What Does an A&R Representative Do?

A&R representative is, not surprisingly, one of the most coveted jobs in the industry. Representatives spend their time listening to music, scouring clubs, reading blogs, and tracking social media on the hunt for promising artists to sign to a recording contract, and then shepherd those artists’ recording careers. In addition to having a great ear, A&R representatives rely on a finely tuned and constantly evolving understanding of current music tastes and trends in order to identify acts with the potential for commercial success.

A&R representatives have hectic and unpredictable schedules that include seeing a lot of live music, listening to mountains of demos, spending time with artists, and attending to business in an office.

Representatives work closely with artists after they’re signed, helping to select material and collaborators, develop a recording budget and schedule, oversee the recording process, and orchestrate an album’s marketing and promotion strategy. They are broadly responsible for nurturing the artistic development of a band or songwriter for the duration of the artist’s contract with the label. Historically, reps are the music industry’s tastemakers and gatekeepers, but with the rise of digital distribution, which allows musicians to release and consumers to discover on their own, the ranks and influence of A&R reps has diminished in recent years. 

A&R Representative 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 apprenticing with an established A&R executive.

Employers

Major and independent labels, music publishing companies, and independent A&R agencies (such as Launchpad, Pulse Music Group, and Mom + Pop)

Professional Skills

Broad musical knowledge, exceptional ear for hit music, networking, communication, time management, multitasking

Interpersonal Skills

Because they are an ally to musicians as well as an employee of the record company, A&R representatives must have the sensitivity, diplomacy, and communication skills to represent the interests of artists and executives. Drive, tenacity, and the ability to remain cool under pressure are also crucial traits for A&R success.

Work Life

A&R representatives have hectic and unpredictable schedules that include seeing a lot of live music, listening to mountains of demos, spending time with artists, and attending to business in an office. In addition to conventional work hours expect to work nights and weekends. Sleep—and a healthy work/life balance—can be elusive.