Artist & Repertoire 2.0: A Study on the Influence of Digitalisation on the Role of A&R

Katharina Leichter

Student thesis: Master thesis


The artist and repertoire (A&R) department of record labels is responsible for the selection of artists as well as the development of economically exploitable music content. The A&R department, thus, represents a core competence of the record label that mainly influences its market performance. Throughout the last two decades, disruptive technological developments tremendously changed the production, distribution and consumption of music. The digitalisation, thereby, profoundly influenced the way A&R departments are working today. Following four expert interviews with A&R mangers, this study discusses the effects of digitalisation on A&R practices. The analysis of strategic resources of A&R in a post-digitalisation era, thereby, allowed for the identification of current A&R challenges. The findings suggest that as artists nowadays make use of digital tools to produce music themselves, the A&R manager’s role in the artist’s creative process got reduced. Artists do not look for labels anymore primarily for the production of music, but rather sign with them in order to profit from the record label’s network and expertise. Hence, an A&R manager’s network is argued to pose a strategic factor to the record label that strengthens its bargaining power. Furthermore, the results propose that the digitalisation increased the strategic importance to build competitive talent acquisition competencies. A&R managers’ networking abilities, thereby, are argued to support talent selection processes. In addition, A&R managers are increasingly engaging in “Data Driven A&R”, that enables them to discover talent through the analysis of digital information on the Internet. However, as this information is available to anyone, data driven artist sourcing leads to an increased competition that is challenging A&R departments. Therefore, the findings emphasise the importance of tools that facilitate quick and effective decision-making. The findings further suggest that “Big Data Scouting” is challenging the long-term profitability of record labels as it promotes the short-term success of hit singles, rather than the building of artists’ long-term careers. Therefore, A&R managers seem to increasingly concentrate on the acquisition of local talent in an early point of their career in order to balance this short-term trend with the securement of long-term exploitation rights.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages152