What is A&R and How it’s Redefining the Music Industry
What an A&R looks for in an artist's data and how they look for it hasn’t really changed. This article will discuss what A&R is and how it’s redefining the music industry.
What is A&R
A&R’s stands for ‘Artists and Repertoire.’ The A&R is the department of a record label that, historically, is responsible for discovering talent to sign to the label, overseeing the recording process and artist development, and assisting in marketing and promotion. Essentially, A&R goes between the artist and the record company. They work to find a balance between the artistic vision of the talent and maximizing sales for the record label. A&R is critically important for a record label (as well as for artists) as it refines the sound of the music released on independent labels and then helps connect the target audience with that music.
How A&R is Redefining the Music Industry
Data-driven A&R has been in the music industry for some time. With nearly 60K tracks uploaded on Spotify daily, selecting artists to sign on to their labels is challenging.
New technological advancements have already changed the role of A&R in the music industry today, transforming the relationships between labels, artists, and managers. Here’s what an A&R representation can offer.
What is an A&R Representative?
A&R Representatives are involved with artists and most of the process's creative aspects such as what songs get recorded, what songs go on an album, and how the artists are presented to the public. A&R reps are also often seen as the gatekeepers of the music industry due to helping decide who gets signed.
Though many artists have interpreted rejection from A&R reps to mean they are not good enough for a record deal, in reality, it is less personal and more a matter of the rep not feeling the artist is a good fit for the label. The artist may alternatively be something they can’t market well enough to generate a lot of sales. This is especially true as more boutique labels with a genre-specific sound emerge and develop their following, relying less on the fans of artists to sell units and more on their fanbase.
What do A&Rs Look for in an Artist Today?
What A&Rs look for is consistency & engagement with content. If an artist has a million streams in a month but only has 1000 Instagram followers, that means the artist doesn't have a strong engagement. It might work well in a playlist, and people don't mind it in the background, but it doesn't engage people enough to go to another platform to find out more about the artist.
Most analytics tools are largely audience-based. Every reaction such as a “like” or “comment” can give A&Rs an indication if a musician is reacting to their audience.
A&Rs want artists to be able to have a viable business, before “signing” or “investing” in it. What this means is a dedicated fan-base that will buy concert tickets, merch, and other products from the artist. If artists can prove this out at a small scale, A&Rs will be interested, because they know how to scale this up. This is why engagement online is so important; it’s an indicator of whether an artist has their “1,000 true fans” or not.
The “1,000 true fans” concept was theorized by Wired editor Kevin Kelly. He argued, that creators only needed to engage a modest base of “true fans”—those who will “buy anything you produce”—to the tune of $100 per fan, per year (for a total annual income of $100,000). This concept is especially true for music creators, who have low streaming revenues – the real money can come from ticket sales, merch, physical, and other forms. A&Rs want to see strong streaming revenues as a base, and more importantly, an engaged fanbase to scale a viable business model out of.
How to Get Discovered And Signed from an A&R
The reality is, that you may get rejected. But here are some things you can do to limit your chances of rejection. Listen to the label you’re waiting to reach out to. Do they feature artists that sound similar to you? If they don’t sound relative to you, don’t bother.
The second step, if they are the perfect label for you, this is where you need to send in your demo. Make sure your quality of work is the best it can be, giving the A&R the impression that you’d be a good investment.
Grow, grow, grow! One of the best ways to be discovered by an A&R is, to do just that - get discovered! (Instead of reaching out). The #1 way to do this is to focus on honing in on your craft, and growing your audience. Playlists are a key element to doing both of those things, which is why Playlister.Club can be such an essential piece of launching your music - it allows you to grow on your own, and attract the attention of A&Rs, rather than you having to go seek them out.
Playlister.club has over +4,000 playlisters on the platform, acting like an “A&R Army” of sorts. When you run a song in this ecosystem, your song gets matched through data, with the most compatible playlisters. From there, they give feedback and share the song with their followers. On the backend, you receive a ton of performance metrics and other insights like what they think about your branding, performance, and even production. This is an excellent way to test your song out on a small scale, and understand where you are doing well, and what needs work. We suggest doing this to gain a better understanding of how others are receiving your music. From these insights, you can tailor your sound and image to grow more, and attract the attention of A&Rs.
Beyond that, the platform has a playlistability tool designed to show you how your song will perform on Spotify. Our platform also has a Geo Attractivness to show you how your song will perform in other areas in the world!
Lastly, a reference always goes a long way. If you know anyone in the industry that knows A&R’s personally within the label, this could increase your chances of being signed. If you’re good enough of course.
The Future of A&R
The future of A&R will likely still be driven by actual people rather than AI. It will be critical that artists can relate to an A&R on an empathic and trustworthy level to get them to sign onto the A&R’s label with the human experience. Also, taking special care of an artist's mental health and livelihood will also be considered since artists recently have been undergoing a lot of stress, and pressures to create content on platforms like TikTok.
Data analysts will play a big part in the beginning process of finding new artists. Using data analysis, it will inform the more senior roles of A&R of any talent out on any platform just by scanning different platforms where artists are located to find hidden talent. This will help A&R scout talent at a much easier rate with the help of AI.
As far as big labels vs indie labels; big labels look for artists with the best growth and independent labels will focus on artists that match their brand. This way, the label becomes a reference point for whatever the artist can provide, whether it be growth or brand.
Grow Your Audience With Playlister.Club
Include your music in the only lively online community tailored towards playlisters. Our social tools like our Community Feed, give your music a chance to trend within our platform, and get passed around the leading independent playlisters in the world! Check out our blog on how Playlister.Club is beneficial to artists, listeners, and labels. Sign up today to get started!