Bernard's Hot Tips for the Biz


 

 

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Music Connection Feature Story

 
HOT TIPS
   
In the music business you often hear the phrase, “You’ve got to pay your dues.” While that may be true (to a certain extent), it doesn’t have to be painful, or last a long time. There are many ways to achieve your goals; and, with “Bernard’s Hot Tips” you’ll find shortcuts and reality checks that will make your “dues” go down easier.   

 

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Inside A&R

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- A&R speak - What are they really saying?

- Ten A&R Dont's

- Twenty-five Things A&R Wants You to Know


TWENTY-FIVE THINGS A&R WANT YOU TO KNOW

 

A&R have gone through a lot of changes. Under increased pressure to get results with smaller budgets and less manpower, A&R are less likely to take risks; because failure could cost them their jobs. As a result, artists who are serious about a record deal have to bring much more to the table. For a heads up, we talked with a variety of industry insiders to find out what it takes to get a deal today.

1. THERE ARE CHANGES AT EVERY LEVEL

The music business has been in a whirlwind. Mergers, acquisitions and corporate consolidations hit the majors hard, while an erratic marketplace distressed the industry.  Consequently, both major and indie labels have become leaner and meaner. That may bode well for the biz in general, but it’s tough on artists looking for a break. These are anxious times, and the competition has gotten greater - especially for artists seeking a record deal.

 

2. TODAY, A&R WANT IT ALL

Although artists with great songs and a story always had an advantage, the trend nowadays is to find acts that have it ALL.  Just a few years ago, strong songs and a great live show was enough, and they still get A&R attention, but a story will get you a deal. Establishing a fan base and successfully marketing yourself are critical in getting a label deal. Anyone can make a record, but only a few artists know what to do with it. Labels look for acts that have it all together, so they have something to build on.

 

They Want You To Build Your Career

The bar has been raised on new signings. Vocals and songs are still kings, but the more an artist brings to the table the better. Remember, getting a record deal is NOT the starting point – building your career is. Artists should think of a record deal as a long-term goal – not their only goal.

 

They Want You To Be Self-Sufficient

This perspective has also taken hold at indie labels. Though indies have a reputation of nurturing new acts, established indies want their artists more developed. Now, most indies want self-sustaining entities  - acts that have accomplished something on their own. The days when a good band with great music could think of a label as their savior…are over.

 

They Want To Chase You

A&R used to love to discover new artists before anyone else did. Now, they want something that’s proven and that everyone already knows about. In fact, if A&R are not aware of you already, your chances for a deal are dramatically reduced. To get industry attention today you have to create such a strong buzz that they have to check you out.

 

3. A&R WANT ARTISTS WHO ARE READY

The biggest mistake artists and their reps can make is to shop too soon. More than ever, artists must be ready for A&R attention. Before you even think about labels, you should invite other industry (like managers, producers, media or former A&R) to a showcase and get their opinions.

 

Get Expert Opinions

Artists should get as many opinions as possible before contacting A&R. Since most labels look for a quick payoff, artists must be well developed if they want to get signed. 

 

Be Honest With Yourself

Because everyone’s so tightly wound and there are fewer A&R to go around, the consequences of shopping too early can be drastic. Nowadays, if A&R passes it may be a long time before you can go back to that label. Your best bet is to be honest with yourself and determine if you’re really ready.

 

4. A&R WANT HITS – LOTS OF THEM

In the midst of this demanding atmosphere, hits still rule and a few A&R still believe that it’s about the music. But, unlike the old days when one or two hit songs would do it – that’s not the case anymore. A&R believe that strong songs are important – but the more the better. Many A&R believe artists should have a full album of great songs. If you only have one hit, it’s not enough, they say, because after it’s downloaded – that’s it. 

 

5. GET A&R EXCITED

Let’s face it, all artists believe that they write hits. However, if your “hits” sound exactly like something on the radio - it could be a double-edged sword. Everyone has their influences, but A&R don’t want to hear the same old thing – they want a fresh interpretation.

 

6. GIVE A&R SOMETHING FRESH

One way to create excitement and avoid being too generic is to find your own sound. If your music lacks originality, you’re hurting your chances. A&R don’t want to sign clones. So, be creative - find your signature sound and make sure it’s current. 

 

7. A&R WANT YOU TO KNOW WHO THEY ARE

With all the restructuring going on, you have to keep current with who’s hired, who’s fired and where they’re doing business. Putting the wrong name on a package will get it rejected. For the current information, buy an A&R Registry ($75), or simply pick up a Music Connection A&R Directory ($3.00).

 

Target A&R

Sending your package to the right A&R rep is just as crucial as using the right name. A&R have personal tastes like everyone else. So, target your submissions - send packages to A&R who work with your style of music. Read liner notes and find out who does what. 

 

Follow Up & Move On

It’s easy to overlook things in the busy A&R world, and responses to submissions are not a high priority. But, know this: If A&R love your music they’ll respond. Nonetheless, following up once or twice to see if they got your package is fine, as long as you’re polite. If you haven’t heard anything after a month, though, move on.

 

 8. A&R WANT SIMPLE PACKAGES

A&R get hundreds of packages a week and can only devote only a few minutes to each submission. So, it’s no surprise that A&R want you to keep it simple. Don’t make them jump through hoops to open your package and get to the CD. Besides, fancy packaging often overcompensates for a lack of quality and, sometimes, it’s scary.

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By: Bernard Baur

 

 

                      

 

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