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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Independent A&R...The New Music Industry Career

Every year hundreds of music business professionals lose their jobs. Some are laid off. Others are fired. The end result is the seasonal carnage that results in unemployment.

Many of those who are unceremoniously dismissed will encounter various obstacles in their search for new jobs such as age, race, and sex discrimination. Some will fair better than others due to their network of associates or nepotism. Some people will go on to become consultants. Others will start companies. Many if not most will leave the music industry altogether.

For those in the minority who really understand the business and see the big picture, they are faced with their most daunting task: re-inventing their jobs and finding ways to get paid doing it.

Enter Independent A&R into the equation.

Over the years, A&R (artist and repertoire) reps have been enigmatic figures that have been misrepresented and misunderstood because their roles vary so greatly from company to company. One fact is absolute: A&R reps employed by record companies act on behalf of the record company.

Historically, A&R reps would create songs for artists to record and perform. They were musicians and songwriters who helped find a home for goods songs with the appropriate artists, and they would also help artists get signed to labels that would be good homes to develop their careers in.

Then artists started writing their own songs. That’s when the A&R professionals had to modify their job description. Now, it’s industry consensus that A&R people do everything and nothing – often simultaneously. How can they? Or rather, how can they not? The artists that they endorse are often dropped in the blink of an eye when they don’t generate enough revenue to make a profit for the label to which they are signed.

The argument of whether or not record companies will survive or become extinct like dinosaurs is tired and should be put to rest. Record companies – or companies functioning in a record company capacity -will always exist. What no longer can exist is prehistoric thinking (which is no doubt how dinosaurs used to think) that we take in our approach, as professionals, to doing business in the music industry.

We are now dealing with intangible commodities as our product in the music industry (music, which is an intellectual property, and talent, which is associated with brands). The new digital/wireless era that we live in allows us to strip away the fat (excess) and the BS (politics) that plague and undermine the business. What we will have left when the smoke clears are the very things that the music industry was founded on: music, talent, and entrepreneurship. This represents a golden opportunity for Independent A&R professionals.

Independent A&R professionals facilitate the commercial use of that music and talent as entrepreneurs. By facilitate I’m referring to the process of helping others find, and/or negotiate the use of, music and talent in any revenue generating capacity e.g. (licensing/performance/recording, etc.).

Most artists think of their success vertically, viewing it in terms of “levels” they are on, an Independent A&R professional looks at success horizontally; basing it on a multiplicity of income streams across multiple platforms.

For example, consider producer Cori Jacobs, his core business is producing music. His productions have appeared in television shows and have been featured prominently in many films including Tupac’s biopic, “Thug Angel” and most recently, Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married.” He is also a musical director for the likes of Lauryn Hill and Malcolm Jamal Warner (yes, as in Theo from the Cosby Show). In addition, he collaborates with numerous songwriters and performs with his band, Clear Soul.

Each transaction related to the use of his music and talent(s) entail a business activity that requires professional attention and handling.From interfacing with clients seeking his services as a producer, to people who want to utilize his talent as a musical director, to the negotiation of licensing his songs for use in film and television requires someone whom will instigate and execute all of these details.

While Independent A&R is a multi-tasking occupation, and there is overlap (as there is in practically every occupation in the music industry), and you do get paid on a commission basis, you are only engaged to handle the resulting business activities stemming from the commercial use of of your clients’ music and talents; not to do hand-holding or talent development.

Perhaps most importantly, Independent A&R can help you find a purposeful and relevant place in the music industry that fully utilizes the depth of my experience and the breadth of your knowledge. By helping artists maximize the use of their talents and generate revenue with their songs, You've filled a void and found a niche in the process. Independent A&R can do you justice

 Mr. Dangerfield is an I.A.P.D.A Certified Debt Specialist whom has worked in the finance industry for over a decade. He manages , is the author of "A Dangerfield Manifesto" and co-founder of SMG Holdings, the parent company of Squad Music Group, Dangerfield Artistic Entertainment,SMG Publishing and Taboo Dangerfield Publishing Follow me on twitter

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