Talent scouts have always played an integral role in the record business. Without talented artists, there is no record business. Recognizing and finding talent is a bit of an art form in itself. Alan Lomax and John Hammond are two important role models in this regard. Although, their names may not be so well known in the contemporary musical market, they set the standard that all aspiring talent scouts should follow.. Lomax was the premier American folklorist. Lomax traveled around the United States, and the world as well, recording and discovering musical artists for the Library of Congress. The Lomax recording archive has recently been published online. Hammond is without a doubt the most successful talent scout in the history of the record industry. His musical discoveries range from Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Billie Holliday to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Record companies rely on talent scouts to search and discover up and coming acts. On the one hand, the ability to recognize talent requires a certain knack, feel, and musical sensitivity. On the other hand, the ability to recognize new talent simply requires commitment, passion, and hard work. Lomax and Hammond possessed all of these traits and characteristics. Hammond came from a well to do New York family. He was trained in classical music but his musical sympathies leaned much more to the new sounds of jazz and blues he heard the black servants singing around his family home. This led Hammond to explore the musical environment in Harlem. Curiosity and an ear for the new was an essential element of Hammond’s success. He was equally intrigued by the new sounds of the folk music scene in the early 1960s
A talent scout typically works for the Artists and Repertoire Division of the record label. Record labels are interested in success and this means money and more money. It takes money, time, and resources to record and promote artists and the bigger the investment the more risk involved. A talent scout should have an ear for the new as well as an appreciation for tradition. At the same time, a new sound or trend is unfamiliar and unpredictable and, therefore, dangerous and risky from a business point of view. On the other hand, recognizing that a certain sound or style has commercial appeal is one of the hallmarks of a gifted talent scout. The analogy of the art collector serves well. A successful art collector has to cultivate an eye for the new, a sense for what’s in the air, and an instinct to recognize the up and coming. There is obviously a mysterious and unexplainable aspect to cultivating the insight, ability, and knack required for becoming a talent scout. Talent scouts come from a variety of backgrounds. Nevertheless, there are a few practical tips to keep in mind for the aspiring talent scout.
Cultivate your musical sensibility – It isn’t necessary to be a great musician in order to be a successful talent scout, but it is necessary to have a well-developed musical sensibility, appreciation, and understanding of music. In other words, the more you know about music, the better. Expanding your musical tastes, listening to a large variety of different genres and styles, balancing a sense for the new with an appreciation for the past are all essential traits for a successful talent scout.
Concentrate on music and business in college – In addition to musical sensibility and taste, a successful talent scout needs to cultivate business and marketing skills and abilities as well. Understanding contracts, negotiating skills, and marketing trends are all are an essential part of the job description. One of the best ways to do this is to find a college program that focuses on both the musical and the business side of the music industry.
Obtain an internship with a recording studio – Internships are an important stepping-stone for a large number of professions including the recording industry. For the most part, internships are unpaid positions but they provide an opportunity to acquire concrete experience and practical know-how. Internships also provide an excellent chance to begin building contacts and connections with people in the business that will help get you noticed and get your foot in the door. Internships with record labels, as in any profession, are usually very competitive. Nevertheless, commitment, patience, and persistence are the key. Most record labels post details about internships on their website. Pay attention to the requirements, job descriptions, and deadlines. Music trade papers are another source of information for internships.