Artist & Repertoire, commonly referred to as A&R, is one of the most fascinating jobs in the music business. They are scouts, develop artists, they know about different types of music, go to concerts and often become best friends with their artists. Adam Small is one of them. He started as a marketing intern for Snoop Dogg back in 2012 (yes, the Snoop Lion days), and is now currently the CEO of ADS Music Partners and co-president of Artistry Records, which happens to be the label of Max Gousse (who has worked with artists Beyoncé, Kanye West, Rihanna, and many other stellar names). Adam has been surrounded by successful people for years and it shows. He has established himself in the industry through the management of star artists, songwriters, and producers. Having developed Gino the Ghost and Saweetie, you definitely have to outwork everyone else to get his attention. And he is hungry for those who are hungry too.
A controversial topic of discussion is, some think A&R is phasing out. Do you feel
it’s a dying job or it will always be relevant?
Adam Small: A&R is about development. It’s maximizing the artist and seeing the vision.
That’s really the next level. I think the difference today is that there are so many people making music with a platform to release it. There are different A&R’s too. Some sit behind a desk and try to calculate what the next big thing is and others get in the room and actually curate the music and really try to find the sound for the artist which ultimately leads to the next big hit. I go for the latter. I enjoy curating records and I think there will always be a business for that.
Your life is like a movie, but are there any cons of being an A&R?
Adam Small: For me, the pros outweigh the cons by far. It’s definitely a lifestyle, you have to be on 24/7. There are so many things going on. I need to wear a lot of hats at the same time. I am a label head, a publisher, and a manager. I have a from, when I open my eyes to when I close them, type of job. On top of that, for me to curate the best albums, I feel like I have to actually live the lifestyle to truly understand what people are listening to, so in that way, it can be socially draining, but I definitely love what I do. You can’t just show up to an office and be a successful A&R, you need to live it and breathe it.
Favorite moments in your career thus far?
Adam Small: To be honest, there are quite a few. Having consistent #1 hits on Billboard is by far one of my most favorite moments. Living your dream is something special and I am so blessed to do it every day.
People just underestimate what it means to be cool, what’s cool is being a realTweet
person that other people can relate to @Adam Small
What makes a great A&R besides having “good ears”?
Adam Small: Being able to identify star power in an artist. The best artists have to be likable and be able to communicate a message and a personality. You have to have a gut feeling when you meet someone, their presence must be felt! People are very visual, for example, Cardi B is very likable, she is relatable and the people want to support her.
Which are the key factors in Saweetie’s success?
Adam Small: Her work ethic. She genuinely wants to be a star more than anyone else, so it’s really beneficial to A&R someone who works that hard. You want to work as hard as she does, she is a likable person, she has charisma, and she really wants to know what her fans want to hear and this is a special combination.
What are some qualities that can lead to stardom?
Adam Small: You have to be consistent, proactive, shameless, and dedicated to putting out content. People just underestimate what it means to be cool, what’s cool is being a real
person that other people can relate to. A great example of this is, a lot of people are scared to follow more people than the amount people who follow them, they are afraid of putting out content and nobody responding to it, but in reality, if you are consistent, in time people
will eventually catch on. You want to engage with as many people as you can. You gotta have a clear and concise idea of who is your consumer is you have to treat it as a business and give them what they want to be successful.
Key things that you consider when matchmaking songwriters with singers?
Adam Small: The first thing I think of is what is their background or positioning in everyday life. If you are an artist from Latin America, it might be hard sometimes for somebody with no Hispanic background to understand the culture or certain nuances and write to you. It is not always the case, of course. But it is very similar to putting your friends with people, I am very close to all of my creatives, we hang out a lot. I spend a lot of time trying to direct songs, 12 hours just with creatives, you know. So, it is like you have friends you want to introduce to each other, a lot of times you have to evaluate people’s skills and say: “ They are really great at this but what do they need help with?” Sometimes what they need help with is something that a writer, a creative, or a producer you know, is really good at.
How much time do you spend searching for new music?
Adam Small: I am always looking for new music, daily. I am always looking for new people to sign, new songs, hit records, new artists, hit producers, and songwriters. I am always trying to maximize the artist’s potential. I listen to everything.
How to properly contact an A&R?
Adam Small: Find a personal connection, I’d say, try to find something outside of music first. The one thing I wouldn’t do is to slide into someone’s DM’s, but to be honest, I find a lot of my best work in my Instagram DM’s. Emails and mutual contacts are the best way.
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