Back in the “golden years”, A&R used to serve as the middleman between the artist and record label and work very closely with the artist. They would discover a band, convince the record executives to sign them, find the band a record producer and studio, and help develop many aspects of the artists career such as style, promotion and marketing. Today, thanks to the internet, most of that can be done by the artist themselves. Recording hardware and software is cheap, accessible, and can be easily ran by monkeys. Marketing and promotion can be done through social media websites and digital distribution, and now every major player in the business wont even acknowledge you unless you already have some self-made clout. So now, who is an A&R rep for? Record labels? Artists? Do A&R's even exist anymore?
The answer is yes. Although there are a lot less major labels, the power of an A&R rep is diminished, and the web has provided an easy way to discover music. These labels still have a few A&R reps that have new methods for discovering new artists, and are used to filter through the watered-down internet. In the independent label world, old school A&R is still used, and actually still a very relevant way to scout new talent. The best example of this is indie label XL Recording's discovery, development, and utmost support of Adele a few years ago. She is still with XL, and is very successful. Other than that, the face of A&R has changed so much, most wouldn’t even recognize it anymore. Many have been saying that music supervisors are the new A&R people. Music supervisors are the ones whom, most of the time, are selecting music for film, tv, and video game projects (among other duties). Some 90% of the music placed in these projects come from unsigned, independent artists, and many have been discovered and launched successful careers by this approach.