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Bombshelter : What is A&R?.. Why A&R?

The Question is “What Does an A&R Actually Do?”

“ The term A&R is one of the most misunderstood roles in the music industry, overtime we at Bombshelter has garnered certain level of experience doing the job and also talking to the people who are doing the work every day at major labels, independents, and publishers to clear up the confusion and answer the key questions”.

A&R sounds like a very complicated matter within the music business. But it’s far from that. It simply means Artist & Repertoire. The internet is making music discovery as easy as possible nowadays. However, back in the day’s record labels send out their scouts to find new talent within the music scene. This also explains the two parts to the name. A&R means Artists and Repertoire. 


The first part ‘Artist’ means that the A&R manager is taking care of the artist whom is the talent. As well as looking after the existing roster of a record label. The second part of the name is ‘Repertoire’. It comes from the activity of searching for the best materials for the artists (Songwriting, Production etc.)

The role of A&R has three main responsibilities:

  • Finding talent
  • Overseeing the recording process
  • Assisting with marketing and promotion

A & R will help nurture a certain sound and image which includes listening to demos, aligning artists with the right producer, and offering creative input. That is the very distinguishing power and responsibility of an A&R manager. They’ll often times spend hours listening to new music. Constantly being on the hunt for new gems. 

After the recording, the A&R department will consult the marketing department. The promotion team will then come up with a sales strategy for the record.

The A&R (artists and repertoire) department is often considered the most glamorous department at a record label. This is because A&R is in charge of discovering new talent. …The people in this department work as the link between the recording artist and … the record company.

A&R managers have been responsible for often known for shaping the music taste of consumers, most times they are better known as Tastemakers based on the time and trend, they tend to worked overtime to add up their own bit to the music industry, be it mainstream or alternative.

Historically, the A&R manager and department had a huge influence on the record labels success. That is due to their scouting of new artists. What is more, they also shaped entire music trends. By signing unknown artists that went on to change the music industry forever. 

Just take Gary Gersh who signed Nirvana to DGC Recording. That was in a time when nobody talked about alternative rock or grunge. With streaming and co., artists can be successful on their own. Therefore, the role of the A&R manager might not be that prominent anymore. 

Nonetheless, in order to get a big record deal, you still need to handle the A&R threshold. It is not uncommon for A&R managers and their team to go to gigs to search for new talent.

“So Well done to you, if an A&R manager comes to your Gig”

“Being an A&R is much more than signing talent. You’re not the person in the movies with sunglasses on and plaques on the wall in the studio,” Ashley Calhoun, SVP/head of creative at Pulse Music Group. “It really is a 24/7 commitment and job and you really have to be passionate about your artist, the company or label you work for, and all of those things.”

The responsibility of an A&R (short for artist and repertoire) is to be involved from start to finish—beginning with talent discovery and signing, through the creation of the music, to the marketing and promotion. Specific tasks can include bringing talent to a record label, arranging recording sessions, and serving as a conduit between artists, producers, and other creatives. As technological advances have continued in the past decade, changing the way people consume and discover music, the industry has been forced to enter its digital era at last. The Internet has shown us time and time again that any artist can be propelled into virality through social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter.

Consequently, the role of the A&R has changed too, as data and analytics have become another tool to help find tomorrow’s next breakout artist. Artists now have the ability to connect with fans and promote music without the help of a label or marketing team, bringing into question the role of labels in 2020 (a conversation for another day).

Ultimately, the roles and responsibilities of an A&R can’t be confined to a singular opinion. So, we spoke to the people who are doing the work every day in the music industry’s most misunderstood role, including A&Rs at majors, independent labels, and publishers. Collectively, they help give a better idea of what being an A&R entails and answer questions like: How has the age of the Internet changed A&R? What do you look for when signing talent? Can anyone be an A&R? How hard can it be? Read on for the answers.

You take up the bit of every part of an artist life but moreover, you become a confidante and the best friend because you can’t propel what you don’t understand.

Trust me, It’s much more than scouting talent.

“To me, the A&R is the person who serves as the liaison between the artist and the consumer. The job is to be able to see an artist who’s not at their full potential but has star power. A&Rs are visionaries, musically. A lot of us sign acts before they blow up because we see they have star power or maybe their music relates to a certain audience. I feel like an A&R should be able to help an artist put forth their best music. They should be helping them pick the right beats, structure, and build those connections.” – Onyi Kokelu, Artist Development @ CMG Records.

Why A&R?

The only thing that comes to mind when I think about that is “Everything that glitters isn’t gold”.

“A lot of people think that being in the studio and chasing down artists to clear something for a side-artist agreement, or directing an artist that might not have any direction is this super fun process that we all love. The reason that we celebrate when we put a project out is because it takes a lot. Sometimes you might run into an artist and hypothetically speaking, they might have a bit of stubbornness and don’t want to give you what you need from them. They might say, “I’ll do this how I want to do this and nobody’s going to tell me what to do,” and at the same time, you’re trying to put yourself in a position to deliver the best project.

“There’s a lot of back and forth that goes on in that side. While an A&R position might look glamorous and really dope, it’s really tough. In more recent years, I salute the women that have been doing A&R and killing it because it’s tough for men so I can only imagine what it is for women.” – Wayne “Wayno” Clark, VP, A&R @ Asylum Records

“Outside of the fun and celebratory parts of being an A&R, there is this saying that A&R stands for Artists and Repertoire. The is the division of a record label that is responsible for talent scouting and the artistic and commercial development of the recording artist. It also acts as a liaison between the artist and the record label.

For the unsigned musician, A&R can be the gatekeepers of the industry. It is not their job to keep you out, so much as it is to find marketable music for their company and the Industry at large. A&R reps are the most times the musicians’ point of contact at the label during contract negotiations. They also play an important role in development of the artist 

– how the Artist /band will be marketing, sometimes choosing songs for the musicians to record if they don’t write their own material and building a basic promotional foundation for the body of work and the Artist.

Let Bombshelter know more about what and why A&R is most times misunderstood, just incase we missed out on some key information regarding Artist and Repertoire.

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