Rising above the noise - Hamilton City Magazine Skip to main content
Celebrating all things Hamilton / Welcome Message
Arts + Culture

Rising above the noise

Auteur Research provides a range of services to hundreds of established bands and up-and-coming musical acts to help them climb to the top of the algorithmic stew and get noticed. As the name implies, research is at the heart of it all. 

Company: Auteur Research

Founder: Adam Bentley

Founded: 2009

Clients: Auteur has had hundreds of clients. The roster includes local names such as Arkells, Dirty Nil, Canadian artists such as Big Wreck, Danko Jones and Sam Roberts, and a vast array of up-and-coming acts. It’s these newer artists, however, that keep Bentley engrossed in the business. “I like working with the independent artists that's putting out their first release, or it’s the first time they're trying to push something in a real way. I see the value in this, can I figure out how to show that off?”

Focus: Bentley classifies Auteur Research as a PR and marketing company, but such common terms don’t really express the complexity and constant change inherent in today’s music business. “I used to do research in December,” Bentley recalls. “Now, we're always doing research. The ‘research’ part of Auteur Research part is literal. And that was from day one. I knew I was digging more than a lot of people. I kind of liked digging.”

Adam Bentley is the founder of Hamilton's Auteur Research. PHOTO: JON EVANS

Years ago, navigating the music industry seemed simpler. If you were on a label, much of the business was taken care of for you. If you were independent, it was trickier, but still fairly straightforward: make a demo, get gigs, make a record, play to support said record. If you could afford it, hire a publicist, and if you were lucky, find someone to help out as manager. Send your record to rock journalists and campus radio. Wait and hope.

If you are of that era, today’s music business looks like a nonsensical, infinite digital abyss. There are countless places to send your music, and no simple handbook that lists them all. You can put a song up on Spotify and it can languish, unheard, for all of eternity. TikTok? What?

Even Gen Z artists, raised to be familiar with this reality, can be stymied. Where to submit something? When to release something? What to keep track of?, et cetera and et cetera. It’s a monstrous amount to navigate and intimidating for a newcomer. 

Auteur Research, founded in Hamilton in 2009, has been doing something that most artists can’t do themselves: mapping the abyss. Learning, sometimes through trial and error, the best way to get an artist noticed in today’s musical environment. And remembering that tomorrow’s musical environment could look fantastically different. 

Auteur founder Adam Bentley may not have planned a career in the music industry but it’s little surprise that he ended up there. Bentley grew up in Burlington, where, as a teenager, he became obsessed with music. He and his friend Paul Koehler (the drummer for Silverstein) had fun creating a pretend record label, complete with website, before they even made music. 

Before long, they caught wind of someone nearby doing the same thing, except for real: the ascendant, local, and decidedly not-pretend record label called Sonic Unyon.

“We would call Sonic Unyon and just ask, ‘How do you do this?’” Bentley remembers. “They'd ask who's calling and we'd hang up right away. But then we started emailing (Sonic Unyon co-founder) Sandy (McIntosh) and he would give us hints. He thought our website looked professional. Actually, I think Paul had ripped the code from Sandy's Sonic Unyon website and just repositioned it.”

Bentley’s relationship with Sonic Unyon would continue, through a grade school job shadow program and a high school co-op position. Meanwhile, he had begun making his own music in earnest. During these formative years, he made friends with other musicians, with whom he would form The Rest, the band Bentley played with for about a decade. The Rest was independent, largely because no label wanted to sign a seven-piece band – too expensive, too unwieldy. This wound up working in Bentley’s favour; being in The Rest was real-world experience in the music business. 

“(The Rest) were into these insane conceptual things, and making the worst business decisions that were ever made,” laughs Bentley. “But it informed me, I think, as I got closer to wanting to make this a career in music. It informed better decision making, learning from all of these failures.”

Eventually, Bentley worked with Dan Achen at Catherine North Studios.

Adam Bentley's Auteur Research does PR and marketing for hundreds of musical acts. PHOTO: JON EVANS

“Dan was just being nice and giving me something to do,” he insists. “I'm sitting there on my laptop researching blogs, and (Dan’s) like, ‘You should do this for people I'm working with.’ I said, ‘I don't know what I'm doing.’ He says, ‘I think you do. You've got 300 pieces of press for your album, and you're an independent band.’”

The research Bentley did for his music (both The Rest and electronic duo Allegories) consisted of little more than a Notepad document full of blog names and email addresses. Today, that has grown into a database of approximately 6,000 contacts around the globe. 

When Auteur Research launched, it offered promotions services and help with MySpace. It’s safe to say it’s advanced since then, but the basic concept is the same. For clients, Auteur works online press such as blogs, music publications, lifestyle magazines; basically anybody online that writes about new music, anywhere on the planet. Auteur also pays attention to user-generated playlisting, another part of the business into which Bentley accidentally fell. 

“I stumbled upon the streaming evolution because we were targeting bloggers, and bloggers make playlists,” Bentley explains. “Those playlists started interacting with the algorithm and changing the trajectories of brand-new bands. And I didn’t know I was doing it! Like, I’m thinking wow, those Spotify numbers are pretty good, how’d that happen?” 

Auteur works to get an artist noticed; to help them rise to the top of the algorithmic stew. In 2018, the company entered into project management as well. “It’s like label services without me calling it label services,” says Bentley, “because I never want to be a label or a manager. I get to leave at some point; the manager and label should never think they're going to leave. It's a different mentality.”

In recent years, Auteur has added digital marketing services (think YouTube or TikTok ads) to its list of services as well. It’s a Hamilton-based business, but only three of them are located in the city; the rest of the team is remote. “We could all be in Denmark, it wouldn't matter,” says Bentley. “The approach is not about boots on the ground. It's boots on the internet.”

The future of Auteur Research is a mystery to Bentley, mostly because the future of the music industry is one as well. No amount of attention to detail or algorithmic exploration can truly make his work a science.“It’s not a science,” he says. “It's music. I don't know what's going to happen. I’m not in the business of predicting the future, I'm in the business of reacting to the present. Which eventually becomes the future anyway.”