A&R Profile: Mike Caren

Name: Mike Caren


Position: President of Worldwide A&R, Warner Music Group

Despite being a longtime executive in the music industry, Mike Caren is just 36 years of age. Caren began his career with Warner Music Group in high school as part of a rap marketing team for the artist Big Beat, and he has not left the company since. In his 18 years, he has signed many high profile artists, including Trey Songz, T.I. and Flo Rida. In addition, Caren has written and produced songs for Kanye West, Bruno Mars and Jennifer Lopez.

In April 2013, Warner Music made two appointments to their Worldwide A&R team. Executives Aton Ben-Horin and Latoya Lee have become the Director of Worldwide Rhythm & Pop A&R and the Manager of Worldwide Urban A&R respectively, and both will report directly to Caren. Caren told reporters:

“A&R is an increasingly global undertaking, as extraordinary music can come from any part of the world, at any time. By expanding our worldwide A&R team, we grow our ability to respond swiftly to artist development opportunities and reinforce WMG’s company-wide commitment to providing the best home for the most influential and popular talent. Aton’s wide-ranging experience as a producer, artist manager and entrepreneur will make him a superb addition to the industry’s leading network of A&R executives. At the same time, Latoya’s energy and instincts will ensure she brings a fresh perspective to our collaborative creative activities.”

For all his accomplishments to date, Caren was featured in the 2012 edition of Billboard Magazine’s annual “40 under 40.”

A&R Profile: Erica Grayson

Name: Erica Grayson


Position: Independent Manager/Consultant

It seems that women are pretty underrepresented in the music industry, but the most obvious gap is in the field of A&R. Music executive Erica Grayson spent over a decade working for major record companies after working her way up from a receptionist to a top member of the A&R team at Interscope Records.

In an interview with the urban women lifestyle website Madame Noire, Grayson elaborates on how her work ethic led to her success:

Q: Why do you think you’ve been so successful in your career?

A: I’ve never taken a job thinking that I’ve made it or patting myself on the back.  I always went after a job or an opportunity and the second I got it I thought, ‘Okay, Erica, now you really have to work because you need to show that now you’ve gotten the job, but here’s what you can do with it.’  I don’t think you can survive or sustain without working hard, so I think that applies across the board.  But, for me, I always work from a place of feeling like I’m in a race, but I’m starting from behind.  So it makes me feel like I have to do more than everyone else, and I think that was always an advantage for me.  At the very least I knew that no one was going to outwork me.


After leaving Interscope Records in 2009, Grayson now uses her extensive industry expertise in her role as a partner in a music management/consultant firm.

Read the full article here:


A&R Profile: Kardinall Offishall

Name: Jason D. Harrow, aka Kardinal Offishall


Position: Creative Director for A&R, Universal Music Canada

Harrow, more commonly known by his rapper name Kardinal Offishall, is yet another artist that is making an attempt to work as a music executive. Just three days ago, December 16, it was announced that the Canadian born MC would be joining Universal Music Canada’s A&R team.

Having had success in the U.S. and Canada for over 10 years, Harrow was thrilled at the chance to work with and develop current and upcoming Canadian acts of various genres:

“As someone whose patriotism was evident from my first major release, the opportunity to join forces with the most powerful team in the country was one I couldn’t pass up,” said Offishall in a statement. “I look forward to engaging the country and the world in new sounds, new artists, and new ways to build upon Canada’s very impressive legacy. Randy Lennox is a Canadian icon, and I’m honoured to contribute to the movement he has put in motion.”

Fans of the artist are uncertain how his new role will affect his career musically. For now, it seems that Harrow is simply adjust to his position and responsibilities before announcing another album or mixtape release.

A&R Profile: Salaam Remi

Name: Salaam Remi


Position: Executive VP of A&R and Production, Sony Music

Salaam Remi is a renowned hip hop producer most notably known for his work with the rap artist, Nas. Having an extensive discography that includes Monica, Amy Winehouse, Jasmine Sullivan, Usher, Cee-Lo Green, Miguel, Nelly Furtado and the Fugees, Remi is most recently credited for the top-5 R&B/Hip-Hop charted hit “Girl on Fire” he worked on with Alicia Keys.

Now looking to make contributions in the industry as an executive, Remi is currently the Executive VP of A&R and Production for Sony Music. He will be working with as an industry ear, as well as a producer/songwriter for all the labels under the Sony music umbrella.

In addition to his long list of musical collaborations, Remi has credits working on several film projects as well, including the soundtrack of Blood Diamond, Sex in the City 1 & 2, and Rush Hour 3.

In the interview below, journalist Mitra Ahouraian asks Remi to offer insight to those wishing to understand more about the music industry from his perspective.


A&R Profile: Pete Ganbarg

Name: Pete Ganbarg


Position: Executive Vice President and Head of A&R, Atlantic Records

Pete Ganbarg has over twenty years of experience working as an A&R major record companies. In 1989, he began his career working at SPK records where he worked with a rap duo on the soundtrack for the movie“ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” The group entitled Partners in Crime sold over 5 million copies of their single “Turtle Power.”

