Jazz Professional               


A & R workóitís a dictatorship

Personally speaking
When the going was rough
A & R work - it's a dictatorship
Talking in 1965

When youíre on the other side of the booth, as they say, in a recording studio, you are completely at the mercy of whoeverís in control in the booth. Because the A and R man is actually the boss. Heís the last word, and if thereís a discrepancy he gets the benefit of the doubt as to whatís wrong. Most people go along with this, because you have to have a pilot and a director in a thing like recording. There are problems of musical balance, electronic balance, conception, feel, soundeverything. Thereís many things that can go wrong.

Being in a studio hearing the dry sound itself, itís hard to be objective enough to really be able to judge whatís coming through. The A and R man is in the position of being able to hear the overall thing and so thatís why his judgment has to prevail. But many times we were at the mercy of people who were in this position and who, in many ways, werenít qualified to judge what the overall sound should be like.

Thereís a lot of sacrifices you have to make when you become an A and R manóif youíre a musician, anyway but I think the sacrifice justifies itself insomuch as it gives you a certain freedom to do the type of projects the way you want to do them. Itís selfish, in a way.

I donít know whether itís the ego or whatóbut it gives you a chance to use your imagination completely. If you use your imagination only in the music and donít think of overall packaging it still isnít complete. This way we have complete control. Itís a dictatorship. Also your concern is to find talent every way possible. Theyíre brought to you, you go out and lookóeverything thatís new on the scene youíre aware of it. And in many ways being in that position does stimulate your awareness, because, naturally, you have to look for all the new things that are happening. You have to be right on top of every thing thatís talked about, or that holds a possibility of becoming the ďnew thingĒ. You have to feel the pulse of the whole music world.

One of the most important things Iíve found out is that you must also be aware of the acceptance in the business sense. Because working for a record company makes you very businessĖconscious. This has led me to come to one conclusionóthat you shouldnít record if you donít want your records to sell. Itís not a thing that you can afford as a luxury.

And to do this there has to be some commercial element. I donít mean this in a commercial sense of where it has to go along with every fashionable fad that comes along, be it bossa nova, rockíníroll, folk, or whatever. I think now the commerciality is sincerity. If you do what you think that you like, and do it wellóthatís the most commercial position you can be in. Because the public will back this up. Artists must sound almost like they live and sound like they look. Itís an overall thing of where the image has to project a certain thing.

But I wasnít aware of all these things before, and I used to come up with the usual stupid complaints like: ďMan, I went to the record store in Waukeeshaw, Wisconsin, and my three cousins wanted to buy my record and they didnít even have it in the store.Ē Itís an artistís ego that will cause him to say to himself that if success is attained he attained it completely alone, and if notówith a record company, especiallyóitís someone elseís fault. This is very, very untrueóand Iím not trying to sound like a company man now, because Iím not. Itís an awakening that I had, and it taught me a lot about what was really happening.

An artist always talks about promotion. If promotion was the only means to an artistís success, RCA Victor would have a hit with every record they put out, because they have the most money and they can afford the most promotion. Itís not true. And Iíve seen them whip and kick artists to try and push them through, until the seams break. But if it isnít in the grooves it isnít going to happen. And many times a little jackĖleg B flat label can have a sound, and they canít even press up 300 copies. But itís just the sound everybody wants.