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RECORD COMPANY - Artist And Repertoire (a&r): Senior Vice President • Vice President (a&r)

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JOB OVERVIEW

Doug Howard and Nancy Jeffries discover, sign, and develop musical talent for their respective record labels. They screen potential songs for their artists, oversee the recording process, and find the right producer and studio. Once the record is finished, they work with each label department to ensure the music and artist are presented and marketed appropriately.

PREREQUISITES

To succeed, you need the ability to spot talent and develop and nurture it to be successful. You should be able to bridge the gap between the creative and business sides of music and have a firm understanding of the recording process. Strong personal contacts with publishers, producers, and songwriters are essential. You should be able to recognize great songs and to match them with the appropriate recording artists.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Throughout the day, Nancy Jeffries listens to the ever-growing mountain of demo tapes she receives, meets with publishers and writers pitching songs for artists on the roster, and with attorneys, managers, and others pitching new artists. She speaks with the artists she is responsible for to check where they are in the recording process, to set up meetings for them with prospective producers, and to talk about material they are looking for. She may stop by the studio to hear a new recording or mix, or attend a company business meeting, or one about an artist she represents. At night Jeffries attends performances by label artists or those auditioning for a deal.

Some constants in the life of Doug Howard are attending marketing, sales, and promotion meetings. “This allows me to hear what radio is saying about our projects; what reviewers have written.” If he has an artist in the studio, he drops by to ensure everything is running smoothly. Throughout the recording process he continues to listen to songs in case something great comes in. He sorts through a massive amount of e-mail and tries to catch up on telephone calls. On any given day Howard meets with songwriters, song pluggers, producers, potential artists, and individuals pitching new artists. As a senior executive, he handles a variety of administrative tasks and participates in industry events and seminars. Howard's primary goal is to listen to songs and find hits for the artists signed to the label, and that is where he directs his energy whenever possible.

POINTERS FOR THE JOB SEARCH

“In the A&R field, it's very rare that somebody gets a chance just because someone likes them. You have to get yourself in people's sights and prove to them that you have some ability to spot talent, and then once you've spotted it, you have the ability to nurture it and bring it along. It's not an easy job to apply for. If you want to be in A&R and you can't find a job, then find work booking a club, managing an artist, or working at a college radio station. Something where you have to select music and you can show people that you selected it in a way that was advantageous. Then people will be more receptive than if you just come in and say, ‘I can pick a hit.’“—NJ

“I think it's vital that you move to a music center. Take a vacation and check out some place like Nashville or Los Angeles. It's unfortunate to have to tell somebody in Little Rock, but you have to live in a music center. That may be a sacrifice, so be prepared for that.”—DH

CAREER TIPS

“In A&R, I think it's very helpful if you have some grounding in music. Not just to know what a hit is; that's not enough. You need to know what makes it a hit or a great piece of music. You need to be able to recognize what kind of personality can handle what's going to happen to them; can they handle the success? You have to have a grounding in the business side of music as well.”NJ

“Be feisty. No one is going to come over to you and say, ‘Oh, you're great! Let's make you an A&R person’.”NJ

“Having the sense of melody and why one song stands out more than others. I really think that can be learned, but it comes from really listening. If you surround yourself with great music, those good things surface when you're out listening to demos. Focus on that.”DH

“Listen. Listen. Listen. Be a fan of music, first and foremost. It doesn't matter if you're a country fan or pop fan or whatever. I find the more diverse you are, the better.”DH

“Working in A&R administration is a good way to get your foot in the door. I think it gives you a fantastic base to work from. You really get to know the nuts and bolts.”—NJ

NANCY JEFFRIES, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT A&R, ELEKTRA ENTERTAINMENT

THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“The piles of unsolicited demos. Demo listening: I think that is everybody's least favorite part of the job. In the A&R world there is always a constant battle to keep up with the demos coming in. It's the most boring part.”NJ

“The fact that because there is only one of me, I don't see my dear friends as often as I'd like. My schedule is such that I can't return every phone call. I miss a lot of my old relationships with friends I worked with as a publisher.”DH

THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“I love finding somebody and watching their career happen. To work with somebody that when you first saw them had only two people in the audience and by the time you're done, they're playing a stadiumthat's amazing.”NJ

