Inside The Industry – Hunter Marshal

By Edel
Inside The Industry – Hunter Marshal

Oakland, CAIn this week’s Inside The Industry, we meet Hunter Marshal, a very talented and hardworking individual in charge of Culture Marketing at Red Bull. He produces the Red Bull Music Presents shows and helps bring brand awareness to local artist communities. Hunter has been integral to the execution of numerous shows from artists like Kaytranada and Mr. Carmack to P-LO and ALLBLACK. Each of these shows has a story behind them — they celebrate the unique culture of different communities on the West Coast. In this interview, Hunter explains the ins and outs of his job, what it takes to throw a successful event, and gives out some free game to the youngsters.

EDEL: What is your job title and what are the main aspects of your job? Basically, what do you do?

HM: I work at Red Bull, the energy drink company, and my role is the Culture Marketing Manager for the Pacific Northwest. Basically, my job is kind of two parts — one, I produce all the Red Bull Music Presents shows for the Northwest. That would be Central California up to Seattle, Alaska, and Hawaii. Any of these shows that Red Bull does in terms of music or dance, I would be leading that with my team. We do a lot of emerging music shows, showcases, parties, concerts and work with local creatives in different markets to create these unique experiences. We did one in Oakland in July around the Oakland DJ community. [It focused around] the contribution of DJing [in] keeping Oakland's music culture alive with the absence of live venues. We brought like six of the most influential DJ crews of the last five years from Oakland and did this celebration/dance party with them. It was two floors at Jeffrey’s Inner Circle in Downtown Oakland. [All the events] have a story like that. I had another one in December in the Bay with P-LO, called “Generations” which looked at the lineage and contributions of the Filipino American community to Bay Area music culture, history and broader hip hop culture. I did one in Hawaii with Kaytranada and Mr. Carmack celebrating the underground nightlife culture of Hawaii. We took over a warehouse and converted it into a one-night-only club. We’re taking these local storylines and creating unique experiences that are supposed to inspire and engage local music audiences.

So, that's a big part of my job. The other part is bringing Red Bull into these different communities —- aligning our brand with the cool folks moving culture forward in their communities. At the end of the day, we're promoting a product, but you know it's really building brand awareness and credibility in these important communities for local scenes. So that's what I do — creating shows and relationships on behalf of the brand.

EDEL: You also played a pivotal role on the Oakland Music Festival?

HM: Yes. I was part of the team that launched OMF in 2013. We launched over by the New Parish in Downtown Oakland and it had a indoor/outdoor stage with headliners like the Coup and Dam-Funk. We started there with about 700 people and then we ended up moving over to Franklin and Broadway where Pride is normally held. The next year, 2014, we had Dom Kennedy, SZA, SoSuperSam and Esta all before they popped off. So that was super tight.

I first came on to do marketing. I did all the marketing and PR for the first year and then the second year I took on booking as well. In 2015 we had Anderson .Paak and Goldlink and the festival kept growing, like to about 3,500 people.

I was also doing club promotion stuff at that time. I actually got my start in San Francisco. There was a club in the Mission called Som. I used to hella like going there. It was my favorite spot to go to. They posted on Facebook one day that they were looking for a social media intern so I hit them up and sent them my resumé. I ended up meeting the owner and his wife (this guy Kobo) and he kind of became my mentor. Then about a month in he hired me part-time to do all the social media, the newsletter and the calendar. He took me under his wing and helped me do my first event. He’s been my mentor ever since. Then he brought me into the festival (Oakland Music Festival). He ended up bowing out of the festival because he had a kid and so I took his spot. I did that for like five years and that's where my story started and how I got to this point.

Photo from 2015 Oakland Music Fest

EDEL: Did you know that you were going to end up doing what you do now?

HM: I've always been a music head — in college I had a radio show and I was always the person that made CDs for people. So I knew music was something I was passionate about, but didn’t know where it would take me. I wasn't really a performer or nothing — that's not really my thing. I don't necessarily like being on stage, but I still wanted to be around music. I worked on some concerts in college. I had a part time job promoting shows on campus and then I got a job at a PR agency. But when I came back to Oakland I got that internship at Som and it just built from there.

