A&R representatives spend the majority of their time listening to music, scouring clubs, reading blogs, watching social media, and tracking industry buzz on the hunt for promising new musical artists. At smaller organizations, A&R reps act as an artist's link to the company and are responsible for signing the artist, guiding the artist's subsequent career, and representing the artist's interests within the larger organization. At most major labels, however, these duties are handled by A&R managers—the next step up the ladder.
Like many in the music business, A&R representatives work unpredictable schedules, including 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 talent, drive, buzz, and more. It's their job to concretely understand what to others is mysterious: the confluence of qualities and circumstances that makes an artist a contender for commercial success. Historically, members of A&R departments have wielded great power as the industry's tastemakers and gatekeepers; as a result, the A&R representative is one of the most coveted and competitive jobs in the record industry. This is still true today, despite the major shifts in the record industry caused by the internet, which also led to a slight decline in the influence of A&R departments.
A&R Representative at a Glance
Although the representative or scout is the primary entry-level position in most A&R departments, the stiff competition for these roles means that even the most basic job requires prior experience in the music business and excellent credentials. Typically, one might land this job after working in management, production, marketing, promotion, or radio, or after performing a lower-level job or internship at a record label or publisher. Additionally, some large A&R departments have a position further below the representative: the A&R coordinator. Aspiring representatives might also break into the field as A&R administrators before shifting into scouting and other artist-oriented work. Representatives who perform at a high level can go on to become A&R managers and, eventually, A&R directors.
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 or 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, marketing, promotion, or radio, or after performing a lower level job or internship at a record company or publisher. Of course, immersion in the local, national, and global music scene is a must for aspiring A&R representatives.
- Deep knowledge of musical trends, movements, and styles
- Exceptional ear for music
This is an unusual and particular role, requiring immense sensitivity, critical thinking, flexibility, independence, and communication skills. Drive, tenacity, and the ability to remain cool under pressure are also crucial traits. While a passionate love for music is, of course, essential for this career, perhaps more important for success is a hunger 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, including 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, networking in this profession usually means attending concerts, showcases, open mics, workshops, and private music industry events.