“I've had a lot of great opportunities to work with nice people. The bosses I've had, for the most part, have been very creative people. That has allowed me to do things that are a little bit left of center.”NJ

“I get to make a living making music, working with musicians, artists, and writers. I can't think of anything better than that. I'm also surrounded by friends at this office; people I've known for years.”DH

“I was a singer,” says Nancy Jeffries. “I sang with a band in the late sixties and early seventies.” This native New Yorker's band, Insect Trust, cut two albums before she decided that the aspect of music she enjoyed most was producing records. While searching for work in 1974, she discovered that the world of the recording studio virtually excluded women. With money running low, she applied at a temporary secretarial agency, listing all of her past skills in concert promotion and recording, and landed a job working for the head of R&B A&R at RCA Records. “It didn't take him long to realize I had no office skills, but I could talk on the phone to his clients about what they were doing in a way that took a weight off him, so they let me stay.” Her boss moved to another label nine months later and she was promoted to A&R administration for several years.

When her efforts in signing an important act failed to get her promoted out of administration and into the creative side of A&R, Jeffries threatened to quit. Rather than lose her, RCA gave her the desired promotion. Later, she moved to A&M Records, to work A&R for label head Jordan Harris. While there, she signed Suzanne Vega and matched Iggy Pop to record with David Bowie. When Harris and Jeff Ayeroff opened the American office of Virgin Records, Jeffries went with them, and signed Lenny Kravitz, Ziggy Marley, and Keith Richards, among others. In 1990, Jeffries moved to Elektra Entertainment as senior vice president of A&R to work with such established acts as Linda Ronstadt, Natalie Cole, and Jackson Browne, and to sign new talent.

DOUG HOWARD, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT A&R, LYRIC STREET RECORDS

Raised in Mississippi cotton country hearing musical refrains drifting out of Memphis, Doug Howard fell in love with music at an early age, knowing from childhood that he wanted to go to Nashville. As a teenager, he had a job at a local radio station that introduced him to Billboard magazine, where he first learned about the business side of music. After going to Nashville in the 1970s to attend David Lipscomb University, he transferred into Belmont College's music program, where he met many people he would later work with, and interned in the mail room of a small Christian publishing company. After graduation, he worked three jobs simultaneously and put out the word that he wanted to get into music publishing. When college friends recommended him for a song plugger position at Welk Music, an independent publisher, Howard jumped at the chance to interview.

“It was kind of funny because Bill [Hall] sat on one side of the room and Roger [Sovine] sat on the other side, so that I couldn't see them both at the same time. They asked all the questions you ask a guy you're sizing up to work for your company, but then they just stopped and said, ‘We'll be in touch.’ It was just the coldest.” Normally, Howard would have just said “thank you” and left, but not this time. “This mattered so much to me that I stood up and said, ‘Y'all have to understand that I'm your guy.” Seeing Howard's passion, they hired him. Over the years, Hall became a mentor and even sent Howard to Vanderbilt University so he could earn an MBA to increase his business credentials.

By 1988, Howard sensed that the industry and the times were on the brink of change, so he made a bold career move. He temporarily left the business and enrolled at George Washington University to pursue a law degree. While attending classes, he gained experience by working at a legal firm in Washington, D.C., knowing that he wanted to return to the music business. In the meantime, Welk Music was sold to Polygram, and just as Howard was finishing his studies, he got a call from the head of Polygram North America, offering him a position in Nashville, which they held for six weeks until he graduated.

In 1997, when Disney decided to open Lyric Street Records, Howard's college friend, Randy Goodman, was named president and enticed him to come aboard as senior vice president of A&R. One of the label's biggest successes is Rascal Flatts; other artists include SHeDAISY, Josh Gracin, and former American Idol finalist Bucky Covington.

Howard was elected president of the board of governors of the Nashville chapter of Recording Academy in 2004 and served a two-year term. In 2005, Lyric Street's parent company, Disney, announced it was opening a Nashville office of Disney Music Publishing. Howard was named senior vice president and general manager, affording him the opportunity to return to his roots in publishing and developing songwriters, while retaining his A&R duties at the label.

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over 4 years ago

Doug Howard is from Missouri, not Mississippi.