Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Top Ten A&R Annoyances

  • 1998 31 Aug
Top Ten A&R Annoyances
by Bruce Adolph, courtesy of %%Christian Musician%%

Most musicians out there really want a record deal. Most musicians realize that record companies have A&R people whose defined job is to discover talented artists (i.e. you). The thing few artists realize is that the bulk of an A&R person's time is spent on artists and projects already signed by the label. The talent scout aspect of finding new artists occupies a very small percentage of their time. Before we start deliberating on who deserves a record deal and who doesn't, or start to consider how many thousands of artists are out there armed with a "studio-quality demo" (another highly subjective topic in it's own right); you have to consider the role of the A&R executives. They need to have a clear understanding of what their label is looking for in an artist. Equipped with that understanding, they sort through the multitude of demo tapes (many of them being rejected). Is this nature's way of "thinning the herd?" Well, no matter what you think, chances are if your going to pursue a record company to sign you as an artist, you'll need to interact with the label's A&R executives.

Since first impressions are so important, we thought we would offer you some major clues on what not to do with the A&R guys & gals. It could get you off on the right foot. For some of you veterans out there, you might want to brush up a bit, or at least count and see how many of these annoying things you've done personally. You never know, this could explain a lot to you. We asked four different record companies for their very own pet peeves of A&R interaction. You probably should keep a tally sheet close by.

Here you go:

Dez Dickerson
Absolute Records

1. Unsolicited submissions. We get our leads & introductions from bona fide sources (managers, agents, producers, etc.).
2. Calls the same day the package arrives (or before).
3. Calls just to ask questions ("How do I do a demo?" etc.).
4. Multiple calls pressing for an answer (we have a clear submission policy that we inform people of beforehand).
5. Folks expecting to get their package back if we pass (unless you send a SASE, count it as a loss).
6. Expecting a meeting without a referral.
7. More than 3 songs on a demo.
8. Folks who have no prior performance experience and are not now actively ministering in their local church or area submitting demos (a record deal is not the starting point).
9. Artists without an identifiable focus (the "I'll be anything you want me to be, do anything to get signed" syndrome).
10. Inviting 15 labels to a showcase (we don't do the bidding war thing).

Eric Wyse
Warner Alliance

1. Dishonesty - This covers everything from "Requested Material" on the front of a package when it wasn't, to "I was referred to you by..." when you weren't. From "I produced/wrote/sang, etc. on this song/tape/album" when you really didn't, or not in the way represented and you are stretching the truth. Be absolutely honest, don't embellish or stretch the truth and God will honor it in His time!
2. Not Giving Info - Put your name, address and phone number with area code on everything that you submit. If you leave a message, tell me what it is regarding, your complete name and complete number. No first name only (I know many Davids, Johns, Susies, etc.)
3. Not Respecting My Privacy - If you ever call me at home or speak to me at my church or when I am dining in public with my family about your song/concert/record deal, you will get nowhere. The only appropriate place to contact an A&R person is at their office. It is my JOB, not my LIFE. Please respect my commitment to my spouse, children and church body to put them before my job. It tells me you don't have your own priorities straight if you contact me outside my office.
4. Dropping In Unannounced - Do not show up at my office, expecting to "catch me" for a minute unless I have agreed to meet with you and set up a time and place. This is disrespectful of my schedule.
5. Gimmick Presentations - Regardless of what you may have heard, an outlandish presentation is NOT a good thing. I don't want to have a 4 foot box delivered to my office filled with styrofoam popcorn, or a tape delivered in a "grenade" ( I might just call the FBI ) or any other cute, clever disguise. Yes, I would like a nice classy presentation, but not a gimmick. In the long run, your music and spirit will speak for itself, not your gimmick!
6. Long Message/Singing On My Voice Mail - If you are put through to my voice mail, leave a concise message. Please do not play me your latest song or use voice mail as an audition. When this happens I hit "delete" immediately.
7. Not Accepting No - If you receive a rejection letter, please accept it for what it is: a message that we are not interested. If God closes a door, it means He will make another way. I respect persistence (getting through to be heard), but I dismiss demandingness, belligerence and harassment (not taking no for an answer) as immaturity, both emotionally and spiritually.
8. Call For A Response Right Away - If you have submitted a recording, please do not call for a response, especially the next day! With the volume of material every A&R person receives, even with a no submission policy, it can often take months to get to your packet. Eventually I will respond if it was submitted correctly, according to our policy.
9. Not Knowing How The Business Works - Learn how the industry works so when and if you are given a chance to submit your material, you do it well! Make good demos, have good references, a professional photo, and a gracious attitude. Most of all, trust God to open the doors He wants you to go through. Evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in your approach to music (gentleness, kindness, patience, etc.) will do much more for you than a demanding, egotistical spirit.
10. Not Knowing The Distinctiveness Of My Label - Learn who you are pitching to, so you can target a label that is in a position to help you. Know the type of music they market and the successes they've had. Make sure you would be a good fit before you try to get in the door.

A&R Staff
Star Song Records

1. Asking the question, "Did you get my tape?"
2. When asked what style of music they do, replying, "I can do anything!"
3. Singing to tracks. Especially {Sandy Patti}
4. Sending Christian labels photos with any of the following: cleavage, chest hair, or geri curl!
5. Using the line, "God told me to send you this tape."
6. Asking, "but did you get my tape?"
7. Saying they want to minister to the nation when they haven't even sung for their neighbor.
8. One word: "Crossover"
9. "People say I sound just like ..."
10. They think we make stars when we really just facilitate ministry.

Dan Postuma
Myrrh Records

1. Camping out in our record company parking lot (without a permit).
2. Someone slipping their demo into the company's "music-on-hold" intercom.
3. Getting a Xeroxed form letter that begins, "Dear Mr. Postofficema, today's your lucky day ..."
4. When your mother says, "the nice young man who gave me the tape sings just as good as Steve Green, and I'm sure he didn't know that you work for a record company."
5. "I wrote this song especially for {Crystal Lewis.} Just have her sing the word 'Jesus' every time it says 'Baby' here ..."

Well, there you have it. A little industry insight never hurt anyone ("an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure" type of thing). I hope those of you who have committed several of these annoying things can stop grimacing now; remember that we serve a God of restoration. We'll leave you with a quote from the bottom of Dan Postuma's list of annoyances: "Other than that, write from your own heart, not somebody else's, and let the good songs roll." Amen.