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Sandy Roberton, Trailblazing Manager for Producers and Engineers, Dies at 80

A former musician and producer himself, Roberton helped pioneer points on records for his clients — a common practice for top studio talent now.  

Alexander “Sandy” William Roberton, who helped pioneer the management business around producers and engineers, died Monday from cancer, his family confirms. He was 80.

Born in Scotland and raised in Kenya, Roberton moved to London in his late teens. His long career in music (he worked up until his death) covered a wide swath of the industry, from musician to publishing executive to producer to label chief to manager.

Early on, as a member of the duo Rick and Sandy, he recorded several singles for Mercury and Decca Records, including “Lost My Girl,” written by Roberton and produced by Les Reed. He also released a solo single for Columbia under the name Sandy, covering Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man,” and then for Polydor as Lucien Alexander covering Bob Dylan’s “Baby You’ve Been on My Mind.”


From there, he entered publishing at the time of the late‑’60s British blues boom. He ran the London office of Chess Records’ publishing companies and Bill Lowery‘s company Lowery Music, before partnering in the publishing companies of Mike & Richard Vernon’s Blue Horizon Records.

Through the ’70s, Roberton moved to production and management. He produced the first three albums by U.K. folk rock band Steeleye Span and launched his own company September Productions, where he worked with such acts as The Liverpool Scene, Robin Scott, Shelagh McDonald, Andy Roberts, Decameron, Keith Christmas and Harold McNair, among many others. He also formed his own record company, Rockburgh Records, releasing works by Gay and Terry Woods, Ian Matthews, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons and The Woods Band, to name a few.

By 1980, Roberton formed Worlds End Producer Management with his partner Paul Brown — named after the World’s End a district of Chelsea in London where it was based; and in 1985 moved the company to Los Angeles, becoming its sole owner. Over the following decades, Worlds End prevailed as one of music’s leading producer and engineer management firms with over 75 clients during the ’90s and early 2000s, according to the company’s website, including The Matrix — the producer collective of Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock that broke out producing Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” “Sk8er Boi” and other hits off the singer’s 2002 Let Go album.

In a 2004 interview with Richard James Burgess for his The Art of Music Production blog, Roberton said he turned to management because he found it “pretty depressing” working as a producer with the artists he didn’t “really want to work with.” The last album he produced was John Martyn‘s 1982’s Well Kept Secret, and was working with engineer Phil Thornalley. “I asked him what he was doing next and he said he didn’t know,” Roberton said. “This is a guy who worked with the Thompson Twins and Duran Duran, and so I said, ‘Let me find you a project,’ and I got him a job and I thought, there’s a business here. This was at the tail end of the ’70s and I kind of created this business. Very few people were doing it at that time, representing producers.”

Sandy Roberton, Tim Palmer
Sandy Roberton (left) and Tim Palmer Courtesy Photo

Producer and mixing engineer Tim Palmer — who was Roberton’s client for nearly 40 years, working with artists including Robert Plant, David Bowie and Tears For Fears, among many more — recalled in a Facebook post provided to Billboard how Roberton “changed the landscape for producers and especially mixers.” Roberton, he said, pioneered better deals and royalties for producers and engineers by pushing for  – and getting them.

“He basically created the genre of producer management,” wrote Palmer. “I always remember him calling me at Ridge Farm Studios and telling me he had secured a royalty for me on the Pearl Jam Ten album, he said ‘One day, one of these albums will blow up and you will thank me’… he was right… I still thank him to this day.”

Palmer recalled, “Even at the very end of his battle against cancer, he made me laugh out loud with one of his texts. I asked him how he was doing and told him that I was thinking about him and he replied, ‘Would you be interested in mixing the new Andrea Bocelli album?’ From his hospital bed, instead of trying to get well, he was still calling labels and looking for projects for his clients!”

Producer, audio engineer, guitarist and songwriter Stephen Lipson — who’se work ranges from Grace Jones to Annie Lennox to Top Gun: Maverick — described Roberton as “the best sounding board, the voice of reason, and above all the most honourable and loyal man I’ve ever had the honour of working with, never greedy, always fair.”

Lipson notes that over his career, he’s worked with four managers — the last of which was Roberton, who’d become “a best friend and confidante, a would-be surrogate father.” He tells Billboard, “Sandy was the only manager who ticked every box. He always wanted everything done correctly and in a timely manner and was constantly frustrated with other people’s inefficiencies.”

Roberton’s was a name that commanded respect, Lipson says. “Whenever I was asked who my manager was and I replied that it was Sandy, it always elicited the same response, one of total respect in the knowledge that he was going to make life easier for everyone. He was the best manager imaginable. Losing him will leave a hole for many people, never to be filled.”

“He called regularly to see how I was and to keep me updated with any pertinent news. I miss talking to him – we’d talk endlessly about anything and everything, always holding the same views, constantly laughing and moaning together. Never one to waste time, our phone calls always ended the same way. He’d just hang up. No ‘goodbyes,’ ‘speak soon,’ no fuss, just gone.

“His funeral should be at the Royal Albert Hall – it would be standing room only. He seems to have ended his life much like his phone calls. No fuss. Just gone.”

Roberton is survived by his wife, Dinah, and his two children, Christian and Niki.