If you're reading this article, you've almost certainly come across the work of chart-topping artists like Bryson Tiller, SZA, Khalid and GoldLink, but a name you might not be familiar with is Tunji Balogun.
Balogun, the current VP of A&R at RCA Records, is a 10-year veteran of the music industry who spent eight years working at Interscope before moving over to Sony in 2015. He's also the man responsible for bringing all four aforementioned artists onto the label.
A&R, which stands for Artists and Repertoire, is a division of a record label that is tasked with finding talent, signing said talent and then helping to groom said talent for artistic and commercial prosperity. Often, an A&R will also serve as a liaison between the artist and the label.
While Balogun has an undeniably special set of ears and the unique ability to spot superstar talent early on, he also knows that his function as an A&R pales in comparison to the hard work an artist puts in to create the music and establish a relationship with their fans.
"The most important connection in the music industry is between the artist and the fan," Balogun toldBillboard in a recent A&R Spotlight. "All the industry people, A&Rs, at the end of the day they don't matter. It's the artist, their work and the fans and how they experience and internalize the music."
Over the years, the role of the modern-day A&R has shape-shifted with the times—there is less artist development now than ever before since labels are signing more "sure thing" acts with cultural relevance on social media—but record labels are still investing heavily in the position. In 2015, labels spent $4.5 billion in A&R and marketing, according to the RIAA.