A&R is a term we hear so much in the Music Industry that at the end of the day, we forgot what they are.
Actually, if you have zero idea of that is an A&R, the three letters stand for “Artists and Repertoire”, which in fact doesn’t mean anything either if you think about it for two seconds, yet it is the name of a job you could have in the Business.
We often hear about them because they seem to be the link between an artist and a label and therefore, they are very respected and looked for since they have the keys to “Heaven” for any singer and songwriter that would like to be famous.
I may be harsh when I say that, and you may already jump out of your seat (especially if YOU are an A&R) but that’s the truth.
Since I don’t believe in a record deal, why would I believe in A&Rs?
Let me explain this a little bit more.
My first introduction to a major (Universal) was with an A&R. I met this person in New York City, we exchanged quite a bit at a networking event and later on, I was invited in a Million Dollar Studio in Manhattan to discuss about a song with a famous rapper. One of Lady Gaga’s Music Producer was there by the way and he wanted someone to change the mood of the song they were working on.
A&Rs are not here to do anything but grasp money out you. They’ll shake you until you’re dry and will let you do your thing, broke and devastated by the fact that your career means now nothing.
Why are they so bad, you would ask. Well, my contact made me mirror that I could work with them on that project for over two months until I realize that I couldn’t afford the studio time (around $20,000) and so would propose me a record “deal” that was even scarier.
That’s when I understood what was the principal motive of an A&R.
It’s all about the money. Sorry, Jessie J.
Another smokescreen from Majors, by the way, is to let you think you have a chance to pretend to be a star at their label because they have a few A&Rs roaming town like headhunters. Which is false.
The time A&Rs are going to events, festivals and concerts, is gone. They will look through your instagram, see if you have above 200,000 followers and contact you if it is the case.
That’s about it.
Now, A&Rs are very smart because they still have a job and so they need to prove they can maintain it. And for this, they hunt the web, and especially social media.
As we just discussed this previously, it is mostly a question of followers and more than that, a question of engagement.
The engagement is the metric that will make them go crazy. Indeed, having 200K followers yet 3 likes on each photos stinks and you know it. You shouldn’t invest your money in fake followers by the way.
That is where we come to very reputable Majors and Labels (in the past at least) becoming absolute trash bins of entertainers.
Like recently Atlantic Records who signed the “Cash Me Outside” girl Danielle Bregoli after the buzz she made online. That was not the major’s move, that was an A&R’s move.
The A&R sniffed the internet for some new sensation and realize that banking on a kid with millions of haters would be THE strategy for some engagement, and therefore, sales.
Now that TV show reality, who got smart by self branding her personality in an even smarter way is not in a roster that used to have Abba, The Bee Gees, Bobby Darin or Genesis in their roster.
Quite a gap.
Here is what I recommend you : the world is changing, the way the market is consuming music is changing and A&Rs have no more choice than to hire spike-of-attention people running the internet temporarily. So what you could do is simple. Believe in yourself, have some patience and think about the fact that you can build your brand the same exact way as a label would do, by taking the time to do so and by engaging every single fan your have in your fanbase.
Way better than a shitty deal.