Songwriter U: Five Gems from the A&R Department

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Written through Mike Errico

What does a big label A&R truly need from a songwriter? I requested one.

Whilst researching my guide, Tune, Lyrics, and Lifestyles, I met with an A&R rep from a big label and requested what they react to once they’re being pitched songs. Is it a wild, attention-grabbing topic line in an e-mail? 100,000 Instagram fans? An unmarked field with a Rolex and a obtain code dangling from the wristband? Smartly, no.

As an alternative of having same old (or comic story) recommendation, I were given those gem stones, which I used to be handiest allowed to incorporate in my guide at the situation of anonymity. I train them in my categories, and I’m providing them to you in hopes that they’ll get you the type of truthful, targeted concentrate your songs deserve.

1. Write to the Left 

For artists: “The core of why folks do A&R is they wish to in finding thrilling artists that aren’t represented available on the market, and so they wish to combat for them. So, there’s extra upside in finding an artist that’s onto one thing utterly new than an artist who follows in some other artist’s footsteps.” 

For writers: “I’ll have conversations with writers who’ll say, I’ve a super music for X. And so they’ll ship me a music, and it’ll sound like one thing that used to be on X’s album, or it’ll sound like one thing X would sound nice on, however they don’t notice that I’m listening to the most productive writers on the planet and their absolute best music for X. And X doesn’t want not-as-good variations of items X has already put out. An artist desires songs that experience a lyric, or a way of one thing that speaks to them—one thing unconscious that possibly even they weren’t conscious about. They’ve to assume, ‘Wow, that’s an unbelievable tale, or lyric, or narrative that I determine with. And I might by no means write this myself, and I must sing the music.’” 

2. The Absolute best Hit Songs Don’t Sound Like Pitch Songs 

“It must be an ‘artist’ music—one thing an artist would grow to be partial to as a result of they would concentrate to it. It’s important to take into consideration the artists—the place are they of their lifestyles? What’s inspiring them musically? What do they care about? From time to time that’s laborious to do in a pitch state of affairs for those who don’t know the artists, however possibly you’ll get as a lot data as you’ll and take a look at to channel that to your writing.” 

3. Artists Don’t Like Demos That Sound Like Them 

“Writers will ship a demo that sounds just like the artist they’re pitching the music to. Artists don’t like that. I’ve labored with a number of artists with ‘giant’ voices, and we might get a majority of these songs with singers that might attempt to sound like them and it used to be simply—it used to be unhealthy. Folks would even attempt to do the inflections or signature issues that the artists do. That’s simply . . . no. ‘Oh guy, X is gonna love this.’ [Laughs] It’s humorous how some writers assume. However the ones songs by no means were given lower.” 

4. If It “Sounds Like a Hit,” Beware 

“When anyone says, ‘It seems like a success,’ I if truth be told get somewhat bit anxious as a result of that implies that it’s borrowing from one thing anyone else has already achieved. That may be nice, however I’m at all times wary of that word. It’s in the back of the curve.” 

5. Set the Bar Upper 

“Writers will say they have got fantastic songs, however they ‘simply want the fitting individual to listen to them,’ and that’s why they haven’t damaged via but. However the fact is that the songs are simply almost definitely now not nice sufficient. The writers haven’t driven themselves laborious sufficient. They possibly haven’t labored on their craft sufficient. 

“I used to paintings with an A&R man, and from time to time, when a music used to be despatched to him, he’d ask the writer or whoever, ‘Is that this as nice as “Bridge Over Bothered Water”?’ And the solution can be, ‘Smartly, no.’ After which he wouldn’t wish to listen it. I imply, that’s roughly excessive, however writers must assume like that—just like the bar is that top.” 


Mike Errico is a recording artist, writer, and songwriting professor at Yale and NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Tune. His new guide, Tune, Lyrics, and Lifestyles: A Box Information for the Advancing Songwriter, is to be had at: 

Amazon  | Bookstore |  Books Are Magic | Bandcamp | Mike Errico professional website online

Photograph: GettyImges

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