Saturday, 12 January 2008

A&R and HCM

I've often thought that artists and repertoire (A&R) in the music industry should provide an interesting parallel with HCM (vs HR) in people management.

A&R recruits artists, songwriters and record producers, handles contractual negotiations and so on. Increaingly they don't get involved in recording sessions or making creative decisions relating to the recording which is overseen by a record producer, so there's some similarity to the split in responsibilities between HR and the line manager.

Artists are the major revenue drivers for music companies so in theory at least, they need to be supported in a very progressive and enabling sort of way, developing their human capital over the longer term.

As talent and human capital continues to become more important, employees need to be managed in this way too.

So is A&R the future of people management? Well unfortunately, probably not. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that relationships with artists often haven't been that wonderful (for example, this and this).

Robbie's new strike at EMI is the most recent evidence of A&R difficulties.

Based upon my previous posts on private equity, and my comments made above, it might appear obvious that the music business and private equity firms aren't natural companions (particularly one that employs former BBC bureaucrat John Birt as an adviser).

Robbie’s manager has accused EMI's new boss, Guy Hands of Terra Firma, who has previously pledged to drop recording artists who are not working hard enough, of acting like a "plantation owner" who had stumbled into the record industry via a "vanity purchase":

“They do not have anyone in the digital sphere capable of doing the job required. All we know is they are going to decimate their staff."

Yes, a new approach has been needed in the music business now that most people download their music, and CDs are rapidly following vinyl into antiquity, but turning a music company into 'mean, lean music machine' and demotivating all of the star talent, doesn't sound to me like the right approach.