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A&R: Who Are These People?

I have done many different A&R panels at music festivals and conventions, and no matter the subject of the panel, most people in the audience want to know one thing-- how to get signed. I suppose it is the ultimate question asked of any A&R person, and there is no correct answer. Within this article, I plan to address many issues confronting the A&R representative as well as answer questions you might have as to the functions of the job. The position of A&R is probably the most enigmatic in the record business. People within the record companies look to the A&R person to engineer the company's success by bringing in the best talent, but most of them don't really understand what A&R people do. Artists, managers, and lawyers outside the record companies often place too much power on the A&R person to give them career success and often do not know how to properly deal with an A&R executive. Let me make one thing clear; if you believe that getting a "deal" is the final goal, you have a lot to learn. Getting a record deal is only the beginning of a long arduous path.
What Is The Job Of The A&R Person?
A&R stand for "artists and repertoire," and in a nutshell, that is the A&R person's main focus-- signing artists and developing their repertoire. That seems basic enough, but it isn't. The A&R executive has to straddle the line between art and commerce. He/she needs to be the artist's closest confidant and supporter within the record label, but at the same time is an employee of the record company. This can cause a tremendous number of problems as one must try to fight for the artist within the realities of business. I have had to make difficult decisions in the past concerning recording albums when they were going over budget, but the artist wanted to do something that was going to cost a great deal. There have also been times where the president of my record company has wanted the artist to take certain songs off the record or record new songs, and I have been caught in the middle. I have always prided myself in being an artist's A&R man, but at the end of the day, I work for the record company.
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