Matt Allen is a 32 year old Cornwall born A&R director who co founded The Famous Company in 2010.
I was lucky enough to catch up with man himself, and chat about what he thinks of The X Factor, how he helps new talent and just exactly what his role as an A&R director entails.
What are your duties as an A&R director?
As the A&R Director I oversee scouting of all the artists we work with, plus managing our team of A&R managers who are based across the UK.
When did you realize A&R was for you?
I always wanted to work in the arts in some way. I absolutely love being creative and working with energetic people who have a vision to entertain. But I also have a natural flair for management. A&R is an obvious choice, it’s finding people, believing in them and helping them grow.
What studies did you have to do to work in A&R?
I actually didn’t go to university. I quit sixth form college mid term because I knew it wasn’t for me. My first job was as an apprentice for a dot com company, and from there I learned about the music industry. Everything I know today is through learning from my peers, making my own mistakes, and working out new ways to do things in the future. I think sometimes it’s the best education.
What type of artists do you look out for?
We work with artists from loads of different genres. We’re currently working with commercial pop, classical, urban, soul, rock, I could go on….. literally the list is endless!
Do you search the internet looking for new talent?
We received 400-500 new applications a month from artists looking to work with the company. Sometimes if we see someone who needs some support and a leg-up we might contact them, but generally we work through all the applications which we receive via our social media which is very active and our website.
Once you have found someone you would like to sign do you then get them a record deal?
We don’t sign anyone long term. We’re here to help them up the ladder by filling in the gaps in their career. We want to make everyone who we work with more experienced and ready to sign a deal, whether that is a management or record deal.
Are there any new artists out there at the moment that you think has a chance to make it big?
We’ve actually booked Etta Bond to headline our 5th birthday in October. She’s signed to Oddchild Records which is Labyrinth’s label. She’s played Glastonbury this year as well as Wireless and some other big festivals later this summer so we hope that by October she will be the one that everyone is talking about!
Who is your favourite artist at the moment?
I think Ella Eyre has done really well. She’s been on the scene for a little while doing various bits and pieces, but to now push through as an artist in her own right is great. I am also a huge Years and Years fan. I love their sound and think they’re visuals are really cool too. I’m excited to see them live later this year
What do you think of talent shows such as The X Factor?
I think shows like The X Factor are great for bringing new talent forward. We see so many people who have watched some of the less capable singers on TV and now they want to have their chance to shine. Everybody has a talent in something, if shows like The X Factor continue to ignite that passion in someone that they can do it, I think that can only be a good thing.
Do you think the industry is better or worse than it was ten years ago?
Right now we’re in a really exciting time. There’s some great new acts pushing through. Unfortunately we’ve been in a period of chart domination by manufactured products off the back of things like The X Factor, which is a great platform, but I don’t think it should be the only way in. The industry has fought back and right now there’s some hot new talent emerging. Platforms like BBC Introducing have been a great way of allowing emerging artists a chance to push through and share the spotlight.
What do you think about free streaming? Do you think it is damaging the music industry?
Unfortunately streaming is a natural progression. For years people have been ripping tracks rather than buying them. So if they’re going to do that anyway, it’s much easier to stream via apps like Spotify. I for one am a big streamer, I pay a small monthly amount for unlimited music, I don’t see what everyone wouldn’t want to do that. It also don’t clog up my iTunes with music I don’t want to listen to anymore. There are so many other ways in which artists can make money now, actually buying music is so 90’s, the industry is changing to keep up with each generations trends, so the streaming era shouldn’t shock or surprise anyone.
If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
That people actually get compensated for their hard work. As a world we take music for granted, but it’s been around for as long as any of us can remember. Why would you rip someone’s work offline and just use it, for free?! It absolutely kills me when I hear a song being played on someone’s iPod that they’ve ripped before it’s even been released. How would they feel if they had not been paid for the hours of work that they put in during their job. To run a record label, own a studio, or tour the country promoting an artist takes lots of money. We all enjoy music so I think it’s time we starting showing it by investing more into the industry and respecting those who make music happen.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into the music industry?
The music industry is tough. Whether you’re an artist, tour manager, producer, or publicist. You need determination, bags of energy and a real sense of understanding of how things work. Listen to people who have done it for years, learn from them, but adapt things to fit you and keep it fresh. But don’t rip up the rule book and write your own, there’s no time for that!.
You can check out The Famous Company here: http://www.thefamouscompany.com/