At Sidedoor, we honor and appreciate all types of artists, but most importantly, we give credit where credit is due. Not only do we write about artists, but we acknowledge the people who got them to where they are today. A&R’s (artist and repertoire) play a major role in the music industry. They are involved from beginning to end, this includes discovering talent, signing them, creating music and finally, promoting them. They serve as a connector between artists, producers and other positions included in the process. An A&R can oversee numerous tasks such as finding new talent for a record label, arranging recording sessions and managing the overall production. Therefore, A&R’s deserve to be commended for their work. Here are a few of the finest A&R’s we believe are the ones to look out for this year.
Terry Opoku, otherwise known as T-Nyce, is one of Toronto’s most ambitious and persevering producers. He got the name T-Nyce because of his ability to be an innovator of sound, beats, songs, and unique ideas. He began at the age of 22 and was one of the youngest producers to work with artists and legendary producers such as Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins, Tricky Stewart and Harmony ‘H-Money’ Samuels. He was the most known producer at the company, Best Kept Secret, and was also part of the sound that helped artists like Kid Ink, YG and more. In the past, he was the co-founder of Quiet As Kept, A&R Manager at E-One Music, Founder of Create Academy Writing Camp and Co- Manager of the group STN. Now, he started his own production company/label titled Nycesound Production and has already signed the 17-year-old artist, Liyah, not to mention, he helped produce some amazing records for some major artists coming out this year.
Lynn Banks is the President of Icon Island, the International Music Marketing and Brand Development Agency. She has been working in the industry for a decade and has a degree in Entertainment Management. Her company has worked with notorious artists such as Lil Baby, Charli XCX, Tory Lanez, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, and more. In 2020, the company has launched an indie label division and has signed Jvanz. Thanks to them, Jvanz grew favorably as an artist during the year. For instance, they helped him get verified on all platforms, got him on major article features (Rolling Stone, Lyrical Lemonade etc.), released an EP titled “Lane Change” with over 600, 000 streams, and finally, helped him create his own luxury streetwear brand called “E11even”. During this pandemic, he also played virtual shows with NXNE and sold out a drive-in event in Niagara Falls during Labor Day weekend. This is only the start for him because they’ve got big plans for him for 2021.
Icon Island itself is also growing alongside its artists. They are developing increasingly as a digital agency and have even partnered with an international distribution company, while staying an independent company. Despite COVID, they were still able to work with many labels and distribution companies. Icon Island has continuously made their artists proud by bringing them millions of views, streams, and partnerships. In 2021, they will be expanding their portfolio by launching bigger campaigns and marketing ventures.
Lucas Prince is the CEO of Roadman, a Label and Management company with 7 gold plaques so far. Prince started out by owning three nightclubs which helped him connect with people in the industry. For example, he hosted a Murda Beatz album release party, had Diplo perform a 2-hour reggae set at an opening and had Baka perform as well. 5 years ago, he decided to take on a management role. Fast forward to the present, here are a few of Prince’s accomplishments: being a part of the Vice documentary “6ix Rising”, bringing in 50 artists from Toronto and surpassing a billion streams, and acquiring the biggest stage at SXSW in 2018.
Prince plans to make Toronto Rap global and that is why he set up the Roadman Label Imprint with Create Music Group in LA. This group has worked with Yung Tory, Big Lean, Omar linX, Just Chase, Kevin Rolly (producer), 6ixbuzz (as an artist), Pressa, and more. When COVID hit, they had to cancel many tour dates in Europe and Canada for Yung Tory. During lockdown, the company needed to focus on their digital aspects. Now, the company is ready to take on 2021. Some of their upcoming goals include the following:
Pushing Yung Tory through their joint venture with Def Jam & Timbaland
Kevin Rolly dropping his 3rd producer album with huge features
A distribution deal with Omar Linx and an upcoming album
The newly signed “Just Chase” will be dropping a country trap album
Big Lean will be dropping some heat with a talented crew alongside him
Plans with 6ixbuzz, the growing media platform with over a million followers. Their 3rd album will be dropping in the first quarter of 2021.
Overall, Prince has some big plans and massive collabs coming out soon and he knows 2021 will be a prosperous year for him.
Gianmarco Policelli has always had an interest in music, spending a lot of his time listening, watching interviews & going to shows. Ultimately, he decided to turn his passion into a career. He wanted to be a part of the music industry and began managing local talent. Here’s his journey to this point.
While studying Marketing at Humber College in 2017, Policelli was accepted into The Remix Project’s Round 14 Business Arts Academy where he made many connections and gained knowledge about the music industry firsthand. He began to manage his friend, Brick. During this time, he also interned for T-Nyce who tasked the new manager with finding writers to collaborate with those on Warner’s Canadian roster. He showed initiative by suggesting that Brick should be a songwriter for Francesco Yates, since Warner needed a writer for him, and the two were already friends who made music together. This was their chance to make that music official.
Being in the right place at the right time, Policelli pitched the demo to Nyce who showed Ron Lopata the VP of A&R at Warner. Lopata then shared the track with the infamous Johnny Wright, Francesco’s & Justin Timberlake’s manager. In October 2018, Brick (now Boy Pape) and Francesco performed the song live at the Scotiabank Arena where Francesco was opening for Justin Timberlake on his Man of the Woods Tour. Later that month, Policelli graduated from the Remix Project and began managing and developing Velow.
