The greatest problem with A&R was the lack of reps who could relate to black culture. The advent of hip hop literally put the A&R phase out of business when many of the white people who were hired to train the black artists were literally scared of them (laugh).
In the troubled music industry, many labels have cut or eliminated their artists-and-repertoire staff. But instructors at MI are determined to teach the skill of making a musical connection.
Once upon a time, A&R were the sexiest letters in the music industry’s alphabet.
Executives in the artists-and-repertoire division of every major record label were charged with discovering and nurturing new acts, setting them on the path toward gold and platinum albums and Grammy Awards.
These high-powered talent brokers would spend their nights scouring nightclubs and street corners after days combing through stacks of homemade recordings in their quests for pop music’s next big thing.
In an era of record-label retrenchment, however, many labels have reduced or even eliminated A&R staffs. Most companies are looking only to sign acts that come to them spit-shined and ready to market, or perhaps plucked from a TV talent contest, no nurturing required.
But Don Grierson isn’t going to let the trade die without a fight. Grierson, a record industry veteran who helped shepherd acts including the Beatles, Little River Band, Heart and Tina Turner, maintains that the skill set he teaches in A&R classes at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute continues to be vital, even as the traditional music industry faces a daunting and uncertain future.
“The key question I always ask new students is, ‘What is the first and foremost responsibility of an A&R person?’ ” Grierson said recently at the institute, where he’s part of the music business program staff at the largest independent music school in the West. “Most of them say, ‘Signing new bands.’ [read the rest of story]