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Modern A&R is a problem…. here’s the reason why.

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  • Modern A&R is a problem…. here’s the reason why.


    There was an A&R panel at the Future Music Forum in Barcelona last month. http://www.futuremusicforum.com/sour...rsday2015.html
    The panelists were Eric McLellan A&R Director at Sire Records and Ray Daniels VP/A&R Epic Records. The stories shared by both men were a clear explanation of why it is difficult for music of high quality to make it out through those systems. In a nutshell both gentlemen made it clear that protecting their jobs was of the highest priority and that if a project didn’t seem like a sure thing, they wouldn’t even consider presenting it to their superiors as to not seem like they didn’t know what they were doing. No more Hendrix, Ramones, Sly Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, Police etc, etc…

  • #2
    I think you should quantify what you mean by "high quality." From what you've said, it sounds like their version of high quality might be different than yours.

    I get tired of the good ol' days argument. Are things going to be like they were in the 1960s or 70s again? No. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of innovative bands out there pushing out great material. If anything, I'd argue that because there is less need for major label support there are alot more. There's also probably alot more crap too.
    ...

    Comment


    • Mr. Hardgroove
      Mr. Hardgroove commented
      Editing a comment
      rhino55
      "high quality" needs no explanation. It's should be obvious that everybody has a different opinion regarding what is "high quality" or "of quality" etc etc. My statement stands on it's own as is. If it doesn't resonate with someone, cool. The statement is not for them. However, you seem to have missed the point of the post.

  • #3
    I'm not being contrary for the sake of being contrary. I'm trying to have a discussion. Do the panelist you mentioned believe they are responsible for putting out low quality product? If so, the reasons why they feel compelled to do so would be a far more interesting conversation than one that basically boils down to "stuffs not as good now as it was when I was more impressionable."
    ...

    Comment


    • Mr. Hardgroove
      Mr. Hardgroove commented
      Editing a comment
      I don't see it as the views of a contrarian, necessarily. I see it as someone that missed the point of the post.

  • #4
    Oh, I think I got it. A couple of people with high level jobs in a highly competitive, dying industry are worried about keeping their jobs and don't want to risk their careers by investing money on unproven product.
    ...

    Comment


    • Mr. Hardgroove
      Mr. Hardgroove commented
      Editing a comment
      Not quite. But that's a good observation too.

  • #5
    Originally posted by rhino55 View Post
    That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of innovative bands out there pushing out great material.
    I think you are missing the point.

    Of course "there plenty of innovative bands out there pushing out great material," but today's music industry doesn't seem to have much interest in those kinds of bands anymore. If they did then more of those kinds of bands would be able to make a decent living playing music.
    .
    Originally posted by rhino55 View Post
    If anything, I'd argue that because there is less need for major label support there are alot more.
    Why is there less need for major label support? Don't most successful artists have major label support?
    Last edited by Folder; 10-08-2015, 07:00 PM.

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    • #6
      Copied another thread in this forum:

      Depending on what your musical goals are, they're [major labels] also not necessary. Because of this, they're not near as powerful as they once were.


      As far as I can tell there were 4 services they provided; making records, distribution, artist development, and marketing.

      Technology has made decent recording so accessible and driven rates low enough, a major label is not needed to front you the cash to make a record. It can still get pricey, but with kickstarter, indigogo, etc fans can be directly responsible.

      Distribution can also be in the hands of the artists. CD baby, Amazon, itunes all make it pretty easy.

      The technology has also allowed alot of people to get in the game. Subsequently, supply and demand is against artists. When there are too many people trying to be artists, artist development, ceases to be necessary.

      The marketing aspect is where I've seen people feel like they get screwed. It's more profitable for the labels to put all their money behind a select few, and if they decide your record isn't selling fast enough, they're going to put their money behind someone else's whose is. Sure they'll have lots of stories from working in fancy studios, meeting cool people, and stuff from the road, but to go along with that they'll also have a pile of debt they can't pay back and a contract that won't let them gig independently. Basically when the label is done with you, you're done.

      I'd be curious to hear more about your experiences working with major labels, because I'm quite certain that ours are going to be quite different.
      ...

