Shawn Barron knows talent when he sees it. Since scouting Drake to Koch Records back in 2007, he’s pushed a number of artists that labels failed to pick up before the hype begin. From Wale to Curren$y and even Kevin Rudolph, Barron knew their potential early on in their careers. While working on his Bachelors in Communications from Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ, he began his journey in the music industry. His last semester was spent interning at Universal Records doing A&R and new media. Two months after the internship, Koch Records hired him for a mailroom position. After scouting Drake, Barron was given the okay to search for more artists. Now, as Senior Director at Atlantic Records, he’s the man behind the signing of Diggy Simmons and Ty Dolla$. Continue on to find out more about Barron’s come up, the ways he scouts talent and he even takes the time to check out a few unsigned artists. You might want to take notes.
-Danitha Jones (@LifeLikeJones)
In 2007, what was it about Drake that caught your attention?
At the time, MySpace was sectioned off between unsigned artists, signed artists and indie artists and he was one of the biggest ones on there. I just thought he was dope at that time. With the singing and rapping, he was doing something completely different than what was out. And even though he wasn’t signed at the time, he had a big following on MySpace. Obviously we didn’t sign him but from there, Koch allowed me to keep bringing stuff in.
Did you always see yourself as an A&R?
Not really. People would always ask me about music and come to me about what’s hot. I was always searching for good music. I was always up on something new and that sort of just transitioned into me being an A&R.
How did you become the A&R Director at Atlantic Records?
I was laid off from Koch in May 2009. I had to figure out what I wanted to do next. I went back online and started searching for talent. I found this artist named Phreshy Duzit. I got him signed to Atlantic Records. After that came Diggy Simmons. I signed him within my first three months on the job. Around February or March, he dropped the Nas record with the video. I got in contact with him and we had a conversation. I went back and everyone at Atlantic thought he should be signed. Next was Ty Dolla$. I actually worked with him for 2 1/2 years doing song writing. We were working on Trey Songz latest album when he told me he wanted to do more music. I asked him to let me hear some stuff and I thought it was crazy. He got signed in October of last year.
When you look for these artists, which websites are you checking?
I go to The Source and other magazine sites. I go to all of the major blogs. Videos sites too like WorldStarHipHop and YouTube. There’s no one place.
What are the steps involved in signing an artist?
Well now, I’m a place where I can go straight to Craig Kallman. We also have A&R meetings once a month as well. It’s where we all come together and bring new artists to the table. We discuss a lot of new talent that’s out there that isn’t signed.
Is there anyone your checking for right now?
Um [Laughs], I can’t say. I definitely don’t want to give it away. But yeah, it’s a couple of people that we’re looking at right now.
Can you offer some advice to those following in your footsteps?
Always come to the table with something and people will seek you out for what you know. When you’re going this, make sure you have something to show. Bring something to the table.
What’s next on your agenda?
Ty Dolla $ign is my focus. We’re putting out his EP in late March/early June. On Tuesday, he dropped a video with Young Jeezy for “My Cabana” remix. We got Alley Boy. We’re working on his single that’s coming soon. And I’m gearing up to work with Diggy again in a couple of weeks. I also manage Paris Jones. She’s a songwriter that just signed to BMG Chrysalis, one of the big publishers.
Before you go, let’s put you to work. Here are three artists for you to review. You can just give a quick overview of what you’re listening to.
Cane- Grassroots Tangent
“Video is dope as hell. Very creative. I like the beat and he’s saying some shit on this song. Also my first time listening and will keep an eye on him to see how he progresses.”
Chill Moody—One shot
“Been keeping an eye on him for a few months now and I like his message. This is a solid song, not the best I’ve heard but not bad.”
Michael Millions- 30k
“Love the beat. He has a dope voice and he’s spittin on there. First time hearing of his music but I like it on first impression.”