The term “A&R guy” is tossed around casually in the music biz — but what does the A&R division of a label do? A&R teams are traditionally charged with finding new talent, guiding artists through the recording process and connecting artists with producers, songwriters and other collaborators. Their insight can have huge influence on an artist and label. Over the years, the role has changed with the music business. This week, respected A&R dude and founder of Loma Vista Recordings Tom Whalley tells us about his journey from the mailroom at Warner Bros. Records to chairman of the company. He also offers his perspective on how the job has changed — and the differences between working A&R at an indie and major label. Then we talk with Louis Posen, founder of established indie label Hopeless Records, about why the term “A&R” isn’t used at his company, and why a team approach to talent scouting works for them. Finally, Robby Morris, director of A&R at New York indie Matador Records, walks us through creative development at the label.
In our second installment of our “Gatekeepers Roundtable,” we speak with Ali Hedrick of The Billions Corporation about some of the new acts that she’s working with, and how they’ve come to her, or vice versa. Christen Green adds to the conversation by telling us about how she ended up working with The Lumineers, among the other notable acts that are a part of Onto Entertainment. We also have Nate Nelson tell us the story about how he ended up at Stones Throw Records via the leaked Madvillain demos, and how his experience there ultimately led him to start Innovative Leisure. Don’t think for a second that this is a puff piece chock full of “success stories.” We dig in, and ask these folks about who they regret passing on, too! Lots of valuable “what not to do” information in this episode.
In this episode, we speak with three different musical gatekeepers about what gets them to lower their guard long enough to allow a band safe passage to the next level in their career. Joining us for the discussion is the founder of Kill Rock Stars, Slim Moon, Ken Cheppaikode of Dirtnap Records and Green Noise record shop, and Theo Craig, a well respected booking agent in Portland. Slim tells us how he was won over by Elliott Smith, Ken Cheppaikode tells us how White Wires ended up on Dirtnap, Theo speaks to the beauty of La Luz, and Portia and Slim co-tell the story of how Thao Nguyen made her way onto Kill Rock Stars.
Brooklyn band “Here We Go Magic” is set to release their fourth album with indie label Secretly Canadian on October 15th, and we wanted to explore the process that the album went through from “farm to table.” First we speak with Michael Bloch, guitarist in the band, who explains how he and song writer Luke Temple tackled their first album as a two piece using only rudimentary tools to create a full band, live, in the studio sound. Next we speak with one of Secretly Canadian’s founders, Ben Swanson, and the man responsible for signing “Here We Go Magic,” who tells us why he loves the band and the label’s role in seeing the record through completion. To discuss one of the final links in the chain, we talk with Ian McKinnon, the head of label relations at one of the oldest music streaming services, Rhapsody.