Ok, serious question. How many of you can honestly say that you’ve never wanted to be a singer? A few, maybe? How many can say that you’ve never sung in the shower? I’m not talking soft humming or any of that fake singing. I’m talking eyes closed, hair packed into a beautiful ball of shampoo, hairbrush microphone positioned at the proper 45-degree angle towards the sky, belting Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.” Everyone’s done that, right? Thought so. But how many of you can actually carry a tune? Me either. And yet, we still sing.
There is something about listening to a song, hearing the melody pulse through your veins, the beating of the drums pounding alongside the hammering of your heart. It’s magical. And— if the lyrics are just right, if the singer hits the perfect note, if every single instrument acts in a synchronized harmony—it can be life changing. Music is the ultimate addiction. It is the sound that our ears desperately crave whenever silence creeps in. It is the antidote to broken hearts and toxic moods. It is the greatest way to express joy. Music is essential, and we wouldn’t have it without the ingenious A&R Scouts that hunt the globe for the perfect sound.
A&R (or Artists and Repertoire) scouts work behind the scenes to find the next big talent, the artists that will one day break the radio. If you’re thinking, “That must be the coolest job ever,” then you’re right. A&R scouts quite literally listen to music for a living and essentially live the dream. To find out more about this jaw-dropping job, the Verge team sat down with an A&R scout for Columbia Records, Tiann Lovell Rowland Dixon.
Verge: How has your job affected the way you now view music?
Tiann: My job has taught me how to love all kinds of music and what type of audience comes with each genre. Listening to music has always been a hobby of mine so if anything its enhanced my love for it.
V: What is the most beneficial part of your job to you?
T: I get to listen to music for a living. There is no bigger benefit than that. I’m still truly amazed that I’m able to live out every teenager’s dream.
V: Are there any people in your field who you look up to/aspire to be? If so, what about them or their position do you admire?
T: I’d say that the whole of the Columbia A&R team have taught me a lot about the music industry and have really guided me, so I admire them all equally, but I do think it’s pretty cool that Columbia has a female co-president – it really shows that limits only exist if you allow them to.
V: What do you look for when scouting artists?
T: The ultimate thing I look for is obviously some form of talent, whether that be a great voice, character or song writing but there’s no specific requirements for me. Music is creative so when I scout I just look for something that amazes me, something that I wouldn’t be able to do.
V: How do you differentiate your personal taste in music and what you think will succeed in the large music industry as a whole?
T: As a scout, it is important to be able to separate your personal taste to what is best for the label. Fortunately, I listen to a wide range of genres already, but it’s just about having a commercial ear; understanding the different types of people and recognising that what works for you might not work for others.
V: What would you advise young musicians to do in order to get their music signed into a record contract? Is there something newfound artists have done in order to be discovered, or would you base their success mainly on talent and luck?
T: I always encourage people to build an online presence- upload, share and be active. If you’re working hard enough at what you do, people will talk, and we’ll find you.
V: As your job requires a lot of hours of hard work, what specifically is it that motivates you to continue doing it every day?
T: I get my motivation from the strong love I feel for music. Life could be a lot worse; I get up every day and my whole day revolves around music. I get a say on what happens next, and I have the ability to make a mark on the music industry. My family are also great motivation, seeing them work hard and peruse their careers makes me want to do the same.
V: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into the same behind-the-scenes action in the music industry as you have?
T: Networking is such an important part of getting places in your career. You never know who you could meet. Keep your options open, widen your skill set and never be afraid to approach and communicate with people. Nothing ever comes to those who wait; patience is important but being proactive is key. Attend gigs, LinkedIn, social media, collect business cards, HAVE YOUR OWN BUSINESS CARDS, do different internships, learn!
V: Do you feel like the rest of your department shares your motivation for their respective jobs?
T: We are all hungry for new talent, and we love being excited about the new things we find each day. It’s so important to stay surrounded with people that have the same passion as you – none of us can work without the other.
V: What is the best experience you have had while working for Sony Columbia?
T: Oh my gosh – I’d say when my first act got signed. That was an incredible feeling. I started at Columbia when I was 18, and I scouted an artist called Declan Mckenna who later got signed to the label. The feeling I got from listening to him get Radio 1 plays and watching him perform at Glastonbury was phenomenal. It showed me that hard work pays off.