An insight into the career of music industry icon Rob Dickins

From signing acts such as Madness to working on ‘Believe’ for Cher, alumnus Rob Dickins CBE has had an incredible music career. Starting out at Warner Music UK and spending 15 years as Chairman, the alumnus is an icon within the industry. Here we explore a few highlights of his career.

With a family background in music, Rob was drawn to the industry and has spent his career working with the likes of Enya, Madonna, and Rod Stewart.

With their father in the music industry, Rob and his brother – also a music agent, who managed bands such as The Who – always had a copy of the latest NME growing up, and the pair also had opportunities to meet bands including The Beatles, hanging out backstage at Wembley. It’s no surprise that this upbringing encouraged Rob to follow a similar path.

Before he spent decades in the world of pop music, Rob headed to Loughborough to study Politics, Sociology and Russian in 1968. He was instantly drawn to extracurricular activities on offer at the Students’ Union. Formerly based in the Edward Herbert Building (EHB) on campus, the space was home to a bar, live music and nights out. Many alumni will remember seeing bands at EHB, and if you were at Loughborough around the same time as Rob, it may have been him who made those bookings. He promoted Faces, Pink Floyd and Earth (who would become Black Sabbath), to name a few, whilst also throwing himself into roles as a social secretary of the students’ union, chairman of jazz, folk and film clubs, and chairman of entertainment.

A newspaper cutting showing upcoming gigs at Loughborough in 1969 including images of Bakerloo Blues Line and Pink Floyd. Source unknown.

A newspaper cutting of upcoming gigs at Loughborough in 1969, showing images of Bakerloo Blues Line and Pink Floyd

Following his degree, Rob began his career at Warner Music UK, starting out in publishing. Within three years he became Managing Director. Years later he held the role of Chairman of the organisation for around 15 years from 1983-1998, turning it into a hugely profitable company during his tenure.

He’s worked with huge names during his music career, seeing changes in the industry through the 70s and beyond. Working for Warner over his career, he brought acts including Seal, Simply Red, and Prince to the label.

He worked to find Rod Stewart his next great song, heading to his house to showcase ‘Downtown Train’, running into a few challenges with Rod’s management along the way. He talks candidly in a recent interview with Rocks Backpages, shared with us by Rob, where he discusses his childhood, career, decades in pop, and chats more about his work with some of the world’s biggest stars.

Rob also launched his own entertainment company, Instant Karma, with Sony Music. It later became an independent label. His independent music publishing company, Dharma Music, released hit singles by acts including Girls Aloud, Hear’Say, and Cher.

Not only has he worked with pop royalty, but he has also been appointed as trustee to a range of organisations. Rob was Trustee for the National Portrait Gallery from 2016 – 2020. He has also been a Trustee for the Victoria and Albert Museum, Chair of the Brit Awards Committee, and Trustee of the National Foundation for Youth Music. He was appointed CBE in the 2002 Queens Birthday Honours list and the University awarded Rob an honorary degree in 2002, honouring his exceptional career in the music industry.

There is so much more to discover about Rob’s impressive career. Check out the Rocks Backstages podcast to hear his recent interview to find out more.