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A&R Interview

Jeff Fenster A&R Jive Records

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My name is Jeff Fenster, I am senior VP of a&r at Jive Records. I have been in the music business for 25 years. In various capacities both as a music lawyer and for the last 16 years as an a&r person. A&R is a term the derived from the 50s early sixties and means artist and repertoire and it came about because the people that were the talent scouts at that time were not just signing artists but were also finding them songs. The concept of artists writing their own material is a new thing. The a&r were like scouts for a baseball team, through out all genres especially in the pop genres. The a&r were also responsible for finding songs in all genres there are artists that don’t write their own material, they either don’t write or contribute a little bit. Very often producers will help artists with songs.

Hip hop and rock artists usually write their own music. The concept of artists writing their own material is a new thing. The a&r people were responsible for finding songs for artists that don’t write their own material. Take the American idol winners for example they don’t write their own material. In the pop arena you have a lot of artists that don’t write. A lot of the time music producers are involved in writing some pop hits. People now think that you have to write your own songs to be a real artist. The a&r at times finds the write producer for a certain project. Multiple producers are very common in all music genres. People are looking for hits and the more successful producers you work with the better chance you have to get a hit. It’s possible that you’re a&r will leave you at some time in your career. Some a&r reps are signing artists that are not in their range but think they can bring something to the table. We have a&r meetings where today could be in a hip hop meeting and next week can be in a pop a&r meeting. Most A&R people will be at both meetings. Some a&r reps may stick to a certain genre and you as an a&r may become type cast because of the music that you work with.

What does it take to get signed

When I get a demo through the mail it may catch my attention although a lot of the time I track down music artists that email me. Some music record labels have specific a&r departments that’s job is to check facebook.com or youtube.com. I get links all the time from people on soundcloud.com and I will check out their music. If you use All Music Industry Contacts to obtain my email address, send me a link to your music and I will check it out. Most of the time with Artists and bands its better to be on an independent music labels before they are signed by a major at the appropriate time. Record labels that I worked for including Jive Records before it was a major label, the plan is to start a marketing campaign. If that is not an artists plan they may not need a major record label. You may have a better idea of how to market your own music and become a record label a&r executive like Jay Z, he currently runs Def Jam Records. A lot of artists are entrepreneurial and understand the business. Artists that invest in their own music have to ask themselves, what are people going to be listening to in the future? What format are music fans using to play new music? More and more people are listening to music in their ipod headphones, computer speakers and CD players. People are getting less interested in albums so they go online to buy singles instead of albums.

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