Listen to a wide variety of music and follow the careers of your favorite recording artists by reading magazines and surfing the Internet. Listen especially to new talent as it emerges. There are certain radio and Internet stations that frequently feature new musicians. Visit clubs that regularly book live music.
Study music, including music performance and music history. If possible, join a group to learn about the challenges of performing with others, composing original music, booking gigs, and managing the business side of music.
If you've ever been in a band, and you've tried to get some local, paying gigs, then you're familiar with how difficult it can be to get your music heard. You'll likely meet with even more frustration if you try to market your band nationally in an effort to get a record contract. A&R workers have firsthand knowledge of the number of artists hoping to sign with a record label—thousands of submissions cross their desks every year.
A&R workers review these submissions, looking and listening for talented musicians. They listen to demo recording after demo recording, and read through press clippings and artist biographies. They also keep track of the music scene by attending clubs and reading fanzines. A&R workers visit Web sites and download samples.
Although they listen to a lot of music that doesn't interest them, occasionally they come across something that stands out. When they do, A&R workers set out to get to know the artist better. Just because A&R workers like an artist's demo recording, it doesn't mean they will automatically sign the artist to a contract. They first have to get a complete sense of the artist's talents. They may request additional recorded songs and go to live performances.
Once they feel confident about the artist's talent, A&R workers attempt to get him or her a record deal. This involves convincing executives at the record company that the artist is worth the risk. An A&R worker may also work with an artist that is being pursued by A&R representatives from other companies. In such cases, the A&R worker has to convince the artist that he or she will receive the attention and care he or she needs.
The work of A&R representatives doesn't end when they've signed the talent to a contract. A&R workers become closely involved in the careers of their artists. They help match them with producers and assist in the mixing of the tracks. They also help promote the artists—from helping them select the right clothes to wear for press photographs, to arranging interviews, to promoting them on the Internet (including on social networking sites), to deciding which singles should be played on the radio or released as digital downloads. A&R representatives often work with artists closely throughout their careers, helping them to stay successful as artists and businesspeople.