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If you were a record label A+R man.......

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by The Mock Turtle Regulator, Mar 12, 2003.

  1. I was thinking about all the unsigned bands I'd played on the same bill as since I'd started playing on the original band scene, and the fact I'd seen only 2 bands I'd consider signing if I was an A+R man (a combination of liking the music and predicting other people would too=sales);
    one was Syndrome, the other Angellica.

    Syndrome went on to release a few singles on small indie labels, had XFM airplay, then split up.
    maybe if they'd had better management they could have made it to at least the level Turin brakes are at.

    Angellica, much the same, but still going today- singles and album releases on small labels, XFM and Radio1 airplay. on listening to their demos maybe their problem is the vocals aren't strong enough, and they're not quite original enough (a bit too much like Kenickie).

    a few other bands I've seen were practically carbon copies of successful bands like Lost prophets, Hundred reasons, Turin Brakes, and had a following, and went on to be signed to small labels.
    the trouble with these clone bands is that while they have a "our very own local version of Lost prophets/Green day etc." appeal, there's a ceiling to how big they can get, and won't make it to a second album before they get dropped, unless they can change their sound radically to latch onto the next big thing when times change.

    so what would you look for if you were an A+R man/woman?
    is anyone here one/ has been one?

    in genres other than rock/pop/alternative you could say "just great music, maaaaan", but in those;

    in a demo or seeing/hearing the band live for the first time, memorable hooks.
    if I couldn't remember any of the melodies, riffs choruses etc. I wouldn't bother with them.

    re. stage presence + image, if they had those already, great, otherwise if their music was good enough it could be worked on, guided for more appeal.
    also i'd note if the band members got on well with each other- a band always on the verge of breaking up not being a good one to work with...

    if a band was terrible overall, but individual members stood out as being particularly talented, i'd consider poaching them to replace/augment members of a band i was dealing with.

    I suppose this could apply to a manager scouting for talent too.
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I can't think of any unsigned originals bands that I'd sign.

    Not that I've really heard that many - but I'm rarely impressed by any I hear.

    Hell, there are plenty of *signed* artists that I wouldn't have considered signing.

    If I were an A&R man, I'd be looking for good, original songwriting, good players, and a good vocalist with a distinctive style.

    Actually I'd really love to hear a band that *aren't* guitar based! I've gotten *so* bored with guitar based music. By far most of the demo recordings people have posted have been guitar based rock of some sort.


    I wouldn't mind if it were original, but... argh!! The thing about guitar is, (unless you're good) there are only so many chord shapes. And the same kind of chord progressions come up again and again.

    It's *so* boring!

    I'd much rather hear something, maybe piano or keyboard based, that had inventive and original chord sequences.
  3. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I would look for someone talented and insane, like Bjork. She sounds like the future.

    Everyone now is trading on the past. Most artists today wouldn't be out of place in the early '70s (R&B Marvin Gaye soundalikes, Strokes-ish fake punks) or the '80s (Kylie Minogue, No Doubt, other Blondie-ish synth pop). Metal has gone in a new direction, but not necessarily a good one - instead of poncy hair bands, we have freakish no-hair bands.

    I'd like to get away from the electric guitars too.
  4. it depends a lot on what size and type of record labels we're considering.

    if the record label is a large one;
    the thing about the same old guitar progressions, textbook songwriting etc. is that it's less risky.
    there's more guarantee of predictable material finding an audience and hence selling.

    but, on the other hand, if you had the guts, and the promotion budget, you could break bigger with an unpredictable act if it succeeded.......and fall harder should it fail.....

    with a small label with small overheads, artist advances, recording costs, you could try releasing whatever you liked...sales would be modest, with a small or non-existant promotional budget.
    the problem being that the artist you took a chance with who turned out to be successful would get lured away by a bigger label's fat advance sum.

    if I imagined being in A+R for a medium sized label- signing artists I really actually liked, but have no guarantee of selling (at least at first), but also some sure-fire sellers (eg. the bandwaggon-jumpers, the Green day/Blink182/Lost prophets/Hundred Reasons/Coldplay etc. clone bands with a large following) on a one-album deal to offset the risk.

    artist development (ie. letting the artist build up their following rather than breaking big to start with) seems to be a thing of the past with large labels today.
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    This such a good question because I have often wondered what labels were thinking that do sign talent that I personally felt had little chance of having a lasting career.

