What Does an A&R Director Do?

A powerful voice for artists who has the ear of senior executives, the A&R director is involved at a high level on the creative and business sides at a record company. A&R directors at major labels hire and manage a staff of administrators, coordinators, and representatives dedicated to finding and nurturing musical artists, but more broadly they steer the growth of a roster that realizes the label’s aesthetic and commercial ambitions. At its heart, the director’s knotty but mission-critical job is to maintain a balance between art and business. They are allies to artists and employees of the record company, and serving both well is no small feat. The best of them have more than a finger on the pulse of current tastes and trends; they possess the vision and courage to transcend fashion and shape musical culture. 

Nearly every aspect of a recording project—from song selection and recording technology to final mixes and marketing strategies—is under the director’s purview. 

On a day-to-day basis, the A&R director oversees multiple projects and budgets at once. Nearly every aspect of a recording project—from song selection and recording technology to final mixes and marketing strategies—is under the director’s purview. At independent labels with small staffs, one person may take on all of the A&R department’s roles: scouting, coordination, administration, and direction. No matter its size, a record company’s fortunes are inextricable from the effectiveness of the label’s A&R department, particularly the director. 

A&R Director at a Glance

Finding Work and Advancing

Immersion in the local, national, and global music scene is a must, as is rigorous networking. People typically land this job after working in another area of the music business, such as management, production, publishing, and radio; at lower-level jobs at record companies; and/or as an apprentice with an established A&R executive. The next step up after A&R director is a senior vice president position or the big desk in the corner office.

Employers

Major record companies and large independent labels, such as Pulse Music Group and SONGS Music Publishing

 

Professional Skills

Keen ear for hit music, forecasting trends, marketing, communication, financial management, human resource management, relationship-building, mentoring, multitasking

Interpersonal Skills

Successful A&R directors are poised, clear-headed individuals who thrive under pressure, are able to multitask with style and grace, and can effectively navigate the often competing interests of an artist and a record company. The need for a vast network of connections in all corners of the music industry makes the job a good fit for someone who is exceptionally sociable, confident, and outgoing. 

Work Life

This is an all-consuming and glamorous executive position involving an enormous amount of travel and a high-intensity work schedule that toggles between boardrooms, recording studios, music venues, airplanes, hotels, and restaurants.