In October 2019, Velow dropped his first single “Laughed to Myself”. Policelli’s guerilla marketing tactics and creativity proved to be a risky but rewarding move. In December of that same year at a panel hosted by DJ RoseGold at Manifesto, Policelli publicly pitched Velow’s song to buzzing Carolina producer JetsonMade, famously known for producing Da Baby’s Suge & Jack Harlow’s What’s Poppin’. Following the event, Policelli posted Jetson’s reaction on Twitter, where Jetson’s manager, TP, retweeted and gave a shout out. Shortly after Brandon Kraut, an A&R at Visionary Records, a new joint venture artist development label in partnership with Sony founded by Chris Zarou, reached out wanting to sign Velow. In March 2020, right before the world went into a global lockdown, Velow signed to Visionary Records.
Currently, Gianmarco is working with 17-year-old 2x platinum producer YoungTN and developing a female R&B/pop singer/songwriter as well as implementing his skills in marketing & promotion for a few other projects. 2021 has the potential to be a great year for him and we at Sidedoor can’t wait to see what the future holds for the young executive in the making.
Shakk Diesel is a producer manager/A&R and the Founder of Diesel Collective which launched in February 2020. He has worked in New York and Spain with artists like Kidd Keo, the Spanish/English trap artist. Diesel is known for his notable connections, his travels, and for being a game changer. Once he started building his network by connecting with producers and artists, he landed a Producer Grind interview where he shared his come-up story, his opinions on the music industry and what being an A&R for producers is like. For instance, he talks about how one should go about managing producers. Some of his advice includes finding producers in your area to easily connect with, making sure the producer is a good, cooperative person, and being patient with the process.
Since the interview, Diesel has been focussed on educating people and establishing his brand. Diesel plans on starting a platform called Melodically Inclined that is catered for producers. He hopes to highlight a producer’s importance, value, and creativity behind a song and basically, give them the spotlight for a change. Currently, Diesel has been organizing Airbnb cook ups where his producers and videographers will work all day on creating content. In regard to the future, Diesel has got more projects and ideas coming out this year which he will reveal soon.
Gavin Sheppard is the Founder of Public Records Inc, the Co-Founder of Quiet As Kept Agency and is also on the board of directors at The Remix Project. Since the age of 17, he has been involved in both the music industry and in community development. First, he was a high schooler who sought for mixtapes and then he became a manager for his friends. He is a consultant for a multitude of artists, producers and companies throughout Canada who represent the hip hop, arts, and cultural industries.
In 2000, Sheppard’s community work really flourished as he co-founded a hip hop youth program called Inner City Visions, a community center drop in where young artists could practice their musical skills. Artists went for DJ lessons, breakdancing, MC battles and above all, the free studio access which many artists could not afford at the time. In 2005, this program received funding and thereafter became the internationally acclaimed Remix Project. This program focussed on bringing music opportunities to Toronto’s disadvantaged and marginalized communities. Sheppard currently acts on the the board of directors for the Remix Project, thus helping oversee the development of the program. According to those who have worked with him, Sheppard is a hardworking leader and passionate advocate for young people in the arts. The Remix Project has helped urban youth transform into entrepreneurs, musicians, leaders, and talented creatives. The program has been paramount towards the improvement of the cultural industry and of local communities. It has been known to foster artists such as Jessie Reyez, beat-maker WondaGurl, and JUNO winner, Rich Kidd.
In terms of Public Records, the company partnered with Universal Music Canada. Public Records signed Pilla B and Amaal, then proceeded to sign the company’s first non-local signing, a singer named Tiara Thomas from Indianapolis who was featured on Wale’s 2013 hit “Bad”. Public Records is looking to help rising artists who need the opportunity. Sheppard says he hopes to nurture and mentor these artists until they can decide on how they want to progress further through staying on, signing with Universal, going with another label, going independent or through a corporate partnership.
As an entrepreneur, Sheppard is continuously building and bettering his organizations to help them grow successfully. He has also been a part of many organizations himself such as being a board member of the Schools Without Borders, the Chair of the Youth Organizing Committee with the Laidlaw Foundation, a member of Mayor Miller’s Community Safety Secretariat, a Co-Founder of the Grassroots Youth Collaborative (GYC) and finally, the Co-Founder of the South Etobicoke Youth Assembly (SEYA). Additionally, he has been a regular spokesperson at venues like the conferences for UN Habitat, the Canadian Heritage All-Staff retreat, and the Organization of American States on safe cities.
Based on Huffington Post, “Gavin is a 2010 TED Fellow, a 2010 Vital People award recipient from the Toronto Community Foundation and is a 2011 Yale World Fellow.”
At the end of the day, the efforts of A&R’s are superior to their fundamental duties such as scouting talent. Being an A&R means one must be committed, dedicated and passionate for the job. A&R’s are more than just a manager because they go above and beyond for their artists. They are an artist’s biggest supporter, the one who will see their full potential before anyone else. They are the visionaries of the music industry. Without A&R’s like the ones above, there would be no structure in music. Artists would not be able to rise to their full capabilities and that is because they need someone guiding them every step of the way. They need an A&R who will help them build connections and influence them to produce the best music. A&R’s will help an artist elevate, improve, and revolutionize into the eminent star they know they can be.