Friday, February 28, 2014


2/28/14 11:45pm
Author: Jennifer Smith
Twitter: @lovinlyrics

In order to even start to understand the music industry, you first need to get an understanding of who the major players are and what their position is in the game. You can't win if you don't know who you're playing with or against. We all hear the titles but does the average new artist or fan really know what they mean? Let's break it down:


A&R Rep: This means "Artists and Repertoire".These are the people who find the new talent, sign new talent, match the singer with songs that they feel are suited best for them, match artists with the right producers, manage projects and assist new artists with creative thinking. These people are important, period. Be nice to these people and listen to what they tell you, they are your candle when you are in the dark.

Sales: They are exactly that, they are there to sell your talent, to get your music onto shelves, onto digital sales outlets.

Promotion: These are the people that try to talk sense into radio stations when it comes to playing your music. We hit 'em up hard. We brag on you, tell them why they should play your music. They schmooze and booze the radio station program directors and dj's, saying and doing what they have to in order to get air play. They are not afraid to kiss up and pull, as Steve Holy puts it, a "pucker punch".

Marketing: This is putting your image and music out to the public, promotional items like t-shirts, merchandise bundles, advertising campaigns, contests, promo videos, designing those awesome display units you see in stores like Target or Walmart, these are the creative ones coming up with new ways to visually stimulate your potential fan base and keep them coming back for more.

New Media: They're your nerds, your geeks, your techies. They are the ones who handle all things internet and world wide web. Social media, websites, etc. If it's digital, they're on it.

Production: This is your cd assembly line. They do everything from manufacturing, printing, putting them together and getting them shipped out.

Product Management: They are the cheerleaders, the motivation behind your team. They bring them all together, tell them to give a whoop whoop and a "you can do it" and get people excited about artists and their music. If your product manager sits on their ass in their office all day or doesn't have that enthusiasm they should, you need to rethink who you're working with. You need someone genuinely excited who believes in the product they push.

Finance: They are your best friend, your bread and butter, your bank. They keep track of and pay your royalties. These are people you should keep close contact with and make sure things are right. Don't be afraid to stick your nose in there once in awhile and get them to explain to you what's going on with your money. You have that right as an artist. Make sure your money is being handled by the right people and in the right way.

Legal/Business Affairs: I think this speaks for itself. They are the law when it comes to your career in music. They maintain legal contracts for the entire company, including any and all contracts where you're concerned as an artist. They handle licensing, negotiate deals, draft contracts and make sure things are on the up and up. They are the blue light in your rear view.

International: Well what do you think they do? They ensure proper distribution and the release of your music around the world. They also handle the other jobs listed above in foreign countries. Wow, that must be a whole other language!

All of the game players above report to the big guy, the one that sits in the high back leather chair smoking his cigar and scratching his beard as he instructs his assistant to "hold all calls". He is the big kahuna, the one you probably rarely see or hear from unless you are a hit on the way up or a miss on the way out. His office is the Oval Office of the label, his is the President.

So, there ya go, in a nutshell, the players in your game and the members of the team you'll be working with if you sign to a label. As always, when being approached to be "signed", do your research first. Read up on the label's background, their complaints, any legal issues, talk to other industry folk familiar with the label and those involved. If you do sign, make sure you are part of the process and that you aren't handing over your career just for the dream of overnight success and a quick buck. This rarely happens, just ask those major artists who paid their dues for years before being signed, ask those who are still in search of the ever elusive "sweet deal". This is YOUR career, putting food on YOUR table, taking time away from YOUR family and making or breaking you. You deserve and have the right to ask questions, to ask for certain clauses in your contract, to know what percentage you take away from each sale and who gets paid what percentage of your earnings. Never be afraid to question or ask. Be involved. Don't always hand the reigns to those who claim to be the "professionals", they might just take those reigns and let the horse (aka your career) go and you may never reign the horse back into the corral.

Reference: All You Need to Know About the Music Business 6th Edition by Donald S. Passman

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