Why Labels Abandoned A&R

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The following is a guest post by Ritch Esra of the Music Business Registry.

Esra attempts to answer the question: whatever happened to traditional A&R?

“My take is that the traditional A&R process as we’ve known it is dying for a few reasons;

(1) The major labels are hiring fewer and fewer A&R executives because the volume of acts – and more importantly the types of acts – being signed have dramatically decreased.

(2) The A&R process used to be about the discovery, signing & nurturing of the act.  Today, A&R executives are not looking for talent per se.  They are looking for an ongoing business.

(3) An artist that has developed some kind of traction and awareness on their own is what I’m talking about.  Today, acts need to be “developed” or at least developing in a business sense for any label to have even the slightest amount of interest.  The idea that today’s A&R executives will discover an unknown act / artist and develop that artist is an illusion.  They have neither the desire, time or money for that matter in 2011.

And by the way, this last point is about to become profoundly illustrated in the next 60-90 days – as dramatic and sweeping changes happen at Universal and Sony.

(3) This is why from an A&R perspective, only the most generic, ubiquitous type of acts get any attention from labels today.  There is only a certain type of act these days that major labels are willing to sign.

So if you happen to have those specific skills these days – great!  Otherwise, our stats show it all: not one of the 40 A&R people let go last year has found another A&R job.  Not one!”

Some A&R-related hiring stats:

A&R executives hired by labels*, 2010: 25
(of those, 40 exited without subsequent rehire)

A&R executives hired by labels, 2009: 58 (w/ 51 exiting)
A&R executives hired by labels, 2008: 80 (w/ 64 exiting)

*labels defined as majors and larger indies.