In this Ask The Industry feature we chat to Craig Shardlow - A&R at Polydor about what is (surely) one of the coolest sounding jobs in music and what he expects to see from emerging artists.
Tell us a bit about yourself Craig…
I started off as a musician for a few years, then progressed into engineering in a studio whilst at uni in Liverpool. From there I met a couple of A&Rs that had their artists recording at the studio and would scout regionally for them by sending them new artists from the North West.
I recommended a couple of artists to labels and publishers that went on to have success and was lucky enough to then be offered a job as an A&R assistant at Polydor and have worked my way up from there.
What does your day to day work look like?
A lot of listening to new music and running around the country trying to find new, innovative artists.
How do you generally discover new music?
Normally through personal recommendations. Mabel was recommended to me by a producer friend who produced her first single. Sam Fender was introduced to me by a musician friend who Sam supported one night. However, I still keep tabs on the analytical side of things like Spotify viral charts.
What advice would you give to artists just starting out?
Determination will get you to where you want to be more than bare talent. The most successful artists have far more determination than the average human. Ed Sheeran is a great example of this, he’s put in 1000’s of hours to work on his craft and it has certainly paid off
Also, never take your fans for granted.
When would you look to take on an act? What do you look for? How do you know they are ready?
Timing is different with every artist. Some artists I find quite early but they haven’t developed that strong sense-of-self yet. That comes with the experience of honing your craft.
The main things I look for in artists are obviously 2-3 incredible songs, unquestionable drive, an exact vision for their music and normally a unique vocal. You know when you’re ready to sign someone when you feel all of those things are in front of you
Finally, what track do you have on repeat at the moment?
Sam Fender – Leave Fast. This song creates such beautiful / melancholic imagery. I’m very lucky to be able to work with this guy!