This is just a true fact, getting exposure remains a difficulty for the vast majority of musicians, despite the boom from internet, and more ways than ever to share music. Today, only a tiny fraction of artists control the vast amount of followership on major social media platforms and other websites, while over 90 percent remain undiscovered.
We won’t give you a lecture about what is right or wrong, but contrary to popular belief, the A&R is still important to the music business.
A and What?
Just in case you’re new to the industry and not familiar with the term, A&R means artists and repertoire and is an old title linked to the music business of the past. Back then, A&R was a pivotal department found at most record labels. A&R was glamorous job – that of finding the next ‘big thing’.
There are two main types of A&Rs, those that seek new artists for labels and those that try to get artists publishing deals. Music supervisors are sometimes viewed as A&R executives because they help musicians get their work in film and TV. Whatever the type, it’s a formula that worked for many years, unearthing most of the big names you’ve grown to love from the past five or more decades. That includes Madonna in the 1980s, Nas in the 1990s, and in our business Martin Garrix or Marshmello a few years ago.
Yes, Marshmello. One of the most successful artists to emerge in the last decade got hooked up to OWSLA/Sony Records by an A&R. That should answer any questions about whether A&R still matters.
A&R In The Present
The A&R of today is different from the ones in the past. It was common for A&R to go looking for new diamonds and convince labels and publishers to spend money on them. Sometimes it paid off, other times not, but it was a formula that worked.
Today, A&R are more likely to look for artists who are already polished to an extent. That’s because shrinking revenues has led to many big labels and publishers either closing their doors or downsizing and lessening their A&R budgets. Lower budgets mean music companies simply can’t invest in artists as they could in the past. With that said, here are 30 tips A&R wish you knew before making an approach.
Below are a few tips from the Audio Bar’s E-book.
Want to see more? Download all the 30 tips here.
5. THE BEST TOOL IS NETWORKING
I mentioned this in previous blog posts and livestreams; going to music industry events is great, but you also want to know how to mingle effectively. Remember, the music business is built on relationships, so don’t just attend events for appearance's sake and expect that an A&R rep is going to just come up to you and start talking. Actively try to build relationships with the people you come across. You never know who knows who, plus A&Rs prefer to hear from people who they already know, so if you left a good impression on a music producer, for instance, an A&R might be quicker to give you time of day if that producer passes on a good word about you.
7. HAVE A BRAND TO SHOW FIRST
Don’t wait to be recognized before working on building your brand. With the high level of competition prevailing in the music business, you will remain in obscurity if, well, you’re obscure. Getting your name out there by releasing songs, performing, and building a fan base makes it easier to ring a bell when you approach A&R reps or if someone high up mentions your name. Seeing that you have already laid the groundwork also makes them feel more comfortable and confident that their company will have a positive ROI if they take you on.
2. THEY WANT TO HEAR SOMETHING THAT STANDS OUT
You’ll be making a big mistake if you think your work should sound like artists already linked to the company of an A&R that you’re going after. They already have that sound, why would they need two of the same under the same umbrella? Work on creating your own unique sound and image before even attempting to contact A&R. A distinct sound and look helps you to stand out among the numerous other prospects who might be trying to get noticed by the same A&R you’re interested in.
3. HAVE AN ONLINE PRESENCE
Like everyone else, A&R will head online to find you if they hear your name mentioned or if your music piques their interest. A website with your up to date bio is a good starting point for A&R to learn more about you. So is having a current EPK where they can listen to your songs, as well as songs on Soundcloud, videos on YouTube, and a playlist in Spotify. Being visible on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook can make it easy for A&R to reach out to you if they desire.
4. MAKE YOUR CONTACT EASY TO REACH YOU
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not making it easy for A&R professionals to contact you. If you send a demo, label it properly with at least your email address and telephone number. In addition, you want to include contact information on your website and other platforms you might be using to promote your music.