September 19, 2020

What is an A&R Rep?

A&R Rep

You might have heard of the following “A&R Rep” and you’re curious to find to out what this actually means.

But before we get into that let me tell you a little story; I swear I won’t take up much of your time. In 2006 I had a dream of making it big in the music industry but I didn’t know much about the industry then so I had no idea where to start or turn to for advice.

So I decided to take things into my own hands and began to learn by trial and error.  My area of interest at the time was music production, sound engineering and eventually owing my own record label.

I had no lyrical talent whatsoever so production was my safety net so to say. I ended putting together my own makeshift studio in my bedroom and started recording friends who were aspiring artists at the time (or maybe they were just killing time at my place who knows, LOL).

But anyway to cut the long story short, when others discovered that I was into music and the fact that I had my own studio, I became “the go to guy”- I don’t know why but that’s what happened.

I found myself recording, producing beats, managing and people sending me demos so I could “sign them to my label” (I didn’t have label structure). Most of it happened by default.

I was doing most these tasks on my own – listening to demos, recording, going up and down to SAMRO offices in Johannesburg, you name it. I did it all. And I was merely helping out the artists.

You might be sitting there right now and asking yourself “So what is the morale of story? And what does this have to do with this article?”

Well it has everything to do with this article because I was literally working as an A&R Rep then but I just didn’t know it!  In the following blog post I will explain to what an A&R is and what they actually do. So let’s dive in.

A&R Rep Meaning

A&R is in the music industry is short for Artist and Repertoire.  An A&R Representative is basically responsible for scouting and signing talent to a record label.

In major record label structures, there is usually a dedicated artists and repertoire department comprising of A&R Representatives, A&R Manager and A&R Directors – In that order.

An artist and repertoires job involves the following but not limited to the following:

  • Scouting and signing artists and bands to the label (as mentioned)
  • Artist development
  • Find material (songwriters and songs) and producers for the artist or band
  • Setting up a recording studio session for artists
  • Offering creative input

The tasks will also depend on the size of the record label. For example it is not uncommon for Independent labels to appoint one person to handle all duties. Sometimes the label owner might decide to do the A&R himself/herself should they not be in position of not being able to hire anyone.

Do I need educational qualifications to be an A&R Rep?

 Most guys working as A&R’s have some sort of a background in music. They were aspiring musicians themselves, music producers, DJ’s or songwriters.

For example Knobody was a producer on Jay Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt before taking up a job as an A&R at SRC Records/Universal. He is also credited for breaking Akon as an artist and developing his debut smash album, Trouble.

P. Diddy is another example; he started out as a runner at the now-defunct Uptown Records and worked his way to an A&R Management position guiding the likes of Mary J Blige and Jodeci.

Not so long, here at home Zakes Bantwani was appointed the head of A&R at Sony Music Africa in 2014. He has since vacated the post.

As you can see, you don’t really need a tertiary qualification (although it might help). But you need to have a good ear for music, have a thirst for knowledge, and be up to stay up to date with the latest trends and hottest sounds in the streets and so on.

Conclusion

The music industry has changed over the years and some say the role of the A&R Rep is dead. Well I’m not sure if that is true but it’s not easy to find a job as an artist and repertoire unless you have a solid track record in the music industry.

If this profession interests you but find that your chances of getting a job at a label are slim, then you can start your own label or volunteer to help promote up and coming artists. But either way, the choice is yours.

Thank you for reading.  If you liked this article you can share on it on social media networks or share your thoughts below.

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