According to Our Records (ATO), based out of New York, was founded in the fall of 1999 by Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw, his associate Chris Tetzeli, former Dave Matttews Band tour manager Michael Mcdonald, and Dave Matthews himself. The label came to be when Matthew’s love for David Gray’s music led him and his associates into starting a label as Matthews said in Billboard in early 2000:
“David Grey is such a perfect example of someone who I think is phenomenal and so beautiful-someone who is going to make a contribution to people’s lives for years down the road- but someone who, although it almost seems impossible to me that he would be, has been more or less overlooked in the U.S. I think he could do fantastically well in the States, relatively, and I think people would be grateful if they found him and could listen to him. And so he’s an example of why I thought it was a good thing to start a record label, because there’s alot of interesting artist who won’t get a chance to get heard because of the often blindness of an industry that ignores something that’s maybe not in fashion or doesn’t seem viable, all those sorts of nauseating.”
In the early 2000’s, major labels where consolidating like like madmen said DMB manager Coran Capshaw , and he predicted that a lot of new artist and established artist where going to slip through the major labels that are closed minded and worried about the bottom line. Capshaw saw the opportunity for “small indie labels that are a little more open minded and not looking at the bottom line. The smaller indies could work with artist . “That’s the niche we can fill” said Capshaw in early 2000 and since ATO has moved steadily in that direction.
ATO released its first album “White Ladder” on March 21, 2000, the album garnered a lot of attention due to strong word of mouth advertising, touring, and radio and video exposure for the album’s first single “Babylon”. After considerable success ATO decided to partner with RCA for marketing and promotion of the album. The label used RCA to really push the album into new media markets.
David Gray’s “White Ladder” cracked the multiplatinum milestone, with 2.5 million units sold in the United States by 2008. The label also signed and released albums by duo Rodrigo Gabriela, Patti Griffin, Ben Kweller and Gomez. These albums all scanned at least 100,000 units. In 2008 ATO had released a total of 54 albums, EPs and videos, scanning some 7.4 million units, or an average of 137,000 units per release in the United States. ATO decided late in 2007 to end its joint venture with RCA. Dave Matthews, Coran Capshaw, Chris Tetzeli and Michael Mcdonald bought back RCA’s share in the complete catalog, which set them back around $5 million. ATO decided that ” the way the industry is moving, it was beneficial to have a wholly owned, well funded label.” We felt we had faith in ourselves to take a chance in today’s climate.” Leaving RCA allowed the label to think more entrepreneurial like. It allowed them to think outside the box about digital space and ‘ move like a speedboat’, said ATO president Will Botwin in 2008.
ATO secured the right in December of 2008 to release “In Rainbows” after the band distributed it exclusively on the Internet as a free download. ATO created TBD label to house the band and released the physical album, it sold extremely well. ATO experienced another very successful venture.
The reason for ATO’s success is simple, patience and perseverance. ATO wants to sign artists they feel obligated to, “not that they can get something out of or exploit.” “We just want to help bring the music into existence and help others hear it,” said Dave Matthews. ATO is artist friendly, it is a safe haven from most labels, which are becoming more and more dominated by accountants instead of A&R. “We run ATO as a record label from a management head space rather than from the traditional label headspace,” said CEO Will Botwin in a 2008 interview.”We can look at it long term, holistically, and ask, ‘How does a strategy tie in and fit into building a career?’ That mindset allows the label to invest long term in artist it believes in, even when their current project is not hitting on all cylinders.’ “When talk for the the label began we felt there was a void for a label that could focus on a few artists and develop great quality careers for them,” said Botwin,” as the business goes forward, we think more artist are going to be like Radiohead and take a chance. We want to be a part of the revolution.’
ATO ARTIST SPOTLIGHT
John Butler April Uprising
John Butler released” One Way” road on ATO after being quite successful with his previous album “Grand National”. Bulter is a touring freak and is often found jamming at most festivals.
John Butler’s music is very unique, he has worked extremly hard touring the United States and building a following along the way. Butler’s style of playing and very infectious songs seem to constantly be playing in your mind after a few listens.
The following video is off the new album “One Way” road it is a wonderful cut, titled ‘Revolution’.
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Rodrigo y Gabriela found a unique way to connect with their fans. In the newly released album as with their previous album the group includes with their studio CD, a DVD with a guitar tutorial . When asked why they do that, Rodrigo Sachez responded that “it’s important to share whatever you know about your instrument. I know I appreciated it when I was a kid. For those who can’t afford lessons, it might be the only access they have to that kind of instruction. We included a video tutorial with the first record, and we started to see a lot of kids busking on the streets of Europe playing our tunes, especially the one we demonstrated.” (Guitar Player)
ATO’s artists tour incessantly. The greatest marketing tool is word of mouth advertising. Grassroots advertising is how the Dave Matthews Band made their name and how the artists on ATO make theirs. If you have spent anytime at large festivals, such as Bonnaroo, you are bound to have seen ATO’s wonderful artists.
ATO empowers fans to promote the label’s artists by giving away free swag to join the street team. They also give away a 5 song sampler of ATO’s artists for an email. ATO has a strong online marketing team.
Wanna work at ATO!
ATO is a wonderful and successful label. The focus of the label is the artist. ATO focuses on all of their artist equally, as they want all of their artist to be successful. Martinovich from My Morning Jacket said “With ATO it’s more like asking the band what they’re interested in doing musically and then figuring out a way to bring it into the marketplace versus trying to convince the band to alter their vision to accommodate the existing appetites of the marketplace.” This is what ATO is all about. ATO finds artist that love music, have developed their craft, have worked hard and are dedicated to their fans. ATO helps to develop these artist not make them into something they are not! All labels should strive for this type of mentality. Choosing music before commerce, ATO has been very successful.
Leslie,Jimmy Features: Acoustic -Rodrigo y Gabriela Guitar Player 44:1 (January 2010) p. 52-54
Gennet, Robbie John Butler Guitar Player 44:8 (August 2010) p.58-59
Sexton Paul Back to the Future (Radiohead) Billboard 120:2 (12 January 2008) p. 27-28
Challen, Richard Dave Matthews and His Label ATO Record The Performing Songwriter 11:74 (December 2003) p 42-48