This week, Slate launched Top Right, our list of the 25 Americans who combine inventiveness and practicality, who think big ideas and get them done. We featured Troy Carter, Lady Gaga's business manager and the pioneering force behind her many inventive endorsement and promotional deals. Here, Annie Lowrey interviews Carter—who spoke from a Gaga-related project site in Omaha, Neb.—on managing Gaga Inc.
Slate: So give me the background. How did you get started in the business, and how did you come to work with Gaga?
Carter: I met Gaga through Vincent Herbert, a producer I knew who signed Gaga at [Streamline Records, part of Interscope]. But prior to that, I had been doing artist management since 1999. And we signed Gaga up in, I think, 2007.
Slate:Now, let's talk business. How do you identify or come up with deals that you think would work for Gaga? Because it seems you have a much greater variety of projects …
Carter: I don't think we're out there aggressively looking for deals. Our strategy is that business follows the creative. We're not out there scouring the marketplace for opportunities. It just happens. If [Gaga] has an idea that works with a song or a project that she is working on, we go look for best-of-class partners to help us execute it. And a lot of businesses bring ideas to us.
Slate: So how does that work in practice? Maybe give us a bit of background on your deal with Gilt Groupe, for instance.
Carter: That came to us through our marketing team. We had a pre-existing relationship with the people at Gilt, and wanted to work with them.
With the Born This Way album, generally we said, how do we find strategic partners that can help us with our vision? Part of that is about putting the music in places people wouldn't normally put music, like with Google and with Gilt. When we're looking at strategic partners, it may be that they're larger partners or big corporations or start-ups. But, when you look at Gilt and places like Amazon and Starbucks, they're all places where it's a lot of foot traffic or digital traffic. And they're all best of class.
Our projects end up very different. We deal with partners in the fashion industry, technology industry, music industry, beauty industry. With Gaga—she's not afraid to take chances. You get these dynamic projects because of it. She's completely unafraid.
Slate: How different is what you do now from what you were doing back in the 1990s, working with artists like the Notorious B.I.G.?