There is perhaps no nobler purpose than being a good A&R executive. That, of course, is an exaggeration, but scouting talented artists and ensuring they retain their integrity instead of getting crushed by the sales expectations of big corporates is a righteous quest. But how to get there?
We asked Loren Israel, an LA based producer and record executive who has worked with artists from Jimmy Eat World to the Plain White T’s and more. Previously serving as an A&R executive at Capitol Records, no one is better placed than Israel to help you on your path to a career in the business side of music.
How did you end up as an A&R executive?
I was in several bands in the LA area starting as a teenager. The last band that I was in, the lead singer quit music and joined a cult. Despite this, I knew I wanted to work in music no matter what. I started to work with artists as a producer and to organize shows. This eventually led to other opportunities and I got a gig at Capitol Records. From there, I was promoted as an A&R executive and eventually I formed my own company. A&R was a natural extension for me, but always driven by a desire to create.
What training do you think is required for a role like that?
A& R executives come from a variety of backgrounds.For me, I was so immersed in music at an early age. I learned to write and produce songs; I had to buy my own music lessons and instruments; I booked my own shows and tours; I had to befriend bigger bands so that they would take my band out on tour; I had to be out in the scene listening and socializing with others; I learned how to deal with managers and club promoters. No doubt I understand the psychology of young musical artists. You learn by doing, so everything I learned in my early days helped me as a music executive.
What indicates to you that an artist pitching to you has talent?
The ability to understand music, a voice, an indomitable spirit, and sincerity.
What have been the highlights of your career?
The highlight of my career is that I am still working in the music business and I get to do what I love on a daily basis. Earlier this year, I executive produced a #1 Billboard song called ‘Novacain’ by the Unlikely Candidates. I’m the luckiest guy in Los Angeles.
How should artists be engaging with their fans when they can’t play live songs?
Put out music in a prolific and consistent way. Listen and adapt to what your fans love. When someone responds with a positive comment, say thank you. Create a dialogue with those who are trying to create a dialogue with you. Ask others for help! Find out new ways of supporting your releases through more effective online marketing promotion and sales.
Can songwriting really be taught to anyone?
Absolutely yes. Even people who do not play instruments or barely play instruments can learn to write songs.
What prevents success for someone who is musically talented, but their songs don’t resonate?
Great question! By “resonate” I assume that you mean songs that are commercially successful. It’s discipline and precision and understanding what makes a successful song resonate with listeners. I have a “manifesto” that I instruct my artists to follow. It helps guide them to making songs that resonate. It is not always as easy as 1,2,3, but there is a method to the madness.
What artists are inspiring you now?
I like 24K Goldn, the Peach Tree Rascals and White Reaper.
What’s left on your bucket list?
Honestly, I’m living my bucket list. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything other than what I am doing right now.