Posted: 6 December 2018

Decoding the ever-changing world of A&R

Read time: 4 mins

When you’re looking for your big break, there’s a lot of people you’ll have to impress along the way. Immediately you’ll think of the fans, the label execs and the critics but what about A&R? Once the backbone of the music industry, there are some that believe the days of A&R are over. Is there any value in trying to impress these reps? Or are you missing a trick by pushing them aside?

What is A&R?

Artist and Repertoire is the department within a record label that’s responsible for finding new talent and assisting with artist development. For many unsigned artists, these reps hold the key to breaking into the industry. Although a lot of people associate these reps with securing record deals, the exact role of A&R varies depending on the needs of the artist. As part of artist development, they may help with sourcing songwriters, overseeing the recording process or outlining the advertising campaign.

What happened to A&R?

The music industry has been evolving in recent years and it’s not just fans who are changing their habits. Record labels have also had to adapt and while you’ll still see A&R at the mega labels, many of the newer ones have decided to start up without a dedicated team. It’s becoming common for individuals within these labels to have multiple roles from admin to talent scouting to PR. It’s also becoming common for artists to be taking on these roles themselves. Why wait to be discovered when you can take charge of your own career? Whether it’s songwriting, recording or marketing, more and more bands are choosing to do it themselves, reducing the need for traditional A&R departments.

A&R also exists in the form of bloggers and influences. Music lovers looking for a new band to obsess over often turn to their favourite playlisters for inspiration. Whether it’s through a vlog on YouTube or a shout out on social media, these influencers have the power to turn unknown acts into overnight sensations. The role of talent scouting has also been taken up by music supervisors working on films or TV projects. Just think of how many songs you associate with a certain movie scene or TV episode. With unsigned and independent artists accounting for 90% of the music featured in these projects, the importance of music supervisors shouldn’t be underestimated.

How can I impress?

The changing face of A&R shouldn’t put you off trying to impress these reps. Even if the interaction doesn’t end with a record deal, you’ll gain a valuable insight into the industry and maybe make a few contacts along the way. Here are our top 5 tips on appealing to A&R: