Troy Marshall is President & CEO of Fire Marshall Entertainment (founded in 2012), and a longtime music executive. He has worked with a variety of major and independent labels and distributors over his 30+ year career: from MCA, and Universal-Motown, to Warner Bros., Global Music Group, Interscope, Empire, Hitco, 1501 Certified Entertainment, and more. Marshall has become one of the go-to guys when labels or indie clients want to break an artist and a record. He has a vast knowledge along with a tireless hustle when it comes to navigating today’s music industry. Reinvention and maintaining relevance have been keys to his success.
So many of your contemporaries longed for another major label gig or left the business altogether. What keeps you continuing in this space?
Independent artists need someone to help them navigate and guide them through the steps to releasing a song, or on how to release a project, especially in the digital space now where there are so many different platforms where you can expose your music.
Think back 15 to 20 years ago, it was primarily about getting your music on radio, and on BET and MTV. Currently, there are so many platforms like Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, Apple Music; so many more powerful ways to expose your music. There is Amazon Prime, which now owns Twitch, meaning there are lots of opportunities in the gaming space, now. There are so many avenues that you need a person like me that can help you navigate these waters and understand how things really work so you can avoid throwing good money after bad.
Can you list a handful of your recent success stories?
I could go all day, but I helped bring rapper MadeinTYO to prominence. I worked with Erica Banks (1501 Certified Entertainment) on the world famous “Buss It” record. I helped take Muni Long’s record, “Hrs & Hrs” to No. 1. There’s the artist BLXST, who is one of the biggest accomplishments over the last few years for me. We are sitting with a Platinum record with his song, Chosen, featuring Tyga and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s even gotten crossover success because the Pop Team at Red Bull has worked so hard to get the record going. I’m currently working with both Taylor Bennett and his brother Chance the Rapper. Taylor is out doing his own thing with a fully sponsored college tour, by Champion athletic gear. To be a part of those success stories is very big for me, and it allows independent artists to realize that if they’ve got financial resources, their music is good and they hire the right people on their team, they have a shot.
How many projects do you normally take on at any given time, and how are you able to service so many clients?
I average between 8 and 10 projects depending on who it is, the quality of their project, and how far along they are. I’m able to handle that volume because projects typically are in various stages. For instance, a newly independent artist that comes to me, may be in the initial stage where we are setting up their digital streaming and social media platforms. I might have five records where we are doing promotions on the Urban Mainstream format. There could be another set of acts where we are at the lifestyle marketing stage; hooking them up with the right DJs; or having the artist at lunches and dinners with various gatekeepers and tastemakers. Fire Marshall Entertainment has a team of people. It’s not just me. I’m a one-stop shop situation, though. I know the right vendors, or I can recommend the proper vendors to hire for your particular project.
When an artist/label approaches you, besides music and a budget, what advice or direction do you give them upfront?
When you hire a professional like me, you are looking for our guidance. Pay attention to what we are talking about and do what we are asking you to do. Artists want to know how to get to that next level. What are those essential steps? I work with artists all day and every day, whether that’s via marketing, setting up their digital streaming platforms and social media, working their songs at radio, handling their lifestyle marketing campaigns, taking them on promo tours, or introducing them to the various podcasts and blogs. There are a lot of different components. You have to listen to the experts that you hire in order to successfully navigate the waters, so you don’t get burned. That would be my advice to all artists. Take in the information, of course give us your ideas, and let’s come to common ground on how to best get your artistry to the masses.
With so many artists and labels out there, how do you and your clients measure success? Is there a time frame?
When I worked for the major labels, I would tell artists that it’s going to take 24-36 months to break you as an artist and as a brand. Clients are surprised that it can take that long. But it takes that amount of time to saturate you inside the marketplace. You have to be patient. You have to work hard. You have to be consistent and persistent. If you do that, you have a shot at being successful.
There are so many platforms out there to break music, radio notwithstanding, which one is most important to you?
The one that sticks out to me most is YouTube and YouTube Music with its various spin-offs, such as their new initiative YouTube shorts, YouTube Rodeo, and YouTube Premium Afterparties. They are really expanding their brand and giving ALL artists, influencers, independents and majors, an opportunity to reach their subscribers at a moment’s notice.
How connected are you still with the major labels? Do you still take on their projects?
I still work with Warner Music, Alamo, Hitco, and Red Bull, which is independent but is really growing. There are also a number of distributors funding label situations like AWAL, United Masters, EMPIRE, and Sound Cloud. There are more and more distributors wishing to grow their brands as well.
For more information, contact Troy Marshall