A&R Is Dead, Licensing Is Alive And Well
Hard to make money in the music biz in the digital age? No, I say, and no again. It is really easy.
1. Write a catchy song.
2. Sign a deal with a big licenser of music.
3. have em doggy back it on to a popular TV show.
4. Sitback and roll in the money.
Yeah, folks, it’s that easy from Iron & Wine to fun., obscurities become huge stars overnight and all you have to do is get signed to a licensing deal
That’s what A&R people do today. Remember when John Hammond was discovering Bob Dylan and Ahmet Ertegun was finding Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin, and working out their albums and Clive Davis was making Janis Joplin the face of Columbia. Well, forget about it, man. It doesn’t happen any more.
Today A&R is about getting a pretty well established act and turn it into solid gold through publishing and licensing deals. It is not that the singles (though it might be that the albums) are secondary but to break an a band really big you have to get them into movies or onto TV shows. Look at the Twilight Series –all those crappy comps made superstars out of band after bands.
There is a daydream late 1970s of an A&R man, at CBGBs, making the move from Soho news To Warner Brothers, and signing all his buddies with him. Working all the time on music and mayhem, sitting in at the sessions, listening for the single, going on tour with the band, and managing the growth of the band.
But 2013, if you can get a 15 second sample in the background of a party scene in a cable network drama, a MINOR cable drama, you have just made your client $10K plus residuals. That’s what’s left of an A&R department, nobody is discovering anything: the break up of EMI? Was all about licensing deals –that was it.
So yeah, that’s what you need , that’s what Mr. A&R man’s job is and if they are good enough, you, young band, will be the next fun.