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What do A&R Scouts Look For in a Band

(By Richard Morales)
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Bands are always looking for ways to get recognized by the talent scouts, but many do not realize what these people are seeking. No matter where you are playing, or how many people attend the show, there is always an A&R scout nearby. Just because you only drew a dozen people to last night’s show doesn’t mean that a talent scout was not watching you. A&R scouts are all around, and they seek new talent no matter what the atmosphere is like. So now that you know the A&R scouts are out there, what can you do to grab their attention? There are numerous things an A&R scout looks for, when it comes to finding raw talent.

One of the best ways to grab the attention of a talent scout is to perform live shows on a regular basis. A&R scouts frequently attend shows, big and small, to locate new talent. These individuals really focus their attention on the crowd, and how the crowd is reacting to your performance. Contrary to popular belief, a good A&R scout will put aside their personal feelings about your music. It is not about whether or not they like your music, but whether or not the crowd does. A&R scouts may also talk to the club owner to find out what kind of crowd you are drawing, and how these people react, when you play on stage. Remember, it is not the number of fans you draw here (although this helps a bit) that really counts. You could draw 500 people and not have anyone pay attention to your performance, whereas you could only draw 10, who are mesmerized by your presence. A talent scout will view the reactions of these individuals, whether it is 500 or 10 and judge your band accordingly.

A&R scouts also look for the current trends in the music industry, and how these trends may change over time. For example, back in the 80’s long hair and heavy metal bands ruled the day. If you had a good voice along with long hair and decided to start a band back then, chances are you probably would have been successful to an extent. The music industry is constantly changing, along with the images of what’s in and what’s not. Bands should always play the type of music they enjoy most, but be mindful of the current popularity of such music.
Demos are not dead, but they do not take priority over a stage performance through the eyes of an A&R talent scout. Many talent scouts have listened to garage band recordings on a demo and have been awed by their music. However, a good talent scout is going to hear this demo and ask themselves whether or not your band is worth seeing live. Bands love to submit demos to talent scouts, but unless they can produce the “wow” factor on stage, chances are they are not going to get very far.

Scouts also use a few other ways to get more information about your band. Bands can have their sales tracked through Soundscan. This computerized system tracks music sales at retail outlets and can produce popularity charts for songs, albums, and individual artists. A&R scouts also use the Internet to find new talent. The Internet has a vast universe of Demo sites that accept submissions from bands. Scouts typically scan these sites to hear the music being played and to determine whether or not they are interested. DemoDiaries.com is a popular site often visited by these scouts. Finally, be sure to avoid any type of scam. A good talent scout is not going to take any money from you up front. If they really feel you have the talent they will invest in your future as a musician by working for some percentage of your profits. 

Updated: February 18, 2008

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