What A Modern Day A&R Does
If you read the Wikipedia entry on “Artists and Repertoire” they describe it as, “The division of a record label or music publishing company that is responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and/or songwriters.” They also describe them as a liaison between the artist and the label.
People think an A&R just finds an artist and gives them beats. People assume Rick Ross would be a great A&R because he has a great ear for beats, but there’s a lot more to A&Ring than that. That’s why Rick Ross has SpiffTV do A&Ring for him. There’s a lot more to the process.
Today, with the way bloggers and tastemakers are, up-and-coming artists want to be independent because they don’t always trust labels. So the up-and-coming artists are going to bloggers, they’re not doing what you did in the ‘90s where you’re standing outside the studio waiting to pass so-and-so your demo. So A&Rs now have to pay attention to tastemakers because tastemakers decide what’s hot.
People assume Rick Ross would be a great A&R because he has a great ear for beats, but there’s a lot more to A&Ring than that.
It’s an A&R’s job to find what’s hot, sign it as early as possible, and develop that. But it’s also their job to provide opportunities to recoup the money they spend on that artist. If an A&R can’t recoup the money they spent on an artist, then they’re not a good A&R. If you spend two million dollars on Trinidad James, you gotta be able to go to your boss and show how to make that money back.
And keep in mind, all of these guys have bosses. People think so-and-so A&R is signing somebody, but here’s what’s really happening. The A&R is hearing talent and he’s saying, ‘"That’s cool, it’s hot, it’s got this many views." They’re getting an intern to make a list of points about the artist. And every week they have an A&R meeting and they’re going into the meeting and pitching it to all the A&Rs and their head boss.
Every week A&Rs get together and meet with the label boss. They sit there for hours and debate about the artists the label might want to sign. So it’s up to a group, but really the guy who runs the label is the one who cuts the check. So the A&Rs aren’t signing anyone outright on their own.
Getting the building excited is the most important part of an A&R’s job. People think label employees are robots but they’re people, too. The entire label is full of people, radio people, marketing people, etc. The label has to be excited. The guy in art is going to be more excited about designing the most anticipated album than doing the album nobody gives a fuck about.