What Does an A&R Manager Do?

Like many jobs in artists and repertoire, the specific duties, job requirements, and even title of this position depend on the size and structure of the company and department in question. In most cases, however, A&R managers are responsible for overseeing A&R representatives as they search for new talent, negotiating with and signing promising new artists, and guiding said artists' careers while they're signed to the record label or publishing company. This last part might entail working within the company to organize promotional and marketing efforts related to an artist's releases, finding new material for an artist to record, introducing an artist to potential musical collaborators and producers, overseeing an artist's management, or even planning and supervising entire records.

Signing and cultivating talented new artists requires patience, judgment, interpersonal connections, and persuasive written and spoken communication skills.

A&R managers tend not to spend much time researching or finding promising new artists, as they receive leads and recommendations from teams of A&R representatives, also known as talent scouts. Instead, A&R managers devote their time and attention to negotiating and signing artists, winning them resources and support within the record label or publisher, and broadly managing their careers. Much of their work revolves around planning and strategizing to improve artists' careers, navigating departmental politics, and cultivating external connections with managers, producers, music video directors, music journalists, music supervisors, and other potential sources of collaboration, guidance, or exposure.

A&R Manager at a Glance

Career Path

A&R managers are senior employees, and as such must possess significant experience in the music business. Most start as college marketing representatives, A&R coordinators, or interns in another record label or publishing department. From there, they progress to become A&R representatives, who scout promising new artists for managers to sign. Unfortunately, this system tends to deny representatives the credit they're due for discovering artists, which is why those who wish to become managers at major labels must be clever, driven, and ambitious. The most successful A&R managers may accrue significant power and influence in the industry, work closely with their company's director of A&R, or even become the A&R director or a record label executive.

For those who don't like the sound of moving up a career ladder, dealing with corporate politics, or being a single cog in a much larger machine, the indie music scene presents an alternative path. At most indie labels and publishers, A&R departments may consist of only one or two A&R professionals who do it all, from scouting to signing and beyond. This creates the potential for hardworking A&R professionals to drive their own career, quickly advancing in responsibility and developing a roster of artists that reflects their own values and tastes.

Finding Work

Most A&R managers work for medium-sized to large record companies and music publishers. When hiring an A&R representative—the position which precedes working as an A&R manager—companies tend to look for work or internship experience in the music business, as well as demonstrable engagement in local and national music scenes.

Professional Skills
  • Deep knowledge of musical trends, movements, and styles
  • Excellent ear for music
  • Networking
  • Contract negotiation
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Budgeting
  • Personnel management
  • Multitasking
  • Organization
  • Leadership
Interpersonal Skills

A&R managers are exceptionally well-organized, detail-oriented, flexible, and punctual, with impressive multitasking abilities. Signing and cultivating talented new artists requires patience, judgment, interpersonal connections, and persuasive written and spoken communication skills. In addition, managers are well served by strong leadership qualities, and should possess a vision for the careers of artists under their wing. 

Work Life

Like many in the music business, A&R managers work unpredictable schedules, which include attending live music shows and events, spending time with artists, taking care of business in the A&R department, and meeting with professionals outside of the department or label. It should go without saying that networking is a tremendous part of the job and keeps A&R managers busy outside of conventional work hours.