What Does an A&R Director Do?

A&R directors run the record label or music publisher department responsible for finding and nurturing musical talent, holistically planning artists' careers, and supervising recording projects. Although their day-to-day duties vary based on the size and structure of the company employing them, A&R directors are united by a common mission: to shape the musical roster and release catalogue to best achieve the company's aesthetic and commercial goals. This could mean setting guidelines and directives for A&R managers and talent scouts, approving departmental budgets, liaising with other department heads to ensure smooth interdepartmental cooperation, advocating for the interests of the A&R Department in meetings with label executives, courting major unsigned recording artists, or developing valuable new resources and connections for the department.

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. 

What an A&R director does on a daily basis has everything to do with the company and department in question. A&R directors at major labels, for example, oversee sizeable departments filled with A&R managers, representatives, administrators, coordinators, and interns. These major label directors generally don't have time to get granular and instead can be found signing high-impact, big-name artists; approving important budgets, schedules, marketing strategies, and career choices; developing the label's industry connections and other resources; and fulfilling the needs of the board of executives. On the other hand, being an A&R director at a small indie label might mean overseeing the artistic identity of the label's roster; taking care of the department's budgeting; creating connections with other labels, publishers, and arts organizations; and—in whatever time is left—acting as an additional administrator or manager.

A&R Director at a Glance

Career Path

The A&R director is the highest position in the A&R Department, answering only to the label's executives. Most directors start either as A&R representatives—following a scouting and artist management track—or as administrators—following an administrative, numbers-oriented track. A representative or administrator who does excellent, indispensable work may be promoted to A&R manager in five years or less, while becoming an A&R director may take significantly longer, in addition to a suite of successful projects. Those who manage to make the cut and become directors have the opportunity to cultivate a varied and successful musical lineup, acquire clout and prestige for their label, or even rise to the executive ranks.

Finding Work

A&R directors work for music publishing companies as well as major and independent record companies. In order to land this coveted senior position, a candidate must possess an impressive track record of successful artists and albums in addition to copious connections in the music industry. Most A&R directors are promoted internally after working many years with the company.

Professional Skills
  • Keen ear for music
  • Ability to observe, forecast, and create trends
  • Marketing
  • Personnel management
  • Budgeting
  • Networking and relationship building
  • Leadership
  • Multitasking
Interpersonal Skills

The ideal A&R director possesses a powerful vision for the label's music, an excellent sense of business and the bottom line, great ears, and enviable connections. He or she should be a critical thinker, multitasker, and networker who can oversee artists and employees alike while confidently advancing a much broader plan, often influenced by a nuanced and current sense of musical tastes and trends. Persuasive communication skills and the ability to deftly navigate corporate politics are a plus.

Work Life

This is an all-consuming executive position, involving an enormous amount of travel and a high-intensity work schedule that jumps between meeting rooms, recording studios, music venues, airplanes, hotels, and restaurants. A&R directors at small indie labels might not see as much airplane travel, but they're still likely to find themselves working around the clock and moving between drastically different settings—it's simply the nature of this field.