“Artists and Repertoire. In the old days songwriters wrote and singers sang and arrangers arranged and musicians were hired for the gig. The A&R man coordinated all that. He found a hit song and brought it to a singer, booked the studio, brought in the arranger, paid the orchestra, filled out the time sheets. Everything changed after the Beatles. Musicians became self-contained. They wrote their own songs, played their own instruments, and ran their own recording sessions, usually far away from the label. Independent record producers rose up. The label became less involved in the creative. The label became the bank, the distributor, and the copyright holder. A&R changed into something else – the people who find the acts and serve as the link between the label and the artist.”

An entertaining novel centered around one Jim Cantone, newly hired head of A&R at WorldWide Records, tracing the machinations within the company and the careers of three newly signed acts: alternapop band Jerusalem, country/pop crossover singer Cokie Shea, and a collective of African-American folk musicians called Black Beauty. Cantone, perhaps based on the author himself, is either very naïve or very shrewd, and the reader and the other characters can’t figure out which one, and perhaps the truth is somewhere in between.

As a novel, it’s about average, but as an inside look at the music industry, it’s well worth reading. The author, Bill Flanagan, is senior vp and editorial director of VH1, so presumably the book is fairly accurate. I would like to see someone more savvy about the industry than I read this and figure out exactly who the novel’s characters are based on, especially the “diva” hooked on crack.