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Two Weeks In Nashville
By Cyrus Rhodes - 09/21/2009 - 04:31 PM EDT

A few years ago I was lucky enough to observe a team of A&R representatives from a Major Record Label fly out to Nashville for the sole purpose of selecting one country artist within that region for a possible record deal. I was an intern and provided logistical support. I sat on the fence and just observed the whole operation as it transpired. The label had roughly a 30 day window to pick one lucky band or artist form that region. I might add they were also in town to attended one of the biggest Country Music Conferences of the year. What a coincidence? So as to the story, we arrived and checked into a posh hotel room, went downstairs to the conference room which was already prepped with a stack of 300 or so press packs and CD, laptops, notepads, telephones, and internet access. I arrived a week before to set it all up. What happened next was something I will never forget.

All 5 A&R Representatives began methodically reviewing artist by artist, band by band, CD by CD, press pack by press pack. They listened to each CD maybe 10 seconds per song and simultaneously thumbed through each Press Pack. All the while they spent about 2-3 minutes per artist, listening, laughing, taking notes, and commenting. If you do the math thatís about 15 hours of listening. Between all the bathroom and coffee breaks, ordering Chinese, and a few expensive conference calls it took about two days for them to dwindle this stack down to about 50 artists. Next they methodically took their search to the internet and looked at web presence, live clips, My Space hit numbers, and CD and concert reviews. This took another two days, and at the end of day number four, the stack of artists was now down to about 20. On day number five, they began zeroing in on live schedules and began looking at how they could go see some of these artists perform live over the remaining 2 weekends. The clear majority of them were attending and playing at the Conference, but a handful were playing shows out of state. After the Conference, we all checked out of the Hotel that Monday morning and flew back to California.        

Following the Conference, the team took their findings back to the label. In the end it came down to 6 artists. Turns out all 4 artists were contacted personally and actually interviewed by the label. Following the interviews it came down to 2 artists, both female. Eventually a female under the age of 18 was selected. I might add it was 3 executives at the label who made the final selection, not the A&RĒs. It was impressive to observe this lucky artist out of a pile of 300 get selected. I later learned she was presented with an attractive 5 year contract with a million stipulations attached. Many of which were depending on future successes and sales numbers. She also had to work with a few professionals in upgrading her overall sound, image, look, and live presentation to fit the labels specifications. It all happened so fast and was a blur, but it was 2 week in Nashville I will never forget.  

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