Through stacks of CDs, tapes and file boxes, it hangs like a shining talisman or a sacred parchment, centered above the main desk in the conference's cramped Marietta offices. For the organizers, who for the last four years have put together the local three-day music-industry convention and showcase of unsigned bands, the weathered old 8 1/2-by-11 sheet serves as a constant reminder, a testament to the fruits of their labor.
It contains a running list of Atlantis bands that have gotten record deals. According to Ryan Wexler, Atlantis' assistant conference manager, there are more than 30 names now on the list. "Each year as we find out more and more bands getting signed directly from Atlantis," he says, "we add their name to the wall."
Though few outsiders have seen the list, its information has made its way outside the office, via Atlantis' extensive marketing and promotional efforts. "Since its inception, the Atlantis Music Conference has played a key role in the signing of more than 30 artists to major labels," reads one press release, while other dispatches offer variations on the theme.
It's a very impressive claim -- perhaps Atlantis' most potent endorsement. Another popular variation -- that one out of every 18 bands playing Atlantis have been signed -- is enough to convince just about any aspiring act to pay the $20-$25 application fee to be considered for an Atlantis showcase slot. It might even be enough to convince rock-star wannabes to pay the $100-$200 registration fee to attend the conference's daytime panels and nightly performances, where they can schmooze music-industry folks with the power to make their dreams a reality.
But who are these 30-plus bands, and how did Atlantis play "a key role" in their signings? After repeated requests to Atlantis for a copy of the list, the conference's PR representative Tara Murphy sent CL an e-mail she acknowledges was incomplete, containing 21 "signed bands from Atlantis." Later, we requested the complete list from Mark Willis, co-founder of the conference. He said he'd have someone copy the list on the wall into an e-mail, though no e-mail arrived.
Of the 21 acts and corresponding record labels Atlantis did provide, CL made attempts to contact the appropriate A&R (artists and repertoire) representative -- the person in charge of finding new talent -- at each record label, and successfully gained information about the signing processes behind 13 of the groups.
"Josh's signing had nothing to do with the conference," says Daniel Glass of Artemis Records, who released the debut album by Atlanta bandleader Josh Joplin in January.
"Signing Peter really had nothing to do with Atlantis for me," says former Time Bomb A&R rep Pete Giberga, who inked a deal for the label with singer/songwriter Peter Searcy.
"I didn't meet them through the conference. I've known Johnny for years" says Dan McCarrol, A&R rep for Elektra Records affiliate TMC, which recently released the debut album by Johnny Colt's band the Brand New Immortals.
"To be honest, no ... I didn't see them during Atlantis," says London Records A&R rep Greg Glover, of local rock act Billionaire, who he signed in 1999.
"Atlantis didn't really have anything to do with me signing them," says MCA Records' A&R vice president Tom Sarig, who signed Atlanta heavy-rock quartet DoubleDrive in late 1998. (Sarig, in case you wondered, is my brother).
Of the 13, in fact, only the signings of two bands -- Injected and the Tender Idols -- linked directly to an Atlantis performance. How, then, to account for Atlantis' claims of 30-plus success stories? A product of wishful, even fanciful, thinking? False advertising?
According to Atlantis' Mark Willis, the answer lies in part with careful wording, and in part with the definition of what "playing a key role" means. Technically speaking, it's no lie to say in the same sentence that certain bands played the conference, and at some later point those same bands got record contracts. "That's not to put out there that we got them signed, that's to put out there the quality of talent that we have in our lineups," Willis says.
Still, it's hard for Atlantis to make the clear implication -- and, sometimes, explicit pronouncement -- that a direct cause-and-effect link exists between those bands playing the conference and getting signed. Or, at least, one would think.
"I do think there's a cause and effect," says Willis, "but I don't state that if you play the conference you'll get a deal, and I don't state that because you played the conference you got a deal. I state that since they played the conference they got a deal. I think it absolutely helped in a lot of cases.
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?