    If I were Clive Davis, for example, or Simon Cowell, I'd have to choose a band that had at least one very charismatic figure (Ex. Jim Morrison, Bruce Springsteen), preferably the front man (or woman.) If the band had more, even better. (Ex. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora; Steven Tyler and Joe Perry; Axl Rose and Slash.)

    In addition, I'd have to hear song writing talent. The music would have to be memorable, exciting, distinctive (but not too outre.) I'd watch the audience for their response. How enthusiastic are they? That counts big time.

    I'd look for experience and street cred. Has the band "paid it dues" so to speak with months or even two or three years of experience and hard knocks? Have they shown a willingness to sacrifice for their band? Do they have enough experience to face an arena of 30,000 fans and not fall apart? Have they done at least local tours and know how grueling it can be, but still love their music so much they want to keep doing it? I would be extremely wary of "overnight" successes.

    Lastly, is the band fairly clean in the behavior, drugs and alcohol department? This is where I might part company with some music heads. I would not want to risk an investmant in a band whose front man will be found dead in the trailer before a huge concert or deal with a Mike Tyson type who beats, abuses and even rapes women. I'm not saying the band members must be squeeky clean, but if any one in the band shows up to rehearsals, recording sessions or gigs drunk, stoned or not in condition to perform, then that person is out of the band. Even worse if the culture of the whole band is unbridled "sex, drugs, booze and rock and roll." They'll burn out before the ink is dry on their contract.

    Lastly, I'd be wary of any band member with incumberments such as children or a clingy, jealous spouse. They can settle down later, but to try to launch a band with a member or two who is always worrying about family at home or whose spouses present a constant barrier to touring and publicity requirements...it is just too hard at the start. The band members must have a total committment if they want to be national and international stars.
  6. interesting points there, Bop.

    I think that's where "clone" bands strike it lucky;
    a friend of mine's in a band which is a clone of Blink182 with puerile Bloodhound Gang-type lyrics.
    previously he was in a band which was a clone of Korn, and before that one which was a clone of Limp bizkit.

    these bands can get a following easily - people can get into them easily as they've heard the style and seen the image in the bands they've copied, and get swept up the current "movement".

    but when the current trend gets out of date and people have grown tired of it like a child abandoning christmas day toys on boxing day, watch the following and sales fall away.......

    the band in question has got signed to a small rock/skate-punk label and has an album out.......whether they make it to a 2nd album is doubtful....
    -although in their defence they are a tight band, competent musicians, and have wisely kept their recording costs to a minimal level.
    also I suspect the bandleader doesn't intend it to be a long-term project anyway.
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Mock Turtle, that is a good point. Enthusiasm that clone and cover bands get is what I call "cheap and easy" fandom because the fans already like the music. It is much harder to win fans over with a new departure, new music, unknown style, etc. The fans don't trust such a band yet and aren't sure that the music will be boring or too far out. It takes both courage and hard work to win fans over to something new.
  8. ...and I'm in the odd position of being in both a covers band and an original band that, although not groundbreakingly original (the Doors/Stooges/Hendrix comparisons abound), isn't really much like any currently popular band, and definitely isn't going for an easy option.

    this used to be psychologically draining for me- playing to empty venues with the original band, and packed venues with the cover band-
    and to add insult to injury having to cope with comments at covers gigs like "you guys should do original material- like Green Day" :rolleyes:

  9. hmmmm.
    I've been trying to appreciate the much-hyped Queens Of The Stone Age- and I'm thinking exactly that.
    maybe a "best of" culled from their 3 albums might just make it to 12 tracks that could sustain my interest, but otherwise, no.
    there's only so many times I can hear a nondescript chugging-along-on-one-chord-with-a-predictable-change-for-chorus song before switching off.
    and each of their albums seems to be made up of at least 6 of them....:rolleyes:

    but by contrast I can listen to all The Cult's (a similarly simplistic rock band) albums all the way through.