Label Scouts Explain Who They're Looking For In 2014



Dallas Martin, Sr. VP A&R

Dallas Martin has been an A&R executive for nine years and has helped guide the careers of everyone from hip-hop superstar Rick Ross to R&B singer K. Michelle. He began his career as an intern at Island/Def Jam and became an A&R consultant there. He then moved to Warner Bros., where he worked in the label’s urban division, before moving on to Atlantic. Martin helped to close the deal between Ross’ Maybach Music Group and Warner Bros.  As a result, he oversees Maybach’s operations in addition to his duties at Atlantic. 

What qualities do you look for in an artist?

It starts with star power. I like artists who command attention. They should also have a vision of who they are and what their music is about. Artists also need to be open-minded, because I’m very hands-on. I’ll find the right producers for them and get them comfortable in the studio. Then, it’s all about making hit songs, something you want to hear over and over again.

Do you develop acts, or do they need to be already accomplished?

I’m in a fortunate position. I’m working with enough successful acts so I can take some time to develop less accomplished acts. But, it’s not much time. If I think I can get them where they should be in less than a year, I might consider it. Today, in the urban market, acts can do a lot for themselves.

What is your signing process?

Before I sign an artist I like to see them do a show and see how people react to them. Nowadays, you have to have something going on to even get people to look at you. I want to spend some time in the studio with them. I want to see their writing process. And, I want to know what their work ethic is. If an artist isn’t willing to work hard, I’m not interested.

What happens when you’re interested 

in an act?

If I see an artist that has real potential and some momentum in the streets, I would bring them to New York, see what everybody else thinks and take it from there. On the R&B side, if an artist has the right sound with the right look and I think we could make some big records together, I might take a chance. With rappers, they generally have to have something going on already.

How important are live performance skills?

It’s 100% important. Artists must be strong performers today. Touring is big now. You need to get people into your music and if an artist doesn’t have stage skills, they need to develop them.

Do you see any trends in the business?

A lot more acts are self-sufficient. The independent (DIY) approach has really taken hold. Artists can do a lot for themselves on the street level, especially urban acts.

So, why would a successful independent act need a label?

An independent artist can only go so far. To be really successful on a global scale they’re going to need a team of professionals who know what they’re doing. Things like radio airplay, at the level it needs to be, can only be accomplished with label support. There might be exceptions, but for most artists that’s a reality.

Do you have any pet peeves that would keep you from signing an act?

I don’t like artists who think they’re entitled to everything and expect everyone else to do the work for them. A good work ethic is very important to me. If they won’t work for it, I won’t work with them.

Why do you like A&R work?

I do it because I have a passion for music and the music business. There’s nothing like working on something and putting it out there for the world to hear and getting positive feedback. If you do anything, you should want to be the best at it. And if you get to work with the artists at the top of the chain, you feel like you’re meeting that challenge and accomplishing your goals.

How do you like to be contacted? 

On Twitter: @dallaslifestyle.


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