Thursday, November 19, 2009

A & R

When a friend used the term A&R in conversation to refer to a record company's talent scout, we realized that neither of us knew what the A and the R actually stood for.

"Artists and Repertoire," says Wikipedia. Scrolling down, I see that this particular page has been vandalized by someone who doesn't like American Idol. Right below the heading for the job description, someone entered:
But scrolling down further, I see a reference to an old article from The Baffler, a great but now defunct periodical out of Chicago that was started by Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America".

The article, called "The Problem With Music," is by Steve Albini, a musician who's been in bands like Shellac and Big Black. He's also an audio engineer and a producer.

This excellent (but depressing) critique of the music business, circa 1993, starts like this:
Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end, holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed.

Nobody can see what’s printed on the contract. It’s too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody’s eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says, “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim it again, please. Backstroke.”

And he does, of course.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do I contact you about The Baffler? It is back:

4:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter