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Digital Subscriptions > Long Live Vinyl > Dec 2019 > HITS AND MISSES

HITS AND MISSES

The murky world of A&R has been responsible for some of the biggest musical discoveries ever to appear on vinyl. But for every Arctic Monkeys, there’s a Gay Dad. Ben Wardle heads back to the height of the 90s Britpop boom, digs into his little black book and tells the stories of some of those who could have been contenders…

During an interview with the BBC last year, Rob Stringer, the man who signed Manic Street Preachers, and now Sony Music CEO, said: “We have statistical teams now who are literally looking at data all day long to see whether something looks like it’s got an audience.” But Stringer is swift to acknowledge his A&R team: “There has to be some degree of personality injected into the process…”

A&R (artists and repertoire) is the department responsible for discovering and nurturing talent. Think George Martin, or indeed Simon Cowell. It’s no wonder Sony and other majors are bolstering it with big data because statistically, it’s more likely that new artists fail to find an audience and disappear into bargain-bin obscurity. LLV asked a number of A&Rs for their salutary tales.

THE DISCOVERY

Amber Davies is head of A&R at Warner Chappell Music Publishing. In her five years there, she has signed some of the UK’s highest-profile and best-selling artists. Around 2006, while at EMI Music Publishing, she discovered a singer-songwriter called Remi Nicole. “I’d gone down to the studio to meet a rapper and he told me about her. I heard the demo and she had a great voice, lyrically it was really interesting and her songs were really catchy.”

Ten years before that, in 1996, Creation head Alan McGee was riding high with the Gallagher brothers. “I took a meeting with Des Penney, who used to manage Flowered Up. He played me a few things, which were all pretty miserable. But at the end he said, ‘Oh, these are my pals…’ and played me a track by Arnold. They sounded like 1960s/early-70s rock with a bit of Radiohead. I basically signed them and sent them away for a month to record some stuff…”

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About Long Live Vinyl

The Clash, Gang Of Four, Buzzcocks, The Pop Group… 1979 was a hell of a year for music! Our epic cover feature tells the true story behind one of the most influential albums of all time, London Calling, as a new deluxe 40th anniversary reissue is unveiled. We also speak to a host of bands who wouldn't have existed without The Clash's revolutionary masterpiece. In other 1979 news, we've rounded up the key members of the post-punk movement that shaped one of British music's greatest years to tell us why it was so special and dig out some of the essential records from the final year of the 70s. Elsewhere, we count down the 40 greatest double albums of all time, London Calling included – from Tago Mago to Daydream Nation via Songs In The Key Of Life and The White Album. How many have you got? Talking of great classic albums, we take an in-depth look at Gene Clark's lost masterpiece No Other, finally given a reissue by 4AD this month. And our packed interviews section brings you chats with ELO legend Jeff Lynne, rising Irish folk heroes Lankum, indie veterans Stereophonics and Tindersticks as they tell us about their new albums. If all that's not enough you'll find a host of new release and reissue reviews from the likes of Nick Cave, The Rolling Stones, Prince, R.E.M., The Who, FKA Twigs and Michael Kiwanuka, as well as the latest turntable reviews. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers.