The A&R Guide to Signing Artists
The A&R Guide to Signing Artists is a book that sets out the basic principles of A&R and how they apply to sign artists. The book covers all aspects of artist development, from signing artists through to the release of their first album. It also covers how artists can be developed through social media and other digital channels.
The book is aimed at people who are interested in becoming an artist manager or an A&R person for a record label. Still, it would also be useful for anyone who wants an insight into how the record industry works.
The nature of A&R and the artists signed by a record label is changing. The power and potential of the ‘hit’ song are now just one of the factors when signing an artist whereas a decade ago it was, along with the image of the artist, the most important. These days due to the increased power of the consumer, the development of social media and its mass appeal and promotional power, the financial risks that record companies now face (due to the decline in physical album sales and the effect that has had on their traditional business model) and the hundreds of media channels have meant that signing an artist is no longer done on a whim or one person’s hunch.
The role of A&R has changed from being solely responsible for finding new artists to managing those artists already signed. The days when an A&R person would travel around trying to discover new acts have gone. The world has changed regarding how music is marketed and promoted; therefore, so must A&R departments if they remain relevant in today’s music industry.
The A&R scout is the talent spotter and is the ears and eyes of the record labels and publishing companies. The A&R scouts’ job is to discover the hottest new artists around and to be aware of the latest media & cultural trends. They will attend dozens of gigs, artist showcases and industry meetings throughout the week to enable them to be aware of every new artist being talked about within the industry.
The A&R scout will listen to demos sent in by bands they may have heard about through word of mouth or friends in bands who have previously been signed. If an act impresses them enough, they will invite them into their office for a meeting or invite them to a showcase gig where all the record labels will be present.
During this meeting or showcase, the band will play several songs and talk about their history, goals etc. If they impress during this meeting then they may be invited back for another meeting at their office or even asked to come into one of their offices for an interview with their marketing team. At some point during these meetings, they will discuss signing contracts if they want to sign with a label and negotiate how much money will be paid out if they do sign up with them.
If both parties are happy then an agreement will
The role of A&R is more about selecting quality music than anything else. This means that A&R need to know about all the best new music, the latest hyped artists and ‘buzz’ bands, and the bidding wars between labels and the most popular in-demand artists around. In summary, if the artist is good enough A&R will know about them.
So how do you get their attention? How do you make sure they pick up your music? And how can you pitch yourself so that they take notice?
A distinctive voice, vocal style, quality and a great emotional connection with a song.
Songs: The ability to write hit quality songs to promote artist and album, to gain radio play, press reviews, and television performances and ultimately drive record sales and brand awareness.
Music & Image
The musical direction and production of the record. Does the music fit the current market and follow trends or is it a trendsetter and market leader?
The image has to be marketable. Does the artist’s look suit the music? What are the Press and TV implications and brand potential?
This is the personality, charisma, mystery, confidence, commitment, passion, ambition, humour, and political/controversiality of the artist – The Star Quality!
The back story is an essential marketing tool. It helps connect emotionally with the consumer, gain media interest and provide journalistic content for the media helping to build a celebrity profile.
An artist needs to show that there is a lot of promotion, fan engagement and media activity surrounding them. This shows commitment and ambition too. The more website traffic, Youtube views, tour date bookings, fans at gigs, Merchandise sales, Facebook ‘Likes’, online chatter, press coverage, music reviews and music downloads the more it attracts attention from A&R and the media. The more attention the artist gets the less risk it is for the label and the more sales potential there is.
This is the professional team around the artist. If the artist is represented by a manager with proven success, has a credible press and radio PR agent on board, a live agent and possibly a music publisher then this can increase the chance of success and lessens the financial risk for the label.
The financial investment required. Pop artists such as boy bands and girl bands are very expensive acts for the label due to the costs of transport, styling, hair, make-up and the polished production values required when promoting these types of acts. Additional revenue streams will be important to the label when considering signing a pop act. Solo artists and rock/indie bands are much more economical for labels to promote and work with. This can be an important factor in deciding whether to sign an artist.
We hope that this A&R Guide to Signing Artists is useful for any music lover out there looking to strike it big in the music industry. We have attempted to cover as much of the “art” and “science” as we could, so take a look at our music industry blueprint and get your career on its way!