We recently spoke to newly appointed VP of A&R at Rostrum Records.
Nicole Plantin is currently VP of A&R, but she’s been managing artists and working as an A&R long before holding the official title. “I was always A&Ring before I became an A&R…you don’t have to have the title to do the job,” says Nicole of the A&R industry. Nicole’s always had an ear for talent and worked with The Neptunes’ Star Trak label and Drake collaborator Omen. After starting out in management and gaining a broader perspective of the music industry, Nicole found herself in the role of A&R. Since joining Rostrum and becoming VP of A&R, Nicole has signed a talented young rapper from the Baton Rouge area called Caleb Brown.
Caleb rose to prominence after his last music video ‘W$Gt$’ dropped which premiered on HipHopDX and garnered praise from the likes of XXL and Pigeons & Planes. Caleb’s currently gearing up for the release of his debut project ‘All dogs Go To Heaven 2’ while simultaneously working on growing his label partnership with Rostrum called DO L.I.F.E. Records. To find out how Nicole found Caleb and about their individual musical journeys check out the interview below:
Nicole Plantin A&R
When did you first hear Caleb’s music? How did you discover it?
I think it was probably early fall of 2016 and I think I came across him online, he was featured on Pigeons & Planes a couple of times and as an A&R, you’re just kind of always on the blogs or clicking through SoundCloud profiles and every once in a while something just stands out. That’s how I came across Caleb, he had a project out on SoundCloud at the time.
What was it about Caleb that made you want to give him a chance?
It was very refreshing. He’s very young, he was 17 at the time and I just heard this kind of insightfulness, this kind of maturity, authenticity, which is a word he’s used a few times.
As an A&R how do you prefer finding new talent? By going to shows and listening to openers or scrolling SoundCloud?
It’s a range of so many different things, I can’t say there’s a way that I prefer over another. It’s online, through streaming platforms, through relationships and people sending their material or just randomly coming across an opener of a show. I work at an independent label and have the freedom to work on the projects that excite me.
How long have you been at Rostrum? Was there ever an artist you heard early on that you regretted passing on or looked back and wished you were a part of their growth?
I’ve been at Rostrum for 2 years now and when I started there I inherited artists so my focus was more working on what was there at the time and getting those projects out, but yeah there are quite a few artists I’ve come across that I think are great but sometimes the timing isn’t right.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring A&Rs?
Being an A&R is all-encompassing. On one hand the function is signing talent and working on them with their projects, but you have to have an overview and a 360 outlook on how the business works and how the landscape is moving and trends. The reality is when you do sign an artist you want everyone to hear it, you don’t want to be the only person bumping their project, so you really want to understand all the moving parts. I also think it’s not easy to become an A&R, there are very few positions available so I think it’s something you should always be doing. I was always A&Ring before I became an A&R. In the past I managed artists, I would put myself in positions where I was able to do the job so you don’t have to have the title to do the job. The job is very hands on, it’s experience, it’s relationships, it’s a whole combination of things.
Who are some artists you’ve managed in the past?
I started off working with The Neptunes and worked on their management team with the manager. I worked with independent artists, I managed a group called Nola Darling, I managed producers, and I managed a producer named Omen who still works with Drake. Those were the two that I invested the most time into which helped me to develop as an executive. It’s like a two-way things because you need to develop as well and the best way to do it is to take on projects.
What’s currently on your playlist?
A lot of Caleb, definitely Kendrick Lamar. Anderson Paak’s project I loved. The new A Tribe Called Quest album.