[Brain Food] A&R Report: Interview with Atlantic Records Sr. VP A&R – Aaron Bay Schuck
Aaron Bay Schuck Interview
Curated by Michael Asante
Most recently, A&R Report had the pleasure of getting in touch with ‘Mogul in the Making’ – highly successful music executive and Atlantic Records own Sr. VP of A&RAaron Bay Schuck.
First and foremost I want to congratulate you on your recent success with Bruno Mars, Flo Rida and B.o.B, what projects do you currently have on the come up?
Thank you very much. I’ve been very fortunate the last few years. Next on the horizon is the debut album from Rome (the frontman for Sublime with Rome) and the sophomore album from Bruno Mars; both should be coming in Fall of 2012. I’ve also signed an incredible young talent named Francesco Yates, just beginning that album now.
As a label, Atlantic has big upcoming releases from Wiz Khalifa, TI, Trey Songz, Lupe Fiasco, and Cody Simpson among others.
What types of elements do you look for in a demo?
Someone daring to be different; whether it is an artist demo or a track or song submission, if it sounds like everything else, I am immediately uninterested.
What does a day consist of for Aaron Bay-Schuck?
The mornings are all about meetings, calls, e-mails, and going through music. The rest of the day is spent in the studio.
How much do trends and radio play, effect your decision in signing a new artist?
Pretty much not at all. I don’t do A&R that way when it comes to finding new talent.
What is your process when it comes to signing talent?
I approach the signing process as organically as possible. I do not scour the internet for buzzing YouTube acts and I do not study radio charts. There are clearly a lot of positives to be said about that process; I just do it differently. I just don’t believe A&R is done by sitting behind a desk and I trust in my relationships with creative people to put me onto other creative people. It is a natural process that so far has always led me in the right direction when finding new talent. Great relationships with managers, lawyers, etc is also key.
Do you feel that the current A&R Role within the music industry is non-existent due to changing technology?
Not at all. Great A&R people are as needed as ever. Sure you don’t need a major label the way artists once did but that does not change the importance of an A&R’s role in identifying the best talent and the best songs.
What do you think, when you hear the phrase ’21st Century A&R?’
What are some key metrics that Atlantic/Warner Music Group put into place to measure that an A/R is doing his/her job and that the artist is successful?
Today’s record business is a 360 business. Record sales are not our sole source of revenue anymore. Success is defined by moving the needle. If you are not selling truckloads of albums but manage to sell lots of tickets and merch, it means you are still connecting with your fans in a big way. That is what we want to see happen with every artist we sign. We are concerned with our artists making an impact. Not every act is meant to be a commercial success.
What are your goals within the music industry for the next 5 years?
Generally it is just to keep learning and growing as an executive and to keep putting out great music by great artists. I want to continue to grow the success of Bruno Mars and hopefully be lucky enough to break additional acts on that same global level. Of course growing my own company is all part of the plan as well.
How can an artist stay connected and have a chance to get heard by Atlantic Records?
I listen to everything that is sent to me. Just reach out and you will be heard and if you really are that good, trust that we will find you. It is our job.
What tips to do you have for aspiring A&R’s looking to make an impact in the music industry?
You can’t be successful in A&R without great relationships. Get up and get out there and meet everyone. Be accessible and be open to taking risks.
Who’s currently on your playlist?
It is always a mix of current and classic. I’ve got everything from fun, Portugal, The Man, and Tom Petty, to Biggie, Jay-Z, Kanye, and Smif N Wessun in my car right now. I also constantly listen to the records I am working on.Name a few executives (past or present) that have been inspirational for your career and why? I’ve been really lucky to learn and work with some of the best executives in this business – John Janick, Julie Greenwald, Mike Caren, Craig Kallman, Lyor Cohen, Martin Kierszenbaum – to name a few. The common thread amongst all of them is that they are all both innovative and fearless. You have to dare to be different and move forward even when everyone else is telling you that you’re wrong.
What are some of your qualities that you feel have helped you become successful today?
My work ethic, drive, passion, and hunger for learning. I’ve worked my way up from intern, to temp, to assistant, to now Senior Vice President, A&R. I wasn’t handed any opportunities and I never gave up.
The A&R role has definitely changed in recent years. In fact, there have been less opportunities and major budget cuts within the industry.
Furthermore who/what has been your inspirations coming up as a music executive and why?
The music and the artists have always been the inspiration. The chance to work with some of the most talented artists, producers, and songwriters in the world and be an integral part of the process of making music is a real gift. Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, once said: “the job of an A&R executive is to keep walking around until you bump into a genius and when you do, hold on and don’t let go.”
I wake up each day hoping that’s the day I bump into the next superstar.