An A&R rep is a person who serves as the liaison between a record company and the artists under contract to it, which is also known as being signed to the label. The term A&R stands for artist and repertoire. The A&R rep is responsible for finding new talent, overseeing their first contact and recording with a record label, and assisting with the marketing and promotion of the artist once the recording has been produced.
The education and experience required to become an A&R rep varies greatly. It is essential that he have some level of musical understanding. Simply enjoying music is not enough, however. The best candidates have a musical background as well as a business background. Many colleges now offer combined degrees in music and business in order to provide a well-rounded education for those interested in pursuing careers in the music industry.
Finding new talent is the main goal for an A&R rep. These professionals are the executives that are sometimes called scouts. They go to concerts and showcases to listen to musicians, to find those that have potential to succeed in the record industry. They also give recommendations to their bosses at the record company to determine who will get new contracts with the company.
Once the talent has been signed, the A&R rep follows the musicians along the recording and post-production phase. He is not employed by the band, but is an employee of the record company, and is best served by keeping both entities happy. It is important to note that he does not have the same responsibilities as the band manager. Often, the band manager, in fact, becomes the primary contact person for the A&R rep.
The digital age has somewhat changed the nature of the A&R departments for many record companies. There is less reliance on in-person scouting and more online scouting is done. Bands in the 21st century are able to promote themselves online through various resources, like social networking and search engine optimization. Some can build up a following just by using these online resources, in the same way that they could once only do by traveling to perform live for audiences.
Due to these changes, coupled with the decline in record sales since the digital age, many record companies are paring down their A&R departments. Being able to seek out talent through the Internet means that fewer A&R people are needed to perform the same jobs of the past. It remains to be seen what the role of the traditional A&R department will be in the future.