5 A&R Tips for Songwriters

Songwriting can be perplexing when trying to pitch your songs

to artists. 

We found a great piece from American Songwriter that

provides some insight into the way A&R people think about songs.


(Original Article has been Edited)

–  Mike Errico for American Songwriter

What does a major label A&R really want from a songwriter?

  • Is it a wild, eye-catching subject line in an email?

  • 100,000 Instagram followers?

  • An unmarked box with a Rolex and a download code dangling

    from the wristband?

Here’s what they said:


1. Write to the Left 

For artists: “The core of why people do A&R is they want to find

exciting artists that aren’t represented in the marketplace. They

want to fight for them. So, there’s more upside in discovering an

artist that’s onto something totally new than an artist who

follows in another artist’s footsteps.”


For writers: “I’ll have conversations with writers who’ll say, I

have a perfect song for X. And they’ll send me a song, and it’ll

sound like something that was on X’s album, or it’ll sound like

something X would sound good on, but they don’t realize that

I’m hearing the best writers in the world and their best

song for X.

And X doesn’t need not-as-good versions of things X has

already put out. An artist wants songs that have a lyric, or a

sense of something that speaks to them—something

subconscious that maybe even they weren’t aware of.

They have to think:

  • Wow, that’s an incredible story, or lyric, or narrative
  • that I identify with 
  • I would never write this myself
  • have to sing the song

2. The Best Hit Songs Don’t Sound Like Pitch Songs 

“It has to be an ‘artist’ song—something an artist would

become a fan of because they would listen to it. You have to

think about the artists.

  • Where are they in their life?
  • What is inspiring them musically?
  • What do they care about?

Sometimes that’s hard to do in a pitch situation if you don’t

know the artists, but maybe you can get as much information

as you can and try to channel that in your writing.”


3. Artists Don’t Like Demos That Sound Like Them 

“Writers will send a demo that sounds like the artist they’re

pitching the song to. Artists don’t like that.

I’ve worked with lots of artists with ‘big’ voices, and we would

get all these songs with singers that would try to sound like

them and it was just—it was bad.

People would even try to do the inflections or signature

things that the artists do. That’s just . . . no.

‘Oh man, X is gonna love this.’ [Laughs] It’s funny how some

writers think. But those songs never got cut.”


4. If It “Sounds Like a Hit,” Beware 

“When someone says, ‘It sounds like a hit,’ I actually get a little

bit worried because that means that it’s borrowing from

something someone else has already done.

That can be good, but I’m always cautious of that phrase. It’s

behind the curve.


* You must always check your song for copyright infringement, it is

a thing.


5. Set the Bar Higher 

“Writers will say they have incredible songs, but they ‘just need

the right person to hear them,” – that’s why they haven’t

broken through yet.

But the reality is that the songs are just probably not good

enough. The writers haven’t pushed themselves hard enough.

Maybe they haven’t worked on their craft enough.


Writers have to think like that—like the bar is that high.” 

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