How To Become an A&R Administrator
What Exactly Does an A&R Administrator Do?
“It’s kind of top-to-bottom in my particular role,” says Joey Beran, Head of A&R Administration at mau5trap, the independent electronic label founded by deadmau5. Due to the size of the label, he explains, “My role bleeds into other departments that an A&R Administrator usually wouldn’t [have a role in] which is a lot of fun.” As part of this position, he says, “I work closely with the Label Manager, who’s responsible for the bigger picture. I also work with the marketing team, digital team, and the legal team.
“The A&R staff come to me and are like ‘OK, we want this track or this album,’” Beran says. “Then it’s my job to work with our legal team to negotiate terms and overall agreement. From there, I get the pre-master wav files and I have them mastered. From there, make sure everyone involved is happy with the mastering. I ensure all artwork and marketing materials are to spec and that we have the appropriate rights for the images. I create the metadata, such as ISRC’s, barcodes and catalog numbers that need to be created, assigned and kept on record. These codes ensure we will receive and track earnings from DSPs. I then deliver it all to the DSPs [Digital Service Providers], such as Spotify and iTunes, then it goes to consumer. The last big part of my job is tracking expenses and making sure the project is under budget. This requires great record keeping and close contact with the finance team.”
It’s a good idea for aspiring A&R Administrators to first gain some experience in the world of music publishing, so many start off with an entry-level publishing role such as an Office Assistant. In larger music companies, such as major labels, Executive or Administrative Assistant roles may also be available in the A&R Administration department. From here, it’s possible to attain an A&R Administration Assistant role and then become a full-fledged A&R Administrator. Within the department, an A&R Administrator with significant experience may go on to become the VP of A&R Administration, Director of A&R Administration, or the Head of Administration. Titles may vary depending on the label.
Education & Training
The best training for aspiring A&R Administrators is simply working in the music industry in any related available role. A Music Business college program can also be helpful, even if it’s more academic than hands-on. “One reason I’m glad I went to McNally Smith is because it looks good on paper,” Beran says. “If you can get a Music Business degree you’ll pick up little things along the way. You might not know how to apply them to real life but you’ll pick up little things. You kind of have to dig in and do it.
I find most companies that have internships, they’re just making coffee or running errands and they’re just using them as free labor. I would suggest finding an Assistant role if you can get lucky enough to find one somewhere. Work at a Publisher, because you’re going to have to know a lot of the publishing aspects as an A&R Administrator. Also, work on the label side. Get in there at the bottom of the totem pole, anywhere you can, at a publishing company or label. I think that’s your best bet to get some real hands-on experience.”
What skills do you need to be an A&R Administrator?
“Basically you really need to understand music publishing,” Beran says of the work experience and skills essential for an A&R Administrator. “You really need to understand the recording process and how a song becomes a song, or how a track becomes a track. It doesn’t hurt to know the ins and outs of a recording studio. We also have to deal with mastering studios. Do anything you can do to pick up skills along the way, because you can go to school for it, you can read it in a book, but that’s not the best way to do it. Just really understand publishing, really understand how a label works, and really understanding the recording process.”
The type of person who would thrive in an A&R Administration role is, Beran says, “definitely a detail-oriented, numbers person. There are lots of details that are really important and if you mess up one of these tiny little details you could mess up the whole release when you’re delivering it somewhere because something’s wrong. You could throw off the accounting and everything. So, not a social person, but a real by-the-book, numbers person.”
Like many music industry careers, A&R Administrators often find themselves working outside of their prescribed work hours. Beran explains, “We have 9-6 office hours, but I come in early because that’s the only time I have peace and quiet. Then I usually go home and work because in everything I do, I have to really concentrate and do everything impeccably. You just don’t get that in an office setting because it’s too crazy. So I’m always working from home, just trying to pick up the pieces throughout the day and keep everything together, then sweep everything up when I get home and organize it. There are definitely weekend hours and lots of overtime.”
Getting a foot in the door with an Administration department can be challenging. Beran advises people interested in A&R Administration get involved in the music business where they can and build their skill set and industry connections. He tells us, “I moved to LA after McNally Smith and I wasn’t working in music for like two years because I just couldn’t get a job. It’s so true: it really is who you know. I had someone who got me an interview at a publishing company and that’s what started it all.
After you’ve worked in music for a while, people will look at that and say ‘oh, he did this’ or ‘she did that’ and then you can start getting music jobs. But it’s really hard. Maybe if you intern somewhere and really nail it, someone will give you an Assistant job after that. That would be a good start but it doesn’t happen often, I find. You’ve got to pull some strings — work your contacts — and do everything you can to get that interview and get that job.”
How Much Does an A&R Administrator make?
A&R Administrators are salaried employees of the record label or publishing company that employs them. Depending on the size of the label, they may receive paid time off and benefits.
Unions, Groups & Associations
“A2IM.org [American Association of Independent Music] lists a lot of industry jobs that aren’t posted anywhere else and they’ve got lots of conferences listed on there,” Beran recommends. For educational resources, he suggests finding a class run by someone actively working in the business today where you’ll learn concrete information.
- Attend a Music Business degree program.
- Find real world learning opportunities such as courses taught by working music industry professionals.
- Learn the publishing process.
- Learn the recording process.
- Look for an Assistant role at a Music Publisher.
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Make sure you really want to do this. [When looking for work] you want to put yourself above everyone. I worked at a publishing company, then at a consulting firm, then I went to a licensing company, then I did royalties, then I went to a label. So I know a lot of stuff. Usually people just know one thing like ‘I’m doing marketing.’
I started doing it all and it all applies to A&R administration, for sure. People say ‘you seem to job hop a lot.’ Well, yeah it might look like that, but this is essentially me going to school.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“It’s just really pulling your contacts and doing everything you can to absorb stuff like a sponge so you can see a challenge and know what you’re speaking about. Hang out with someone who works at a studio if you can get in there and shadow someone. Or shadow someone at a label.
I started as an Office Assistant at a publishing company and I saw and touched everything. They had me do really mundane exercises like royalty statements and registering songs and stuff. It’s kind of easy stuff but it’s a skill that not a lot of people have. So just being an Assistant at a publishing company — a small one — is invaluable. I think if you went to a major company you’d be put into a box like ‘this is your role, this is what you do.’ If you go to a small company, you’re going to wear like 10,000 different hats and learn it all.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“I think people get A&R and A&R Administration confused. One if very administrative and the other is purely creative.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
“Determination. Every time I’ve been told ‘no’ and wanted to give up, no, you can’t. You just really have to keep going and pick yourself up a lot in this industry. I’ve seen a lot of people leave the industry. You’ve got to just keep at it, get back up, and keep going.”
Joey Beran is a Project Manager at Warner Bros. and the former Head of Administration at mau5trap, an independent electronic label founded by deadmau5. Prior to signing on to mau5trap, he worked in royalties at Warner Music Group and licensing at XRD Music.