Insight Into The World Of A&R: A Chat With Trice Recordings’ Manager

For those of you that are unaware of the term A&R, it stands for “artists and repertoire,” and is the division of a record label or music publishing company that is responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters – or under the electronic music umbrella, producers. In celebration of the labels’ 50th release this past week in Matisse & Sadko’s track “Azonto,” Trice Recordings A&R Manager Onno van Kemenade had a brief conversation with EDMTunes about the behind-the-scenes nature of the world of A&R, what managers in such roles look for in their research of new artists, and avenues these managers use to discover new and upcoming talent – which could be directly useful for all of you hopeful up-and-coming producers out there!

Onno has worked at Armada Music for the last 5 years and began his current career path as an A&R assistant at the label. “Through the years, I learned a lot and worked my way up to [my current position] as an A&R manager. In June of 2012 we started the Trice label, so we have been in existence for exactly 2 years.” For those readers less aware of the musicality-leanings of specific sub-labels, Trice is one of the latest additions to the house of Armada Music, and prides itself in presenting the “bulkiest, phattest and most outstanding tunes from new and talented producers.”

I mused with Onno that “based on recent releases, it seems as if Trice is looking to make an impression in dance music via the stylistic direction of melodic progressive house (which greatly excites me, personally).” I proceeded to ask Onno what is the current focus and vision of the label, and how has Trice’s stylistic vision changed since its formation 50 releases ago? He responded in earnest, “Exactly! I have the feeling the musical direction in general changed lately from real big room tracks to more melodically groovy tracks. I’ve always been a fan of Eric Prydz, and it’s interesting to see that sound is coming back more often nowadays. The latest Grum and CLMD [Trice artists] tracks are fantastic and we’re very happy to have them released on the label.”

Naturally, when speaking with an A&R director, I really wanted to focus on gleaning information that budding producers could use to potentially increase their chances of landing on a label.  “Originality is super important,” said Onno, “the tracks have to be well produced and need to have a catchy melody or a big groove. Also a strong vocal is something which can make the production unique and stand out.” In regards to standing out, I pushed a little further as to the most efficient way of “winning A&R agents’ attention,” and Onno had this little tidbit to share: “I think a great way is to ask producers you personally know that already released on the label to [facilitate] an introduction, this way an A&R manager at a label will more quickly [and readily] listen to [your] tracks.”

Introductions and networking are of course extremely important aspects of any budding career, however Onno states that the singular most important aspect that producers should be working on is creation of their own sound. Remember that, all you aspiring main stage talents out there – don’t try to pattern your production style after what is hot right now.

In regards to A&R in a new world market of social-media influences, Onno explains that “it’s very important to stay up to date with all the social media channels of the artists and electronic music websites like EDMTunes. I always start the day with checking out the latest stuff on [electronic music blog sites like] EDMTunes [and others].” When asked about specific resources A&R managers utilize to discover new music, the Trice maestro responds, “I discover new music through a lot of various sources. Most of all, through tips from other producers/DJ’s, [but also by] listening to the various radio shows each week – from Hardwell and Pete Tong for example. Besides that, Soundcloud is a great way to discover new talent. Also keeping an eye on the various charts around the world works very well.”

As we wrap up our conversation, I lastly inquired about which rising star producers Trice was most excited to spotlight for the remaining half of 2014, and Onno urged us all to keep an eye out on “two producers that are really on fire – Arston and Manse. Expect big tunes from these guys!”

Hopefully our chat with Onno shed a bit more light on a side of the electronic music industry that often flies under the radar and is taken for granted…and will ultimately increase the possibility of discovery for some of you hopeful and talented bedroom producers out there!

Again, thanks to Onno for taking the time to speak with us about his daily job functions and insights, and here’s to another 50 releases (and many more) on Trice Recordings!