Since 1992, Ritch Esra and Stephen Trumbull have been running the Music Business Registry which includes The A&R Registry, The Publisher Registry, The Music Business Attorney Registry, The Record Producer Directory and The Film and Television Music Guide.
"The directories give everyone vital, accurate and the most up to date information they need to contact the entire A&R, music, publishing, legal and film/TV music communities," says Ritch. "Each directory tells you how to reach these industry veterans by regular mail, E-mail (including web sites), direct dial telephone and fax. Additionally, we provide the exact title, street address, the name of their assistant and the style of music that each executive deals with. Due to the volatile nature of A&R, the A&R Registry is completely updated and reprinted every eight weeks and often has over 100 changes in a single issue. There's no directory of this kind anywhere in the world."
Ritch says that among the subscribers are record company executives, music publishers, managers, agents, attorneys, studios and other various music business professionals in Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, London, Dublin, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Stockholm, Sydney and Munich.
Ritch started out as a promotion coordinator for A&M Records in Los Angeles in 1980-81. He coordinated releases with radio stations as well as the national field staff, providing promotional prerelease information on what competitive stations are playing, informing stations on status on how a record was selling and overcoming objections and resistance to broadcasting new releases. He also ensured that all field staff had product and took care of any product needs for radio stations.
From 1981-1987, Ritch was director of West Coast A&R for Arista Records. He signed The Thompson Twins to their US Deal as well as Mara Getz. He worked extensively with the publishing and songwriting communities for material for Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Melissa Manchester, Tanya Tucker, Jennifer Warnes and Jermaine Jackson. He also coordinated music for the "Ghostbusters" and "Perfect" soundtracks.
From 1988-1991, Ritch worked on various independent projects. He produced the award-winning educational video for artists and musicians, "How to Get a Record Deal." "At the time, it was the only video of its kind examining the frequently misunderstood process from five different perspectives: record company executives, A&R VPs, artist managers, record producers and 16 major artists including Los Lobos, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins, Jody Watley, Karla Bonoff, Michael Bolton, Fleetwood Mac, Chick Corea and Kenny Loggins," says Ritch. Producers Phil Ramone and Jeff Baxter are also interviewed in the video.
Ritch has organized and coordinated the events and activities of The Independent Music Conference in Los Angeles sponsored by BMI. The three-day symposium addressed problems facing recording artists, including publishing, management, touring, obtaining record deals and exploring alternative ways to bring music to the public.
In addition, he has written articles for Music Connection, New England Performer and Musician. He has been a guest lecturer from 1983 to the present at USC, UCLA, NYU, and Middle State Tennessee as well as Canadian Music Week, New Orleans Business Symposium.
From 1987 to the present, Ritch has been an instructor at the Trebas Institute of Recording Arts in Los Angeles, where he was the chief Instructor as well as at UCLA Extension, USC, SAE teaching several courses including: A&R The Heartbeat of the Record Company, which focused on the artist signing policies of major and independent record labels, Music Business Overview, a course designed to give students an understanding of the many aspects of the Music Industry. He was a member of the board of advisors for the Department of Performing Arts at UCLA for 3 years 1990 - 1993, and initiated full day seminars and discussion panels on the music business as well as created new course ideas and methods for expanding programs to keep students enrolled in the UCLA Extention program.
What should an A&R rep look for in a new artist?
That's very subjective. You'd have to ask the A&R community. Mostly, they look for people who have music that they believe in. They look for artists or bands who are great live performers. They look for artists or bands who they believe can be stars. They look for artists or bands that believe in themselves. The other thing that A&R people look for are artists that they feel that they can work with. I know of a multi-platinum act that a very famous A&R man passed on - not because they were not great, but because he knew that he could not work with the act. They went on to sign with another label and were very successful. Finally, I believe that not every artist is right for every label and vice versa. A&R people look for artists that will fit the corporate culture of the label that they work for. This is very important to keep in mind because not all labels have the same corporate culture. Sony operates on a totally different corporate culture from Warner Bros. and Interscope. And Capitol operates on a totally different corporate culture than RCA.
What about an established artist in between labels?
They look for an artist who they still believe can have relevance and impact in the current marketplace. They look for an artist who is still making great music. They look for an artist who they feel still has a viable audience. As a live performer this was something Clive completely got with Santana. Carlos was someone who still had a viable audience from a live point of view. In addition, he was still very relevant with the newer generation of artists, and the album that he made was completely a reflection of that.
What should an artist and artist in between labels look for in an A&R rep?
You should look for someone/label who believes in your work and understands what you're about musically. You should look for someone/label who believes in your vision of yourself. You should look for someone who you feel you can work with on a creative level.
First industry job?
I was an office assistant/driver for the trade magazine Record World in 1978.
Working with Clive Davis for six years at Arista Records in the A&R Dept. Producing an educational video for up-and-coming recording artists called "How to Get A Record Deal" and forming my own co 10 years ago.
None really - so far!!
Forming a company with my business partner and having faith that there would be enough money to support us.
Best business decision?
Forming my own company!
Best advice you received?
It was from Clive Davis, who taught me the value of becoming a veracious reader and keeping well informed regarding what's going on in the industry. Over the last 10 years we've built a business on that premise!
Most memorable industry experience?
Signing my first artist when I was at Arista named Mara Getz.
What friends would be surprised to learn about you?
That I love to spend time alone!
Industry pet peeve?
That we expect artists to be successful in 20 minutes and if they are not, we move on. That's my biggest pet peeve - that we've completely lost our faith in artists to deliver. The other part of that comes from the fact that we, as an industry, have way, way too many artists that are signed.
If I weren't doing this, I would be...
Teaching students about the music industry
I have a lot of signed CD's (James Taylor, Crosby, Stills & Nash) Special Promo CD Packages, signed posters (Rickie Lee Jones)
Best advice to offer?
Never lose sight of what's most important in your life!