3 Easy Steps to Getting Noticed by a (local) Record Label

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"wHAT THE HELL DOES A&R STAND FOR ANYWAY?"

As an A&R (Artists & Repertoire) director, the most common question I hear is “What the hell does A&R stand for anyway?”

The second most common question is something along the lines of “Hey man, we’d really love it if you would take a listen to our demo/meet with us about recording with y’all/come out to our show.”

While I admire the initiative and hunger it takes to cold-call a record label, however local or small, it doesn’t mean that my interest will be immediately piqued. It’s easy to feel like the artists that a label chooses to reach out to are chosen arbitrarily or because of one person’s individual taste, but the fact is there are 3 simple things every artist can be doing to make themselves more attractive to record labels.

1) Have a strong social media presence.

This may seem obvious, but a surprising number of artists of all talent levels fail to maintain a compelling social media presence, and sometimes don’t even have one at all. I can’t speak for the industry at large, but I consider an artist’s Facebook page to essentially be the new EPK. Especially considering the huge percentage of artists who reach out to me via FB Messenger, you (the artist) have to assume that your artist page will be my introduction to you.

Now, I’m not saying you need to have x-number of followers, or professional press photos, or 15 live videos on your page to get looked at, but your presence should be proportional. In other words, I should be able to tell the difference between a page with 150 likes and one with 1,500 without seeing the numbers.

2) Play shows regularly, but not constantly.

The perfect balance of local show saturation is somewhat debatable – some people say every 2 weeks, every 3, twice every 3 months – but the idea is simple: you want to become familiar to the local scene without wearing out your welcome. 

I’m a firm believer that any recording artist should perform live. Noise-rock outfit? Trance-hop DJ? Experimental Hardcore band whose vocals are entirely comprised of cat meow samples? It shouldn’t matter, because no matter how inside or outside of convention your sound is, it’s hard to build a local presence without letting live audiences see and hear you, which means it will be hard for us to build a presence for you. Good music has an audience waiting for it, but you’ll never know if you don’t try and find them.

3) Know what you want to do and how you want to do it. 

Nothing is more disheartening than meeting with an artist, asking them about their goals for the project, and getting a response that in any way resembles a verbal shrug. Confidence in your artistic vision is one of the most attractive qualities an artist can have.

If you want to create something unique, and have a plan for exactly what you want that to sound like, you’re far more likely to get support from your producer and your label, even if they disagree with your method or strategy.

In short, the most important trait an artist can have is self-advocacy. This is a business of show but also of relationships, in fact, it's mostly of relationships. The people in a position to help you love to help those who help themselves.

 

Created by J.T. Weir, A&R Director and Couch Guy.