Who Are A&R Reps?
A&R representatives (an acronym for Artists and Repertoire) are record company personnel whose job it is to discover new talent and help develop careers. The further A&R reps can climb up the corporate ladder and the bigger their salary, the more stressful their job, and also the more fearful they become of losing it. They have a great responsibility to make money for their companies and to justify their career positions. For this reason, A&R reps often follow trends, look for "sure things" or wait to see what A&R reps at other labels are pursuing. Contrary to popular belief, most A&R personnel do not have "signing power." Once an A&R representative finds a potential artist, they have the difficult task of getting the approval of their record company presidents-and getting approval is often the hardest part of the job! The average life-span of an A&R rep at a label is three years.
A&R is the department of a record company that finds and or develops bands, songwriters, or musicians. More often than not A&R reps help out with a bands artistic and commercial marketability. Think of the A&R Department as the middleman between the band and record label.
A & R Department Responsibilities may include some or all of the following:
Locating bands, songwriters, and musicians for their record label Negotiating contracts for a band or artist Finding producers for recording the band Locating recording engineers Scheduling time to record the band Locating songs for a band from music publishers with whom they have relationships Listen to demos from bands
A&R Reps from major or larger record companies usually only listen to solicited demo submissions from musicians. A solicited submission is one that a music company only accepts from known or reputable contacts with whom they’ve networked in the past. Smaller record labels may accept both solicited and unsolicited (anyone can send demo) demo submissions. A great resource to tell what record companies accept unsolicited and solicited submissions are the Songwriter’s Market books. They give you information on what record companies may need with a demo submission and how to submit your band demos.
How to Find an A&R Rep
Finding a Record Label for Your Band
OK, by now you should have read and taken the appropriate steps for How to Get Signed. Your band is prepped and ready to go. Now you just need to connect your unsigned band with the label and A&R Rep ready to sign you. How do you find this mysterious A&R Rep and perfect label?
1. Send a Press Kit
Search the web for appropriate labels and use contact directories such as CMJ Directory, The Musician’s Atlas, or the Musicians’ Guide To Touring and Promoting The directories contain lists of record labels, clubs, radio stations, and press outlets for you to send your band’s press kit. But before you start sending your demo package (press kit) to every contact you see, you have to answer 2 big questions first:
Does my band’s music fit with this label’s style of bands?
Assuming that you like your band’s music, if you like the bands on the label then chances are the music is similar enough. Yes, labels are looking for bands that are different than what they already have, but not radically different. If you’ve never heard of the label, make sure you listen to some songs of the bands on the label first. You don’t have to take too much time on this, but enough to know if you’re a good fit or not.
Is this label accepting unsolicited demo packages and press kits?
If the answer is yes, then call to confirm. Simply tell them you’re sending a press kit and ask who you should put it attention to. (You don’t want half your press kits trashed because the directory or website you got your initial information from is now outdated.) If the answer is no, then try another label. Or try and make a face-to-face connection with a rep on the label. Even if your band isn’t playing, festivals (and other music industry events) are still a good place to make some contacts. Ideally you’ll find one or two reps that you can get the go ahead to send a kit directly to their attention.
2. Play Showcases
The big music festivals such as South By Southwest (SXSW), North By Northeast (NXNE), CMJ, etc.are a great way to show off your band and talk to a lot of people. And you need to do quite a bit of meeting and greeting. You want to try and get as many people as possible interested in your band before you play. That way you aren’t just hoping they happen to see you when you’re on stage. Of course, don’t go overboard. Don’t be obnoxious. Be professional, but market your band before, during, and after your set. Know ahead of time what results you want, and then do everything you can to make that happen. Your chances of success will be substantially greater.
3. Follow up
If you haven’t heard anything yet, call back the people and labels you sent press kits to and ask if they had a chance to review your material (wait 4-8 weeks after you send your kit before calling). If they say ‘Yes, we want to sign you’ then start celebrating. If they say ‘No, we haven’t reviewed it yet’ then ask when would be a good time to call back. And if they say ‘Yes we reviewed it, we’re not interested’ then ask them the hard question. Ask if they can give a little more specific feedback. You can’t get better results if you don’t know what to improve upon. If several people are telling you the same thing, then you’ll know what you need to fix, change, or approach differently.
Your line of attack when approaching A&R needs to be planned out and to the point. Give or play your demo and invite them to a gig. Make sure that demo is impeccable because more than likely they are only going to listen to a very tiny portion of it. If they liked it, then they just might show up at the performance. Keep in mind that this gig needs to be an impressive one. Make sure you have a fan base there and a good vibe going with the crowd. This is crucial because you not only want to sound good, you want the crowd to be into you as well.
No matter who you are if you are wanting to know how to get signed or how to get a record deal then take to heart the tips offered above. A&R reps are not the only way to score a record deal but they are most definitely one way and it is a way worth trying more than once. There are tons of labels out there and even more A&R reps so get to work and the first place to start is with an awesome demo!