How exactly to you break into the competitive world of A&R? Experienced Artist and Repertoire vet Dante Ross ruminates on the process to become a tastemaker with real power in the second installment of P&P Pro Tips, a nine-part show that goes straight to the source—executives, musicians, producers—to get inside intel on the machinations of the music industry and how to become part of it.
Ross, currently SVP of A&R at Asylum Records, knows a thing or two about how the duties of an A&R have evolved over time: he signed acts like Digital Underground and Queen Latifah to Tommy Boy Records back in the ‘80s, and has continued on to spot new talent like Busta Rhymes and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Today, he says, the job is pretty much the same as it was back in the day, only the process has changed.
“The role of present-day A&R is the same it’s always been: it’s always been to spot formidable talent early, try and get in business with them, and try to develop the artist so they can be successful,” he explains. “I think we do less developing now. Things come to us more formed and kids are empowered via technology to dictate who they are already and their blueprint is already there in a way it wasn’t 25 years ago.”
Though he’s worked with labels like Elektra Records and Warner Music Group, he recommends trying elsewhere if you’re trying to get your foot in the door. “Now, it’s all based on numbers and research. You go online and you see what the numbers are. My advice to young kids who want to get in the music industry? Don’t get a job at a label. Do it yourself outside of the building. You have the technology that empowers you to do it. When you do that at a high level, creating great content and messaging, we’re going to come to you.”