Rob Markman looks like he lives the life of a celebrity, but it’s only part of it.
“People sometimes don’t get the importance of the job,” he told Digiday, describing his artist relations manager role at annotation website Genius. “They think I hang out with rappers all day, but the actuality is that I’m speaking with a lot of labels, coming up with strategies and connecting with artists and their teams.”
Basically, he said, his job is thinking of “cool ways to do something different.”
Genius (formerly, Rap Genius) installed Markman as its artist relations manager last August joining the pop culture explainer website from MTV News, where he was a senior hip-hop editor. Harnessing his industry connections, Markman is tasked with growing and annotating Genius’ database of music.
While Markman is recognizable to music fans (his personal Twitter and Instagram accounts amass 70,000 followers combined), he said that perhaps even Genius’ purpose needs annotation itself. “The biggest challenge is that we’re still new, so a lot of reaching out to artists is education,” he admitted. “People might think we’re just a lyric website, and might not know about our YouTube series or Spotify projects.”
Rap Genius launched in 2009 and faced a turbulent period under some of its founders. The site relaunched in 2014, shedding the Rap portion of the name and positioning itself as a knowledge platform to “annotate the world,” expanding its focus to news, literature and sports. The site raked in 11.6 million unique visitors in the U.S. in January, according to ComScore data.
Markman’s day involves a lot of meetings and calls, and even a daily commute to Gowanus, Brooklyn from Staten Island, but he said the payoff makes it all worth it. “We don’t create the music, but we certainly enhance it.”
Digiday asked Markman to share a journal of what he does on a typical day. Here’s what he does, slightly edited for clarity:
6:15 a.m.: The alarm went off at 6:15 a.m., though I got out of bed closer to 6:30 a.m. I brush my teeth, head to the kitchen to make lunch for my two sons to take to school.
7:45 a.m.: The whole family gets in the car, and my wife and I drop the kids off at school. From there, she drives me to the bus stop so I can begin my commute. This is the routine everyday.
Today, during the short car ride we flip between Hot 97 and Power 105; both morning shows were running through the news of the day, which led my wife and I to discuss Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance. We’re baffled over how anyone can view “Formation” as anti-white. Bey’s performance was pretty dope, and while “Formation” is a celebration of blackness and the video speaks out against police brutality, there’s nothing offensive in it. This is a conversation America needs to have. After she drops me off, she heads to work, and I wait for the bus into Brooklyn.
8:00 a.m.: While aboard the S93, which transits from Staten Island to Brooklyn, I log onto Twitter. Everyone is speculating about Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo LP,” which is scheduled to drop today during Yeezy’s fashion show at Madison Square Garden. No one knows what to expect, including me. During the bus ride, I also check my email while listening to a ’90s R&B playlist— there’s some Jodeci, some Tevin Campbell and Jesse Powell’s “Baby It’s You.” I have an R&B podcast I do called Red Light Special; it’s a real passion of mine.
9:20 a.m.: I walk into the Genius’ office, which is located right in Gowanus and get settled in. I pour a bowl of Raisin Bran (my favorite), open my calendar and plan out the day. I have a few meetings today, plus tickets to Kanye’s MSG event, so I have to find pockets of time to get work done (like going through recent Genius interviews and figuring out what content will work on the site).
All of this is happening while I’m playing “Graduation,” my favorite Kanye album. To me, “Graduation” featured everything I love about Kanye, the soul beats, with the pop progression, dark synths and the smart-aleck lyrics. I find a few seconds to write down our “Genius Lyric of the Day” on a white board in our office.
I’ll give you one guess as to whose it is. Looks like I’ll have to reschedule some of my meetings today, which I really hate doing. I never want to be THAT GUY. Arrrrgh.
Just out up the @geniu.s office lyric of the day IRL #TheLifeOfPablo A photo posted by Rob Markman (@robmarkman) on
10:45 a.m.: I’m sitting with a raw cut of a Wiz Khalifa interview we did a week ago. We already released the bulk of the interview on our YouTube channel, but had a second idea we wanted to try. We asked Wiz to annotate one of his favorite Max B songs. Wiz often credits Max B as a major influence. I make some notes with our video editor so we can get this clip tight and ready to publish.
