Written by Richard Rogers (Music2Deal UK representative)
A&R is a beautiful profession to be involved with and I always maintain it is an art form and a science……. seriously. I even wrote that quote in the 2018 book, “Depeche Mode: Violator – The Ultimate A&R Guide” which former Warner/Chappell and Island MD Richard Manners concurred with me on. In 2020, an A&R person is now more valuable than ever. Why? Because now every artist needs an A&R person to ensure the artist is 2 steps ahead of the vast competition. The main problem is everybody can make a record now and record/produce it in their bedroom. This means the number of artists around the world has escalated above all proportions because with a fairly inexpensive piece of equipment and a pair of headphones everyone can attempt to be a star! The trouble is the number of would be stars has spread in number like the common cold and record companies receive more submissions than ever before.
As Invisible Hands Records (a UK record company) owner and MD Charles Kennedy said to me a couple of years ago ‘Because there are so many artists out there now doing DIY music, everything is so watered down and even worse most of it is unlistenable. I’ll rarely sign up new artists now, i’ll just rely on catalogue artists such as The Jam, Hugh Cornwell, Emerson, Lake & Palmer etc who are already signed to my company’.
Kennedy was right, everybody knows somebody who has a new single out now on Spotify!!! So how can you make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd? Who is going to go through your songs and choose your best song for you so at least you have a chance in the industry? Who can recommend the right record labels, the perfect publisher, the correct manager, a killer remixer or the deft producer you require for your act? Yup it’s the much maligned A&R man. He’s still out there but in diminishing numbers sadly as algo rhythms and reduced A&R Departments take control but he’s the man that can still recommend changing the structure or the arrangement within a song or telling the bass player not to play quite so many notes on the track.
The problem is everybody would like an A&R man for free. Last month (February 2020) I had two cases in question. Firstly a guy that owned a small record label in the States asked me to find a number of record companies worldwide to license and distribute his artists for him and he offered to pay a small percentage for the best deal I could find financially. You’ll note the best deal financially (ie the most money) as opposed to the best deal for the artist in regards to percentages, even though this would mean more money for myself as the ‘deal finder’. I refused to take the offer on as this was not strictly A&R work in my view and I felt the principles to his search for money above all else to the detriment of the artist was thoroughly wrong.
Let’s use an example, if a ‘deal finder’ found for a US record label, 2 potential partners in Germany and the most cash upfront from one was €120k for a years deal but the royalty percentage was minimal and another offered only €50k but fantastic royalty percentage terms and add ons and a better deal overall then the US label might go for the higher cash upfront which would not be to the benefit of the artist. In addition the ‘deal finder’ we will assume is being paid a percentage of the total deal (say 10% for arguments sake). Which is the ‘deal finder’ likely to then offer to the US label, the €120k deal or the €50k deal? Of course the ‘deal finder’ would pretend the ‘artist beneficial’ €50k deal never existed in the first place and there was only the €120k deal available on the table. The record company man goes home with €108k and the ‘deal finder’ takes €12k, his 10% of the €120k and both are happy. What about the artist? I felt that this ‘deal find’ was not the job of an A&R man really as that’s the job of a lawyer in conjunction with the record company, the artist and the artist manager. It’s 2020 and guys this is still happening! Artists – be aware.
The second situation arose of a central European singer who I believed from an A&R capacity, desperately required her vocals to be re-recorded because her English phonetics were, to be kind ‘poor’ on a nevertheless brilliant song she had co-written. She decided the vocals were good enough, took offense at my suggestion she re-record them, refused to pay an A&R fee and never got to find out her song had been entered into a major song competition and subsequently had been accepted and shortlisted for a final with a minimum Yen 350,000 payout (approx €2900). True, not huge money but better than a kick in the leg.
I see these situations month in, month out, so I decided as I do a lot of work with Music2deal to set up an independent A&R Consultancy to help out artists, songwriters, singers, managers etc. Anyone signed up to Music2deal with a paying membership gets a reduction of 20% off a consultancy and those on a free membership with Music2deal get 10% off. Don’t worry, i’ll still do the free Music2deal A&R Essentials series, the A&R tips and help in the blogs, newsletters and on the A&R Forum but the consultancy will be much more intensive.
There are 5 levels of consultancy starting with just a simple single hourly rate which I can assure you that you will recoup the cost back immediately with two pieces of advice on production and mastering alone.
That’s it really, a bit of useful advice for artists to be ultimately aware of those people in the industry that may not have your interest at heart. And yes, it’s mixed in with a bit of self promotion for myself which in 16 years i’ve never done at music2deal. I thought this was worth it though to stop artists being screwed over.
Please let us know in this forum if this has ever happened to you or an artist you know and finally, here’s a request. I’m looking to bring in A&R people in different music styles and genres to expand the consultancy across the musical board so if you are an A&R man or know an A&R person then please get in touch so together we can help artists from being taken for a ride, sometimes without them even knowing.
Richard Rogers – March 2020