Decoding the ever-changing world of A&R
Posted: 6 December 2018
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?
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.
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.
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:
While changes in the industry have empowered artists to do more on their own, its also changed the expectations of record labels. Bands that are proactive in booking shows and managing their social media are likely to make a better impression on label reps. Not only does this attitude help to increase your fan following but it speaks volumes for your work ethic and professionalism.
While A&R plays a major role in your development, they need an idea of who you are as an artist in order to see if you’re the right fit for the label. Think about the songs your playing at shows or submitting as demos. Do they tell the best story of who you are and what you want to create?
If you’re successful in securing a record deal, then these reps are the people who’ll be fighting for you within the label so it’s important to show them what you can bring to the table. Whether it’s your huge fan following, a jaw-dropping live set or simply a sound that hasn’t been heard before, you should understand what your unique value is.
It’s not just fledgling bands that go through development, even chart-topping artists continue to be nurtured by their record label. Being open to suggestions and taking on advice from industry experts may take you one step closer to being discovered.
A&R is bigger than the talent scouts that flock to major shows and festivals. You could be discovered at a small local gig or stumbled across online. You never know when or where your big break is going to come from so always try to be the best version of yourself. Don’t let a bad reputation get in the way of gaining a record deal.
The world of A&R may be changing but there’s no doubting its value within the industry. These are the label reps, online influencers and music supervisors with the power to change your career. There might not be a quick trick to getting noticed by these individuals but the more you work on creating and selling music, the closer you get to your ultimate goal.