An A&R scout works for the record label and is responsible for finding new musical talent and developing that talent. A&R scouts are the first point of contact between artists and record labels, and by keeping up with musical trends and acts as they appear, scouts bring up-and-coming bands and solo acts to the attention of the A&R department. A&R scout is the lowest rung of the A&R ladder, below the A&R executive but critical to the discovery and development process.
As the title suggests, the main duty of an A&R scout is to seek out new musical talent that has the potential to make it in the industry. This can only be accomplished through intimate knowledge of the music industry, what leads to success for artists, and staying up-to-the-minute on all the important industry buzz. An A&R scout will routinely travel to gigs to listening to artists, scour trade magazines and music blogs for the latest trends, and listen to endless hours of music trying to find that diamond in the rough. Late hours in nightclubs, listening to thousands of hours of music to find five minutes of genius, and traveling across the country can be just a few of the duties.
Skills & Education
A&R scouts traditionally have diverse educational backgrounds, but a realistic understanding of the music business is a must. While someone with deep musical knowledge may be able to find the most talented musicians, the A&R scout will find the musicians with the greatest potential to make the record label a healthy profit. Good A&R scouts are adept at removing the emotional aspect and putting the “business” in show business. As such, successful scouts will know what kind of music and artists will be profitable and fit in at their label, and will recommend acts that have a chance to succeed in the marketplace.
What to Expect
Becoming an A&R scout may seem the ideal job if you love music and think you know what special magic makes a hit; finding the next Beatles may make an A&R scout’s career, but filtering through the thousands of other acts to get there is a very long road. It takes hard work, patience, and diligence to climb the ladder in this career. You must be willing to dedicate every minute to the life and become one of the known players behind the scenes. As with many industry jobs, networking is a key to success, and word of mouth is invaluable. You are always competing with your peers at other record labels, so it’s important to act quickly once the talent is discovered; there’s always another label waiting to close the deal if you can’t. Being a social butterfly, possessing the ability to inspire confidence and form close relationships with artists and club owners, is essential. Knowing what works for the label is crucial to the success of every A&R scout, and while the love of music is not required as much as knowing what sells, it certainly can’t hurt as you slog through thousands of hours of demo CDs, club gigs, and MySpace pages.
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