A&R stands for Artists and Repertoire. The is the division of a record label that is responsible for talent scouting and the artistic and commercial development of the recording artist. It also acts as a liaison between the artist and the record label.
The role of A&R has three main responsibilities:
- Finding talent
- Overseeing the recording process
- Assisting with marketing and promotion
A & R can sign new or established talent to the company’s roster. They then continue to work closely with the artist, acting as their liaison to the label’s business affairs department and as an advisor who will help nurture a certain sound and image Their duties include listening to demos, aligning artists with the right producer, and offering creative input.
For the unsigned musician, A&R can be the gatekeepers of the industry. It is not their job to keep you out, so much as it is to find marketable music for their company. A&R reps are the musicians’ point of contact at the label during contract negotiations. They also play an important role in development of the artist – how the band will be marketing, sometimes choosing songs for the musicians to record if they don’t write their own material and building a basic promotional foundation for the album and the band.
According to Allison Klein of How Stuff Works, A&R is seen as the glamorous part of working in a record company:
This is because A&R is in charge of discovering new talent. A&R people work very hands-on with the artists that they “sign.” (When a record label “signs” an artist, it simply means that the artist makes an exclusive contract with that record label.) They do everything from assisting with song selection to choosing the people that will produce the album to deciding where the album will be recorded.
See more on record labels at How Stuff Works: How Record Labels Work
As you can imagine, going to clubs, scouting new talent, chatting it up with recording studios, superstar producers, and the such, makes this one of the most sought after jobs in the recording industry.