The A&R Report had the pleasure of engaging with Charlie Amter discussing his position at Warner/Chappell, as well as current projects and tips for aspiring A&R’s looking to get into the music business.
Thanks for taking the time for the interview Charlie; you’re currently working as an A&R of Pop/Dance for Warner/Chappell. Tell us about your role?
I was hired in January of 2012 to help Warner/Chappell build deeper relationships within the electronic music space across multiple genres within what Americans are now calling ‘EDM.’ I also work with existing acts signed to Warner/Chappell that fall under the broad ‘dance’ category, both electronic producers signed by our overseas offices as well as some pop and rock singers based here in America that want to branch out and work on toplines for dance music tracks. In terms of what I do on a daily basis, it’s everything from organizing a week’s work of songwriting sessions for producers such as Feed Me, who was signed out of our UK office, to pitching finished songs to labels, to helping DJs find that perfect topline from a Warner/Chappell songwriter/singer, to working with lawyers both internally and externally in order to sign acts here. In short, aim to provide new creative opportunities for songwriters and producers at Warner/Chappell.
Tell us how you started in the music business?
I started actually in the 1990’s as a publicist. I used to do PR at the National Director level for Vernon Yard records (a division of Virgin Records) and TVT Records. Being a publicist is actually a good skillset to have in music publishing as an A&R, because you are constantly pitching people as a music publisher….except instead of pitching magazine editors and freelance writers, you’re pitching major label A&Rs and managers and our own sync department internally and worldwide, helping them identify key songs from electronic acts that they can in turn pitch ad agencies and film studios. The skills I learned while doing PR have been useful when I need to really articulate what makes an artist special, or for figuring out how to amplify the buzz on a writer. More recently, I was a music and nightlife journalist at the LA Times, where I was a staff writer for years and often wrote about DJs. That led to a consulting gig with Ultra Records which in turn led to my current role here at Warner/Chappell.
What artists are you working with right now?
I’m lucky to be working with a fantastic and growing roster of producers and songwriters at Warner/Chappell. A few of the acts I’ve directly signed recently include Jeremy Olander, Rusko, CLMD, Matisse & Sadko and The Partysquad. But I work with a lot of topliners here and all kinds of other talent signed to Warner/Chappell as well, everyone from bands such as Urban Cone in Sweden to producers signed by our French office such as Pyramid.
Do you think that the EDM genre has peaked in terms of commercial success?
Well first of all, I’m of the generation that cringes a little bit every time I see the letters ‘EDM’ thrown about, because I love dance music and I’m still not sure what EDM means. All dance music is electronic and electronic music has been around for decades and will not be going away, ever. So I guess my answer is absolutely not. Of course there are sounds that may fade a bit in the years to come, but the audience for electronic music across multiple genres is only growing. In terms of production on pop radio, there are only signs of dance music elements creeping further into pop and rap, not the other way around. One only has to look to a hot rising urban track at the moment, such as Kid Ink & Chris Brown’s 1990s house music influenced “Show Me” to see that dance music has always had hot hooks (see Robyn S “Show Me Love,” the same song that provides the hook for Kid Ink’s track) that will continue to inspire people of all ages and races well into the future.
Warner prides itself in hiring incredible staff in order to put out the best music possible in the market. What do you feel are the characteristics needed for someone to join WMG on the professional side?
I can tell you everyone that I’ve personally been lucky enough to work with within the WMG family have been nothing but inspiring, bright and highly motivated by a genuine love of music and a desire to compete effectively in the marketplace. Every single person I’ve met from Atlantic and Warner Brothers have been laser focused on finding the best talent and promoting those talents the best ways that they can 24/7.
What does A&R mean to you?
To me it means just what it stands for: artists and repertoire. That means finding artists that make compelling music and working with them to create the best repertoire possible that can be heard by as many people as possible. We try to create opportunities every day at Warner/Chappell behind the scenes….that’s really the best way to describe music publishing. We’re like the bass players of the music industry, toiling away in the background, but making a difference and keeping the beat.
Which new artists are you currently excited about in 2014?
I’m really into a lot of house music coming out of France and Germany at the moment, some of it underground, some a bit more mainstream, but all of it highly addictive.
Explain your process when it comes to searching for new talent?
Looking for talent in music publishing is a bit different than what a label A&R does. I’m not necessarily looking for performing artists, per se; I’m looking for extraordinary songwriters, and talented producers. The one requisite is that you are great at what you do and can help create incredible songs. It’s a nice bonus if you are a touring DJ with a rising profile in addition to being a producer, when I’m pitching songwriters/producers to label A&Rs, a bit of buzz obviously helps in this area.
In terms of my process for finding talent, a lot of it is done on Soundcloud. After Soundcloud for me comes You Tube, which has always been and remains a fantastic discovery tool. Sometimes I’ll check a few blogs but mostly I’m feeling the heat of a hot producer/DJ on twitter long before any blog writes it up….I’m a twitter addict, on it 24/7 on multiple accounts
Follow Charlie on Twitter @Charlieamter
Interview made by Stevie White