With nearly 30 years of experience in the music industry, Michael Parisi has worked for renowned companies like Warner Music, starting as a Promotions Manager and later taking on marketing and A&R roles. He has contributed to the success of artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, K.D Lang, and REM. Over the years, he managed artist rosters, including Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nine Inch Nails, Muse, The Whitlams, Green Day, AC/DC, Garbage, and Kylie Minogue at Mushroom Records.
In 2008, he co-founded the record label Wunderkind and the Music Management and Consultancy Company with Michael Gudinski. Michael manages artists like Stonefield, Dan Sultan, Owl Eyes, Polish Club, and, of course, Vera Blue.
We caught up with Michael for some practical and inspiring tips to help create a unique artist brand.
Understanding exactly what A&R is
A&R is most certainly a term you’ve heard before, but what actually is it? A&R stands for ‘Artist & Repertoire’, and the traditional role of an A&R person is to discover and nurture talent to the point where they are marketable and releasable. With the progression of technology, much of this is now done online as opposed to the analogue approach of A&R reps heading to local shows.
What are A&R reps looking for initially these days?
The first place most A&R reps will head to learn more about an artist is their social media pages, followed by their Spotify profile. Here, they will look at engagement rates. 9 out of 10 acts that are signed to a major label from TikTok don’t make it to their second single, as their initial signing was based on a popular moment in time.
Social media can often be a degree of smoke and mirrors, but a consistently high level of engagement from followers? That is like digital gold to an A&R rep.
What about the music?
Before you throw in the towel at the thought of needing to be an online influencer first and a musician second, there are cases where the quality of the music and performances alone were enough to capture an A&R rep’s attention. In fact, this is exactly what happened with Vera Blue.
When Celia first came off of the Voice, her social following was minuscule, but her talent was enough for Parisi to be willing to build her profile from the ground up.
Understanding your expectations as an artist
The first step is deciding what you, as an artist, want from your career. Do you want to be a recording artist, touring musician, ghostwriter, etc? Once you understand this, you can plan accordingly. As Parisi mentions, “begin with an end in mind, then you can work backwards.”
How to develop your sound and personality
Once you have a clear idea of your expectations, it’s time to get to work. In the case of Vera Blue, her goal was a career with longevity, so to achieve this, her team waited for two years after her Voice to let any reality TV show stigma dissipate.
This time was spent writing with various producers and writers to create over 100 songs. These tracks were distilled to a mere five songs, which would go on to form her debut EP ‘Fingertips.’
Interestingly, it was through this process that Ceila pivoted away from the folk-inspired sound she thought she wanted to embody to the pop-electronica sound she has today!
Making a mood board for the visual aspects of your act
Creating a mood board helps anyone who may be working with you to achieve your vision to better understand it. This can be anything from a fashion shoot to an advertisement that you really like or even just some keywords.
The goal is to effectively communicate a sense of what you are about. By doing this, you make it easier for those working with you while also getting yourself to a result you will love quicker.
Having a clear idea of what you will both look and sound like in the early stages of your career will determine how people view you initially, and your image is extremely important – like it or not!
None of this matters without a strong work ethic
All of the above tips may be at a point where they are humming along nicely, but their main driver is your work ethic. If you aren’t willing to work harder than those next to you, you will be left behind or replaced by those next in line. Treating your music career like a 9-5 job (figuratively, not literally) is vital. What are you doing today to further and enhance your career?
Getting a publishing deal
For those songwriters who are less concerned with the limelight and more in favour of a career in writing, a publishing deal is the holy grail. To achieve this, in a very competitive industry, the key is to stand out from the pack. To do this, you need a killer song. And how do you get that? You write a thousand of them.
Commitment to the art of songwriting is the key. While this may seem frustrating or like nothing is being achieved, if you persist, you will find somebody or a situation that will open up your world.
Want an easy way to make sure you commit to the art of songwriting? I Heart Songwriting Club will transform your songwriting and the quality of your songs. Write a song each week within a vibrant community of peers to offer constructive feedback for your ideas. Learn more here.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
04:31 – Understanding exactly what A&R is
07:31 – What are A&R reps looking for initially these days?
08:21 – What about the music?
08:50 – Understanding your expectations as an artist
10:04 – How to develop your sound and personality
14:10 – Making a mood board for the visual aspects of your act
18:40 – None of this matters without a strong work ethic
23:30 – Getting a publishing deal
About Michael Parisi:
Michael Parisi is one of Australia’s most renowned A&R people: an acknowledged master of finding and nurturing raw talent and connecting it to successful outcomes. In more than 30 years in all facets of the global music business, the artists he has signed have accounted for sixteen #1 albums and 15 million album sales. From REM and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Muse, Kylie Minogue, and the Whitlams, Michael has helped to forge the musical landscape of the last 30 years. Today, his management, music publishing, and recording and consultancy connections span from The Voice in Australia to the world’s largest music conglomerate, Universal Music. Check out Parisi’s podcast, Vinyl Tap here.
Episode Show Notes:
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