MUBUTV Insider Podcast Episode Transcript
Ritch Esra: Andrew, thank you so much for joining us, we really appreciate it.
Andrew Grant: Of course thank you for having me.
Ritch Esra:Thank you, I always like to start these conversations off with a question, especially for people in your profession, Which is, at what point in your life, did you know that the music industry was going to be your professional career path?
Andrew Grant: Late middle school early High School I wanted to be an artist. But I was also very realistic with myself that there was a chance that I wasn't going to get a record deal because it's really hard and so I gave myself a cut off age that I said, if I didn't have a record deal at that age that I was going to try to pursue something else in the music industry so I would say middle school, high school is when I knew I wanted to be able to pursue music and some degree.
Ritch Esra: Okay and you pursued it as a career at that point.
Andrew Grant: Yes.
Ritch Esra: Ok, alright great! Andrew, can you discuss what is your criteria, both creatively and non creatively for signing an artist today at Atlantic.
Andrew Grant: I don’t I don't feel like there's a set criteria necessarily I feel like every situation every artist is different you know, like I feel like a manager that the label has a good relationship with that's like proven success before could bring somebody and like you know the label has to feel confident in that manager. I feel like there's research signings at the label does on Research.
I feel like you know there's like raw talent but this is at least with Atlantic, every label’s different but I feel like that's like you know, I feel like Atlantic is pretty open minded in what they're signing you know what I mean, as long as I believe in it.
Ritch Ersa: Let me ask you Andrew, how does an artist get on your radar? How do they reach you, I mean how do they get you to bring themselves to get your attention?
Andrew Grant: You know, Honestly Word of Mouth for me has been like, probably the biggest thing where I found things that I am fans of. I mean obviously I check you know research, I check data, I get online but when someone calls me going like you need to check this person out, has been my highest probably like, success rate on finding stuff I believe in.
Ritch Ersa: Wow, ok, interesting so what about, so that's all about relationships then…
Andrew Grant: Yes
Ritch Ersa: …yeah, relationships with the people who you trust, and in the industry whether its attorneys, managers, publishers.
Andrew Grant: It’s everybody! It's friends, it's athletes, it's like you know my nephews, cousins, the people in the music industry. Sometimes I feel like people in the industry have like, we're kind of tainted with our vision - you know what I mean? When you get an outside perspective if you know what I mean, it's refreshing sometimes.
Ritch Esra: No that's very, very true we get locked into like a way it should be and I see that with myself. It’s like this is the way it's always been this the way it should be this is a standard and yeah you need to become conscious not to do that, that’s a good point.
Eric Knight: I wanted to ask you in today's day and age you know, is there a certain level of artist development that needs to occur prior to you signing an artist?
Andrew Grant: Again I think every situation is different. I think there could be an artist that's like fully ready you know what I mean-like they just need to come in and then they just need our marketing you know, they need the label push I think there’s other artists that you know, you can hear you know one good song from and for the rest of it and it's like, it's almost there but it's not as good as this one song and I think like that's where you kind of have to like you know, start the development; like okay like did you write this? Can you do it again? Do we have to get you in with other writers and producers? You know what I mean? So I think every situation is kind of different.
Ritch Esra: You’re in a business Andrew, that a lot of times I would imagine can become very competitive professionally speaking. You’re after them, Warner’s after them, Colombia's after them. I mean that's a very real part. You are on the front line of that. How do you sell Atlantic Records as the place that an artist needs to be? What are the unique factors that you can sell an artist on that Atlantic is the right home for them because I'm sure that's a part of your A&R job.
Andrew Grant: I think that the one thing that Atlantic has, not what I think - but what I know Atlantic has the biggest A&R staff of any other record label. I feel like Atlantic does a better job of trying to hire A&Rs that come from a creative background, you know, that we're like Hands-On with music. They have research departments but I feel like a lot of other labels kind of focus strictly on Research. What I mean is there's not as many like, A&R record makers at other companies. They're good at identifying like you know, when something is trending and signing it but they're not necessarily as good as we are, like keeping it going and giving them you know, more records and helping them put together records.
Eric Knight: How do you determine when you're signing an act based on a song that is really gaining traction on its own independently, vs: real viable long-term act?
Andrew Grant: I think that's like when you know, your gut feeling has to come into it, you know, there's a lot of things, that have been trending that like some are like obviously not something I'd want to sign, then there's others where you know I've presented it and someone else might not see it you know because again you know you can be blinded by research, know what I mean? So, I think when you're taking that approach you have to use your gut at the end of the day for that and I feel you know, for me especially, all the records that I've been a part of or that I put together have all been you know, my gut feeling or just like just like spur-of-the-moment like, oh I just had the idea and as you know I just like went with it and finished it.
Eric Knight: Yeah it seems like that's the trend, we were just interviewing Kenny from Red Bull Records and it it seems like that's the overarching theme with A&R that you're really basing your signings on your gut like what you're really feeling in your life like man I gotta get this out to the world.
