Who’s Your A&R? (Dante Ross Edition)

In the music business, A&R stands for “artists and repertoire.” Think of an A&R as the touchpoint between the artist’s side of making music and the label’s side of selling it. Maybe the most important A&R of my lifetime has been Dante Ross. 

You can go read his credits if you don’t know his name. You can see the links I’m putting below to his book, Son of the City, and the “What Had Happened Was” podcast season featuring him. Bottom line, he’s worked as an artist-label liaison for my entire musical life. 

Dante thinks the meaning of A&R has devolved to “Analytics and Research.” I’m not in the A&R business so I’ll leave the expert opinion to him. But we’re all in the monetization of creation business. 

Whether you make songs, write blog posts, or come up with ideas at work – you’re connecting:

the artist, 

to the repertoire, 

to how it’s presented in the world. 

The translation mechanism between the two worlds, of art and business, needs soul as much as it does spreadsheet. If you make it all soul, you’ll never sell anything. If you make it all spreadsheet, you’ll never have art. 

We’re all here to make and exchange our creations for value. Whether it’s in exchange for a paycheck or to make a hit record. How your A&R is defined and functioning matters. Who fills that role for you matters. Awareness of the themes and trends matters. 

I don’t have the musical experience of my lifetime without A&Rs like Dante Ross. Thanks Dante. I feel like you I know you, but more directly, I feel like you know me. 

If this strikes you at all, I found Dante’s book “Son of the City” to be profoundly moving. The personal backdrops behind the artist stories are colorful. His background helps to hear more too. Especially his relationships with his family and friends over the years. After finishing the audiobook (which he reads), I’m ready to revisit season 3 of “What Had Happened Was” too. These stories are just so cool.