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 signing of new artists. 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 material for any singer or musician who doesn’t write own music.
For that case, Artist and Repertoire managers tend to have close relationships with their counterparts at publishing houses. This helps them to make sure that they’ll always have the best new songs for their artist to record.
Artist and Repertoire managers also seek out new material for musicians who don’t write own music
What is more, A&R managers also oversee the entire recording process of a band or musician. That is why people often confuse them with the product manager within a record company.
A product manager is also taking care of bands and recording matters. However, not like an A&R manager, they don’t have the power to sign new artists.
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.*source: Allison Klein
A&R managers often shaped the music taste of the time with the bands they’ve signed
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.
Well done you, if an A&R manager comes to your gig
They also search the web for new and emerging artists. If you have an A&R manager coming to your gig you’re already on a good way.
Of course, a lot of bands and musicians don’t even try that route anymore. Being a successful DIY-artist can give you some independence from the old routes of the music business.
I hope I could answer your questions about what an A&R manager does within the music business. The music industry is a very complex system with many jobs being intertwined with each other.
All being co-dependent on each other as well. However, if your job is to stand at the back of a gig with an exciting new band holding a cold beer in your hand. Well, then you’ll certainly made it in the music industry (and hopefully as the band too 😉 ).