Frank- Most people understand the general job of an A&R, but from your experiences and what you've seen, what are the main differences between an A&R on the indie level and an A&R on the major label level? Dave- I've never worked at a major label so I have never seen the day to day work that a major label A&R person has to deal with. I have been around bands that have been on major labels and from what I've observed things seem to be pretty similar on both levels. For me it seems the major label A&R people just have more people to have to deal with and answer too. At Eulogy we don't have so many different departments that we have to coordinate everything with. We still when we sign any band it is a very democratic decision here because we want everyone from the owner of the label to the people working on mail orders to be into the bands. I don't want to have to be fighting to try to get more attention on a band that people don't like for whatever reason with people within the label. I do enough of it with people outside of the label.
----- Frank- With you generally handling hardcore-based artists, as opposed to radio mainstream pop artists, what do you look for in determining whether a band is marketable or not? Dave- When I'm looking for a band I look for a band that is the best at what music they play. If they are marketable in their genre then that is what we are looking for. Like a band like Donnybrook is never going to be on Fuse but in the scene they are from they do very well. We look for niches and try to get the bands that do the best in those niches. Not to say that we wouldn't love to have our bands breakout of those niches and to more of a mass audience but if they can be the biggest band in that area that they are in then we are also very happy. But with the state of music you never know who might be the next big band or the next big style.
----- Frank- The screamo genre has really taken off in the past few years. Bands like
Silverstein, Underoath, Emery and Matchbook Romance have found a pleasant territory between the pop and hardcore genres. Do you feel these bands tarnish and hurt the hardcore scene? Dave- No I think it's great. I know some very DIY hardcore kids think those bands
are ruining hardcore and what not but I've been in the hardcore scene for a long time and seeing bands that I know worked hard and did most of the work themselves starting to get recognition they deserve I think is great. If these bands keep giving back to the scenes they came from then it can only help all of hardcore. I know it's easy to talk about how bands are getting paid too much and tickets are too expensive but it's good to be able to pay your bills too.
----- Frank- What are some of the biggest mistakes you've seen bands make, and how can bands avoid this common error? Dave- The biggest mistake I've seen bands make is thinking that they deserve anything. They should be greatful everyday that they get to be in a band and that kids are coming to their shows, buying their merch and helping them eat. A band should also know how every little thing in the music business works. They should know how to book their own tours, promote their own band, put out their records, and anything else that is involved in making a band work. There are many good books out there that you can learn a lot about the behind the scenes of the music industry and how contracts and everything else work. It's better to know what you are getting into before you get into a situation that could have been avoided just by doing a little research.
----- Frank- What kind of education is generally needed, if any, to be a successful A&R? Dave- I personally went to school for recording which really had nothing to do with what I do for A&R stuff. I've played in a few bands that had toured all over the world. From being in a band I met other bands and they asked me to go on tour with them doing everything from tour managing to merch to monitors to guitar teching. I've toured in vans with unsigned bands and played in basement and I've flown from show to show and done shows at stadiums with major label bands. I have learned a lot being around all of these bands. I've seen them go through anything you can imagine. From signing record deals to not being happy with their record label and getting off the label to the types of promotion they have used to push the records to buying a van or just getting buy when you are only getting paid $40 at a show. I started Blackline Entertainment managing the band Beloved(US) while I was still touring and I learned even more about labels from that. Then I stopped touring to manage Beloved(US) fulltime but unfortunately they broke up. I still manage This Is Hell and Hand To Hand but I needed something else to make a little more money to pay the bills. I had been friends with John, who owns Eulogy, for years and he offered me a job here. I still learn new things everyday. The big thing is don't be afraid if you don't know something to ask someone who does. It won't make you look stupid. It will make you look like you actual care about what you are doing and want to do it right.
----- Frank- How do you approach a band you're interested in signing and do you use their social skills/personalities as a factor in determining whether to pursue them or not? Dave- That is the biggest factor after whether I like their music or not. If I cant have a good relationship with a band then I don't want to work with them. Even if they are the next big thing. If they are jerks I don't want to work with them. That in the long run is probably even more important then the music to getting signed.
----- Frank- Any last words, advice, tips, jokes, stories, shout outs, secrets you'd like to share? Dave- You never know who knows who or how important someone is in making or breaking your career so be nice to everyone. In other things make sure to check out the new Calico System record when it hits stores on November 8th. And new Beloved(US) DVD hits stores on November 8th as well. This Is Hell will be on tour with With Honor, Most Precious Blood and Modern Life Is War in Nov/Dec and Hand To Hand is on tour with The Burning Season right now. Make sure you check out all of them as they are all hard working bands.
i LOVE all these interviews you guys do... i have one question, if anyone knows,... not to be shallow or thought of as someone who only cares about money, but does anyone know how much money these kind of jobs pay? im really interested in a career in the music industry, so i was just curious cuz i'm a horrible guesser on these kind of things. thanks.
depends on your job, but as an assistant which is what you'd likely have to be (after being an intern) 25-35k/yr at a major. likely in the middle-area of those figures. remember they know that people will work for next to nothing to work in music so there isn't high incentive to hand out money.
Great interview. I'd like to know what books he recommends. Maybe you can ask the next music industry person you talk to about good books to read. I read All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman, but I'm interested in any type of reading.