      Comment


      • #7
        Originally posted by rhino55 View Post
        Copied another thread in this forum:

        Depending on what your musical goals are, they're [major labels] also not necessary. Because of this, they're not near as powerful as they once were.


        As far as I can tell there were 4 services they provided; making records, distribution, artist development, and marketing.

        Technology has made decent recording so accessible and driven rates low enough, a major label is not needed to front you the cash to make a record. It can still get pricey, but with kickstarter, indigogo, etc fans can be directly responsible.

        Distribution can also be in the hands of the artists. CD baby, Amazon, itunes all make it pretty easy.

        The technology has also allowed alot of people to get in the game. Subsequently, supply and demand is against artists. When there are too many people trying to be artists, artist development, ceases to be necessary.

        The marketing aspect is where I've seen people feel like they get screwed. It's more profitable for the labels to put all their money behind a select few, and if they decide your record isn't selling fast enough, they're going to put their money behind someone else's whose is. Sure they'll have lots of stories from working in fancy studios, meeting cool people, and stuff from the road, but to go along with that they'll also have a pile of debt they can't pay back and a contract that won't let them gig independently. Basically when the label is done with you, you're done.

        I'd be curious to hear more about your experiences working with major labels, because I'm quite certain that ours are going to be quite different.
        If mediocre is acceptable or "quality", then I agree with this post. But even though we can buy recording software and some boxes to run it, that doesn't mean we'll get recordings that are beyond the "decent" you mentioned above. Given all the great recording gear, can you produce a recording that would rival Steely Dan's "Aja" for technical mastery? Why not?...we're decades past that album.
        The same goes for distribution...Will CD Baby get you the kind of exposure a major label can provide?
        I agree completely that cheap gear has made everyone a "producer" and has sidestepped the vetting process of getting your music to the people...but that only means *we* have to weed through acres of cow flops to find one gem. Meh.

        My bottom line is that as bad as the system was, the music industry used to produce amazing products, and was a thriving and exciting place to be. Today? Not so much. We have tools, but the industry...both indie and major, is full of scared pros and rank amateurs. Neither are doing themselves or us much justice.
        "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else" - Yogi Berra, 1925-2015

        Comment


        • #8
          Originally posted by Craig Vecchione View Post

          If mediocre is acceptable or "quality", then I agree with this post. But even though we can buy recording software and some boxes to run it, that doesn't mean we'll get recordings that are beyond the "decent" you mentioned above. Given all the great recording gear, can you produce a recording that would rival Steely Dan's "Aja" for technical mastery? Why not?...we're decades past that album.
          The same goes for distribution...Will CD Baby get you the kind of exposure a major label can provide?
          I agree completely that cheap gear has made everyone a "producer" and has sidestepped the vetting process of getting your music to the people...but that only means *we* have to weed through acres of cow flops to find one gem. Meh.

          My bottom line is that as bad as the system was, the music industry used to produce amazing products, and was a thriving and exciting place to be. Today? Not so much. We have tools, but the industry...both indie and major, is full of scared pros and rank amateurs. Neither are doing themselves or us much justice.
          I agree with all of this, but the last sentence. I think there is still plenty of good stuff coming out. The system might not be as ideal as it once was for the consumer or the artist, but for better or worse, everybody can at least get a seat at the table now. The problem is there is probably still only the same amount of bread to go around.
          ...

          Comment


          • #9
            Originally posted by rhino55 View Post

            I agree with all of this, but the last sentence. I think there is still plenty of good stuff coming out. The system might not be as ideal as it once was for the consumer or the artist, but for better or worse, everybody can at least get a seat at the table now. The problem is there is probably still only the same amount of bread to go around.
            Probably less bread. Kids don't seem to be as into music as they were decades ago. There are far more demands on free time and expendable cash than in the 60's and 70's.
            "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else" - Yogi Berra, 1925-2015

            Comment


            • #10
              Originally posted by Craig Vecchione View Post
              We have tools, but the industry...both indie and major, is full of scared pros and rank amateurs. Neither are doing themselves or us much justice.
              And THAT is the point of the post.
              Thank you Mr. V.
              Last edited by Mr. Hardgroove; 10-09-2015, 02:33 PM.

