Rich recently posted some reasons that he thought A&R was dying in the excellent Digital Music News newsletter. According to Rich:
"1) The major labels are hiring fewer and fewer A&R executives because the volume of acts (and more importantly the types of acts) being signed have dramatically decreased.
2) The A&R process used to be about the discovery, signing and nurturing of the act. Today, A&R executives are not looking for talent per se. They are looking for an ongoing business.
An artist that has developed some kind of traction and awareness on their own is what I'm talking about. Today, acts need to be "developed" or at least developing in a business sense for any label to have even the slightest amount of interest. The idea that today's A&R executives will discover an unknown act / artist and develop that artist is an illusion. They have neither the desire, time or money for that matter in 2011.
And by the way, this last point is about to become profoundly illustrated in the next 60-90 days - as dramatic and sweeping changes happen at Universal and Sony (massive layoffs are expected soon).
(3) This is why from an A&R perspective, only the most generic, ubiquitous type of acts get any attention from labels today. There is only a certain type of act these days that major labels are willing to sign."
According to Rich, there were only 25 A&R execs hired in 2010 while 40 were let go without a single one of them being rehired. In 2009 there were 58 hired and 51 let go, and in 2008 there were 80 hired and 64 let go.
We've all heard the stories about the meddling A&R guy who knows nothing yet demands that an artist change their music or direction, but there were far more good people employed than bad ones. Someone has to find the next generation of talent just to keep theses companies alive, and without A&R, it's more likely than ever that the major labels will die along with the position.
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