No matter which page in the history of the record industry you flip to, there's always some talk about artist development or the lack thereof. This barb has been jabbed in the side of label executives for a very long time. In our more romantic notions of the record industry, artists toured – below the public radar – and honed their musical skills.
Over the course of a few years and albums, A&R nurtured their talent, in hopes that the artist would release an iconic record. The big stars paid for the lesser artists and each kept their slots, because the label never knew which act would catch fire next. A&R represented the dream of nobodies being pulled from bars and being turned into a national act. Bob Lefsetz argues that dream is over and artists are in charge of their own artist development now. After all, he asserts, everyone knew somebody and few artists made their way by being a nobody.
"You’re in charge of your own artist development. We live in a DIY world. If you’re waiting for someone to rescue you, to make you famous, you’re delusional. Yes, in the old days Warner Brothers gave five album deals to nobodies. But they really weren’t nobodies. They had friends, they were connected. Which means you probably never would have gotten your chance anyway. Now, you’ve got a chance. Don’t play with the usual suspects and kill it." (Read on.)