An A&R person or department, also known as Artist and Repertoire department, serves as the music scout and talent finder for a music organization. The organization is traditionally a label or publishing company that is looking for talented artists and songwriters, but other companies in the music world like music magazines and promotion agencies will often look to A&R people for their assistance.
For labels and publishing companies that are established and have a large budget, A&R jobs can be full-time positions for those who have a good ear for musical talent and a lot of knowledge about the music industry. For smaller labels and other types of companies looking to hire someone to scout talent, it can be a part-time or contracted position.
A&Rs can scout for music in a variety of different ways, just like a general music consumer would. They often find talent in local music scenes, on streaming sites like Spotify and Soundcloud, and with digital submission forms or emails from artists and bands who are looking for a chance to be heard. They often engage with potential talent via email, phone, video chat, and in-person meetings.
Being an A&R is a very unique type of job in which there is no one way to land a good position. A huge part of getting hired to be an A&R depends on your ability to network in the music industry. With A&Rs and similar music label jobs, it's all about who you know and being in the right place at the right time.
Many A&Rs start as interns at labels, music publishing companies, and radio stations. As you progress through smaller tasks in your company, your work may lead you to get a position in the A&R department. There are often several different roles in the A&R department including A&R Administrators, A&R Managers, and the Director of A&R (which you will need time and experience to work your way up to).
If you are looking to take a more independent approach to get hired as an A&R, you may want to consider developing your own brand as a music curator. This can be done by growing an audience with a blog, Spotify playlist, social media profile, or a combination of all three. You will need to showcase your knowledge of the industry as well as your extremely good taste in rising talent, and key people in the industry may want to hire you for contract work.
You don't need to have a degree to be an A&R, but it can certainly help if you have a degree related to business and marketing, particularly in the music field. Several programs across the US have a Music Business degree available that would be a good fit for an aspiring A&R to have.
Again, networking is more critical here than a degree would be. It is also more important to have credible experience working for reputable companies in the music industry such as previous label work, DSP (streaming music sites) work, music management work, radio work, or something similar.
A&Rs on average make around $40,000-60,000 annually, but it largely varies due to the largely varied nature of the work in the music industry in general. Some A&Rs do very part-time work that will only make them a few hundred per week, while others work for huge labels and make 6 figures. It also varies a lot due to the differences between the types of companies that are looking to hire A&Rs. Labels, magazines, marketing companies, radio networks, DSPs all vary in company size and budget very widely.
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