Algorithms tell us where artists have touched human beings whose opinions we trust. Next is human review. We have reviewers at all levels, trained and tested in each genre. When I put the senior team together, I thought, “Who does an A&R guy go to when he wants to find out about an artist?” His favorite indie blogger, producer, DJ, music supervisor or talent buyer. What if we flipped it? What if we got those people to be the A&R team? Meet once a week with me and my A&R directors, virtually as a team and four times a year in person for a symposium. People bring artists they’ve discovered and expose them to the group.
We’re deciding where artists should go. If they’re not ready, do they go into development with us? Should we invest in them? What opportunities should we create? We’re thoughtful about how we provide assistance.
Work Hard, Be Amazing
I’m looking for artists who work hard. And the best way to find out how hard an artist works is: How polished is their profile? How polished is their social media? Are they promoting themselves? Are they playing shows?
Hard work is important, but it’s secondary to one thing—an artist has to be amazing. Music has become homogenous. One reason is because A&R has become increasingly sync driven. Sync music has become safe; something that can play in prime time. My hands are not tied the way a major label’s are. We can work with an artist who’s different and original and doesn’t sound like anything else.
What Do You Need?
We’ve got about 300 artists in the CONNECT program. Each is allocated a manager. We have a full complement of expertise artists need, and each one goes onto one of those managers’ rosters. A manager has to feel pretty passionate about an artist before we’ll take them on.
Once in the program, there’s a host of opportunities we create for them: they may need to go into a studio, access to sync services, someone to collect their publishing, their live show needs work, help with their social media, their set isn’t quite strong enough or need PR. Those are all things we’ll [help with].
Getting On the Road
Touring is difficult for independent artists nowadays, so we’re looking at ways of providing tour support and resources—organizing tours ourselves, doing a partnership with a brand or helping get onto tours with bigger artists. That’s something we’re very focused on at the moment—finding working solutions for artists that want to get out on the road economically.
Marketing Isn’t Music
There’s a prevailing sense that artists need to be great marketers. While that’s true, the biggest favor they can do is write amazing songs. We’re so focused on the idea of the Internet democratizing access that we overlook that the Internet didn’t democratize talent. If you want to cut through, you need to be great. You can’t be good anymore—you have to be great. If an artist has spare time and there’s a choice between putting a different photo on Facebook or writing a better song, pick up your guitar.
Years with Company: 3
Clients: 3.8 million artists
By Andy Kaufmann