Andreas Rizek brings an enviable amount of experience to his work as an A&R representative at global electronic music powerhouse Ultra Music and Ultra Music International Publishing; a gig for which the 27-year-old Rizek is uniquely suited, given his previous work as SOCAN’s A&R Co-Ordinator, co-founder of his own label, Downpour Inc., a producer and DJ in his own right, and his lifelong passion for music.
“Music was always a big thing in my household,” Rizek says, explaining that he studied guitar, and played in bands ranging from punk to ska, and later “post hard-core Emo” outfits from an early age. It was only natural then, after he began a course in Music Business and Audio Engineering at London, Ontario’s Fanshawe College, that he’d find another outlet for his creative impulses.
Under the name Cosella, Rizek launched a career in electronic music, appearing at events including the Digital Dreams Festival Toronto, landing plum opening slots for major electronic artists, and releasing several records. Those included a remix of Destructo’s “Catching Plays,” featuring Pusha T and Starrah, and an EP, Paranoia, on Skrillex’s label in 2016.
He also continued to develop his A&R chops – getting hands-on, and ears-on, education for the job as an intern at The Feldman Agency and Sony Music Canada, and making a fortuitous connection with SOCAN’s Chief Membership & Business Development Officer, Michael McCarty. “I met Michael at [the] MIDEM [international music conference], and I guess he liked me, because he said he wanted me to come work for SOCAN when I finished school.”
Over the course of his 2015-2017 stint at SOCAN, Rizek established a relationship with Ultra’s founder and president, Patrick Moxey. “But I wasn’t looking to switch jobs,” he says. “I was learning a lot from my boss and mentor, Rodney Murphy, and Mike. They’d given me a lot of responsibility, and I really enjoyed what I was doing, but when I told them I had this opportunity, they were really supportive.”
Since being hired in 2017 by Moxey, and Ultra Canada’s Co-President Asim “Awesome” Awan, Rizek has focused solely on stewarding other artists’ careers. “This was a big career jump and I knew I needed to give it 100 percent” he says, adding that losing a significant amount of his sample library and musical projects in a computer meltdown a few months prior had already slowed down his musical output. But his background as an artist has always informed his work in A&R.
At SOCAN, Rizek was heavily involved in helping to identify and work with emerging Canadian talents in the electronic and hip-hop space. “At the time, hip-hop and electronic music maybe weren’t getting the most attention in Canada,” he says, “but they were becoming the biggest genres in the world, and lot of Canadians were getting placements and attention in the U.S.
“I think the big thing I took from working at SOCAN was being involved with artists, producers and songwriters really early in their careers and being able to ‘read’ the teams around them so I could say, ‘Okay they have the right people around them, saying the right things. This is going to happen.’ In my role now, you need to leverage those relationships, and that really helped. We’re a multi-national, multi-office business, but it’s not ‘divisional,’ where you have a Canadian office and just work on Canadian signings; we all work together.”
Consequently Rizek’s day-to-day finds him juggling his publishing and label roles with various projects; and fostering relationships – with artists, managers and producers, internationally, to get their artist’s music and stories heard.
Three important considerations for potential signings
- “I listen to the music first. Having prior placements does help, frankly, but being personable, and a good person to work with, is super-important.”
- “I’m looking for somebody who’s mentally ready for a deal with a company that’s very creatively involved. They have to be ready to put it all on the line and give 100%.”
- “Talking to them as a human being and building a personal connection, because that helps me determine how I can help them create a sustainable business for themselves.”
“No two days are the same, but that’s why I love it,”says Rizek.
The deep roots Rizek’s put down in the industry have been instrumental in his signing Canadian-based Nick Henriques (who co-wrote “Body” with Loud Luxury – one of the biggest dance hits of 2018), and producer Bijan Amir. Currently, Rizek is also working closely with other international artists, such as Billy Kenny, who Rizek signed – his first label signing – in October 2018.
“Adrian Strong was instrumental in the signing of Bijan with me, who was the first publishing signing since i had joined the company in January 2018,” says Rizek. “At the time ‘Ric Flair Drip’ was at 50 million Spotify streams. Now it’s up to one billion on all platforms. He’s a great person to work with. And Nick, funny enough, his brother and manager, Eric, is one of my best friends, and we work really well together as a team.”
As exciting as the success and accolades garnered by the artists he works with may be, the most important thing for Rizek is having an impact on his artists on a personal level. “Seeing them define themselves and change, but also helping them to do that as artists and people,” he says. “That’s what I like about this job.”