Interview With An A&R Representative
LAMusicMagazine: For those that are not in the know, A&R means artist and repertoire. These are the people that get unsigned bands signed to record labels and placed in branding deals. Paula Moore began her career as a booking agent and then as an A&R executive. Now she’s the CEO and founder of an independent A&R and trendspotting company, Massive CIA (Massive Creative Intelligence Agency). Massive allows interning talent scouts from all over the world to keep collaborative files on emerging artists and trends. Based on the intelligence they gather, industry agencies make business branding deals and sign new bands to record label contracts. Massive CIA also provides training courses for student interns seeking to establish careers in the music and trendspotting industries.
So Paula, how are you, and what’s something that many may not know about you?
PAULA MOORE: I’m great, thank you. I think there are quite a few “somethings” that many people may not know about me, here are a few gems: I’ve had at least 10 failures to each 1 of my successes. I love to work with and provide opportunities to driven people. I wrote poetry and dabbled in performance art for years. My great grandmother was a Cherokee. I can’t swim.
LAMusicMagazine: Prior to your rise to CEO, you progressed from booking agent to starting a record label at 22 years old. This label was successful and introduced you to many key industry people. What was the deciding factor that made you pursue this particular career path?
PAULA MOORE: I think everything I was involved in on my local music scene was what garnered attention of key industry people. I was so passionate about the discovery and recommendation process, I felt (even then) that I could make a difference for emerging artists and talented people in the field trying to start their careers. The deciding factor for me wasn’t any specific event; I was driven by passion for what I was doing.
LAMusicMagazine: Through managing your own record label, you began working for your first major label, RCA, and later MCA. You witnessed the first merger of Polygram and Universal records. During this time, MCA asked you to move to Los Angeles and start an A&R research and scouting department for the company. It was here that you first launched a model similar to Massive CIA, and even then, this model attracted many offers from other companies.
During your time at Warner, one of your scout apprentices pitched The Killers to Warner for signing, and Warner passed. You yourself brought Slim Thug to Warner only to see him passed over. Both of these artists are now very successful with other record labels. With many major record labels, one person makes the decision. This person may be out of sync with what is happening now in the music industry. This appears to be a flaw in the artist signing process. Is anything being done to rectify this issue?
PAULA MOORE: I don’t believe that one person making business decisions for the company they are put in place to run is a flaw; there has to be a primary decision maker no matter what type of company. Decisions are made based on company priorities, budgets, and in general what makes sense for business objectives. One label can’t sign every great emerging act, and sometimes those decisions result in “the one that got away” scenarios. I don’t think there is one singular solution, but I do think there are many ways the decision making process (from discovery to signing consideration) could be supported to better inform decision makers. I believe my company strategy is contributing a benefit to many decision makers with our offering.
LAMusicMagazine: With your new company, Massive CIA, you have brought the A&R process online, where many record labels can access indie artists, and astronomically increasing the probability of getting an artist signed with a record label or placed with a major branding opportunity. This is brilliant. Does this mean that instead of sending CDs and press kits to record labels (where they are often lost in a mass of other submissions), artists can submit to Massive CIA and then refer the record labels to your website?
PAULA MOORE: Thanks for the ‘brilliant’ comment- I think we are well on our way to cornering the market of providing music and trend intelligence in real time with the added (and very important) element of opening doors for the next generation talent scouts and trend spotters. Our platform profiles information on rising artists and trends, incorporates video, audio and photos, and real time analytics in one streamlined easy to digest format. Our scout community and dedicated research staff recommend a massive amount of artists and trends, and based on specific criteria we then determine which will be included in our intelligence reporting. Artists can certainly reach out to us for consideration via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or Linkedin.
LAMusicMagazine: A&R representatives have gone from an estimated 450 active in the industry to less than 150. A person interested in A&R can do internships, but most A&R executives are not willing to share the process. Why do you think this is the case?
PAULA MOORE: I think it’s more that many A&R executives don’t have the time or bandwidth to mentor interns or scouts. The A&R process is so individual: you have to define your own style for research, outreach and engagement. While experienced executives have their processes for evaluating viable talent to spend their time on pursuing, many also need insights on what they should spend time on. This is an opportunity for scouts who have great insights and recommendations- a task we assign to all of our scouts in the MassiveCIA program.
