The Role of an A&R, According to William Robillard-Cole

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In addition to running his company WRC Management (home to Kaytranada, Sango, Stwo, Lou Phelps and more), William Robillard-Cole also serves as the VP of A&R at eOne Music. Check out what his daily responsibilities entail, what he believes defines a good A&R, and his take on the state of major labels.

FTS: What are the day-to-day responsibilities of an A&R?

WRC: It really depends what label you’re at and who you’re doing the A&R job for. There are a lot of A&Rs who are extremely involved and with the artists every single day and are kind of acting as a manager. I think it also depends on the deal. If the artist is on a 360-deal or the artist is on a licensing deal, the involvement is different. I think that if you’re going to be an A&R, be an A&R in the traditional sense – you find and link developing talent with the people at your record label to get things done. Then you make sure that everything goes smoothly and that your artist has a good relationship with the label and hook them up with whoever they wanna work with.

How do you determine if someone is a good A&R?

A good A&R nowadays is someone who knows their role, because the role is kind of simple when you think about it. If a good major label A&R is doing their job, literally all they’re doing is keeping that artist that they signed happy and making sure that if they need to work with anyone, that they can. A good A&R is friends with all the right people and has connections with all the right people, and then knows how to distinguish successful music from non-successful music, regardless of the taste level. Take our A&R at RCA, Tunji [Balogun], for example. The guy just has extremely good taste and makes sure that all of his artists get the best treatment at the record label. That’s kind of his job in a nutshell. If you’re in a position where the artist has a good manager, agent and lawyer, then the A&R’s role is definitely key. I always say an artist’s team only works properly if everyone knows their role.

What is your take on the current major label landscape?

I don’t want to get any more invested in record labels than I am right now. I don’t think that they’re dying because there are still some artists where having a record label really makes sense for them. For Kaytranada at RCA, it really works. But record labels are really bad at development across the board because they want to pick stuff up that’s already going and makes money. I experience a lot of frustrations with artist development at record labels. Unless it’s the right people and the right system, it doesn’t work. There are too many moving pieces. The reason why I’ve been able to help artists become successful is because I’ve been the person with my finger on the pulse of what the artist is doing, deciding when we invest and how much we pay, all that comes down to me. I’ve been able to do it like a CEO and make those decisions, but when you put me in a record label and I’m in a system and I have to get things [approved by different people], I can’t work in that system as well as I can from the manager’s perspective.