What is an A&R? Learn how the A&R role is changing in the digital age and how to get the attention of an A&R to increase your odds of getting signed.
What is an A&R?
A&R stands for Artists and Repertoire. A&R representatives are responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of artists. They also act as a liaison between the artist and the record label or publishing company.
A&R reps spend the majority of their time listening to music, scouring clubs, watching social media, reading music blogs, checking metrics, and tracking industry buzz on the hunt for promising new musical talent. They also rely on an evolving understanding of current music tastes and industry trends to find talent with the most potential of commercial success.
However, A&R roles vary depending on the size, structure, and budget of a record label or publishing company. Traditional A&R responsibilities involve signing an artist, guiding their subsequent career, artist development, and representing their interests within the label. A&R duties may also include organizing promotional and marketing efforts, supervising the entire recording process, finding musical collaborators, offering creative input, and more.
A&R departments have long served as the music industry’s tastemakers and the gatekeepers of record labels. This notion is still true today, despite significant shifts in the music industry caused by the digital age.
How the A&R Role Is Changing in the Digital Age
A&R roles have evolved over the past several years due to music industry changes in the digital era. The internet has made it much easier for an artist to reach new audiences. For example, artists can gain exposure through social media, digital distribution services, streaming platforms, online marketing tools, music blogs, file sharing, and other emerging music sites. The internet has also made it much easier for consumers to discover new music. As a result, labels are downsizing their A&R departments. However, the A&R role is still very relevant.
The internet has also changed the way A&R departments scout promising new artists. Data metrics and analytics now play a significant role in driving decisions. A&R reps are increasingly relying on data to measure an artists’ potential more than traditional methods. For example, streaming numbers and social media data will be part of the deciding factor on whether an artist is worth neutering. The data collected will also influence marketing strategies, audience targeting, tour bookings, and more.
All our business units must now leverage data and analytics in innovative ways to dig deeper than ever for new talent. The modern-day talent-spotter must have both an artistic ear and analytical eyes. Rob Stringer, Sony Music CEO
The digital age has also led to a flood of artists and music in the market. As a result, record labels are taking more interest in an artist already showing a level of success. Artists are now expected to have momentum, exposure, a developed brand, marketing strategies, and a strong following. This trend is less risky and more cost-effective.
Although, this shift has resulted in a decrease in artist development. Now, A&R roles focus more on helping emerging artists break into the mainstream, gain more exposure, and get better opportunities.
How to Get A&R Attention
Capturing the attention of an A&R can play a major role in launching your music career. However, you need to have momentum and industry buzz building. Today’s A&R reps focus less on developing artists and more on artists that have already established themselves. But how do you gain the attention of an A&R? Here are five tips:
1. Build Your Brand
In today’s music industry, branding can play more of a role in an artists’ success than the music they create. Artists are not merely selling their music; they’re selling an image, an experience, and a message which defines them. Your brand reflects your story as much as your music! A&R reps are looking for the next “big act” with a strong brand that sells.
2. Build Your Fan Base
Building a loyal fan base is essential if you want to be a successful artist. Making great music will only get you so far. You’ll also need to be savvy with marketing, branding, fan interaction, and more.
A&R reps take more interest in an artist with a strong fan base. Expand your fan base by:
- Developing a social networking presence. A strong social media presence is essential for promoting your music, engaging with fans, and expanding your fan base. Having an effective social media strategy also connects you with music industry peers and presents new opportunities.
- Getting your music featured on Spotify playlists. Spotify is one of the biggest music streaming platforms. It’s an excellent place to grow your fan base, discover new artists, and promote your music.
- Getting your music featured on a music blog. Gaining support from a music blog will help you increase exposure, establish credibility, and open new opportunities.
- Playing lots of shows. Live performance is one of the best ways to reach new fans, connect with people, and generate buzz. Playing your music live can have a powerful impact. It’s also a chance for fans to experience your music rather than stream it.
- Mastering your mailing list strategy. One of the best promotional strategies for musicians is email marketing. Email marketing allows you to connect with your fans and followers directly. Email is also the most effective way to get your fans to take action!
- Creating video content. Videos are an effective medium for music promotion. And YouTube has become a must-use media platform for musicians seeking to gain exposure.
The more momentum and excitement you can build around your brand, the more likely an A&R will take notice.
3. Network and Build Relationships
Building relationships and networking in the music industry is always helpful. Boost your chances of getting noticed by making connections. Get out and connect with people, regardless of their status. Try to meet other artists, producers, DJs, publicists, booking agents, label staff, fans, and anyone else in the music scene. These connections could lead to opportunities. But, do so professionally, and don’t be a stalker.
4. Get Discovered on Music Discovery Websites
Music fans and industry influencers alike search music discovery websites regularly. Music discovery websites make it easier to capture new fans, discover new music, and more. Many also help you get discovered by music bloggers, Spotify playlisters, record labels, A&R reps, and more.
Check out sites like Hype Machine, NoiseTrade, SubmitHub, Pitchfork, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and ReverbNation. These sites help connect independent artists with passionate music fans. Some also provide tools and services that help you engage with fans, promote and sell music, view analytics, and more.
5. Apply Marketing Strategies
One of the biggest challenges as an artist is getting your music heard. Getting noticed in the music industry takes work. You also have to employ different marketing tools to keep up with the competition.
Marketing and promotional strategies play an essential role in increasing outreach and getting your music heard. An effective marketing campaign will help you increase exposure, establish credibility, and open new opportunities. There are several excellent ways to promote your music and reach new audiences. Do some research on public relations and marketing strategies for musicians.
Advancements in the digital age have diminished the influence of A&R. However, that doesn’t mean A&R is obsolete. A&R is still alive and one of the most coveted positions in the music industry. Many labels are still investing heavily in the position. And A&R still plays a role in finding talent that deserves a record deal.