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A&R stands for artist and repertoire and the position used to be all about matching talented artists and performers with songwriters. These days, where songwriters are often the artists themselves, A&Rs are now also known as scouts, searching and signing new talent to a label. A&R scouts usually work for the record label, under the A&R manager who are expected to sign up the best new talent around.
A&Rs do not always just have to find the talent, but are also expected to nurture it and oversee the development of the artist. There are different stages of A&R: it starts off with scouts who go out to find artists to sign, according to their label’s policy and requirements, then goes up to the A&R managers who are the decision makers about whether the artist is signed and on what terms.
A&Rs are born networkers and are not only interested in music but have extensive knowledge about the industry. A lot of their time is spent looking for the latest trends, events and releases and attending gigs to find new talent. A&Rs must make sure they sign the freshest talent by doing the following:
A&Rs spend a lot of time listening to music and deciding who will be successful and who won’t. They also get to attend a lot of gigs and events for work, so this is a popular career choice for people who like music. This is a very competitive profession so it can be difficult to get jobs and A&R scouts often start off working for free in order to gain experience. As soon as an artist that an A&R has signed becomes successful, it is more likely that they will find themselves moving up in the industry.