In a short space of time, Stu Roberts has taken Eminence Records from a lifelong dream, into a home for artists new and old.
We asked him what makes him tick, where he came from and what A&R still means to him.
According to Wikipedia, A&R services are on the decline. Labels are still scorned upon, leaving the ‘suits’ who want to take and drip every penny from the talent that artists have.
Is that still the way? Or are there people out there who still know and trust, that they have a place.
WHAT MAKES YOU THE ODD ONE OUT?
An interview with Stu Roberts by Nicole Benner.
So Stu, introduce yourself! Where are you from? What exactly is your job position?
First things first, I’m Stu (Roberts) and I’m the owner/founder/creative director of Eminence Records, we’re an independent Hip Hop and R&B label based in the UK. I started the label to create an environment similar to what Jimmy Iovine did back in the day with Interscope, where artists were allowed, and encouraged, to be themselves. I also wanted Eminence to be a place where, whether it was emerging talent or platinum selling artists, they had a home…a place where we could all build together and they could flourish.
I’m currently art director, manager, head of A&R, director, accountant…you name it, I do it.
What got you interested in working in the music industry?
Long story short…
I’d wanted to work in the (music) industry my entire life. I mentioned on a video we posted on our Instagram recently that I remember being in London when I was about 13 and in Tower Records. At the time I thought it (Tower) was an actual record label, rather than a retail store, after I realised, I still knew that music was the place for me. In the end, it took about 20 years for me to finally find myself in and amongst it.
Eventually, I was heading up A&R for a record label in London and after some incredible lessons and knowledge passed to me (which is still given to me on the daily), I decided it was about time to start my own label. I wanted to bring a certain flavour back to R&B and Hip Hop, something I thought, and think, is missing. Seven months later, here we are.
What do you love the most about what you do?
Working in the industry and especially when you own your own label, there’s loads of things that are heightened…feelings, vibes, worries, stresses.
Above all else though, is the joy of helping someone else try to achieve their dreams. Or maybe it’s a case of trying your best to help an established artist get back to that point they want to be and you recognise that they should be.
The music industry is so fickle, things are popular for five minutes and then they’re not. But great music is forever, great artists are forever. That’s why they’re great in the first place.
For me, the special place, the special moments and feelings, are helping to either ignite – or reignite – that fire in someone and letting them know, that they’re not on their own and someone has their back as much as they do themselves.
Based on your knowledge, what is the role of an A&R?
Obviously we’ve worked with, and are still working with, established artists throughout Hip Hop and R&B, in those cases there’s slightly less work to do when it comes to artist and repertoire. That’s not to say that I think it’s any less important for those artists to recognise and see that they have these people behind them, who still want to see their career develop. Anyone can believe in themselves, and anyone can have already had a career, but for someone else to still believe in them as much as someone did when they first hit, I think that’s really important.
Apart from that, A&R is about helping an artist find themselves and develop. It’s not about me, or anyone else, telling them how WE think they should be or what we think is popular, it’s about nurturing them, helping them get to places that they should be, but might not be able to get there on their own.
If you believe in someone, you want to see the best for them…see them realise their hopes and dreams…that’s A&R to me.
Would you consider the need for A&R’s to be decreasing due to social media?
Hell no!! (Laughs)…I’m not even being biased here, but like I said before, having people behind you that believe in you…how can that be a bad thing!? I’ve got nothing against people wanting to go out on their own, hell, there’s a reason labels and A&R have a bad name. But there’s no way I’d say that there’s no place for us anymore. If the intentions are good, honest…there’ll always be a place for real ones. I truly hope that we never get to a point as an industry, that artists lose that much faith in us that they think that there really is no place for us at all. Personally, that’d break my heart.
What advice would you give someone who is interred in a career in
the music industry, more specifically and A&R position?
The best advice I can give, the best advice that I would give myself and is an integral part to me and who I am…
-Believe in your artists as much as you know they believe in themselves.
-Let artists be THEMSELVES.
-A&R people, record people…aren’t unique…artists are.
-Surround an artist, with great people that bring the best out of them. Help facilitate that shit!
On a last note…
The best advice I can give to anyone interested in the industry, A&R, producing etc…study Jimmy Iovine. Anything I’ve ever hoped to be, modelled myself on, aspired to be like…came from him.