'The Man Behind Gaga' Holds Court at CMW
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‘The Man Behind Gaga’ Holds Court at CMW

When Lady Gaga walked into manager Troy Carter’s office five years ago, she’d just been dumped by Def Jam Records. She’d made a name writing songs for other artists, and had placed third in a New York University talent contest, but wasn’t exactly riding a tide of good fortune.
No matter, says Carter, who described an entrance as showy and dramatic as any we’ve come to expect from the attention-grabbing artist.

“She walked in a room knowing exactly who she was,” Carter told a Canadian Music Week crowd Friday afternoon. “She showed up wearing fishnets, glasses, the whole thing… The same person you see on stage at an arena was the same person in my office.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.

As one of Canadian Music Week’s conference panelists, Carter fielded about an hour of questions about his job as full-time manager of the artist formerly known as Stefani Germanotta. Not a mention was made of his stint working with rap legend Notorious B.I.G., and very little of his forays with Nelly, Eve, and even Big Willy Style: the Fresh Prince himself.
Nope. The people wanted to hear about Gaga. And barring that, they wanted to hear about ten-year-old Maria Aragon, the Winnipeg YouTube starlet lucky enough to sit on the lingerie-clad singer’s lap at her Air Canada Centre show last week.“I think she’s really talented,” said the extremely youthful-looking Carter about the precocious young singer, responding to a question from the Toronto Sun. “I think she’s incredible… She has the eye of the tiger.”
With a shaved head, thick-rimmed glasses and rather non-descript attire, Carter looked the furthest thing from a co-developer of She of the Meat Dress. The music industry folks packing the Royal York Hotel concert hall listened raptly as he explained the strategy that launched the singer’s career: playing several venues a night, and testing her material in Canada first.
He described what his fellow panelist, music journalist Larry LeBlanc, called “touring her like a rap artist.”
“When you’re breaking in a new artist, you don’t have the big tour support budgets,” said Carter. “Literally, she would perform on the top of bars at nightclubs. At twelve o’clock, she’d go on and do two songs with two dancers and a background track. People would look, and stare, and be like, ‘who’s that strange person stopping the music?’ By the time they’d figure it out, she’d literally be at the next club. We did this all across the country.”
When it came time to release her 2008 debut album, The Fame, Gaga’s team chose to release it in Canada six months before its American date. The goal: to create buzz that would make her seem like more of a big deal back home.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” he said. “We were just looking for some place to create some smoke.”