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

Every conversation with someone in your field is an opportunity to learn.
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It’s a Tuesday morning. You check Twitter before your morning coffee. To your surprise, a major label A&R — or someone who works for a major label with a fancy title in their bio — shows up in your DMs. 

In brief, they express interest in speaking with you on the phone. They say they’ve heard your music and call out one or two of your songs by title. They’re impressed. 

You read DJBooth, so you know how to spot a scam. This person is the real deal. 

It’s your dream to be signed, but you’re wondering if a call or meeting is worthwhile.

It is. Here’s why.

Every conversation with someone in your field is an opportunity to learn. Often, artists approach meetings trying to sell themselves. I recommend doing the opposite: make the other party, in this case, the A&R, sell you on working with them. 

You do that by asking questions. Here are some examples:

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  • What was it about my sound that caught your ear?
  • What do YOU like most about [insert name of the record label they’re working for currently]?
  • What artists have you signed recently that you’re excited about?
  • What has been the most effective approach to digital marketing for your artists?
  • What role does data play in your approach to A&R?

Don’t just listen to the answers. Take notes. The conversation shouldn’t feel like an interview, but, at the same time, you don’t have to hide the fact that their outreach and interest in you are important to you and that you’re interested in better understanding what they might have to offer you — now or at some point in the future. 

Before the conversation comes to a close, it’s crucial to get a sense of what is or isn’t an appropriate next step. This insight should help you set proper expectations.

Should you follow up after the call with a link to unreleased music? Can you provide them with your full contact information so you can convert the relationship to text? Is it appropriate to follow up at all? Or would they prefer to initiate the subsequent communication?

No matter what happens next — and this is really important — resist the temptation to take to social media and bad mouth the individual. No subtweets, either. The music industry is tiny. If you’re serious about a long music career, burning one bridge could set many a future bridge on fire.

For anyone who has read this far, this isn’t just advice for recording artists. When I was a 22-year-old working in radio, I would take calls with anyone who would give me the time of day — not just radio station programmers looking for on-air DJs. Over the past 16 years, those conversations became the bedrock of my vast network.

I spoke with DJs who would become artist managers. I spoke with managers who would become record execs. I spoke with record execs who would become investors. And so on. 

The first meeting might not be the right time. But you always want to start the clock.

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