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The A&R Representative
By Cyrus Rhodes - 09/16/2009 - 06:10 PM EDT

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. This is the gatekeeper to your deal. Chances are if your music is good, there is a A&R looking for it right now. The job itself is not easy, very stressful & has a very high rotation rate. The average life span of an A&R rep at a major is about three years, almost as bad as a car salesman. Since we're on the subject letís compare both professions. A car salesman first checks your credit history then presents the deal to the floor manager for final approval. Itís up to the floor manager to authorize the sale, and the sale of the car gets accredited to who? Yes the salesperson. If car salesman does not sell enough cars per quarter then heís out. An A&R does exactly the same thing. Letís say a car salesman had to go out and find a qualified car buyer to make his quarterly quota, where do you think he would go? He would go look in all the right places. Would he go looking for a qualified buyer at an unemployment office? A&Rís have to be proactive in finding talent to survive, and they are very good at looking for talent in all the right places. The sooner you put yourself in the shoes of an A&R Representative the sooner youíll understand where they go to find what they need to survive.

A&Rís must be extremely proactive in finding fresh new talent year in and year out just to survive. As a result they have a keen set of instincts, and know exactly where to find the next big band or artist. The sooner you understand where A&Rís go to find fresh new talent, the closer you are towards achieving your goal. Below are just some of the places A&Rís go to evaluate money making potential in a new band or artist

- Internet (My Space, MP3 downloads, You Tube live video clips) 

- Independent record labels

- Listening to college radio stations

- Attending local club performances

- Reading reviews in local and national trade magazines

- Attending annual music conventions and conferences

- Keeping a watchful eye on Sound Scan reports (a service that reports album sales figures by tracking registered bar codes)

- Network with local studio owners to see what new bands are recording.

Itís important to note that A&Rís also rely heavily on referrals from established bands, record label scouts, friends and relatives of industry executives, reputable producers, managers, attorneys, and publishing companies as well. Putting your music smack dab in the middle of the A&Rís radar screen Ė is what itís all about. Making a good impression while your there usually renders a record deal. A&Rís have a great deal of responsibility in turning a dime for the labels they represent, and ultimately it justifies their career position and reputation. For this reason, A&R reps often follow new trends, look for "sure things" or wait to see what other A&R reps at other labels are pursuing. But regardless of what trends are in place, there are specific traits and skill sets that A&Rís look for when evaluating a new band or artist.

A&Rís have a great deal of responsibility in turning a dime for the labels they represent. Ultimately it justifies their reputation and career positions. Do you think a successful A&R s going to invest his reputation into something that does not possess all the trademarks of success? Not a chance. There are many traits that A&R representatives look for in a band or artists to justify their signing power. Below are just some of the things they look for.

- Does this band or artist possess talent in some form?

- Do they possess "Buzz Factor."

- Do their songs have Hit Potential

- Do they have a good live draw & a solid live presentation?

- Do they have a good work ethic, drive and commitment?

- Do they possess a fresh image, look, & sound?

- Are they youthful (preferably between the ages of 16-23)  

- Do they possess a strong local Fan Base

- Is this music marketable and compatible with most recent trends?

- 10,000 song (minimum) downloads on MY Space?

- Can I sell this music on a massive scale?

- Can I sell this band to my label next week?

- Are they staying busy with an aggressive tour and gig schedule

- A good "Story" or "Angle"

- Strong web Presence with photos, videos, etc.

- No overwhelming debt, personal or professional commitments, or responsibilities

- A dash of Mystery 

- Stands out from the rest

- Possesses sex appeal. (eyes and ears)

- Been doing all of the above for at least a year

A&R reps also look for artists who are proactive and possess a strong work ethic. Will the members of the band continue to work hard at creating own opportunities once they get signed or will they rely entirely on their label to do everything for them? Will they have the endurance to tour relentlessly (200+ shows a year)? Do they have wives, kids, hang-ups, substantial bills, and other commitments that may inhibit the pursuit of these goals? Simply put, record labels look for the path of least resistance to ensure that they'll make a profit from their investments. Most independent artists out there severely underestimate all of the above, and the amount of work and dedication it requires just to be called a professional artist. These trademarks merely show you are a contender not a pretender in the music business. If youíre not doing some of the above items then you should look for ways to do them. Itís also safe to say that if you havenít been contacted by an A&R after several years, perhaps youíre not doing something rights. Remember in the end itís all about money. If someone smells money around your music chances are they will want a piece of the action to justify their existence.  

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