What does an A&R do?
A&R stands for artists and repertoire and they sit in a division within a record label with several important roles. If you’re an artist, manager or producer, it’s worth getting to know a bit about A&Rs, especially as they’re often considered as the gatekeepers of the music industry; and if you sign with a label, they’ll definitely play a huge part of your career.
A&R is the department in a record company that handles scouting for new or existing talent that the label might want to sign. In the search for the next big thing, they listen to demos, attend gigs and scour industry press and social media looking for artists they feel would be a good fit for their label. They’ll also be watching talent on other labels to see who’s doing well, who’s struggling and whose contract is due to expire.
Depending on the size of the label, it may be that more junior team members are tasked with the talent search, attending gigs regularly and listening to endless demos, whilst managerial level staff dedicate time to meeting artists and cutting deals.
If you spot an A&R at one of your gigs, make sure they know your name and that you follow up afterwards, thanking them for coming and emailing links to your music.
“Matt Wills only had 1000 views on YouTube when we signed him. I just went on instinct. I saw something in him and I believed in his talent. I decided I wanted to do the deal.” – Jade Richardson, A&R Manager, Island Records
From the moment an artist is approached by a label, the A&R will be their main contact. They’ll be the ones you negotiate your contract with, then once signed, the A&R team will most likely work with you on a day to day basis.
Overseeing the Recording Process
Choosing songs, deciding who’ll produce the music and where the songs will be recorded, all comes down to the A&R team. They’ll be hiring musicians, booking studio time and ensuring anything else needed to make the recording session a success has been looked after.
The choice of producer is a make or break decision that the A&R must get right. A big consideration will be the relationship between the artist and another musician; a poor working relationship isn’t going to make a great collaboration. They’ll choose someone with a proven track record in your genre and who’s enthusiastic about your music.
Another important aspect of the recording process is budgeting. A&Rs are the ones that determine if you have the funds for that anticipated Jay-Z collab or whether you need to put it on the backburner for a while. Ultimately, they’re the ones to sign off expenditure with the business affairs department.
The A&R team are responsible for managing the creative direction of the acts they oversee. They need to bring their expertise and understanding of what sells, as well as some creative flair and intuition. They’ll suggest songwriters and producers that they want their artists to collaborate with, potentially influencing a new direction or sound for an artist.
As part of this, they work on the marketing, planning which tracks have the potential to be singles and formulating a direction for the music and the artist.
The A&R team are the friendly face of what can seem like an industry full of people in suits that can’t relate. For this reason, they’re the ones that give you feedback on your performances, recordings and creative direction. They will have spent time getting to know you and what you’re about, in order to successfully do their jobs and offer you constructive feedback and advice.
Find out more about what A&Rs do and attend a one-to-one session with one at our Industry Takeover seminar. Find out more HERE.