I was reading day 22 of the new album recording that David Bates has come out of retirement to help with the new release. It seems to me that this is a great act of confidence in the project as it reflects that the album may have that something special that does bring experienced hands out of retirement to support it.
I do not know too much about A&R other than mentions of his prior work in the notes that came with the Cleaning Out the Ashtrays set, and quite funny they were too,
Bates and I had dinner at the Groucho Club to figure out a plan. He thought the vibe of the record was pretty much perfect, but that there were too many babes and babies in the lyrics. I told him that I was the lyricist at the table and he was the A&R man and that was the way it was going to stay.
I then read up about A&R and discovered that their job is less required recently with new digital distribution methods and more choice of being able to bypass the older methods of A&R. The Wikipedia describes A&R job as:
Overseeing the recording process
The A&R division oversees the recording process. This includes helping the artist to find the right record producer, scheduling time in a recording studio and advising the artist on all aspects of making a high quality recording. They work with the artist to choose the best songs (i.e.repertoire) to record. For artists who do not write their own music, they will assist in finding songs and songwriters. A&R executives maintain contact with their counterparts at music publishing companies to get new songs and material from songwriters and producers.
As the record nears completion, the A&R department works closely with the artist to determine if the record is acceptable to the record company. This may include suggesting that new songs need to be written or that some tracks need to be re-recorded. A key issue is whether the album has a single: a particular track which can be used to market the record on the radio. The industry cliche, “I don’t hear a single!” is a reference to this process.
Assisting with marketing and promotion
Once the record is completed, the A&R department (with assistance from marketing, promotion and the artist) chooses a single to help promote the record.
Q – The question is: Was David Bates brought in to use his ability to advise and give an experienced perspective of the album and songs and ways to improve them?
Also does the A&R person also assist marketing through contacts and projections?
A – Firstly A&R have next to nothing to do with marketing. They can attempt to motivate that department to prioritise a project, but unless the A&R is also the boss of the company (as Bates was at Fontana) the, once the record is finished, A&R is over.
Re – “I then read up about A&R and discovered that their job is less required recently with new digital distribution methods and more choice of being able to bypass the older methods of A&R.” I don’t see any logic in this argument – better material always makes for a better product. A&R’s job is to maximise product quality, I’d say.
A&R would traditionally be involved from the very earliest stages of a record – traditionally demos. Bates vetoed a few of my demos over the years. I wasn’t too happy about it at the time, but generally his calls were good, which is why I called him on this project.
One of the dilemmas for the A&R person is the conflict between quality of product and success of said product. In a perfect world the best music sells the most… but clearly there are cynical moves which have tended to lead to success. Bates A&R’d an awful, but very successful Bon Jovi record which effectively rescued their career in the UK. That single Bed of Roses was on it… That conflict makes dealing with A&R difficult, because you know their job is at stake if they don’t deliver successful records. We all want success, but there are limits to what some will to to attain it…
The reason I was so excited to bring Dave to this project is that he has no invested interest. His input, therefore is solely aesthetic. He is also great on running order – Trigger Happy was his choice to open Love Story, I never thought of it, but it was the perfect choice. Having said that I haven’t heard from him for a while… Maybe he’s mad at me. He did suggest we add more percussion. We added some, as we were planning to, but his reference was that recent Iron & Wine album, which is very percussion heavy (maybe a little overdone, I thought).