Updated: Jun 15
Written by Skye Antoniou
Signing to a Record Label or Publishing Company shouldn’t be as daunting as it’s made to be. Most unsigned artists, songwriters and producers go into sending song submissions with the idea and hope that their one demo will land them a deal right away. Sure, this can happen and has most definitely happened in my experience, but these are by artists and songwriters who have put years into mastering their craft in preparation to send a song that makes A&R’s want to jump out of their swizzle chairs and start typing up agreements.
For any aspiring songwriter and producer out there, if you didn’t know before, A&R’s will become a huge part of your career, throughout early development and into your greatest and most successful years. In order to truly understand what we look for in a new signing, it’s crucial to know the nitty-gritty of what we actually do.
Let’s get into the mind of an A&R!
What Does An A&R (Artists & Repertoire) Do?
Think of A&R’s as your creative manager. For independent record labels and publishing companies, the role will include scouting new talent, developing your sound, artistry, and strengthening your songwriting and production. You’ll be put in the right sessions in order to benefit your growth and each session will become bigger and better, providing you’re developing well and exciting your team. Your development process will consist of having continuous feedback, having your A&R sit in sessions giving direction to you and your co-writers, as well as your rep aliasing with external labels and writers to get your name and talent into A&R’s minds for A/B-List sessions.
How To Impress An A&R
The majority of writers going into sending a cold email or having a meeting will instantly hope that they’ve landed a deal and the dream advance after they first meet. Any songwriter who has sent their music off for review or has had a one-to-one meeting with a label will know that the process isn’t that easy.
Funnily enough, it’s not just a smash hit song A&R’s are looking for when meeting an unsigned writer. When we open up those submission emails or start chatting with a potential star, we look for one key thing; potential. Does this songwriter/producer have a consistent number of good melodies or lyrics or beats or hooks etc - what’s their strength and can this become something special? Persona - is this songwriter/producer/artist showing they’re excited to develop their weaknesses? Perhaps in-denial/stubborn to what they need to work on?
Depending on which label you’re sending your music to, even if you’re showing potential, sadly a lot of major labels or indie labels with large rosters may not be able to take the songwriter or producer on, purely because of the lack of time they have to work with early development stages (whether or not you're at your early stages of songwriting and producing our online A&R mentoring services are available for you. Learn more here 👊).
But this is where you impress the A&R - from here on it’s your key goal to ensure every new song you send them is better than the last. If the label is a gooden and gave you constructive feedback, then make sure they can hear their own feedback in the next song. Development is a HUGE part of all writers and artists career, no matter what stage you are at. So showing and proving to them that you’re capable of growth will instantly keep you in their good books.
Your submissions and if you’re lucky enough, your meetings, need to be as humble and as professional as possible. Think of these introductions as a date; you never want to give off the wrong impression and scare the other person away, so tread lightly and play it cool.
If you really want to excite an A&R, discuss how open-minded you are towards sessions, truthful feedback and any suggestions that can further your growth. We like a songwriter, producer or artist who we know will not be a headache.
How To Approach Cold Song Submissions
So you have been working on a beat or song for months, you’ve finally finished up and you’re unbelievably proud of the smash you have written. It’s time to send across to the publishing or record label you have had your eye on for years - with an email subject of “Your next signing” or “The best song you’ve ever heard”. Congratulations, you have discovered the quickest way to get an A&R to delete an email without even opening it up.
I’ll admit, I am one of those hundreds of A&R’s that will refuse a submission based off an introduction email. But think of it from our perspective, we will be spending a lot of time and energy into this writers development - so we want to make sure the person we’re working with is a good egg; humble, reliable, professional. So instantly, all we’re seeing is a writer who is in denial.
Not sure what to say in your email? Don’t overthink it! Use our email templates and make it your own.
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