One of the most misunderstood roles in the music industry is the A&R. The term seems to mean different things to different people, in recent years becoming a catch all term on social media and beyond for anything or anyone involving music curation and discovery.

“Being an A&R is much more than signing talent. You’re not the person in the movies with sunglasses on and plaques on the wall in the studio,” Ashley Calhoun, SVP/head of creative at Pulse Music Group. “It really is a 24/7 commitment and job and you really have to be passionate about your artist, the company or label you work for, and all of those things.”

The responsibility of an A&R (short for artist and repertoire) is to be involved from start to finish—beginning with talent discovery and signing, through the creation of the music, to the marketing and promotion. Specific tasks can include bringing talent to a record label, arranging recording sessions, and serving as a conduit between artists, producers, and other creatives. As technological advances have continued in the past decade, changing the way people consume and discover music, the industry has been forced to enter its digital era at last. The Internet has shown us time and time again that any artist can be propelled into virality through social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter.

Consequently, the role of the A&R has changed too, as data and analytics have become another tool to help find tomorrow's next breakout artist. Artists now have the ability to connect with fans and promote music without the help of a label or marketing team, bringing into question the role of labels in 2020 (a conversation for another day).

Ultimately, the roles and responsibilities of an A&R can’t be confined to a singular opinion. So, we spoke to the people who are doing the work every day in the music industry’s most misunderstood role, including A&Rs at majors, independent labels, and publishers. Collectively, they help give a better idea of what being an A&R entails and answer questions like: How has the age of the Internet changed A&R? What do you look for when signing talent? Can anyone be an A&R? How hard can it be? Read on for the answers.

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