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Artist & Repertoire
A&R, the commonly used abbreviation for Artists and Repertoire, is the record label department that serves as the intermediary between record labels and new artists. Boiled down to their essence, A&R men and women are talent scouts, always on the lookout for the next up-and-coming star performer or songwriter. All major labels and many independents have A&R departments stocked with these scouts, that range from experienced musicians to business executives. To be successful, these workers will be artistically minded to find talented performers that will bring a new artistic dimension to the label, but also must think on business terms to know if the artists stand a chance to make money for the label.
Many A&R representatives have become famous for the signings they have made at their respective record labels—though many work for multiple labels throughout their careers. Clive Davis, who also served as president of Columbia Records, Arista Records and RCA Music Group, is credited with playing a major part in signing Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Billy Joel and Santana, among many others. Dr. Dre is a more recent example, recognized for discovering Eminem, Snoop Dogg and The Game.
A&R representatives take note of new talent in various ways, from attending concerts of buzz groups to listening to demos submitted to their company’s A&R department. The most important aspect to get your music heard by A&R representatives is the same as it is with all facets of the music industry—get your name out there! Representatives aren’t going to check out a concert of someone they’ve never heard of, they rely on contacts they have to let them know what artist is generating a buzz on their own. If an artist is independently bringing fans to shows and selling records already, then A&R representatives will see this as a good sign that the artist can make money for their label.
Aside from live shows, new artists can also get their music to the ears of A&R representatives by submitting demos. While the major labels don’t accept unsolicited demos and rely on the recommendations of trusted industry contacts, many other labels will. Research is the key factor here. First, amass a list of labels that have artists that are similar in scope to your musical vision. Then, carefully review their demo submission policy. Usually found on the label website, instructions are often very clear, and you should follow these exactly. Any variations may lead to the person at the label receiving submissions to not listen to your demo. Finally, follow up with the label. Give them a month or two to receive and (hopefully) listen to your demo and then send an email follow up. Though you don’t want to be annoying, following up lets you bring up your name again and can be the element that gets you noticed amongst piles of other submissions.
Though there’s not a clear cut method to getting your music heard by A&R representatives, building yourself independently is the best way to get your name out there, not only to your fans but also those with contacts in the music industry, who can pass along information about the new buzz artist—you.