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Exactly what the role of a vice president at a record label is may be a little mysterious. The truth is that, rather than a single vice president, most record labels have several. There are different vice presidents for each department at the record label who manage the daily oversight of their departments. Depending on the size of the label, there may be up to 10 or more vice presidents for a single record label. Examples of departments that have vice presidents include business affairs, legal, art, artist and repertoire, publicity, marketing, sales and label liaison. Each of these departments has a different function that works to build the label.
A & R Department
The A & R department, or Artist and Repertoire, is responsible for finding and signing new talent. The vice president of this department manages scouts who receive hundreds of submissions a day from unsigned artists. These scouts also attend shows and conventions to find the best new talent. The vice president has jurisdiction over all of the new acts signed to the label. Depending on the size and budget of the label, the vice president may choose to only sign a few acts a year out of the thousands that he reviews. In this role, the vice president also serves as signed artists' liaison to the other departments at the label, making sure that arrangements are made for the recording of albums and that all accounting issues are handled in a timely manner.
The vice president in this department is in charge of managing the staff that is in charge of career planning for artists signed to the label. The artist development department may also be referred to as product development as the industry trends more toward building a product rather than just an artist. Working in artist development, the vice president manages the creation of branding for the artist and his music throughout his career. This department sets up promotional opportunities and determines how best to market the album and artist to reach the target demographic. In this role, the vice president is concerned with making signed artists a hit as quickly as possible to make a profit. The vice president is responsible to stockholders for how fast they see a profit from their investments in artists and albums with the label.
The promotions department is another area of the record label that is managed by a vice president. This department promotes, or shops, songs around to radio stations to get as much airplay as they can for an artist's current single and works to move a song already on the radio into higher rotation to gain more exposure. Music videos are also used as promotional materials by this department, as the staff members encourage music television stations to play them on a regular basis. The vice president works closely with other departments and is a central figure with regard to the ultimate profit the label makes off of a song, album or artist. In this role, the vice president may also oversee the new media department, which is responsible for promoting songs and music videos on the Internet and through other audio and video outlets.
Independent record labels function differently from the major labels. These record labels have fewer employees, which leads to combined departments, eliminating the need for multiple vice presidents on the payroll. An independent label may have only one vice president who oversees the general day-to-day activities of the record label. In this role, the vice president is responsible for every role that multiple vice presidents would fill at a major label. At a very small label, there may only be a few employees, so the vice president may have to pitch in and do things normally tasked to subordinates, such as calling radio stations, scouting new artists, building tours, and coordinating with or finding distributors.