New West goes East

After stints in L.A. and Atlanta, George Fontaine Jr. is back in Athens promoting local musicians

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New West goes East

George Fontaine Jr.

Photo by: Andrew Davis Tucker

George Fontaine Jr. (ABJ ’04) shares his father’s passion for music, love for the University of Georgia and Athens, and calling to discover young talent. Following in the footsteps of George Fontaine Sr. (BBA ’76), owner of Austin, Texas-based recording label New West Records, the younger Fontaine now heads New West Records’ Athens office, the company’s new shipping and distribution operations center. Fontaine originally moved to Los Angeles to work for New West, but after a short stint devising marketing plans, helping with advertising and running street teams, he realized he missed living in the South.

In 2006, Fontaine landed a job in Atlanta with Live Wire, working on radio promotions and getting music onto the airwaves. He says he would drive to New York to meet with radio stations and disc jockeys “just to have that crucial face-to-face interaction.”

“It was a far drive, but heading home and hearing them play our music on the radio… that was a good feeling,” he says.

Three years later, New West Records President and founder Cameron Strang approached him about opening an office in Athens. Strang reasoned that an Athens office would make shipping and receiving more efficient because New West distributes all its U.S. records and DVDs through RED Distribution, which has a plant in Carrollton.

“That was the practical reason,” Fontaine says with a smile. “The real reason was that we had an itch to be in Athens. There is something about the creativity here, and we wanted to tap into that next round of young talent.”

New West opened its office on Meigs Street in December 2009. Since then, Fontaine’s schedule has been anything but typical—checking out live shows, handling marketing and new artist development, and promoting the original motion picture soundtrack “Crazy Heart,” featuring “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham and songs sung by Jeff Bridges, who won a 2010 Golden Globe award for the film.

New West will continue its strong relationship with the UGA Music Business Certificate Program, hiring interns and giving them practical experience promoting New West artists, Fontaine says. Recently, New West and UGA students worked cooperatively on marketing and tour management projects with local musicians Randall Bramblett and Benji Hughes.

Fontaine says he hopes to eventually create a recording studio in conjunction with the Athens office.

“We want this to be a good creative center for artists to come through and feel comfortable to write and record and feel welcome,” he says.