By C. Patterson
My encounter with a man viewed by many as a legend in the music industry showed me someone who was candid, talkative, intelligent, and driven. Troy Marshall’s purpose in life is you – well not ‘you’ per say, but the music ‘you’ hear. He has built a career that has seen stars like Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga, Common, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne and many others counted among those who respect him. In speaking with him I found a man who is a loving father and dedicated fiancée, who reflects as much on his life at home as he does on his life in the industry. His efforts become your iTunes playlist and he never asks you to thank him. In the ever-changing world of music one thing you can be sure will remain the same, Mr. Marshall. His experience is his constant system of checks and balances of the hypocrisy of the industry as he steps out of the realm of the major labels into the uncharted waters of the indie scene. Farewell to the ancien régime of music executives, Troy Marshall is the future.
Did you always have great ambitions?
Actually I have always loved music since I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles. There was this radio station called 1580 KDAY and it use to have [Bobby] Jimmy and the Critters, Greg Mack and a lot of hip-hop and west coast music got exposed through that particular radio station. So I became so entrenched with listening to that radio station and loving music that it always stayed with me. From there I went to UCLA and pledged Alpha and I became in charge of our school dances for our fraternity. Those turned out to be very successful and through that I was able to get different artists to come to the campus. I then went on to teach high school. I wound up taking an internship at a record label because I knew that’s what I wanted to do as far as my career.
What’s been your favorite part about the job?
You know the thing that I like the most about the job and the thing that gives me the ultimate high is to take an artist that no one knew two years ago, three years ago, service their record, service their imaging and their brand to the tastemakers like the DJs and the radio stations and the bloggers and the street team guys to get them to buy into that artist.
What artist surprised you the most by their success?
Common is one because at the time Common, The Roots, and Jill Scott were considered backpack rappers and we were able to get them to structure some records that we were able to take to radio. The Roots had “You Got Me”, which was actually written by Jill Scott, but they had Erykah Badu [sing] the hook because Eryhah was very popular at that time. And if you really listen to that record you’ll hear the female rapper is Eve before she was Eve of Ruff Ryders. Also you have Common and we did the record called “The Light” and Erykah played the leading love interest in the video and it wound up being Common’s biggest record helping Like Water for Chocolate become a platinum album. From that stand point of knowing where they had come from and what they have grown to – look at Common in addition to music he’s now a successful actor and his career has grown so much and I knew I was a part of that of that whole thing and that really makes me proud.
Where is the craziest place music has taken you?
An MTV performance with Mary J. Blige and we were in Rockefeller Center and she was rehearsing and I was way in the back and she was up on stage and said “hey Troy I see you up there”! She and I have very special relationship. She’s a Capricorn, I’m a Capricorn and I have been involved with her projects for a long, long, long time.
Since you have been in the industry for over two decades, you’ve have been on the frontlines to see the changing landscape of the business. How has social media affected everything?
The whole social media and online aspect is such a blessing and is such a curse it’s not even funny. The downside of it is that people are downloading music and we are trying to get them to go buy singles and albums. The benefit of it on the flip side is if you have the right imaging, the right marketing, and you’re out there blasting it out to the world then you can reach hundreds of thousands even millions of people with your artistry. It’s a double-edged sword and you have to take the good with the bad.
Besides promoting what else do you do to stay busy?
I enjoy my kids. I have a fiancée, who has two little boys that I adore and I have a 13-year-old daughter that I’m raising and I have two older boys. My oldest has been the road manager for Cali Swag District for the past three years. This past week he has gone to Europe, Amsterdam, Dubai, and Germany so just to see the second generation being in the music business and travel the world like that because of music makes me very, very proud. I love my kids to death. My middle boy is over at Howard University in his second year and he’s a business finance major there. My daughter wants to be a singer, so I have to get her in the studio. That’s what I enjoy.
The keys to success for the music industry
Hire the right people. I have been working at record labels for 22 years and now that I’m totally independent and sitting down meeting with different clients and perspective people to work with the one thing that they always say is they have been burnt by spending $20K here, $30K or $40K there and have nothing to show for it. So the first thing you want to do is hire someone who has the expertise and the knowledge, but more importantly the relationships that can help you build your artistry.
The second thing is you have to have good music. At the end of the day it’s about the music. That is what people are going to gravitate to – they will gravitate to the beat, to the hook, and they are going to gravitate to what that artist is saying.