Industry Insider – Dan Hand: A&R Representive for Universal Music Canada and Underground Operations

February 9, 2012

Want to work in The Music Industry as a Promoter, Producer, Publicist, Executive, DJ, or Tour Manager? Industry Insider gives Music Vice readers an exclusive insight from inside the industry as we talk to music professionals. We find out the specifics of their position and how you can grab their attention. In the latest installment of Industry Insider, we speak to Dan Hand.

Dan Hand

Industry Insider Dan HandDan Hand is an A&R Representative [Artists and repertoire]* with both Universal Music Canada, and Underground Operations. “Artists and Repertoire” is the division of a record label that is responsible for finding and signing new talent, and for overseeing the artistic development of the label’s recording artists. A&R Representatives also act as a bridge or liaison between artists and the record label.

As a true “Industry Insider”, Dan has played a major role in the promotion and commercial propulsion of many well known Canadian artists such as: Abandon All Ships, Protest The Hero, Stereos,  Arkells, Silverstein and in the early days, Lights.

Ngawara Madison caught up with the busy man responsible for so many of those bands we see on Much Music; to ask him how he rose to his current position, and get his advice for bands seeking commercial success!

Hi Dan!  Great to have a few minutes of your time! I read in a press release last Spring that you had been appointed the role of A&R Representative for Universal Music Canada. Previous to this appointment you were working for another leading Canadian label, Underground Operations, in their A&R Department. Have you moved completely from one to the other or are you still involved with U.O?

I am lucky enough to work as A&R Representative for both; working at Universal to help find and develop acts that are ready for the mainstream, while with UO, I focus on helping develop, build and nurture younger independent artists, sometimes with the end goal to getting them to a a level where a major label makes sense. In others just to work with music we love and support. All in all doing the same thing, just on different levels at different times, providing each artist the right tools and opportunities for their unique specific career.

How did you come to work as a Music Executive?  

I started as being a Durham College MBM [Music Business Management degree] student looking for an internship. I was introduced to Mark Spicoluk and essentially worked my way up from there. I went from being an Intern to working in Marketing; then to A&R [with Underground Operations]; and from there I landed my current position with Universal. There was even a brief period of tour management in there as well.

A&R reps are the musicians’ point of contact at the label during contract negotiations, but there are a lot of different facets to your position. How important do you feel a formal education is, such as a College degree; in the pursuit of a career in A&R?  

I do feel I was lucky – in a “right time and right place” scenario, but college definitely helped. Music Business School helps grasp a lot of things that outsiders to the industry might not pick up on right away, and over all gave me a huge advantage over a lot of people looking to work in this industry… but I also don’t believe that you absolutely NEED a  College degree in Music Business to succeed.

Dan worked with Canpop superstar Lights during her early days as a Underground Operations artist, before she was signed by Universal

How can a band get onto your radar? What are the different ways that Record Labels scout their acts?

Honestly, hard work and a great song. You can always easily email/Facebook anyone, but the way to get on someones radar is to really make a noise! The only way to do that is hard work and great songs! Whether it’s a sold out live show in your home town or a Youtube vid that goes viral; that stuff doesn’t happen until there’s a solid song behind it to help fuel it.

What are the biggest mistakes you think bands make, that see them being side stepped by record labels ie. demo prep, image..?

I think the biggest mistake bands/artists make, is losing focus on what is important. So many people focus on image, touring, association, social media stats and “making it” when the only thing you should be focusing on in the beginning is your song writing. A quote I’ll steal from Mark Spicoluk is, “You’ll only go as far as your best song takes you”. That being said, its got to be the best it can be before you start pushing it. Yes, Identity is important, but that will come later once you have the song that will make people want to know who you are. Once you have a great song, you’ll (hopefully) only keep writing them, and then you can work on your image & getting out there.

Universal Records has set up a new talent scouting initiative over Facebook, called UMC Talent Scouts;  Can you explain how this initiative works?

Basically, its a portal via Facebook where anyone can submit a link to a demo, on either behalf of themselves as a scout or the artists. Its a direct line to us, that puts the music directly in our ears.


(Edited with additions Friday 10 February 2.23pm)

So there you have it Music Vice Readers! Get the material together, practice hard, and make a noise. But remember – you only get ONE chance at a first impression, so be sure its a good one!

© Ngawara Madison, Music Vice

Internet links:
Universal Music Canada

Underground Operations 

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4 Responses to Industry Insider – Dan Hand: A&R Representive for Universal Music Canada and Underground Operations

  1. JUAN MILLI on February 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Hi my name is Juan Milli,Im just looking in to geting in to the A&R Indusrty.i love music art and film. You can call me on my cell for more info #XXXXX…. thanks so much for your time.

    – Do not post your personal details on music blogs… – Ed.

  2. Keith Stiner on May 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Hello there Dan, my name is Keith Stiner from Toronto now residing in Windsor, Ontario and I am a singer/songwriter. I just added a few of my videos to your UMC talent scouts page on Facebook. I am more on the country folk rock side of things and have been writing my own music for some time now.I have been geiing some airplay on some of the smaller independent radio stations like 100.9 Canoe FM up in Haliburton. I would really love to hear back from you regarding my songs. Thanks.

  3. […] Dan Hand – A&R at Universal Music Canada Victor Mijares – A&R at Warner Music Canada […]

  4. Bill Jamieson on January 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I write lyrics and have had several put to music. I would appreciate very much if you could listen to a few and point me in the direction of those who deal with artists and their managers.

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