I’m not a journalist by any means, but I had a chance to sit down and speak with Conrad Dimanche recently and figured why not interview him for the site.
For those of you who are not familiar with Conrad; he’s the Senior Director of A&R for Bad Boy Records. He’s responsible for all the music that comes out from Diddy’s music machine
During our conversation, we spoke about getting into the field of A&R, developing artists and the challenges he faces on a regular basis.
When did you first become interested in hip-hop; as a fan and also professionally?
Oh man as a fan, that would probably have be [pause]… 89…88. I was just a kid. MC Spoonie G, Flash and the Furious Five. As a business, that was 95. I started making the transition like 94-95. That’s when I picked up my DJ. I started off as a manager [for] DJ D-Lyfe.
There aren’t any programs or schools that teach you to be an A&R; how can someone get their start in the A&R field?
Well absolutely, I would say as an intern. That’s the only way I have ever known anyone to get their start because you it’s not like something you can go to school for. You can’t go get a Doctor’s degree in A&R.
It’s only the experience and learning how to make music. A&R is more than making music, more than signing good acts; it’s a lot of business that goes in between. A lot of business.. you can read about the business, but it’s nothing like the experience also. It’s also a lot of managing relationships. The most powerful A&R is the guy who can pick up the phone and get the hottest producer on the phone, the hottest artist on the phone and get them to the studio like that.
Is there something in particular you look for in an intern? A certain kind of background maybe?
Well you know I don’t try out interns too much in the A&R department. I find that a lot of people are not built the way I was built and the way Harve [Harve Pierre, VP of Bad Boy Records] and Puff are built. The grind you have to do, what you have to be willing to sacrifice to do it. A lot of interns that I’ve tried, they’re there for a few months and then they’re gone, telling me they’ve got to get a job and they don’t even have a family. So me, coming from the perspective of a person that… I had a family and gave up everything to work for nothing to follow my dream. It’s like, you’re telling me you need a job because you can’t buy lunch for yourself and I couldn’t buy dinner for my family – I can’t even understand that.
Describe a typical day in your life.
A typical day, I get up about 9 in the morning, I jump right on my Blackberry; emails make the world go round today. Man, a bunch of phone calls – I deal with all the artist managers, the artists themselves, the producers. So I spend my day having meetings with producers, writers… in the early part of my day; once I get into the office.
3–4 o’clock there’s recording sessions. The artists come in; at Bad Boy we have our own home base studio, Daddy’s House. I live at Daddy’s House; I’m rarely in the office. So I have all my meetings [with] writers and producers, in the early part of the day. When the artists come in we start recording. In between that time, I’m on the phone. Damn near all day – walking in and out of the sessions, checking on the sessions. I work very closely – hands on – with the artists and the producers. I’m not a producer that makes beats, but I work very closely telling the producer, what the sound is supposed to be, what’s the sound for every artist. It’s almost like a director for a movie, picking out the scenes and making sure the casting is correct. But it’s really just building the movie, which is the album – from the first ad lib that’s laid to mastering and sequencing the album.
There’s a lot that goes in between; there’s a lot of negotiating with the producers, keeping the artists in pocket… even [laughs], even consulting the artists. Sometimes I’m like their psychologist. You got a roster of 20 artists and everyone has different personalities, all their managers have different personalities, they all have different issues with the company – so it’s like I have to put out the fire, keep the creative juices flowing, keep all the negative talk to a minimum and keep everyone with a positive attitude no matter what’s going on or who’s cheque might’ve been late or whatever happens – and deliver the albums on time and within the budget.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
Probably the hours. The hours and just keeping up with somebody like Puff – the pressure of constantly having to deliver great records. Any A&R’s job, it’s like you’re only as hot as your last hit record or your last great album. Fortunately, I think it was 2006 into 2007; I had three number one albums – in the one year. So I maintain and bust my ass, but I think the hardest part is just keeping up – stamina. Just keeping it going.
How do you find new talent?
Music is the gas for any record company to move forward. Without music, there’s no marketing, there’s nothing to promote. If that’s the gas, then I gotta pump premium gas into our machine constantly. And with that is constantly having fresh new songwriters, fresh new producers, from all over the world. So I gotta get out there, and when I can’t get out there, I keep a network of people all over the world who keep their ear to the streets for me and let me know when there’s something I need to listen to. And then, I’m just the first line of defense that takes it to Puff; just the first pair of ears and if I think it’s good enough then I take it to him.
What are some of the craziest stunts people have pulled to get their demo to you?
Oh man, people have snuck into the studio, bought a one-way ticket from wherever they were coming from and don’t even know how to get back. I’ve seen people sleep inside of their car, parked in front of the studio for days at a time, until they could get somebody to listen. I remember one guy had a big long t-shirt on – it was white and it came down to here [stands up and reaches to his knees] and it just said “I Make Beats” on it.
I stopped. I listened to his beats on his walkman, cause I thought was cool. It was a real innovative idea – you make beats, well let me hear something. I just walked up to him like “let me hear something”. So that was cool.
Click here to read the second half of my interview with Conrad Dimanche.