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UD Low Down: Industry Takeover Series, 6th March @ Talent House

From a panel inspiring the next generation of A&Rs to a vocal recording masterclass led by mixing engineer Stewart Justyn, Elsa Monteith reports back from UD’s latest Industry Takeover Series events…

The pipedream of becoming an A&R is not lost – networking, hustling and chasing internship opportunities are all tried and tested methods of finding success in and beyond the music industry, as the panelists of UD’s latest Industry Takeover Series can attest. 

UD’s Record A&R Panel on the 6th March was hosted by award-winning music radio producer Chanette Carleo, introducing us to three A&Rs taking the industry by storm to a packed room of emerging and established musicians and industry professionals. Each guest had their own set of experiences, chart hits, and setbacks, but all shared a common love for finding good music and nurturing great musicians. 

Chanette Carleo
Record A&R panel
Jay Radia

Hearing the different routes and approaches that took our guests to their positions shed a light on the options aspiring A&Rs have these days – Zach Fox shared how he grew up playing instruments, starting his career by studying as a musician, and entering the A&R industry in 2020 and swiftly making his way up the ladder to work on the upcoming Loyle Carner album.

Zach Fox

Mel Ijieh entered the industry in a slightly different way, initially writing for Blacpire and Mixtape Madness, before interning at Believe during her time at the University of Nottingham. Following her degree, she had a few stints at Ferocious Talent, Metropolis Songs and RCA, before finally being scouted by 5K Records where she is now an A&R Manager.

Mel Ijieh

In a similar fashion, Jay Radia studied at the Notting Hill Academy of Music before signing acts such as Strandz & Songer at Relentless Records, where he has been an A&R for the last two years.

Having a broad spectrum of career trajectories sharing a stage provided invaluable insight into the various approaches aspiring A&Rs can take – all three guests advocated for internships over university, but didn’t discount the value that education can have on bagging the role you dream of. Without university, Jay says, he “wouldn’t have met people who helped him get into the scene”, speaking to the value of networking and connecting with people both in and adjacent to the industry. Zach explained how he got all he needed from immersing himself in internships and placements, gaining invaluable transferable skills, and Mel shared how not going to university in London gave her a chance to experience a different music scene, taking her outside of the London-centric music industry we often operate in. 

Stewart Justyn (aka SJ)

Across the hall, Stewart Justyn (aka SJ) held a vocal recording workshop, speaking to a packed room about how best you can communicate with artists when capturing their sound. Stewart managed to bridge the gap between Logik newbies and those experienced with different “DAWs” (digital audio workstations), giving pro tips and tricks for how to capture sound and build relationships with artists whilst in the studio. The workshop helped explain words like “latency”, the importance of 12 decibels, and why we should be 6 inches away from the pop shield, whilst also inspiring those already familiar with the studio how to engage with artists on a level. Stewart shared stories about his experience of asking big artists to remove their heavy chains clanging around as they rapped or sang – believe it or not, the engineer’s word is always final, even when it comes to jewelry.  

Back to the panel and Mel is talking about how sticking to your gut can do you well; “don’t doubt your ear”, she says, “when you know, you know. It’s difficult, and sometimes you’ll lose out, but pushing for something hard will often pay out”. She went on to share the importance of being an avid “people-person”; saying how “you’ll always need to adapt, people won’t always see what you see or hear what you hear”. Mel also speaks to how male dominated the A&R scene is; “it’s a boys club – I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a team with another woman in A&R”, she explained how, “you’ll always find your people, but more women should become A&Rs for sure”

The Q&A section of the panel covered all kinds of areas, from artists asking about approaching playlist editorials when their music is across genres, to aspiring A&Rs asking how they can find musicians in their niche and interests. The panelists shared how they don’t actually need technical experience and a thorough knowledge of production to be a good A&R, with Zach sharing how “you don’t need the skills, but you do need the communication skills”. Following the panel and workshop, the audience and panelists used those very same communication skills to network and share knowledge, an invaluable hour to connect with people in the industry, and those hoping to enter it.

THE INDUSTRY TAKEOVER SERIES 2024 IS DESIGNED TO UPLIFT YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL SETS.

On March 13th, we have two more sessions for you to choose from. Join Tony Nwachukwu for our Ableton Production Workshop in UD’s Media Lab, learning the basics, tips and tricks when using Ableton.

Want to know how to manage an artist? Our Management 101 seminar with guests Anthony LayiwolaMarissa Rodney and Tyrone Rowe-McKenzie who share different approaches to management, the how’s, why’s and the rest.

Tickets are only £5 from UDtickets.com

Words: Elsa Monteith, a Brighton based writer and broadcaster working in and around the arts and on the radio waves. Subscribe to Elsa’s Discontented newsletter here.

Photography: Joey Hoang

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