Noon: I go into Manhattan to meet with my homie Mike Heron from Shady Records. On the train ride over, I was reading L.A. Reid’s new autobiography “Sing To Me.” He has a crazy story about Michael Jackson and Prince, my mind is BLOWN! Once I reach Shady, Mike and I sit, listen to some records and just talk about music: what we love and where it’s going. There’s no pitch, no real agenda. The majority of my relationships center around the love of music, just being fans. That’s when you get the good collaborative ideas. They just come naturally.
2:00 p.m.: Guess who hasn’t eaten lunch yet? Well, I’ll figure that part out later. It’s time for our weekly artist relations meeting back at Genius HQ. The Genius artist relations team consists of three members, including myself, and this is when we talk out ideas and plan for the coming week. We’re currently identifying the artists we want to work with in the second quarter of 2016. Some folks think we just do hip-hop, but we work with artists in all genres. Over the past month, we’ve gotten verified content from Wiz Khalifa, Selena Gomez, Tinashe, Pusha T and Chairlift— the team is pretty diverse.
4:00 p.m.: A few members of the Genius squad — including Tom and Ilan, the site’s founders — hop on the train to Manhattan to attend the Yeezy Season 3 premiere at MSG. First stop: the concession stand. This giant pretzel isn’t exactly lunch, but it’ll do.
4:35 p.m.: After Kim and the Kardashian crew take their seats, Kanye walks out, welcomes everyone to the show, and begins to play his new album “The Life of Pablo.” At the same time, he’s showing off his new clothing line. It’s kind of amazing that he packed out an entire arena for an album listening. I’ve been to hundreds of these throughout my career, and most artists just book a studio.
This is also my first fashion show ever. The whole look reminds me of “The Matrix,” when they were partying in that underground rave. Kanye’s new line looks post-apocalyptic. I’m really digging Young Thug’s yellow Shearling coat. I’m no fashion expert, but I don’t think anyone has thrown a fashion show inside the Garden either.
Say what you want about Kanye, but he knows how to create moments. Being able to attend events like these make the job fun, but more than fun, it’s important to be out at these functions sharing on social media and documenting in real time. I had some fun on my Instagram, and my Snapchat was kinda lit.
Oh yeah, and the album sounds dooooooooope!
A video posted by Rob Markman (@robmarkman) on
7:00 p.m.: After Kanye’s MSG extravaganza, I head over to the IFC Center in the Village for a screening of the first two episodes of Action Bronson’s new food show on Viceland, “Fuck, That’s Delicious.”
This wasn’t in the cards originally — I didn’t even know about the event — but during my visit to Shady earlier today, the guys over there invited me. For me, it’s really important to show up and support the artists that you’re a fan of. I met Action years ago in Statik Selektah’s home studio. He wasn’t even ACTION BRONSON yet. I’ve just always been into his style. Funny thing is, I’ve never interviewed him — not once. So me going tonight isn’t because I want or need anything from him; I don’t really operate like that. You just genuinely support people you believe in, and the business works itself out.
Action’s show is funny; Big Body Bes and Meyhem Lauren are hilarious.
I also gotta shout out the chicken sandwiches that Action served up to the crowd. That was clutch seeing as how I didn’t have time to eat today.
9:30 p.m.: I catch the express bus back home to Staten Island. During the ride, I check and answer my email. Then I get a call from Nate, who manages veteran rapper Beanie Sigel. He’s looking for ways to partner up with Genius for a song premiere in the next 24 hours.
I am a huge Sigel fan, from back in his Roc-A-Fella days. He’s been out of the light for the past few years after a stint in jail and being shot. It’s good to have him back in the game, and I really want Genius to be a part of his comeback.
Nate and I hash out a plan during my bus ride home, and now he just needs to go back to Beans for final approval. I hope it works out.
11:00 p.m.: I get home and pull the garbage to the curb. I head inside. The whole fam is asleep. I’m going to go through a few more emails and plan out some things for tomorrow. I shower and lie in bed watching “King Of Queens” re-runs on TV Land (guilty pleasure) until I fall asleep at about 1 a.m..
Photos provided by Genius.