A&R Reps are the people musicians should be trying to impress. They’re the ones who can launch careers!
Let’s face it. It’s not easy to start a career in music without the help of the “big guys”…even if you’re the most talented person on earth.
“It’s who you know”, amirite?
Sure, it’d be great if you’ve got tons of money or time to spare for doing everything—from marketing your music to pressing physical albums. If you lack that and have no other way to do so then you’ll definitely need to get signed to a record label.
Getting yourself signed is tough!
There are many things you need to have or to be good at but there’s just one person or a group of people you need to impress—the A&R representatives.
WHAT DOES AN A&R DO?
A&R stands for Artists and Repertoire, and is the third division of a record label. People under this division are called A&R representatives or A&R reps, and they are the ones responsible for talent scouting and supervision of a recording artist’s artistic development.
I’m sure you’ve heard of many successful musicians who’ve come from doing gigs in pubs or resto bars into doing concerts in stadiums. These successful stories were written with the help of A&R representatives.
They are the ones who visit these places in the past and find talented and famous people to scout. At present, they are not doing this as much since some musicians already try to set up meetings with them.
WHY DO YOU NEED TO IMPRESS THEM?
They are responsible for scouting artists that the record label would be having a contract with.
This means that they are your bridge to the record label and must maintain that through impressing them. Whether it may be your fame or your talent you’ve got to have something to keep them, at least interested.
If you don’t know what to do, then here are some tips on how to impress them.
HOW TO IMPRESS A&R REPS:
#1 Prepare a press kit
A press or media kit is a set of promotional materials packaged into one. It is a kit that contains all of you or your band’s basic information. It’s a good way to present yourself to people not just to potential labels you could sign to, but also to possible fans.
Both physical and electronic press kits can be sent to the record label you want, but some require you to send a physical one. To be safe, it would be best to prepare both.
#2 Be Sure It’s Creative and Complete
There are many things that you need to put in a press kit, but make sure you don’t put too much or no one would want to give it a second look. Here are things you need to have:
- Brief background and summary of you or your band’s accomplishments
- Songs you take pride in and are making noise
- Press clippings or reviews about your music
- You or your band’s photo
For some additional things to add to EPKs, I suggest you add some videos to it and your up-to-date tour list, if you have it.
#3 Put Your Contact Information on Everything
Don’t ever, ever, forget to add your contact information when you disseminate your press kit.
If you do forget, then that would surely be one of the worst impressions you can give to an A&R rep. You can’t let them do all of the work just to know how to contact you.
#4 Package Them Well
Again, think creatively. You have to pack them in a durable package that is still creative. It is another way to impress the reps you send them to.
#5 Have a Good Layout
A good layout is one that is pleasing to the eyes. Make sure to have a cool or exciting one. Don’t make it too overcrowded but don’t make it boring too.
#6 No Shrink Wraps
If you go with a physical press kit, I am reminding you to remove the shrink wrap around your CD album or any physical album. Since their work is mainly focused on meeting people, it can be too much sometimes and this can lead to a bad mood. To avoid having them listen to your music in a bad mood, avoid making them irritated from struggling to remove a shrink wrap from your album.
#7 Add A Cover Letter to Your Kit
Most physical press kits won’t need this, but if you are sending an electronic one, then it would be best to have a cover letter. It’s a formal introduction to your band and your music so make sure you make a good one and have it in the right format.
#8 Keep Your Email Simple
Whether you’re setting up a meeting with the rep or sending them an email of your resume (EPK), you need to make it simple and easy to read. It’s best to be concise so maybe just add your name, your background and your music to make the email short and concise.
Additionally, you can just suggest to them to check your EPK.
#9 Focus and Be Calm
If you’re meeting with an A&R rep, then you need to stay calm and focus on what you want to say. It may be nerve-wracking and all, but you’ve faced a lot more people than this so keep your beating heart still.
It’s not advisable to memorize what you say in front of the rep, so I suggest you talk from your heart, let them see your passion and determination.
#10 Give Compliments
When you start talking, you can give compliments to the record label the rep is from. State what made you decide and choose to try to get into the label, it would surely earn you some points.
I discourage you from over complimenting them, though, because it would sound exaggerated and untruthful.
#11 Show-off Your Fanbase
I’m not saying you should be boastful, just tell them the approximate number of fans you have. A fanbase is the root of most of a musician’s income, so they might consider having you if you can bring in your fanbase with you.
#12 Be Aware of Your USP/s
USP stands for Unique Selling Point, in other words, a characteristic you have that differentiates you from other musicians. If you know them and mention it during your pitch then I’m sure your rep would be impressed. It would surely give the rep an impression that you know what you have and know how to use it to your advantage.
#13 Find Your Own Unique Sound
In this overly saturated industry, it’s hard to find people with their own unique sound. A sound that would identify you with just one listen to any of your songs.
This is rare, and that’s what all reps or record labels want. I’m not saying you need to deviate from a certain genre to be unique, you just need to have that signature that no one has.
#14 Have Your Own Image
Your image is another thing. In the past, music was all that mattered. Now, image also plays a big role in a musician’s success, and a hopeful musician’s step to their dreams.
Image is hard to build, so you need to find that. Don’t copy others though, or you’ll just be another ____ or little ___ at this point.
#15 Tell Them of Your Tours or Live Shows
If you have tours or live shows, then you can share your experience in brief. Reps would want to know if you’re invested in this dream and have the will to do these things. It would be a daily occurrence for you when you sign to a label so knowing that you are experienced and have established a name of your own would be great.
#16 Make Sure to Have Social Media Presence
Another way to show that you have a reputation is to have social media presence. This presence also helps show that you are actively communicating and soliciting fans. Additionally, we are in the digital age, social media will help generate buzz for you, so you better try out trendy platforms like TikTok.
#17 Be on the Internet
Having a social media presence is being on the internet. However, there are still more ways to be on the internet. To add to this growing internet presence you need to be on online news articles, online forums like quora or reddit, and on blogs or blog reviews.
#18 Mention Your SEO Ranking
If you already have your own website, then you can mention to them your SEO ranking. It’s a ranking that would help you and the rep know your standing in the internet world, and if you are truly what they need in their company. To know your ranking, you can try following these steps.
#19 Keep Relationships
Though the music industry is global, it is still a small world to be in. Keep your reputation and relationship with other fellow industry people, whoever they may be, squeaky clean.
And don’t burn bridges, you will never know what they’ll be in the future years, and that might bite you in the back at the end.
#20 Always Be Prepared
This is the tip you must never forget. Be prepared always and when I say prepared, you have the data, those I’ve mentioned above, you need to pitch yourself, your music, and your image to A&R reps.
A&R has changed from what it once was.
Talent is not the only thing A&R reps look for in potential label artists, popularity and image are two other things.
Always remember that A&R reps do not save artists’ or bands’ careers anymore, they instead nurture these careers along with the musicians.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD, custom vinyl records and merch company in LA.