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Artists and repertoire (A&R) is the division of a record label that is responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists. It also acts as a liaison between artists and the record label.

Contents

Responsibilities

Finding talent

The A&R division is responsible for discovering new recording artists and bringing them to the record company. They are expected to understand the current tastes of the market and to be able to find artists that will be commercially successful. For this reason, A&R people are often young and may have formerly been either musicians, music journalists or record producers.[1]

An A&R executive is often authorized to offer a record contract, often in the form of a "deal memo": a short informal document that establishes a business relationship between the recording artist and the record company.[1] The actual contract negotiations will typically be carried out by rival entertainment lawyers hired by the musician's manager and the record company.[2]

A&R executives rely mostly on the word of mouth of trusted associates, critics and business contacts.[3] They also tend to favor bands that play in the same city that the record company is located.[3] Contrary to popular belief, their decisions are rarely based on unsolicited demo tapes sent by musicians. (However, major labels outside the United States and various independent labels may accept demos.)

Overseeing the recording process

The A&R division oversees the recording process. This includes helping the artist to find the right record producer, scheduling time in a recording studio and advising the artist on all aspects of making a high quality recording. They work with the artist to choose the best songs (i.e.repertoire) to record. For artists who do not write their own music, they will assist in finding songs and songwriters. A&R executives maintain contact with their counterparts at music publishing companies to get new songs and material from songwriters and producers.

As the record nears completion, the A&R department works closely with the artist to determine if the record is acceptable to the record company. This may include suggesting that new songs need to be written or that some tracks need to be re-recorded. A key issue is whether the album has a single: a particular track which can be used to market the record on the radio. The industry cliche, "I don't hear a single!" is a reference to this process.

Assisting with marketing and promotion

Once the record is completed, the A&R department (with assistance from marketing, promotion and the artist) chooses a single to help promote the record.

History and influence

The tastes of particular A&R executives have influenced the course of music history. A&R man John H. Hammond discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen. Hammond's colleagues were initially skeptical of these artists because none of them appeared to be creating "commercial" music (that is, music destined to be popular with the majority of the record buying public). However, Hammond's instincts proved to be correct and these artists went on to sell hundreds of millions of records.[4] Geffen Records' Gary Gersh signed the band Nirvana at a time when alternative rock music was not considered commercial.[5] Gersh was able to convince his coworkers to push the record in spite of their misgivings. In cases like these, A&R people have radically changed the direction of popular musical tastes and introduced large numbers of people to new sounds.

However, this kind of prescience is the exception, rather than the rule. Historically, A&R executives have tended to sign new artists that fit into recent trends and who resemble acts that are currently successful. This has caused several waves of similar sounding music, including teen pop (1998-2001), alternative rock (1993-1996), hair metal (1986-1991) and disco (1976-1978). This practice, however, can be counter-productive, since it has often led to a backlash. Towards the end of each wave record companies have found themselves faced with enormous losses as consumers' tastes changed. For example, at the end of the disco boom in 1978, millions of records were returned by record retailers, causing a deep recession in the music business that lasted until 1983, when Michael Jackson's Thriller finally brought the public back into record stores in large numbers.[6]

Recent changes

New forms of digital distribution have changed the relationship between consumers and the music they choose. Gerd Leonhard and others argue that the wide selection of music on digital services has allowed music consumers to bypass the traditional role of A&R.[7] In the wake of declining record sales, a large number of A&R staffers have been let go.[8] It is not clear whether A&R executives will continue to shape the future of musical tastes the way they have in the past.

External links

Notes

  1. ^ a b Albini 1993
  2. ^ Krasolvsky et al. 2007
  3. ^ a b Weissman 2003, p. 25
  4. ^ Prial 2006
  5. ^ Sheomer 1992
  6. ^ Disco boom: Knopper (2009, p. 15-35). Teen pop boom: Knopper (2009). Knopper discusses the way the industry has overreacted to these waves throughout his book.
  7. ^ Kusek & Leonhard 2005
  8. ^ Knopper 2009, pp. 220-221

References








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