Skip to main content

The A&R Red Flag That Could Hurt Your Chance at Signing a Major Label Deal

Signing a record deal isn't the finish line—it's just the next starting line.

Ask 10 artists who have been "grinding" independently for years what their top goal is in music and nine of them will say they want to sign a major label recording contract. What most of these artists don't realize, however, is that if and when that opportunity presents itself—nevermind the fact that you don't need to sign to a major label in 2017—the real grind has just begun. 

It's human nature to slow up after you cross the finish line, but signing a record deal isn't the finish line—it's just the next starting line.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Shawn Barron, VP of A&R at Atlantic Records. During our conversation, I asked Barron, who has worked in A&R for eight years and helped groom Drake and Ty Dolla $ign among others, if there are any red flags that an artist could throw up that could detour major label interest or a contract offer. 

"The only thing that I could see deterring [a signing] is a lack of work ethic," said Barron. "I personally don’t want to work with any artist that doesn’t want to put the work in. Showing up ready to go every day is half the battle."

Scroll to Continue



5 Songs You Need to Hear: Best of the Week

Lil Nas X, Lil Durk, Teni, Ekkstacy, and dhruv released new songs you need to hear — all available for stream on the Audiomack app.


5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Tap into new projects from Giveon, Moelogo, Chucky73, Bils, and Cochise.


“Let It All Out”: An Interview With PGF Nuk

PGF Nuk is the newest prodigy of Chicago drill. He breaks down his career journey for Audiomack World.

While building a loyal following is key and making music that is marketable at a mainstream level is paramount, it's just as important to hold onto the very drive that brought you the opportunity to potentially sign a record deal in the first place and crank it up to the next level.

Assuming a label doesn't ask you to sign your deal in secrecy and operate as a mindie at your own pace, artists need to be prepared to work harder than they've ever worked before as an independent. Right away.

Sure, it helps to have a label's support and backing, as well as having professionals in place who can assist with oversight, public relations, marketing, social media management, touring and legal, but that just means you have more time to do what you do: create. 


By Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter.



Your Favorite Indie Rapper is Secretly Signed to a Major Label

All I can say is be uncertain. Be very uncertain.


How to Approach a Meeting with a Record Label A&R

Every conversation with someone in your field is an opportunity to learn.


Young Thug's Buried in Bad Major Label Deals, Here's Why You Should Care

Artists, be very careful of any contract you sign early on.


Can Major Labels Keep A&R Costs Under Control in Streaming Marketplace?

What happens when the money runs out? Yes, changes are coming to major label record deals.


Rick Ross Shares Post-Signing Investment Strategy

If you're lucky enough to sign that fat record contract, keep working like you never signed the deal in the first place.


Breaking Down the Pros & Cons of Lil Yachty's Newly-Signed Publishing Deal

Yachty's reported publishing deal with UMP is a teachable moment for all artists.