Artist & Repertoire (A&R) representatives, who scout talent for record labels and are responsible for the development of the label's artists and songwriters, have long commanded clout as gatekeepers for new talent, although fewer jobs exist today, due to corporate cutbacks and shrinking profits. Even so, competition remains keen among those willing to try and ride out the storm. Salaries range from lows of $27,000 to $175,000 for top-level executives with lengthy resumes. However, only representatives with ears for commercial projects stand any real chance of joining their profession's six-figure winning circle.
A survey of music industry payscales commissioned by the Berklee College of Music shows how widely A&R salaries vary. Depending on their experience and track records, A&R representatives can earn anywhere from $27,000 to $175,000, the survey shows. However, the representative's job is distinctly different from that of an A&R administrator, who oversees the department's clerical functions, although their salary spread is equally wide, ranging from $25,000 to $65,000 per year, according to the survey.
For any A&R representative, career advancement depends on his ability to spot potential winners as he juggles multiple tasks, which is one reason why salary spreads in this field are so pronounced. Entry-level A&R employees often start as assistants, earning $20,000 to $25,000, according to TVT Records representative Joshua Freni. By contrast, senior A&R executives with top-level credentials may command six-figure salaries, performance bonuses and "points," or income percentages reaped from successful projects, according to Freni.
Festival Mushroom Records A&R manager Catherine Haridy typifies the mid-career and salary path of her profession. A journalism graduate, Haridy first started as an assistant to Michael Parisi, the label's managing director -- himself a former A&R man, "The Age" reported in July 2003. Within a year, Haridy advanced to her present position, for which she reportedly earned $45,000 to $50,000 per year. Haridy's signing of the band George -- whose album went double platinum in Australia -- proved the biggest factor in jump-starting her success.
A&R representatives' prospects dwindled throughout the 2000s, as consumers increasingly rejected the compact disc for the convenience of Internet file-sharing, "L.A. Weekly" reported in February 2010. This failure to embrace the online world led to free-falling profits, followed by mass layoffs, label mergers and termination of contracts or companies deemed unprofitable. Many A&R representatives have entered related careers, or left the industry. Even then, surviving A&R representatives wield less influence at cash-strapped record labels bent on making every dollar count, the newspaper stated.