LAMusicMagazine: As a new A&R scout, most higher executives will simply give you a cell phone and computer and tell you to bring in the talent without any direction, resulting in A&R scouts unable to bring the talent they find to the table. I am assuming with Massive CIA’s interactive online training platform, which integrates music pitches, music reviewing, statistics gathering, and collaborative projects and assignments, you are addressing these issues?
PAULA MOORE: I think it is so important to guide and train young aspiring creative executives, and over the last decade I have created numerous training programs that have yielded great talent. I think the experiential education platform we have developed within Massive is especially valuable for anyone pursuing a career in talent scouting or trend spotting. Not only does our community get support from our experience, they can develop great relationships within the community and incredible networking by participating in the program.
LAMusicMagazine: With the rise of the internet, practically destroying the post office, and taking away billions of dollars from record companies with music downloads, the face of A&R today is set at an even higher bench mark, how does this fact affect Massive CIA?
PAULA MOORE: It really opens the road for what we do. The way in which we discover and deliver curated intelligence around emerging music and trends is not being done elsewhere right now. We are focused on providing real time information to support business decisions and marketing direction to align with rising artists and lifestyle trends.
LAMusicMagazine: There are many talented artists ready to be signed right now, and there are many artists with the potential to be signed. I know you’ve managed several artists, including Trouble Andrew, who you currently represent. I know there is an Artist Development department that assists with songs, producers, and administration which you have also participated. How is this process initiated or determined outside of the ability to draw large crowds and stage presence?
PAULA MOORE: There is not one solid answer to this. Artist Development can be long road for both the talent and executive. The process from discovery to the business action of signing an artist can be complicated and sometimes frustrating, there are so many factors involved. I do believe there is room for a sector of the business to focus on artist development that goes beyond signing to label. We are doing that right now with Trouble Andrew; he is an emerging artist that has been signed before by a major label; now he is doing different deals with distributors, brands, and other labels to expand his music and audience as well as diversifying his business endeavors. Trouble Andrew has 23 apparel and accessory products coming out with multiple brands this year that will include his music promoted with the sales of his designs. There are many ways for an artist to develop their careers now, regardless of being signed. Artists have to be committed to working hard for themselves, and not rely on any one entity to take their career to the next level.
LAMusicMagazine: You seem to have a genuine interest in helping both the artists and the scouts seeking the artists. In college, your primary interest was business and psychology with a strong interest in music. I can see the logic of studying business administration with starting your company, but how does psychology come into play when dealing with unsigned bands and future A&R representatives?
PAULA MOORE: To me, understanding how to connect with people on an individual basis is essential in growing business relationships. You have to engage to be engaged, and that is a core philosophy for my business practice. Listening to the ideas and expectations of others is key. Psychology is problem solving- understanding human challenges and then providing support to help people achieve their best potential.
LAMusicMagazine: When dealing with A&R scouts, is it true that scouts that gravitate toward rock music tend to be more active in attending live performances by artists?
PAULA MOORE: Yes, I think that rock and all its variations are most accessible for scouts on any given night in any city, and the rock music scene mostly revolves around the live experience.
LAMusicMagazine: I noticed you are quite alluring, and I’m sure you have many admirers. One can only assume that Massive CIA involves a great deal of your time leaving very little time for anything else. Is there a significant other among your hoards of admirers?
PAULA MOORE: Well, it’s hard to make me blush- congratulations Johnathan. [Laughs] I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about my relationship status in an interview, and definitely not framed like that.
LAMusicMagazine: When you can break away for a moment, what do you do to relax and what is your favorite cuisine or dish?
PAULA MOORE: It’s not often that I get to wind down, but when I do it’s all about New Orleans jazz and a good Southern meal. I grew up in Louisiana and Texas, and I am a Southern woman through and through.
LAMusicMagazine: Have you ever had an interest in another career or thought about showbiz?
PAULA MOORE: I always have an interest in expanding my career; I love challenges, learning, and professional growth. As for showbiz, I have enjoyed the process of interviewing artist and celebrities. Altogether I think I’ve done about a hundred interviews and my style was well received. Some of the interesting people I’ve interviewed are Moby, Kiefer Southerland, David Gray, Perry Farrell, Santigold, and Diplo. I could see myself doing more on that end.
LAMusicMagazine: Paula, I want to thank you for your time, and I admire everything about you. Artists and future and present A&R scouts, you need to check out Paula’s company www.MassiveCIA.com. This genius of a woman has just changed the world of music.
By: Johnathan Leonard Mills