A&R Reps on who they'll sign, who they won't

A&R Reps: Who They'll Sign--Who They Won't

So much music is being consumed--and via so many different forms of media--that A&R representatives and label execs today face numerous challenges, and it affects the way they evaluate talent and who they choose to sign.

To help you gain insight into their process, we contacted A&R reps and executives at four record labels and a publishing company to find out what factors they consider before inking a deal. We think you’ll find the information they disclose in this exclusive feature not only helpful, but truly eye-opening.


Gary Leon, A&R
Submissions: [email protected]
(attach two best songs)

Gary Leon is an A&R executive at Atlantic Records and is also the co-founder of SBGL, a production company that focuses on finding and developing new talent. Leon has brought many artists and songwriters into the mix, including Kacino who wrote “Unusual” for Trey Songz and Drake. Most recently he discovered Paris Jones who has worked with Wiz Khalifa, Brianna Perry, Diggy Simmons and Nicki Minaj.

What’s your focus?
I like to build artists and projects from the ground up. Although my past projects have been urban, pop and R&B, I’m interested in anything good. If my ears and brain react with passion, I’m going to check it out.

How is your label different?
Atlantic is more hands-on than most. This label is very helpful in guiding and developing acts. They really support an artist’s vision.

Are you looking for anything particular?
I like things that are original and stand out. I look at the whole package, the music, the talent and the image. They’re equally important.

Is there anything that would stop you from working with an artist?
If I believe there’s potential, I’ll work with almost any artist. You know, some artists are a little crazy, but that doesn’t bother me as long as we get results. I’ll let an artist simply be “the artist” if they’re crazy with talent.

Is there a courting period before signing?
Working with an artist is like forming a partnership, or entering a marriage. So, you want to be sure you can make a long-term commitment. And that might take a little while to determine.

What’s the worst part of your job?
The risk… If you sign an act, spend money and fail, you could lose your job. But, if I believe in an act, I don’t mind that risk.

Do artists need record deals today?
It depends. Artists can do a lot for themselves, but if they want major success they’re probably going to have to tap label services. Even Macklemore (who is not signed to a third-party label) uses label services to support his career.

What are you tired of hearing?
Clones. Whenever someone comes up with a new musical style or production technique, everyone tries to do the same thing. That gets old. You should be yourself and have your own style.

What future trends do you see?
You can break artists in different ways. It’s not just the old model anymore. You can use the Internet, television, radio, digital outlets, apps, live streams and on and on. It’s only limited by your imagination. •

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