A&R with Scott Horscroft

Thursday, 30 Jan 2014

In this month’s edition of Tips of the Trade, we talked to Scott Horscroft, General Manager of A&R for EMI Australia, about what drew him to the industry, how artists can get their music heard, and why he decided to purchase The Grove Studios.

What is it about scouting new talent that was appealing to you?

I’ve always been interested in new and exciting music from both a production and an A&R perspective. I began my career making experimental music, touring and releasing in Europe and quickly moved into producing albums for fellow artists and musicians.

Back in Australia I developed a state of the art recording studio in Surry Hills called BJB ( Big Jesus Burger ) and was focused on producing and developing new music.

I was fortunate enough to work with Luke Steele, Daniel Johns, The Presets, The Panics, Birds Of Tokyo, Little Red and many more developing and successful bands.

It’s the idea of pushing for something new that excites me – challenging the normal and changing the face of what is seen as the normal in music and art. I love the dedication and devotion required to realising music dreams that comes with new artists. Taking those dreams and making it a reality is every A&R and producers challenge.

You have recently purchased The Grove Studios. Tell us a bit about that decision.

I’ve always had some form of a studio in my life, from my small bedroom set up growing up, to a state of the art studio in BJB Studios. Having the ability to record and produce music and be around the creative process of musicians making their art is something that I am very passionate about.

The Grove Studios was the obvious next step – for me it’s the ultimate creative hub: four incredible studios on 25 acres in the middle of an amazing forest. The magic that comes from having a creative space designed for collaboration is something that people oversee in the music making process.

You’ve had a lot of experience in A&R. What are you looking for in an artist?

Finding artists dedicated to being an artist is something that always excites me, artists who live and breathe their craft and are driven to learn, research and experiment with songwriting and production. It is important for musicians to remember that it isn’t easy to get your music into the heart and minds of a broad audience and to achieve this take years of dedication, trial and error.

What do you believe are some of the key ingredients that can make an artist successful? Is it more than just the music?

The key ingredient for a musician is definitely writing and producing fantastic music, but an understanding of how the industry works is also important in developing a career. Having an experienced manager that can that can offer advice and help develop connections in the industry is a critical move. It is also important for an artist to understand how to market and promote their craft from using online socials to interacting with other musician connecting with the industry.

What’s the best way to get noticed by A&R? Should artists approach A&R reps directly or wait for them to find you?

There are many ways to get the attention of A&R reps as they can be found lurking around inner city gigs most nights of the week. However the most successful way to get the attention of A&R is to make incredible music and have a solid plan to developing your career. A&R teams are constantly looking for exciting new music to develop or collaborate with. Focusing on creating a great product and pushing to create a fan base is the easiest way to attract A&R. If you are selling out a small venue in the CBD I’m sure you will find a plethora of A&R reps in the crowd.

Are they any obvious Do’s and Don’ts in terms of trying to get noticed by A&R?

No, I don’t think so. Hearing from passionate musicians and managers is one of the privileges of the job. Again, having a solid plan to develop your career, surrounding yourself with experienced professionals is always beneficial, from a good engineer to record your music, an experienced producer to collaborate with, a manager who can advise you on developing your career, to working with a label to promote your music.

When A&R reps look for artists, are they generally looking for someone at a certain stage of their career? I.e. Do you have to be relatively established? If so, how “established” is established?

There are opportunities for artists at all stages of their career, from development deals to distribution deals, EMI is renowned for being the artist’s label and we continue to believe in this mantra. With John O’Donnell as MD and Mark Holland making up our A&R team, we have such a broad range of expertise in music styles and genres, taking the opportunity to work with artists hungry to produce music at any stage of their career is a major goal of ours. 

Who are some of the latest artists you have worked with/signed?

2013 was a big year of work with Empire of the Sun, who have been recognised and released internationally now. It’s a major project to develop albums, roll out plans and support Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore.

Tina Arena’s album has done really well and it was a pleasure to be a part of. I’m really excited by the new music from Alison Wonderland – she is currently writing in LA. I have been working with Aston Shuffle on final mixes to their new album to be released this year. Papa Vs Pretty’s new album is one of the best albums I’ve heard in some time. We’re also moving into the final stages of Ricki Lee’s album who is set for a big 2014 and I’ve just begun working with Melbourne based artists Olympia. I’m looking forward to working on new music with her this year – there are some great things to come.

Where do you think the music industry is headed in Australia? Predictions for future trends?

Australia is in an inspiring place creatively at the moment, with innovative and cutting edge music being recognised internationally. I hope to see this trend continue and for Australian artists to challenge the boundaries of music and create new twists and turns that resonate around the world. It’s great to see artists, labels and fans find new ways to create and discover music.

To find our more about Scott and his studio, head to www.thegrovestudios.com.

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