Andrew Grant: I think its different because, you know, I come from a music background of wanting to be an artist like you know, I know how to produce. I wanted to be a producer. I got into the production, I engineered for over 10 years. I’ve engineered you know big songs so I think coming from that background like actually like being Hands-On with a hit song…
Ritch Esra: on the front lines
Andrew Knight: … it gives you a different perspective of you know an A&R person who you know got hired because you know, they were a good intern but not necessarily came from a musical background you know, like all they can do is see like that data and the research and stuff like that so I think that's a huge separation.
Ritch Esra: I think that's such an interesting point because you know Jimmy Iovine talked about that very quality because he came from a record production background long before he ever got into running a label and he said you know in his mind, hit records were made in the studio. They weren't made by you know teams of people after or in a remix or what I mean those things are benefits he said, and he's been on the front lines of a lot of massive classic hit records. You just said that you know how to actually make records 10 years that I mean that's quite an extensive history and knowledge where you can go in with an artist and say “No, no, no, no, I know what I'm talking about here and it's this, this, this, this, and this, that”. In your mind does that make a difference in terms of how you approach artists creatively in that you know what it takes to actually do that because you have the engineering background?
Andrew Grant: I think it depends on the artist. If there's an artist who is A&R driven you know what I mean, if an artist relies on us to bring them records then yeah you know I'm like, “hey, trust my vision because this is you know, you're the vehicle” but like we're going to push our vision. You have writers like, I would never like go to like an Ed Sheeran or a Bruno Mars and be like, maybe you should try doing that differently like unless I truly like believed it. But like I feel like you know with those kinds of artists - they are where they are for a reason they're very creative and what they have done has worked for them, so I think its like a balance you know how to deliver or you know like what my vision is.
Ritch Ersa: Right okay yeah because I mean they’re self contained, Bruno’s always written with those same two people who did his first three albums. I mean that's his team and Ed has worked you know pretty much solo his whole life
Andrew Grant: yeah it's like, imagine me trying to tell Bruno Mars what he should do.
Ritch Esra: Andrew, in your position, How important is the team of an artist when you're considering signing them? Is that something that you take into account when you're really serious about them?
Andrew Grant: If there's like a team I know and that I trust that I'm close with, I like working with them like that helps a lot. But it's also one of those things where if an artist comes to me and they don't a team like there's an artist that really talented with no manager you know what I mean, then them not having a team is not going to shy me away from anything. So it's you know, it's cool like if it's reliable people that I know to be around them but at the end of the day it's like I'd rather an artist have no team then a team of people that don't know what they're doing or that like are kind of getting in the way from like you know the potential.
Eric Knight: You can help them put that team together, I guess is like part of your development with, which is amazing.
Andrew Grant: Yeah, yeah
Ritch Esra: Andrew what is Atlantic’s philosophy on staying with an artist that doesn’t break on their debut release because I know Atlanta has a great history of that where you know, in the past we’ve talked with Pete Ganbarg, I mean you know and Atlantic has that history of the artist developed so I’m curious.
Andrew Grant: Man, I’ve never been asked that question before I’m stumped! I mean like in my experience, I'm working with a couple of new acts right now and you know they got absorbed in Atlantic you know during a merger and so one of them, he's this kid hasn’t got to put out music in a few years. He was going through puberty, his voice was changing, so you know we kind of just like sat there. His Youtube presence is good. But he hasn't put out original music in a long time. So we put together about three or four songs that we all believed in and you know like they told us, let's get these records out, let see what happens and we’ll go from there. So they have been supportive, you know, they have been supportive and letting us try to do something with the baby acts. Once we have everything lined up ready to go, hey look we have the song, we spoke to marketing, we have a release plan we have the video you know we can get it done for X amount of money. Let's do it and they’re like “OK, if you believe in it, let's do it” so they have been supported in that way. That's been my experience. I don't know how it's been for other artists but like for me like that's what I've witnessed.
Ritch Esra: Right, OK, How much weight do you place on an artist’s live performance ability like in terms of signing? Does that factor into it or is genre a determining factor in that?
I think it's a little bit of both, but like I said there's so many artists in today's times like the Internet is so heavy that like you know like there can be artists that live on the internet then there can also be artists that you know live on tour, so I kind of feel like it just really depends on the artist. I'm not going to be turned off, we don't shy away from the artist because I see how they perform and I don't necessarily like that you know what I mean, because like if they’re if they're killing it with streaming or killing it with you know views and stuff like that and like they're proven to be working outside of that, it's not going to bother me but I do feel like there's artists that you know are performance or tour heavy you know what I mean I think that's like their specialty.
Ritch Esra: OK. So it really depends on the act,
Okay Andrew Are there any books or films That have really resonated with you professionally speaking That you could recommend to our audience Whether it was music industry related, Anything that was influential to you?
