Berklee Spotlight: A&R Group

by Quentin Singer

Berklee is not only the embodiment of great music-related academia, but it has some of the best campus clubs and activities. If you’re a music business major, or have any interest in developing in that field, Berklee’s A&R Group (also known as Berklee Artist Development Group) is an organization to consider. Representatives from major labels often visit this club, giving members the opportunity to pitch the multitude of acts here at Berklee. In doing so, Berklee students get the chance to practice real industry skills: whether it’s behaving professionally toward industry workers, or simply participating in the pitching process. Realizing the importance of this group, we met with the co-president Caroline Carlson to discuss what A&R is all about.

Berklee Groove: Can you briefly describe the aspects of the A&R club?

A&R Group: Basically what we do is search for the talent, so it’s either writers, producers, or artists themselves, and we look  pretty much only in the Berklee community. We’re always looking for the best writers, topliners, producers, managers, and business people who can basically pitch talent to industry professionals coming to Boston. We do this in a two hour pitching session in the Berklee 160 studios, and the ultimate goal is to get deals for Berklee students. In the process of developing artists here, what we like to do is find young talent and A&R their material, meaning I’ll find someone who’s an artist, writes songs, and has a great voice, but needs stronger cowriters and producers to make his/her own unique sound. I’ll start a session with him/her and a songwriter I have who’s really strong in pop, and then I’ll find a producer. I’ll put them all in a session together and see what can come of it, and then, if I like it I’ll pitch it.

Berklee Groove: Who are some big named guests/representatives you’ve had come visit the club?

A&R Group: I mean it’s a variety, but we had an A&R with Steven Gringer from Pulse Music Group, and we pitched material to him. Last semester we had Jessica Rivera from Universal, and then we also had David Nathan who is a promoter and artist manager. He was at BMG, S-Curve, Republic Records, and now he has his own company. People from all different companies come, primarily from LA and New York.

Berklee Groove: Who are some related Berklee artists that have gotten their start from the A&R club? Who are some that you’ve pitched that have been well received?

A&R Group: Well the thing is, I would say no group on campus is solely responsible for someone’s success, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that. For example Emilia Ali, an artist who’s pretty well known by now, is someone that I was pitching to get a publishing deal since last May, but then all of a sudden in the summer she got a distribution deal with Capital. You can find success with an artist even if it doesn’t come from you, and it was still a win for me, in that someone else in the industry recognized her talent. Someone else who I’ve been repping is Mac Ayers. He’s a former Berklee student who just completed a sold out tour. So there’s all variations of success.

PHOTO: Berklee A&R Facebook page

Berklee Groove: What’s your favorite part about the A&R club and profession?

A&R Group: What attracts me to it is the act of trying to get someone to care about something you really care about. Just having this raw excitement and passion for someone, and then when someone in the industry sees it toom you’re like “Oh snap!” It’s that process of finding someone, developing them, and getting them deals that I’m obsessed with. And it also just feels good to help someone with their artistic career.

Berklee Groove: What kind of person do you recommend get involved with A&R? And how can Berklee students join the club?

A&R Group: So the process that we have is an online application, and then we do in-person interviews. We look specifically for producers that create their own tracks, not engineers, they can be songwriters or topline writers that don’t want to be artists. Then, we look for managers or people that just want to rep material, and based on what you want to do or what your title is, like if you’re a producer, we ask you to submit your material and then we go over it with you in person. If you want to be a manager or rep then we say, “Play your five favorite artists.” The first week of every semester is when we add new members and is when our application goes live, people can get all this info if they follow our social media.

Check out the A&R club on Facebook or email them at artistdevelopment@berklee.edu.

Are you part of Berklee’s A&R Group? What’s you’re favorite part about it? Let us know in the comments!