Label Scouts Explain Who They're Looking For In 2014



Bill Bentley, Sr. Director A&R

Bill Bentley has been in A&R for four years. During that time, he has worked with John Fogerty, Chris Isaak, Merle Haggard, Doug Sahm, the Gourds, Diane Schuur, Robert Francis, Carly Ritter and Jimmy Scott. Formerly, Bentley was Sr. VP of Media Relations at Warner Bros. where he worked with Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lou Reed.

How do you evaluate artists?

When I am evaluating artists I look for inspiration and uniqueness. And, hopefully, a dedication to what they are trying to do.

Do you develop acts?

At Vanguard we do both. We develop artists and partner with those who are already pretty far along. A label needs to do both to stay successful, not to mention keeping the excitement level up.

How important are social media numbers and activity?

Social media numbers are important but, in the end, music is the deciding factor. If an artist has huge numbers but bad music, then that’s a non-starter. But great music, even if it has low numbers, can get my attention.

What is your signing process?

If I find an artist I want to sign, part of my job is to make sure everyone at the label feels like they will be able to deliver too. Sometimes that can take some time so that everyone can have a chance to see and hear the act. But patience is a virtue, that’s for sure.

How often do you sign acts?

It varies. I’ve signed eight artists in four years, so the math varies a bit. It’s more about the feeling of having to work with someone. When that comes, there is no stopping no matter what the other factors may be.

Are you looking for anything in particular?

Singer/songwriters who can take your breath away, and musicians who play with a fire that lights up a room. When that happens, when you really know you’re next to greatness, you do your best to go all the way with them.

How important are live shows and performance skills?

In today’s world live shows and performance skills are an absolute necessity. If an artist is not a good live performer, it could be a problem. It’s really where everything starts.

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

My only pet peeve is when an act feels like they should be successful without working hard. Everyone, including the artist, has to work at it today.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as an A&R rep? 

You need to have your ears wide open to everything. That’s the most important lesson I’ve ever learned. You have to really get inside music; it has to be your life. You have to love going to shows, investigating online tools, going to record stores (when you can find them), reading newspapers and magazines, talking to other music lovers and leaving yourself open to receiving messages when you might not even know who they’re from. Sometimes the cosmos is your best friend.

How do you like to be contacted?

You can email me at [email protected].


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