Modern Day A&R

Modern Day A&R

This is another older interview, first published in October 2009.

 

Gregg Nadel is the Vice President of Marketing and A&R at Atlantic records and the head of an Atlantic Imprint label called F-Stop records. He has worked with O.A.R., Zac Brown Band, Marc Broussard, Jon Butler Trio, Paolo Nutini and Trans Siberian Orchestra among others. I was fortunate enough to work with Gregg many years ago when I was in A&R at Lava / Atlantic.

 

Fstop-music-gregg-nadel

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Gregg, thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I often tell people that the best way to get an A&R person’s attention is to self start and to start getting out there on their own selling CD’s, downloads and tickets and developing their online presence, which is the way it was when I was doing A&R. Is this still the most reliable way to get an A&R person’s attention?

 

GN:

 

I’m always really impressed with bands that are able to get something started on their own. For example both O.A.R. and Zac Brown Band were able to develop a regional following and you can see hard work paying off with more fans coming and buying records and tickets. You can see a direct relationship. Usually that’s just a clear-cut sign that there’s a hard-working artist and real self-starter at the core of what’s happening, and that’s always a really promising sign for me – that an artist or band is out there and working really hard and has what it takes to build something.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I’m assuming there’s still an internal sales process in getting a band signed. In other words, you have to go to the heads of the company to get approval. I would guess most people kind of do in this climate. Does the evidence of this hard work you mentioned make it an easier sell?

 

GN:

 

I think so. There’s actual quantitative information that something’s happening around a particular artist, and it’s not just, “Here’s a song I really like” or “I think there’s potential here.” There’s more information and more to stand on that you can actually evaluate and say that you’re going to be able to build something. It’s harder and harder nowadays and I think it just really takes an effort between the artist and the label and management and a great surrounding team from all sides to really build something.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

What would you say are the factors that you’re looking at most? Obviously, you can look at Myspace plays, Twitter followers, but what are the metrics that you put the most stock in when determining if an artist is viable in the marketplace?

 

GN:

 

Probably a combination of everything, but the biggest thing to me most of the time is the live show and people that are able to start selling tickets, either locally or hopefully even regionally. And also I’m looking for that special magical thing that is happening at a show that is sort of a community being built. That really is, at the end of the day, what makes the light bulb go on for me.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’re also doing marketing in addition to A&R. Given this unique perspective, can you tell us what it is you think about a band that makes you think they have the kind of appeal – be it broad or niche – that makes you feel like you can expose them to even broader audiences? Is there something about these artists you select that you look at and think, “I can market the hell out of this?” What is this “intangible” to you?

 

GN:

 

I try to find artists that are built on real fan bases and not necessarily upon the traditional channels of radio and video, especially in today’s world. I’d rather do everything else and then come to radio and video as the final piece of the puzzle. No matter how great a song you think you have, or how great an artist you have, everything needs to line up absolutely perfectly for to actually connect it at radio and at video and at the mainstream channels. For an artist to have a long-term career, it’s much more important to build the foundation properly and make sure you’re going market by market, winning fan by fan and while you’re doing that on the road, following that online. Number one is finding bands that I know can play and knock people out live. I need to feel confident that if I’m going to go into a city, the next time we come back there will be more people at the show. It’s just patience and hitting the same cities over and over and being really concise in planning.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Does the 360 deal change your selection process at all or how you launch an artist? Was it different 5 years ago than it is today?

 

GN:

 

For me, personally, no. I’ve always gravitated towards the type of bands that have been able to build touring followings, so for me it’s really an exciting place to be in the business and an exciting future. Now we are partners with the artists on the touring and on the merch and on the fan club, and – all these ideas we’ve been working on and building over the past 10 years – now we’re actually partners on these things. I’m really excited about the next 5 years. For example, there’s a young band I’m working with called Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights; starting from being a local thing down in Texas and watching it develop regionally and then nationally on a touring front is the kind of thing I’m really super excited about at the moment.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Along the same lines, how are labels or how is Atlantic specifically contributing to those other streams of revenue above and beyond the old way a record company functioned? I know companies like Warner Music Group was purchasing outside companies to support touring and publishing and merch, but how are you seeing that work?

 

GN:

 

We have in-house partnership deals now and have our own merch company for retail, touring and online, and we’ve got a VIP ticketing and fan club company. The most exciting thing is that an artist now is never off cycle. As an example, Marc Broussard is in the process of making a new record, but we’re doing this really intimate acoustic tour. We’ll have a full company marketing meeting on the tour – naming the tour, creating merch around the tour, all these things. In the old days it would sort of be off the grid and off the radar. Management would be dealing with that tour, but now it’s just as important 12-16 months after a record for the company to be focusing in and making sure that artist is playing to packed rooms and the tour is doing well and the career is growing as if you were starting to launch a record. It’s a great time for the right artist in these deals because they’re going to get that type of support all the time and on every tour, and managing their Web sites and merch and tour posters and making sure the street team is covering everything. We’ve also brought street team companies in house as well.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I’m also told that Atlantic has allowed you to manage some of the artists you’re working with as well. How are you managing that workload, and how are you seeing the role of a manager changing?

 

GN:

 

I think the workload is a functionality of only taking on as much as you feel you can handle and really do a great job. Whether it’s management, signing a new band or taking on a different project internally, that all falls under the same category for me. It’s how much I think I can do. From the management side, I’m not necessarily looking to manage stuff that’s signed to F-Stop or Atlantic only. It could be things that are either unsigned and continue to be independent, or at another label. It just has to be the right project and feel the right way for me to want to get involved.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Could you tell me a little bit about the philosophy behind F-Stop and who is signed there and how it works?

 

GN:

 

So far we have an artist named Matt Hires and Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights. I think the philosophy is to create a small internal team around a small roster of artists that can live off the radar and really develop from the baby stage of their career and get their feet under them with our help before having to go into the bigger system. Then at the right point in time we pull on the different levers within company to start helping out and building and then – whether it’s a year or two years or two albums down the road – depending on each project and each artist, we want to get them into the Atlantic system.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’re getting tons of unsolicited calls and e-mails. Any other advice you’d have for artists about things you wish they’d have together that would impress you?

 

GN:

 

Honestly, this sounds silly, but if I stumble onto somebody’s website or Myspace, the first point is to make sure you have contact information. It seems crazy, but I’ve stumbled upon things where I can’t get a hold of the person. Stuff comes in all different shapes and sizes, and I’ve learned not to be turned off if someone’s Myspace or Web site doesn’t look great or if a song isn’t recorded the right way. It’s about listening to a song and seeing what’s really going on.

 

Check out Gregg’s label F-Stop Music