Andrew Grant: I don't know about films or books. The one show that I would always go back to would probably be “Making the Band”
Ritch Esra: OH! OK, so talk about that. What about that was so inspirational to you that you loved or connected with?
Andrew Grant: I think it was just like - again, when you watch that show it was like you saw the record making process. You saw how Diddy and the producers were sitting, putting together records. You saw other people putting the vision, you know, the whole band was put together because of those people's visions. They weren't put in that group because of their vision, someone else had their vision and they're like, the band was kind of the vehicle and you know filtered it. So like for me once I learned what A&R was I was just always intrigued by it.
Ritch Esra: So it's funny we talked to Tiffany Coomar. Tiffany's great and she did the podcast with us and she talked about experience…
Ritch Esra: She worked for…
Andrew Grant: She was on the show right?
Ritch Esra: Yeah she was on the show!
Eric Knight: Yeah she was on the show.
Ritch Esra: She was working with the artists writing songs. It was back when she was working in New York and Sean lived in New York.
Eric Knight: Didn’t Janelle Monet break from that show? Or he had just signed Janelle Monet to the label at that time. Or am I mistaken? I don't remember. I could have sworn because that was one of puffy’s…
Andrew Grant: Oh I didn't know that…
Ritch Esra: I didn’t know that, I believe so…
Eric Knight: I was just curious because I didn't know I was just remembering that show And I was thinking that Janelle Monet was broken on that show…
Ritch Esra: Andrew, You know you come from a record engineering and record production background. Prior to getting into A&R which is unusual, I'm sure you know that many of your compatriots don't have that level of experience. What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into an A&R as a career profession?
Andrew Grant: I think there's so many ways you can get into A&R. For me, it wasn't because of my engineering background or production background. For me it was because I was managing songwriters and producers at the time and I had at the time when I got my job like one of those like you know, the hottest songwriters, was out like doing sessions you know with people in LA and everybody liked them, everybody want to work with them and so I kinda, that presented that to the company I'm at now (Atlantic) because of the songwriter that I had and then when I went up for the job - they're like “Oh you know he also has one of the hottest talents out right now so you want to be in business with”. So I kind of feel like there's so many ways. You can intern doing an internship and then work your way up. You can constantly decide to send the label stuff and if they believe in you- you know what I mean, they might want to bring you on. You could be a scout. You could manage like one of the hottest people out right now and they just want to work with you. I think there are so many different ways to get into it now.
Ritch Esra: OK. Alright
Eric Knight: Andrew what advice can you offer our listeners who are wanting to pursue a career as a recording artist what advice would you give them?
Andrew Grant: So a lot of my advice I feel is really simple but I think it's really effective. I tell people all the time, like as much as people want to send music out - I say don't send it out until you believe in your heart that it’s 100% could not get any better than like where it is right now.
If you think it can get better then don't send it out yet you know what I mean? Wait until it's at that point, because in A&R, anybody in this time has a short attention span, just know that, if there's somebody that's constantly sending you stuff you know, like oh you could do this better, you can do this better. But they tell you “Oh yeah, like I'm still working on stuff, I’m developing I just want to get your opinion”. If you do that over and over that person is going to be like, “Yo I can’t keep giving you my opinion I don’t have time”. Just like send it when it’s better.
Eric Knight: You’ve got one chance to impress and you have to come out guns blazing and that's got to be at the highest level and I agree.
Andrew Grant: I also think too like, again my advice is simple but I think it's effective. I think you have to look at what's going on the charts, on Spotify charts. You have to know what you're competing against. You have to know where your music is going to fit in too. There's a lot of times like people will email me songs and like and it will be 5 or 6 minutes long, and I'm like “you're not paying attention to what's going on because there should not be a song that's 5 or 6 minutes long”. On Tik tok's thy’re literally 30 seconds or a minute.
Eric Knight: Yeah heading back to your short attention span that we have now as a society, so yeah I agree.
Ritch Esra: How can artists or people who are interested in reaching you - how can I best communicate with you? What's the best way to do that?
Andrew Grant: I mean I'm checking my email constantly and my social media. What's another piece of advice I have, like if you're talking or like if you're trying to reach out to somebody and like they respond to you, you notice, I can be ready like with whatever they have like there's so many times where somebody DM’s on Instagram and they say, “Hey can you check out some music for me?” How about you just like send me a link right there here you know. I’ll check it out right now while we're talking and they go, “What about your email too like I’ll send you an email like what are you looking for?” I’m like you already had my attention - you know what I mean like…
Ritch Esra: You weren’t prepared
Andrew Grant: I think like, once you have somebody's attention be ready to execute
Ritch and Eric: OK, Absolutely. I agree
Ritch Esra: Andrew, thank you so much for doing this we really appreciate it, thank you very very much.
Andrew Grant: Of course thank you for having me! Of course!
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