Interview with Ryan Matteson:President of Ten Atoms

Q. This May, you started your own management firm, Ten Atoms. We heard that Ten Atoms is “a new type of artist management firm combining industry-leading digital initiatives, highly successful traditional strategies”. Please tell us your strategies. What are “digital initiatives strategies”?

I actually started the company in April. Digital initiatives have become more important as the music industry moves away from consuming physical product and into streaming. In addition to that, the way you market concerts and albums has become much more reliant on advertising on the internet and social networks. I've been specializing in digital marketing for the last decade so it's always been a big part of our expertise. 

Q. You run the music blog, Muzzle Of Bees, which has the same name as the Wilco’s song. What made you start the blog at that time? What meaning(s) and/or feeling(s) were put into the title? Have you been inspired by Wilco?

I did start that music blog. At the time I started it I was living in Wisconsin and there were not a lot of people writing about or promoting concerts in Madison and Milwaukee. I did it as a passion project and hobby but it grew into a real business. Wilco is a very important band to me. I have followed and enjoyed their career for almost 20 years. The song "Muzzle of Bees" was playing on my stereo when I was registering my domain name and I liked the song and the name so much it just happened in the moment. 

Q. We heard you were concert promotor. How was your experience as a promotor? Please tell us about your most significant experiences there.

I have worked as a promoter in the past. It's incredibly tough work. I was extremely invested in the shows I promoted. I wanted every show to sell out and I worked hard to build a reputation as an honest and hard-working promoter. Ultimately I had to choose between being a promoter and being a manager and I chose the latter.

Q. What made you decide to change to become an artist manager from being a music writer and a concert promotor?

I wanted to help run the totality of a band's business. I think without that there are shortcomings on the team. It wasn't enough to just help a band to sell tickets in just Milwaukee or Madison. I wanted to help them sell more albums, more t-shirts, etc. 

Q. It seems that you handled digital marketing strategy and helping produce Austin City Limits Festival and Lollapalooza. Please tell us more specifics about this? How was your experiences there?

My experience there was amazing. I learned so much from every single person that worked there. I feel very fortunate to have worked for C3 and on those festivals. It's still a bit surreal to me that I was involved. It definitely helped me hone my skills as a manager as I got to see how a lot of other managers and their artists worked around festivals. 

Q. We heard Ten Atoms is also producing video and audio content and developing licensing deals. Please give us an overview of this. How would you like to make use of your experience?

This is still very much a work in progress. I am helping produce a few films in the Austin area and helping with the music supervision and placement for a few commercials. It's still a work in progress that has not been announced yet so I have to keep a bit quiet on this at this time.


Q. What made you create your own firm?

I think everybody should be their own boss if they can be. I wanted to be in complete control of the artists I signed and the team that I worked with. A lot of artists take a lot of development. Success doesn't happen overnight. Often overnight success comes down as quickly as it goes up. I wanted to be in a position where an artist could spend 2-3 years learning how to be a band. Learning that it takes a lot of work. A lot of travel, interviews, radio sessions, merchandise inventory, health care, accounting, etc. 

Q. It seems that you mentioned “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” in other interview. What are the differences between “just getting a solo person who is managing bands” and “getting a team”?

No, we have a team of 5 in the office. There is another manager who runs his own company that we share office space with. In total, there are 16 people in the office and we get the best out of each other every day because we are 100% invested in the careers of the artist we represent. 

Q. Ten Atoms’ initial artist roster contains various fascinating artists including Bully, Japanese Breakfast, Whitney, all of whom are popular in Japan. When you decided to start your own firm, what did these artists mean to you? What goals do you have for them?

For me, being a manager I also have to love the music and I love the music of all of my artists. Artist management is a 24 hour a day job. Every dinner you have is interrupted. Every vacation you have is interrupted. Every weekend is interrupted. Every night of the week there is a show to go to. If you are going to invest so much of yourself into a job you have to love the artists you are representing. On top of how great the artists are musically they are all amazing people with a voracious work ethic. 

Q. All artists in your management firm are attractive. Their music is authentic and touches our hearts. Please tell us what attracts you to each artist in your management firm.

Two things - I have to love the music and the artist has to be driven. The music business is not easy. It's extremely hard and constantly changing. There are plenty of artists who I would love to work with but end up being unable to do so because they lack the work ethic or responsibility that comes with doing great work. You have to be on time, be thankful and polite, treat people with respect. If someone doesn't move me musically and have a great work ethic I am not able to work with them.

Q. How do you think the entire music industry will change in the future to come?

Artists and there teams need to keep a careful eye on the contracts they sign. Streaming is overtaking the music market place. They also need to be more bullish on the touring and promoters they work with. Today more than ever managers have to ensure their artists are getting financially compensated fairly.

Q. What is the most important thing to you when you are working?

Every day I get out of bed and put both feet on the ground and go to work on my artists behalf. I don't stop until I go to bed that evening. I am 100% in the service of all of my clients and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Q. When it comes to working in music industry, I think there is an aspect that goes beyond just business. How do you feel about this thoughts regarding this?

Relationships are everything. Try not to burn bridges. You never know where someone will end up next. I wish someone would have told me that sooner. I have learned that in order to be great in this business you need to be someone that other managers, agents, business managers, publicists and labels can count on. Do what you say you've going to do and with honor and respect for those that you are dealing with. 

Q. What is music to you?

Everything. I don't think there has been a day in my life in last 30 years that I have not listened to hours of music each day. 

Q. Please give our readers any advice you have on working in the music industry or starting new things.

Regardless of if you work in music or not find something that makes you race to work everyday. Do something you love and invest yourself fully in it. Be a good person. Help people who need it and ask for help when you need it.

--------------------Answer from Ryan Matteson

=Ten Atoms’ Artist = 


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