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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
1 / 2 >>
By: Bernard Baur