              Comment


              • #11
                I clicked on the link but didn't see the interview or video but I think this sentence sums up why some people might feel so called musical quality is down.

                Originally posted by Mr. Hardgroove View Post
                if a project didn’t seem like a sure thing, they wouldn’t even consider presenting it to their superiors as to not seem like they didn’t know what they were doing.
                I don't see it as necessarily there being lower quality but more that the major labels are just not interested in getting behind certain types of music that some people consider to be higher quality. They are huge companies trying to make a lot of money in an era when people don't buy music anymore. Your "Hendrix, Ramones, Sly Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, Police etc, etc" is not the type of music that the record companies are looking for these days. Would anybody sign the Beatles today?

                There was a time when labels would sign artists with the intention of nurturing and building their careers. Quality came first. But the money today is with the pop blockbusters. The labels are interested in making a fast buck.You also have to consider that the industry has been consolidated so there is less competition at the top. We are down to the big three record labels now. Combine that with the Telecommunications act of 1996 which allowed big companies to buy up all the radio stations and you have a system which is pretty closed except for the lucky few.

                But the lucky few are the ones still selling CDs and selling out arenas and the only way they are able to do that is with major label support.


                Comment


                • #12
                  Originally posted by Folder View Post
                  Your "Hendrix, Ramones, Sly Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, Police etc, etc" is not the type of music that the record companies are looking for these days. Would anybody sign the Beatles today?
                  The above bands aren't listed as representations of music types, but as representatives of the highest quality of a given style. There are certainly Hendrix, Ramones, and Sly Stone mimics on the market today. I don't know of any Police type outfits and certainly no EWF.
                  Last edited by Mr. Hardgroove; 10-09-2015, 10:20 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    Originally posted by Mr. Hardgroove View Post

                    The above bands aren't listed as representations of music types, but as representatives of the highest quality of a given style. There are certainly Hendrix, Ramones, and Sly Stone mimics on the market today. I don't know of any Police type outfits and certainly no EWF.
                    Well some would argue that there are bands of that caliber out there today. They are just not being signed or getting much support from major labels.
                    Last edited by Folder; 10-10-2015, 08:32 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      Originally posted by Folder View Post

                      Well some would argue that there are bands of that caliber out there today. They are just not being signed or getting much support from major labels.
                      Those that would argue would be arguing with themselves. It's obvious to any reasonable adult that there are always high quality artists worthy of public recognition, whether they are brought to the public by a record company or they rise to prominence on their own. The point of this post is to pass along the stated objectives of two A&R people that represent a common view of A&R people industry-wide. That common view is in conflict with them seeking out and signing high quality. It favors seeking out the most familiar and titillating.

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                      • #15
                        Ha!

                        I worked for BMG Distribution for four years in the mid 90s, doing alternative music promotion for RCA, Arista, ECM, Jive, Windham Hill, the whole family. And I worked with lots of A&R people back then, and they always had that fearful look in their eyes. Bet it's even worse now.

                        You have no ARTIST DEVELOPMENT anymore. Budgets are gone, and no one is going to take 3-4 albums to properly develop and groom an artist or band. It's all singles. Albums are passe. And even if you DO manage to get a "hit", whatever that is these days - if you don't immediately follow it up with more, you are tossed to the curb.

                        85% of the people I worked with at the major labels in the 90s are long gone from the business. Only a handful remain, and I am talking about VPs and nice exec level talent.

                        With all that said, now we have UNPRECEDENTED access to the means of production and distribution. So if you really "got what it takes", it's pretty easy to cut a record and get it out there. But so do millions of others with their home protools rig and a copy of CMJ's annual directory issue.

                        It's tough not to be pessimistic. All I can see to do is follow the Dave Matthews path. Make your own records, build up a strong regional following, sell your own merch, and work your ass off and ride around in a van. And pray that you can cover the bills....
                        long, strong, and down to get the friction on......

                        youtube.com/roccotanto (for pedal demos and stuff)
                        magnatune.com/artists/lvxnova
                        twitter: @bobbydevito

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