A&R Meetings can be quite an exciting thing, but at its core it should always be a relaxed conversation between two interested parties. It’s a chance to learn a lot about the music industry and people involved. A great approach when heading into these sort of conversations is staying in the now, concentrating on the take-away of a single moment without getting lost in hypothetical master-plans and grand schemes.
Persona / Company
The flow of any conversation will benefit from a very distinct mindset: separating the persona from the company.
Try to engage in the situation without constantly thinking of the record company. Even if you end up signing to a label, you will be signing to a shared work-experience that takes place with – real people.
Also – be aware of the fact that there is a personal agenda and a company agenda. Some A&R Managers sign acts from a deep gut feeling. Therefore they may even have to negotiate or argument with their own peers at the label. A personal agenda can be a very delicate thing, based on private aesthetics and preferences.
Try to find out what the personal agenda is, and why this A&R wants to work with you and the music you produce.
Parallel A&R pitching
Even though it might seem like a tailored and very well planned agenda that is proposed to you – be aware, that this a pitch among many. Feeling special or getting the feeling of enjoying a very individualized treatment can be a great boost. Nevertheless signing promising acts to labels is a job like any other. Certain strategies are used to follow through on that.
And it’s nothing disquieting, to be honest. Just a fact to consider. It doesn’t mean that this conversation is less sincere, it just keeps you on your toes and your mind clear.
On the contrary, the A&R is probably also half-expecting that you are talking to various
representatives of other companies, so this game basically goes both ways.
Have your agenda set
You can only be in line with a common direction if you know where you want to go. Plans change, mix up and have to stay flexible, but having a potential 12 month rollout plan in your pocket really helps finding a common denominator.
Not with the ironclad will of doing nothing but – just a plan that you can propose, that demonstrates your ability to work and conceptualize on your own.
The more the A&R appreciates you as a complete creative producer, the higher he or she will rate possibilities and opportunities of working together.
Be aware of what you can do, what not, and why need a team.
Everybody knows everyone
At a certain level, professionals meet up, even if rivalries are consistent.
Be it at festivals, industry meet-ups or award shows, A&R’s talk to each other and are aware of shared interests. They also talk about acts that are on their radars, exchanging little stories and even re-narrations of meet-ups.
If you have already conversed with other A&R’s, you better be straight about it. Chances are, your conversation partner already knows about it and is just trying to figure out your groove and how strategic you play the game.
Information will transpire, and gaining a reputation as a two-faced dialog partner is not something you want to pursue.
The emotional A&R signing
Signing new artists is an emotional endeavor for many A&Rs. They believe in someone and want to engage in a shared journey. Even if you try to keep the business side completely rational and emotion-free, it’s not going to work entirely. Especially if the process is sustained over a broad range of time.
As with creating a piece of music, A&R’s have a tendency of approaching their work as a similar artform of orchestrating different elements and creating realities. They are very sensible to soft factors and some can even become sulky after dealing with too many complications.
Communication and honesty is the key to any A&R relationship. The clearer you set your agenda, the things that are important to you and how you imagine a work-process, the better your opposite will assess the situation and act accordingly.
Keep it real!
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