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Top Tips on Becoming an A&R, from an A&R

A&R is entrepreneurial. It’s like running your own small music talent startup within a record label. Without taking the initiative and adopting a DIY attitude, it can become very hard to succeed. And on top of all of that, it’s actually pretty hard to enter in the first place.


We were thrilled to speak with a close friend of Majoris, a mentor on our Becoming Major programme and an A&R at Universal Music - Amber McKinney - on her top tips for being an A&R. Here’s what she said:


1. Listen to as much music as possible!


If your job is finding new talent and bringing them to the table, it all starts with you listening to that talent. This doesn’t mean listening to your top charting artists on repeat, but constantly listening to a wide variety of new music and exploring new sounds with curiosity. Developing your taste is key (more on this below!).


The more music you dive into, the more developed your A&R senses become.


2. Always deep dive into playlists


This is more than a practice, it’s a passion. If you’re not willing to spend hours diving into the depths of Spotify, scrolling through albums and playlists for hours to discover the best of up & coming talent, this isn’t for you.


Think consistently finding artists with songs with below 50k plays.


3. Network


It’s as simple and as complicated as that. The phrase ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ basically came from the music industry; from any creative industry for that matter. Your connections will get you where you need to go. This doesn’t mean having the most LinkedIn connections, but genuinely building strong relationships with the people around you, so that things like event invites and further connecting come as a natural product.


Doing business with fun people makes doing business fun.


4. Develop your own taste, but stay on top of what’s trending


It’s essential to have your own genres and artists that you love, but to have the right industry conversations and to understand the musical landscape for business, you need to know what’s trending. This can be from Tiktok, to the charts, to the underground scene - the more trends the merrier. But when talking about your own taste, be the master. Know the depths of your favourite genre, for it’s most likely that you’ll be A&Ring for this. Always be on the lookout for new potential and talent, and always know what’s already doing well (or not) in your specific field.


Anticipating and staying on top of trends means you’re not catching up to them.


5. Do as much as possible to gain experience


The learning curve never stops. From those starting out to those who’ve signed the biggest artists, if you’re not learning you’re failing. Find opportunities with a ferocious passion - try not to take no for an answer! Once you do something, word can travel so fast about your work/initiative that new opportunities can be flying through the door. Top tip - if you don’t have any opportunities, create imaginary scenarios and write a plan around how you would approach and excel at that!


Fake it until you make it - and then deserve it.


 

This session with Amber featured in our ‘Becoming Major’ learning and development programme. Our Mentees got to spend time with industry experts and successful creatives to gain insight and knowledge on breaking into the industry.


If you’re looking to step into the music industry, become an A&R or grow within your existing role, execute some of these top tips and let us know what you think!


For more top tips and insights from across the music industry, explore our other Majoris Memos - and look out for our next Becoming Major scheme.






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