As the cultivator of talent and executives in the music world, Zoë Young is one of the industry’s most respected A&Rs. She has worked her way up the male-dominated creative chain of command and to the top of today’s hit music charts by developing and breaking French Montana, Trina, Blac Youngsta, BIA, DDG, Bay Swag, and more.
Below, Zoë talks about her work as an in-demand A&R, the road she took to her success in the male-dominated music world, and her plans for A&R University, the first of its kind in the industry.
Meeting with Zoë Young results in an interview full of insider details about her work as an A&R. As she shows me into her office, I spot photos of the artists she has developed during her time as an A&R, including French Montana, whose work has received 3 billion streams, and Blac Youngsta, whose singles have gone Gold and Platinum. She smiles when I ask her about them. “Both French Montana and Blac Youngsta worked so hard to achieve their success, and I was proud to help them to develop their careers,” she says. “That’s true of every artist I have worked with. They are all so amazing, and when they reach their dreams, I am as excited as they are.”
Zoë, it’s clear from the start, loves her job and has along the way learned to roll with the inevitable punches that come with working in one of the country’s most competitive industries. “Being an A&R is challenging, definitely,” she believes, “but I never have a dull day as I help my artists to create their own success.”
As an A&R, Zoë spends her days seeking and cultivating new musical talent. “I oversee the artistic development of recording artists,” she explains. “I am also the liaison between the artist and label. I work very hard on behalf of my artists to help them to rise up in the music industry, which can be difficult to do if you don’t have a good A&R to help you.”
No day is the same, and as you would expect, Zoë’s roles and responsibilities are complex and can fluctuate moment by moment. “Typically it begins on a crusade for the next hit record, which includes the right production, songwriter, studio, engineer, and combination of snacks while recording. There’s a formula I apply when in the studio with my artist,” Zoë explains. “I try to put together music I know that they will love and want to record and that the people will also love. I think about who I think my artist wants to work with and who I think they should work with. Then I reach out to that person and get the best material. And when I say best material, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill talent – the people I reach out to are often unreachable.”
Zoë continues by saying that she then goes through the material collected, picks out the songs that she thinks are the best, and puts them in a folder. “Once I meet with the artist I’m working with, we can start the session by playing the tracks I picked out. This saves so much time instead of flipping through music, which can throw your ear off if you don’t hear anything you like.”
Her work as an A&R, Zoë reveals, is split between the office and the studio. “I feel like you should have office hours everyday as an A&R because once you get to the studio, there is so much happening. At the studio, you don’t really have time to do administrative tasks. The time is better spent networking – talking, listening to music, listening to what’s going on, and being creative.”
Zoë believes that before she gets to the studio, she has to be prepared. “I always know who is going to be there, how much it will cost, what we will do, and what our goals for the session will be. I always have a plan and know how I will execute it.”
She admits that reaching success in an industry dominated by men hasn’t always been easy. “I believe, though, that I just have to show up everyday. As a woman, I think about ways to make my gender work for me so that it’s not a disadvantage. What I have found is that many people actually want to hear a woman’s opinion. So, for me, I have found success because I’ve kept showing up everywhere I have needed to go and have continued to voice my opinion.”
Zoë says that just like anywhere else, the music industry has its share of negative people and situations. “Luckily, I have largely come across great people that have supported me and been very respectful of women. I really appreciate working with men who treat their female colleagues with respect.”
Zoë thinks that crucial to her success as an A&R has been her willingness to be assertive and voice different opinions. “I am also very good at spotting real talent, of course, which is pivotal to the success of any A&R.”
Zoë ultimately believes that to accomplish your goals in music, it’s all about being proactive and doing a great job for her clients. “I have learned that if I have an idea, I can’t just sit on it. Instead, I have to share my vision and make it happen.”
That vision, Zoë says, has arrived: she is the developer and founder of the industry’s first educational platform for people who want to become A&Rs. “I am so jazzed about this,” she shares. “I love to teach, and I can’t wait to reveal to my students everything I’ve learned from being in the boardroom and from developing the careers of breakout talents. I am also offering coaching sessions for artists who want to be mentored by professionals.This represents a new stage of my career, one in which I will help people reach their own success in the music world. I am living my best life, and I know that in 2022, I will see the results: more and more talented artists kicking open the door to their dreams and showing the world who they really are.”
Zoë Young has over ten years of experience in the music industry and is the Founder of A&R University and President of Tha Lights Global. Determined to help more musicians to realize their dreams, she has created courses that are full of industry secrets as well as a proven formula that provides her students with the skills and knowledge they need to break into the music industry, promote their music, and advance their careers.
For more information on how Zoë can help you to get your foot in the door of the music industry and develop your brand alongside industry-leading managers, please visit: