ROBBIE ENGLISH + MUSIC INDUSTRY
Like almost everyone I know, Robbie is a slo transplant now living here in LA. Robbie played in all the bands I either toured with or knew from the area, however we never did tour together. Although a very talented musician Robbie took the direction of being the big guy at the label instead of the starving artist. Which is really pretty rad. He worked for Sony Music for a while and is now with a cool company from Germany called BMG. There is so much to the music world besides just writing, recording and touring. And Robbie knows about all of it! Robbie took on a huge project when he was in school working with a mutual friend's band Goldboot. Look them up if you haven't heard of them before, they're gold (see what I did there?)!! Anyways, he put together a battle of the bands type competition, a showcase for the winner, organized and produced a music video, along with branding, conceptual album artwork, the whole nine yards.
Robbie and I were hanging out the other day at his place, and we decided to snap a few photos; and I mean a few, like barely 10 minutes of shooting until we lost natural light. Afterwards we sat down and did a little interview. It was interesting to discuss the whole business side of the music industry; the side most don't see, but can make or break being a professional musician. There are only so many shows you can play and t-shirts you can sell before a band has to start thinking of other ways to make income. Robbie is that guy to talk to. He's the guy that knows the guys or girls that will get your song in a international commercial campaign or as a trailer song for the latest Hollywood block buster. We also talked about the process of clearing music for films and documentaries, along with Mac, the coolest dog you'll ever meet. Well, cheers everyone and thanks for taking a moment and reading 'An Afternoon With... Robbie English.'
JOSH: Tell me who you are and what you do? ROBBIE: Robbie English and I clear music for film and TV at BMG Rights Management.
How long have you been working in the music industry? Not very long. A little over a year now.
What was your major in college and how has it applied to what you do? I majored in Music Industry Studies at CSU Northridge. The program was great and did a good job at covering all the different aspects of the industry, but honestly, other than a brief overview of what music publishing entails, the most it has applied to what I do and how it has helped me the most is put me in rooms with the right people to give me good connections.
Tell me about some of the projects you’ve produced and worked on? It's funny because some of the biggest stuff I've worked on was back when I was at my internship. When I was there I cleared music for a few different Hunger Games and Sicario trailers. At BMG I primarily work on independent films, late night shows like Kimmel and Conan, HBO sports, anything ESPN related, and a lot of other random things here and there. Indie films can either be amazing to work on or the absolute worst. I often find myself having to explain the clearance process with people and fighting to get even the most nominal of fees from their small budgets. The good times are when it's experienced people who have quality films or documentaries that I get to check out, and when the music is used in a way that actually adds to the film, rather than just using popular songs for the sake of using popular songs.
Met or seen any cool bands/artists in the office? Mostly a lot of artists who used to be popular like Kenny Loggins, Good Charlotte, Macy Gray, Randy Jackson, Brandy, Garbage, etc...Got to talk with Tegan from Tegan and Sara for a while one time. She was raving about how I NEED to watch The Goldbergs...I still haven't. Will occasionally score free tickets to shows as well. Recently went to a private showcase for Robert Ellis and Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek.
What are your short term (3-5 year) goals? Short term is pretty basic actually. Just work and grow within BMG. It's a pretty kick-ass company. Established itself in 2008 and has since grown to be the 4th largest music publisher in the world. We have a solid roster of songwriters and artists and I'm stoked to be a part of it.
Long term goal(s)? Find a way to stay in the film and TV area of the music industry, but get out of LA.
What’s your favorite dessert? Wine :]
Where do you shop for groceries? Any funny stories? See any celebs? I typically shop at wherever is closest to where I live. Currently that's TJ's and Gelson's thankfully. Recently found myself in line with John Cho, but other than that, it's been pretty standard really.
Favorite whiskey? Whatever the well is! I usually go with the 1.75L bottle of Bulleit Rye from Costco, but I do really like Templeton Rye.
Tell me about Mac? Mac is the dog that I tried to convince Kayla we shouldn't get and now is one of my favorite things in this world. He's a big, goofy, black goldendoodle and I love the shit out of him.
