Austin Robey Is Working to Build a More Equitable World for Musicians

Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.

Austin Robey is a co-founder ofAmpled, a cooperatively owned web platform that allows musicians to be directly supported by their community. He is interested in the development of alternative economies and building a more democratic, equitable, and inclusive online economy.

Where are you currently sheltering in place, and who with?

I am currently sheltering in place in San Antonio, Texas, with my mom (and my dog, Gracie)! I left NYC after my lease ended in June. I am looking forward to going back to New York, but I am grateful to be spending time with my family. I don’t think Gracie wants to go back to New York.


My mom lives in a duplex in the Tobin Hill area, which I like a lot. San Antonio, and this area in particular, have an underdog charm that I appreciate. There are at least five great Mexican restaurants within a few hundred feet of the front door.

The Duplex

What does your face mask look like? 

I wear a very basic surgical mask. No fashion masks here.

Do you follow any kind of routine at this moment? 

I had a much stronger routine before sheltering in place. Wake up, walk the dog, get coffee, take the L train to 3rd avenue, walk to NEW INC on the Bowery, work, take the train back home.

Now, most of my routines revolve around either making coffee or feeding and walking my dog. It’s a simple life. Lot’s of staring at my laptop.

What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time?

I’ve read a bunch of books on post-capitalist economics, which is probably fitting for this dystopian situation we’re all in. My favorite and most accessible book I’ve read during this time is Democracy At Work: A Cure For Capitalism by Marxist economist, Richard Wolff. Oh, also I’ve watched the entire Breaking Bad series with my mom.

Are you working on anything during this time (whether professional or personal)? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it?

I’m using this time as an opportunity to focus on building Ampled. It’s pretty much what I work on all day. The other day I wrote this op-ed outlining how artists could own Spotify. So, basically I’m living with my mom and working to subvert giant publicly traded companies.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? 

Yes! I now thoroughly enjoy playing Gin Rummy.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar? What’s the worst?

I love breakfast at Con Huevos Tacos. It’s a taco stand in a neighborhood called Dignowity Hill with picnic tables outside. 

By the restaurant is this sign, which is very San Antonio. 

Since I am living with my mom, who loves to cook, I’ll be diplomatic and say that every meal has been my favorite.

What’s your current iPhone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it?

My phone background is just the color taupe. Phone alerts give me anxiety so this was the most calming and neutral background I could think of. I pretty much just googled the word “taupe” and found this image.

What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far?

There’s a convenience store nearby the house which reminds me of a New York bodega. I found this publication called SA Busted that publishes pictures of people’s mugshots. Inside, there are games where you match the mugshot to the alleged crime. It’s very low-brow entertainment, but I’ve been buying them every week. 

Who are the writers, storytellers, or makers who are bringing you great joy right now?

I enjoy the Team Human podcast by Douglas Rushkoff.

Any unexpectedly memorable moments so far?

The drive from Brooklyn to San Antonio was very memorable. I stayed in Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas along the way.

Do you have a favorite photo you’ve taken since lockdown?

I love this photo of the nearby fruteria, La Morenita. I love the hand-painted typography, colors, and signage.

And this photo of smiley face pentagram graffiti on the side of Little Taco Factory.

Find Austin on Twitter @austinrobey_.