The Men In Black Of The Music Industry
A&R stands for Artists and Repertoire. These individuals are responsible for selecting the musicians and artists that get signed to various labels and record companies. A&R may also act as 'talent scouts' and scan musical venues or unsigned artist haunts such as live performances and clubs, as well as listening to the demo's which arrive at record labels' doorsteps.
The phrase A&R was initially coined by label representatives who would look for 'Artists' and their 'Repertoire' or music. They are also responsible for developing and steering an artist's career within the walls of the industry after an artist has signed a record deal. They may even find the right type of songs for artists to perform, helping them to find the right producers, studios or engineers to work with.
Most A&R reps need special types of skills to make it to their position. These might include a good prior understanding of the in's and out's of how record labels and music companies work in general, and although not compulsory, a professional certificate or degree in the Advertising, Marketing, or a Promotional field is of value to an A&R Reps CV.
A&R personnel are really under pressure to find star talent and big 'hits' for the record industry. This is the bottom line. In order to make this possible it is quite certain they will have to keep a sharp eye on current music trends at all times, and find out what the current popular sound or act is. Latest trends with Reps have been to acknowledge artist's that are already whipping up some steam with their music in their own right. If an artist is creating a whirlwind of popularity, and selling a few thousand CD's independently, it is much more likely the A&R of a suitable label will find out and tune in to their relative success and offer them a deal. The logic behind this is, the artist has already developed a public image and proven themselves enough musically to attract fans in their own right. With that kind of proof so visible, the A&R don't have to work too hard to ripen the seed!
The advantage to A&R reps is they don't have to worry too much about talent development in so much as promoting the great talent they have already found. Of course this means that the less popular you are in the music world, the less likely the A&R are going to choose you as the next big thing. There have been many cases where a specific style/act has been picked out of obscurity and been shown the red carpet, but recently, many independent artists are trying even harder to promote themselves, cutting out the middlemen and pocketing their own profits. The ideology being 'I'll just do it myself and if I ever happen to get the real deal then that's just a bonus'.
In a lot of cases normal every day musicians have the ability to promote themselves to a large extent without the backup of A&R or record label finance. With the advent of so much internet interaction between unsigned bands, the booming rate of home based music production, and the amount of promotional support by so many music related websites, the possibility of making a decent little musical profit off your own back is now more possible than ever before.
What are A&R representatives looking for?
Well apart from being interested in your musical talent, there are many obvious things an A&R rep will consider before evening bothering to hand you a contract! They will quite possibly be very interested in what's going on in your personal life, your past history and your reliability. Their job will be on the line if they convince the record company to invest a lot of money in your act and for whatever reason you end up letting them down. Anything from what is happening in your private relationships ie: girlfriend/boyfriend, family, do you have any problems with them? They want to know how reliable you are and if you are suitably willing and capable of standing in the spotlight.
You didn't think they would give you a deckchair, a Pina Colada and fill up your Bank Account did you?
Any artist they would seriously give consideration too should be prepared for a high level of commitment and hard work in a cut-throat and often cruel business.
You won't necessarily be able to spot an A&R representative down the pub, even though you could be standing right next to one at your local. These fellas will have good social skills as well as the clever ability to negotiate with performers. Good communication and an eye for spotting quality artists and talent is high in their agenda. So perhaps it pays to do your very best when performing live or circulating your music.
You never know when the Big Brothers of the Music world are watching you!