What is an A&R Rep and What Do They Do?

What is an A&R Rep and What Do They Do?

An A&R representative is an individual and/or a division of a record label which is responsible for the discovery of new music artists - Aptly named “Artist and Repertoire” (A&R). Typically they will spend hours trawling through demo tapes, going to live gigs, open mic nights and online profiles, to find the next big act.

It’s their role to keep an ear to the ground on new trends, tastes and market changes – They report these back to the record labels who then decide on the direction to move forward in.
So what powers do they have?

Usually a record label will give an A&R the authorization to offer a musician or band a record contract or “deal memo” – Basically a short, formal offer of how the record label will work with the artist/group. This isn’t necessarily where the contract negations will take place, often this is done by the group’s management or lawyers directly with the record label. Elements such as the amount of investment that will be given to promotion, royalty splits, profits shares etc are outlined in these formal, but vital, documents.

The big question is how do you get spotted by an A&R representative? Well it used to be the case that word of mouth could break bands, but since the evolution of “online”, the internet is commonly the first port of call when searching for new acts. Gone are the days when simply having a great voice will get you signed – Now record labels look for much more. For example, what following you have, how many records you’ve previously sold, can you pack a venue with paying customers but more importantly how commercially viable are you as an investment.

Don’t simply rely on demo tapes! The majors very rarely use these to make their decisions on who they’ll sign next; however, the smaller labels and independents do spend more time listening to demo tapes.

Play every gig like you’re playing Wembley! You never know when or where an A&R representative may pop up. Let’s be honest, they don’t walk around with a sign above their head! It’s important to give it your all whenever you play out, giving your acts this edge will make you stand out from the crowd and be noticed by the ones with the golden ticket at the back of the room.