A&R representatives spend the majority of their time listening to music, scouring clubs, reading blogs, and tracking social media on the hunt for promising artists to sign to the record label they represent. Once they've signed an artist, representatives guide the artist's recording career, 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 also act as the artist's link to the label, representing that artist's interests within and to the larger organization.
Like many in the music business, A&R representatives work unpredictable schedules, which include seeing a lot of live music, listening to mountains of demos, spending time with artists, and attending to business in the office.
In addition to their great ears, A&R representatives rely on a finely tuned and constantly evolving understanding of current music tastes and trends to identify acts with the potential for commercial success. Historically, members of A&R departments have wielded great power as the industry's tastemakers and gatekeepers, making this one of the most coveted jobs in the record industry. However, in the recent years since the rise of digital distribution has created new ways for musicians to release music and connect with consumers independently, the influence and reach of A&R professionals has diminished slightly.
A&R Representative at a Glance
Representative is the primary entry-level position in the A&R department, but this doesn't mean that the job is open to all. Because A&R is such a unique, important, and competitive field, even the most basic position requires prior experience in the music business. Typically, one might land this job after working in management, production, publishing, promotion, or radio, or after performing a lower-level job or internship at the record label. Representatives who perform at a high level can go on to become A&R coordinators and, eventually, A&R directors. There's also a parallel track for department members who are more interested in data, analytics, and administrative management, beginning with the A&R administrator.
Although A&R representatives are best known for their work at record labels (both major and independent), they can also work for music publishing companies and independent A&R agencies, such as Launchpad, Pulse Music Group, and Mom + Pop.
People typically land this job after working in another area of the music business such as management, production, publishing, promotion, or radio, or after performing a lower level job or internship at a record company. Of course, immersion in the local, national, and global music scene is a must for aspiring A&R representatives, as is vigorous music industry networking.
- Deep knowledge of musical trends, movements, and styles
- Exceptional ear for music
While A&R representatives are ultimately employees of the record company—beholden to its interests—at the same time, they have the opportunity to be allies to the musicians they represent, supporting their artistic development and endeavors. This is an unusual role, requiring immense sensitivity, diplomacy, flexibility, and communication skills to represent the interests of both artists and executives. Drive, tenacity, and the ability to remain cool under pressure are also crucial traits. Perhaps most importantly, the best A&R representatives relish the chance to realize untapped potential and give new musical voices the opportunity to be heard.
Like many in the music business, A&R representatives have unpredictable schedules, which include seeing a lot of live music, listening to mountains of demos, spending time with artists, and attending to business in the office. It should go without saying that networking is a tremendous part of the job, and keeps A&R representatives busy outside of conventional work hours. Fortunately, in this profession networking usually means attending concerts, showcases, open mics, workshops, and private music industry events.