how to become an award winning composer and run your own label
Robert Koch, best known as Robot Koch is a German, LA based artist, composer and record producer. He won the award for the ‘best composer electronic music’.
He’s played at Coachella festival, is signed to Sony as a composer, now runs his own label and has worked/produced with numerous artists including Tensnake, Christian Löffler, Norah Jones and Max Richter. We sat down with him to find out exactly where it all started…
So when did you discover that music was your talent and passion?
I had piano lessons when I was 7 years old, but I was a lazy student and was not so excited about playing Christmas songs. I remember my teacher telling my mom I was her worst student. It wasn’t until I was 12 that I knew I wanted to make music. I was sitting in front of the TV watching MTV (I grew up pre-internet so MTV was the window to the world in provincial West Germany), and this video came on by the band Faith No More.
The song "Epic" blew my mind, visually and sonically. By the time the piano exploded in the video I knew I wanted to make music. So I started to learn the drums. I started out as a drummer in a death metal band and went on to play more indie and jazz-infused stuff in bands. I only then discovered DJ-ing via Hip Hop. From there, it was a short way to making my own beats and producing tracks. I had a really eclectic musical socialization, with influences from John Coltrane, Slayer, Moondog and Radiohead. Years later, I came back to the piano and now it´s my favourite instrument to compose with.
At which point did you start to monetize your passion for producing music?
After I got accepted to the first Red Bull Music Academy in 1999 I decided to move to Berlin. I applied to a bunch of universities mainly for film, because I’ve always been a big film fan but I was turn down by all of them. Ironically, I’m doing a film music masterclass next month at one of the universities that actually turned me down 20 years ago.
I ended up studying Communications Science, whilst making music on the side. It was only until I was playing shows with my band Jahcoozi in 2003 was I able to earn money to pay rent.
Music was always my passion but I never imagined making a living from it until my dreams became reality. It was only when my band project got signed to Kitty-Yo records (peaches, gonzales etc.) and BBC started playing our music did I realize that this might just be a career I could pursue.
Shortly after, I was asked by Marteria (a then rather unknown rapper), to make beats for his album. Fast forward, the album sold platinum and I was signed to Sony as a writer/composer! To be honest, every time I got a golden record for my productions or won an award for my own music I would still think to myself, "how the hell did this happen?"
”It’s a crazy journey & I’m just winging it as I go along. But then again improvisation is also a skill itself”
What failures did you have to go through to get where you are?
I’m so grateful for all my failures and I think I am where I am because of them. There were many bands and projects I was involved in that all fell apart and each time it felt like it was the end of my career because I took things so seriously.
I eventually learnt that each chapter only closes so another even more exciting one can begin. I started trusting this pattern and didn’t see it as a threat when something came to an end or went full circle. But rather as an opportunity to let go and receive something new.
What was the big event which made you think this is my big break through?
I think my career has always been a steady slow burn on a low flame, rather than one overheated rocket launch moment. I’m in it for the long haul and I think this way is more sustainable. I sometimes think I took the long way subconsciously, it´s a lot more beautiful but I do take time to stop and smell the flowers.
There have been continuous important milestones in my career. Some of which include playing at Coachella for the first time, winning the best German composer in electronic music, getting singed to Sony, getting signed to WME as a film composer, having my music placed on a big Hollywood trailer, TV shows, worldwide ad campaigns and of course founding my own label and publishing.
All these things are great and important but all they really are are checkpoints along the way, it never felt like "this is the breakthrough". It was always another piece to the puzzle that created the bigger picture.
…”Of which is my career and my life as a creative person choosing to express himself through music”
What’s been your biggest mistake year to date and what have you learnt from this?
2013 was not a great year. I went through a relationship breakup, a project on a major label went sour and I had ended my relationship with my management at the time. It was the year where many things fell apart, but with hindsight it was a great year, because it kicked me out of my comfort zone and made me start over in many ways. It was the year I left Berlin and moved to LA, and this took my career and personal development to another level.
These moments where everything falls apart are the ones with the biggest potential. That is what I learnt. So now when things don’t go my way i don’t freak out because the experience has taught me to trust the process. To not resist, but to flow.
How did you get your name out there in the early stages?
This was back in the Myspace days around 2003. It was a fun time, you could chat to even bigger artists on there, it all felt pretty eye level and the first shows were booked just through people reaching out on Myspace. Also, the early days of Soundcloud felt like that. I could imagine it’s a little more difficult these days to start out as an artist as there are way more social media platforms and everything is so saturated. You’ve also got algorithms deciding who sees your content and it seems like everyone is making music these days, there is definitely more quantity than quality, so it’s a bit harder for the good stuff to find its audience.
However, I do believe that good content will always stick out and find its audience. So maybe it’s just a matter of staying at it longer and keeping on delivering great music over a long period of time, until people find it organically.
Algorithms like the Pandora or Spotify radio functions are actually great to discover new music, so there are just new opportunities now, also placing your music on TV shows or films can help to gain exposure...nowadays there’s more Netflix shows that need music, but overall the battle for attention seems to be more intense for someone starting out today.
22 OCTOBER, 2018