Favorite songs at the moment? Who’s killing it? Honestly, I've been listening to "Brilliant Disguise" by Bruce Springsteen on repeat lately...weird. Other than that some stuff I've been listening to a lot is "Friends, Lovers, Ex-Lovers: Whatever" by Susto and pretty much the whole Portraits album by Maribou State. Nathaniel Rateliff is KILLING it right now. I personally really like his music, and from an industry standpoint, his music has been getting a lot of syncs.
Worst meal you’ve ever had? Not a meal, but the worst thing I've ever eaten was fish sperm in Mexico. Yeah...
If you could sign any band who would it be? Gregory Alan Isakov.
Favorite band on your label? Depends on the day...today I'd go with Ryan Adams.
Tell me about Grammy U? Grammy U is a program that I was a part of while at CSUN that gives students rad opportunities to volunteer or even just attend some pretty awesome music events. I was able to meet and go to a sound check for Zac Brown Band and was a seat filler at the Grammy's a few years back! Got to see freaking Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr play together as well as Stevie Wonder play with Pharrell and Daft Punk!! That'll be a tough one to beat.
I’m sure you’ve been to a ton of industry parties, talk to me about that? Gotta love the open bars man. Went to one in December at some swanky hotel / rooftop bar in Beverly Hills. Some coworkers and I made a drinking game involving the actions of other people and needless to say we became very intoxicated. I ended up yelling with an awful Australian accent at an Australian guy, proceeded to do the same with an English accent to an English coworker of mine, and didn't even realize I was standing directly next to Keifer Sutherland for over 30 minutes! It was a good one. Most of them end up being pretty fun. It usually ends up being a few people who look like they actually belong there and then a bunch of us who aren't sure how we got invited.
Any awesome artists you’ve talked to lately? Talked to freaking Iggy Pop recently! Pretty pumped on that.
One album to listen to only for the rest of your life… go! Ugh...this is a hard one. I feel like the one album I could always listen to without getting tired of it is The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.
Walk me through a day in the life of Robbie. Wake up...drive...EMAILS, EMAIL, EMAILS...eat...EMAILS, EMAILS...drive...whiskey, eat, whiskey, whiskey...bed; repeat.
What did you have for breakfast? Excedrin.
How do you like living in LA? What do you like about living on the east side (Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park, etc.)? I like LA for now. I like having access to the many good bars, restaurants, and events, but I definitely see myself eventually going back to living somewhere quieter and with more access to outdoorsy type stuff. I currently live right on the borders of Los Feliz, Silverlake, and Atwater Village and I love it. Much different vibe than the rest of LA. Everyone seems to operate at a slower, more relaxed pace, and while there definitely are some super pretentious people sprinkled about, the majority of people on this side of the city seem to be pretty genuine and inviting.
What do you do on your days off? Mostly drink and explore the city. Occasionally make it back up to SLO to visit friends and family. Sometimes go fishing in the LA river...don't judge me.
Favorite IPA? Currently I'd have to say Luponic. Well done Firestone, well done.
Every gentleman should know a joke and a toast. Tell me one. A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" The horse replies, "My alcoholism is destroying my family."
What was the worst/unusual job you ever had? Worst was being a sample guy at Costco. Seriously, it was the worst. After about a month I just stopped showing up.
Would you still do this if you weren’t getting paid? If I was able to work remotely and bills didn't apply to me, then most definitely.
If you were to get rid of one state which one and why? Florida. Because Florida.
What do you think about self driving cars? Gonna make Uber and Lyft super cheap. Do they come as wagons? Sign me up!
When did you realize that Santa Claus wasn’t real? Tim Allen is Santa and there is nothing you can do or say that will make me think otherwise.
Do you collect anything? Calories.
If you could choose any super power what would it be? Teleportation. Easy.
Where did you grow up? Good ol' Arroyo Grande!
Craziest thing that has ever happened to you. That's a close call between being sprayed by a skunk or having a tree fall on my car, which has actually happened twice.
If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be? Jeff Goldblum.
Do you still play any instruments? Hardly. Every now and then I'll play acoustic guitar, but it's been a while since I've really played music. Kind of a bummer to be honest.
Being able to fly or breath underwater? Why? Used to always want to breath underwater, but I've watched too much Shark Week, so I'll take flying please.
What 3 apps do you check every morning? In this order: Mail, Stocks, Instagram.
If you still haven't had enough, you can check out more Robbie English here:
all photographs and interview questions by joshua caine