Ganbarg is also known for his work with Santana in his role on Arista Records. After a stint at Epic Records and a few years spent launching his own A&R consulting company “Pure Tone Music,” Ganbarg came on board with the Atlantic Records team as the Executive Vice President and Head of A&R in 2008. He has been with the label since.

Below Ganbarg discusses the creative process behind Santana and Rob Thomas’ 1999 single “Smooth.”

Link to interview




A&R Profile: Evan Peters

Name: Evan Peters


Position: Director of A&R, Virgin Records

Evan Peters has made a career in A&R and looks to continue to build upon that success. In June of 2013, he was named the Director of A&R at Virgin Records. Previously, Peters was an A&R Manager at Interscope/Geffen/A&M. Artists he worked with include Nelly Furtado, Weezer, Rise Agains, Lifehouse, and Jo Jo. Peters offers remarks and seemed ecstatic when interviewed:

“Coming in with a fresh start to this label with such a rich legacy is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m proud to begin working with the diverse and talented roster and am looking forward to cultivating the new crop of Virgin artists.”

A&R Profile: Aaron Bay-Schuck

Name: Aaron Bay-Schuck


Position: Senior VP of A&R, Atlantic Records

Aaron Bay-Schuck is a classic example of how perseverance will pay off in a competitive music industry. Bay-Schuck was a video promotion intern at Interscope Records in college before being hired full-time shortly after he graduated. He left the company to enter A&R at Atlantic and has since worked his way up the executive ranks. Now the Senior VP of A&R at the label, Bay-Schuck is most famous for his development and eventual signing of Bruno Mars. Despite the notions that Mars reached success overnight, Bay-Schuck offered otherwise:

“From the outside world, it looked like it happened quickly, but it really is an artist development success story in every way,” he says. “A&R at its best is about nurturing, and not dictating, who someone should be.”

Bay-Schuck was recently featured in Billboard Music’s annual edition of “40 under 40,” a series of articles that highlights the successes of music executives in that age demographic.

A&R Profile: Shaffer “Ne-Yo” Smith

Name: Shaffer “Ne-Yo” Smith

Position: Senior VP of A&R, Universal Motown

After years of a successful career both recording Billboard hits and writing them for other stars, the R&B singer decided to take his talents into the business side of the music industry.  On January 24, 2012, it was announced that Ne-Yo would take over at Universal Motown as the Senior VP of A&R at the label.

“Ne-Yo commented on his appointment:

“I’m honored that I¹ve been given such a prestigious title and trusted with such responsibility; terrified because I know that playing this role in the fashion of one of my career role models, Mr. Smokey Robinson — these are big shoes to fill. But trust, I can handle it.”

Ne-Yo will serve as a producer and a mentor to the label’s artists and discover new talent to sign to the storied roster.



Can Anyone Stop Kendrick?

Kendrick Lamar. K Dot. King Kendrick.

However you wish to address him, this man is heating up in the hip hop scene. The Compton, CA native who cites major rap icons Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre as two of his biggest influences is making a name for himself with his controversial lyrics and bold personality. Since the release of his mixtape Overly Dedicated in 2010, Lamar’s prominence has skyrocketed.

In 2011, Lamar was included the cover of hip hop magazine XXL’s annual “Top 10 Freshman Class” release. Just over a year later, his debut album with a major record label entitled good kid, m.A.A.d city was released. The project opened with 241,000 copies sold in the first week and has since gone platinum. 

Lamar has been praised as one of hip hop’s more lyrical emcees. Despite his success, however, many fans of the genre had not truly began to take notice of his talent. Lamar’s reputation changed in August 2013 when he was featured on an unreleased track from fellow rapper Big Sean’s upcoming album. Taking the second verse of the record “Control,” Lamar spits one of the most aggressive verses in recent hip hop memory, verbally challenging his peers in the industry. Here is an excerpt:

“…..I’m usually homeboys with the same n-ggas I’m rhymin’ wit
But this is hip hop and them n-ggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you n-ggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n-ggas
They dont wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you n-ggas…..”

Lamar’s verse sparked a series of responses from other rappers that took offense. But the self-proclaimed King Kendrick didn’t stop there. Recently, at the BET Hip Hop Awards, Lamar brought out more strong words, allegedly attacking rapper Drake and reinforcing his statements from “Control.” Listen to his full verse below:

So what do you think? Does Kendrick have a firm grasp of the hip hop game? Can he be mentioned in conversations with the likes of Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Kanye West, Eminem, and other greats? Or will he meet his match when challenged by his fellow contemporaries. Only time will tell, but hip hop is a competitive game. If Kendrick Lamar accomplished one thing, its that there is now a huge target on his back, with countless hungry emcees aiming for his spot.