Today we’d like to introduce you to Claire McKinzie.
Claire, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
“A lawyer, painter, ballerina,” was my response when my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Even then, I knew that my interests varied; I’ve always been a crafter, a reader, a maker. I have always been a little obsessed with how things work. It wasn’t until college that working in music really became the goal. That’s now channeled into a desire to help artists make and release the art they love.
I started in music journalism, writing for the Berkeley High School paper, mostly covering the arts and culture of San Francisco and the East Bay. The first time I went to a music festival was for a story at 17: Treasure Island Music Festival in 2008. In college, a professor plucked me out of a class of 200 to write about music for a local publication. After that, I started writing band bios for bands/artists all over the world. I joined my college’s radio station, KCSC, and became a college radio DJ with a weekly two-hour show called Fresh Bread. After that, I did college radio in the UK (Bristol’s BURST Radio) when I went abroad. For the rest of my writing days, I wrote for blogs like Kick Kick Snare, All Things Go, Ja Ja Ja, Line of Best Fit, Gorilla vs. Bear, DUMMY and in print for BUST Magazine. My favorite interviews were with Sylvan Esso, Tobias Jesso Jr., and Braids. My favorite moment has to be getting my first troll comment for a piece I wrote online for BUST.
At 23, I moved to LA to intern in PR, management, editorial, and digital marketing while working jobs to make ends meet. There is an unspoken bond between people in LA who have worked with heavy feet to try to get their foot in the door. I worked day shifts so I could see shows, go to festivals, and watch my friends play bigger and bigger venues at night. I worked with the Ace Hotel to book a show that paired bands with contemporary visual artists I loved in LA – many who were from those day jobs who inspired me. Eventually, I got a job in digital marketing. For two years, I managed the accounts of and created content for Janis Joplin, The Doors, Johnny Ramone and Jefferson Airplane to name a few. After that, I partnered with a dear friend and mentor, Ian Quay, to manage an artist for a couple of years under the umbrella of Too Nice. While managing and working in retail, I was tapped for a job at Bad Robot’s new record label Loud Robot.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’ve absolutely had hard moments. I lived through the early 20s struggle of being able to pay rent, staying up late; all in the name of making deadlines and keeping up with the general “grind” that sometimes feels like the true currency of LA. I came out to LA without family and very few connections in the industry. There were times when I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going. When I was working two or three jobs at once, I struggled with feeling generally lost and left out of music. Finding a foot in the door is not an easy thing to do. And while I have managed to overcome those obstacles, I also try to always bear my privilege in mind (as a white woman getting to work in a creative industry) and acknowledge its role in my successes. Music is an industry which has thrived by taking and appropriating BIPOC culture, especially Black culture; and as a member of this industry, I want to do whatever I can to call out and change all that continues to make the music industry problematic. I know that some of the music I love comes from a place of theft—and my struggle now comes in striving to make others aware of this. I want to use the connections I now have to make a change for good.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I work at a pretty magical place. Bad Robot is a production company that is a home for creatives, storytellers, and idea generators to the utmost degree. From the moment I walked through the doors for my first interview, I knew that I had stepped into something special. There is kindness, there is warmth, and there is a “let’s try it!” attitude that breeds inspiration. As a creative person myself, I savor the environment like candy and miss being in our exceptional office with all of my coworkers! I’m proud to work at a place that takes the platform we have as a company to elevate underrepresented voices and to actively change what has been the status quo in the entertainment industry for far too long.
My role at the company is Executive Assistant to Loud Robot’s Co-GM’s, McKee Floyd and Nicky Berger, as well as our Head of Music, Charles Scott. I’ve been a part of the team since the label’s start and it’s been a true honor. My day-to-day varies…one moment I’m scheduling, the next I’m organizing our A&R and keeping track of music that’s sent our way. When we were in the office, it could be organizing events and making sure our artists have everything they need. Music is all hands on deck and it’s been such a wonderful learning experience thus far. I work for and with incredible leaders who believe in everyone at the company. That is a wonderful gift.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
It truly takes a village – firstly, I wouldn’t be where I am without the unwavering support of my family. Pushing a child to work in a creative industry can be somewhat scary, but they never looked back.
I also wouldn’t be where I am in my career if it wasn’t for the guidance and ear of Ian Quay (Because Music/ Too Nice) and Dani Russin (Full Stop Management and committee member of She Is The Music). Both are dear friends and mentors who have always shepherded me in the right direction. I also feel grateful to work for and have the support of Loud Robot’s Co-GM’s McKee Floyd and Nicky Berger.
I have built a family in LA these past six years and I feel eternally grateful to have countless women in my life to look up to. I am surrounded by strength, drive, determination, humor, dignity and grace.
- Instagram: @kinzie0, @loud_robot