and my team work really hard and the artists we represent are all incredibly motivated and that’s an important quality for me to have in an artist, that they understand being on time, being punctual, being good people, putting in the work, going the extra mile.

Those are the things we look for not only for every person that works in my office, but in the people we represent. Because it takes a lot of work to make albums come to life. To make tours come to life. To make sure people want to come to those things. It’s important for us that the artists that we represent, and the artists that we’ll represent in the future, share that same ideology of hard work and effort.

We’re always looking for greatness, but in addition, greatness has to come with great work ethic and ability to understand that it takes a lot of work to get where you want to get.