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Interviews with A&Rs at Polydor Records

Interview - Jun 25, 2001

ďToo many people donít develop the concept or songs enough, and just hope someone can see something in it.Ē

picture Colin Barlow is A&R at Polydor, London, UK. He represents Ronan Keating who made it to No.1 in the UK Album Chart in 2001 with "Ronan". The album has sold more than 600.000 units, which is double platinum. The first single from the album, "Life Is A Rollercoaster" also made it to No.1 in the UK. For this, Colin was awarded No.10 on the "World Top 20 A&R Chart" at HitQuarters late 2000. He is also the A&R for Samantha Mumba and Lighthouse Family.



How do you find new talent?

There are so many ways - the main one for me is having great contacts who you consistently talk to i.e. lawyers, managers, agents, press and club DJs. They are all out and about hearing about hot new artists.

Have the sources of new talent changed in the last couple of years?

Yes! The business has become so much bigger - TV, radio, clubs, the press, are all so much broader and more open-minded to all kinds of music and new artists, and with the growth of the Internet itís going to get bigger, and more artists will come to our attention as a result of this.

How much significance has your contact with Louis Walsh had?

Obviously a lot, as it has been a very successful relationship. The key to our relationship is that we love music, and finding and developing talent.

Do you work together with Louis on the acts or have you divided the work, so, for example, he finds them and you develop them further?

Louis finds great talent and has a great song sense, and Iím responsible for making the records and developing those artists he finds.

Do you work only with finished productions or do you take part in their development?

I love to find acts early. A&R is all about the development of artists. I signed The Lighthouse Family on one song because I knew that they had tremendous potential and that if they did more tracks it would have become a war to sign them. I really believe in development because it is such a necessity to help and encourage raw talent. Samantha Mumba is another example - she had great talent and just needed to work with an experienced, talented writer/producer who could bring out the best in her.

Louis Walshís other boy band, Westlife, were not signed by you. Is there a reason for this, such as not wanting more than one boyband at the label?

No!! Letís just say that I would love to have had Westlife on Polydor and they would have suited our roster perfectly.

In the breaking of Boyzone, what are you most proud?

Boyzone the brand was already developed when I took them on, but Iím proud that we took them to a broader audience and sold records all over the world.

Have you deliberately labeled yourself as a Pop A&R, or is that just how it happened?

Pop, for me, is popular. Those are the acts I like; my taste is varied but I will always look to sign acts with star quality and great voices that have a distinctive edge. Certainly some of my new signings are quite varied.

To approach you as an unsigned band, must one approach a manager first?

No - Iíve signed quite a few acts who are unmanaged, Iím not concerned by that. Itís the talent of the artist that matters and a manager can always be found later.

At what point in your career did you start to receive more demos?

I think that when you start to build a reputation where people respect your views etc., people start to send you material. If people send it to me directly and have put together a good package, I will listen to it. I get a lot of tapes per week but Iím happy to listen to them all. You never know where the next big act will come from!

Do you use the Internet for work purposes?

Yes - itís the best information source and it can only get better - I already use MP3 for hearing mixes and downloading new songs from publishers etc. It really does help speed up the process of getting to hear music.

What is your average day as an A&R like, how is your time spent?

Various things happen in a day - company planning meetings for new releases, meetings with acts signed or unsigned - many phone calls - visiting producers and acts in the recording studios. There is never a dull moment in this job.

Can you offer some words of advice to unsigned artists, with regards to submitting material?

Too many people donít develop the concept or songs enough, and just hope someone can see something in it. Itís a creative business, so if you know who you are aiming at, audience-wise, and can create a sound and concept, thatís when the record companies start to take notice.



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By reading the in-depth interviews we regularly publish, you can gain further knowledge of the music industry. You can also discuss the issues that concern you with other members in the HitQuarters Forum.

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