I think after I started doing more clubs and promotions, it began to feel like, "Oh this is something I could do." I was doing a lot of social media for different spots like club 330 Ritch (which is no longer open). I was doing social media and digital marketing for them and finding gigs but it wasn't a full-time thing. It was always a side gig for me while I had a regular job, but I wanted to do more of it. Then once I started on the festival (OMF), people really started to hit me for bigger projects and I started to think to myself, "I do want to try to make this my thing," but it was a gradual process. It probably happened over about four or five years. I started to think, "Oh there is an opportunity to do music as a career even though I'm not necessarily a musician." I tried to do promotion and social media freelance and do the festival but that was hard. Honestly, it's a big gamble and there are a lot of expenses in doing music and event production, in particular festivals. I learned a lot from that — how to best throw an event, where I need to spend the money, what type of talent and audiences I need to be going after. I think I learned a lot from OMF but I honestly had to step away from it for awhile. I had been running it for a while and it hadn't taken off the way that I hoped. Then Red Bull came knocking. They hit me up and offered me this position. So it just paid off after putting in that work.

EDEL: I feel like what you said about wanting to work in music, but not be a musician on stage, probably speaks to a lot of other individuals. So in regards to that, what are some other avenues people should explore if they want to work in music?

HM: Yeah, I have a lot of friends that work in music now and a lot of them aren't on the stage. There is definitely a whole industry behind everything. It’s about really getting out there, finding out what you're good at, what you want to do, where you can contribute and going after it. There's a lot of opportunities, whether it's doing production, working directly with artists, being a stagehand or actually doing event production. Or you could do music production and be behind the scenes creating the songs with artists or songwriters. You could write about music, you could do marketing, you could do talent buying. There's a lot of different avenues to get involved in music without being a musician

The more you can do, the more valuable you’ll be to whoever you're going to be working with and the more opportunities will come your way. A lot of times when you get into the industry you have to be able to wear multiple hats and do a lot of different things. You have to be able to fill a lot of holes on your own and then as you get bigger and more specialized, you can build out a team and start to focus on certain things.

EDEL: What are the pros and cons of your job?

HM: The pros, I get to throw shows. I'm about to go to Hawaii for a week to throw a party and get paid for it, that's a pretty big pro. I get to travel a lot and work with a lot of different artists, especially up-and-coming artists and promoters that are really passionate about what they're doing and about the music and their communities. Red Bull has really empowered me to give back. I think doing the Oakland Music Festival was a project of love trying to give back to my city and community, but I could only do so much as an independent person/independent business. But now with the backing of a larger corporation, I can do some of that same stuff and have a lot more to offer. So that's a big pro for me.

The cons. I work all the time and travel too much sometimes. The stakes are very high and it can also be a high-stress job at times. I have to deal with a big corporate process for certain things. You have to stick to a process and get a lot of things approved — it's not always the most efficient or fun part of the job but it comes with the perks that I get. Another con is I can't work with everyone. Sometimes people think, "Oh you're at Red Bull and you should be able to do whatever — you've got unlimited funds and you should be back in on my projects." And in reality, I can’t always do that. Those are the things that are cons, but for the most part I love my job.

EDEL: What are the ingredients for a successful event?

HM: That's a good question.

A successful event can be defined differently, it's not necessarily always measured by having hella people show up. You can have a small event be the most impactful. Sometimes it's better to do a smaller thing and do it really well. Just get the right folks in there and make the event something that's either going to inspire them or connect them to each other. I always look at it like how are people going to remember this? How are they going to experience this? Is the goal to get people to just have fun? Or is it to get them to have a conversation about an important issue? Is it just for them to feel better and heal after something traumatic? Or is it to celebrate something beautiful? There are different objectives for every event. I think approaching an event with that in mind and being very deliberate makes it so that everything you do is focused on that intention. A lot of people are like, “Oh we're going to throw this event,” and then they don't necessarily plan or they don't put as much thought into the execution and how people are going to perceive it. That's where you can get into trouble. It's really understanding who’s coming to the event and how you can do those extra things that they're going to remember.

EDEL: If you can give one piece of advice to up-and-coming/young entrepreneurs in the same field, what would it be?

HM: I have a couple, actually. One, I would say just keep doing it. It's tough to be an entrepreneur and it's tough to be in the music industry but the people that make it are the people that keep going. Definitely keep pushing and learn from your mistakes. Get a mentor. It's opened a lot of doors for me to have a key mentor but I really had multiple mentors, big homies and homegirls. I think that's a key thing for a young entrepreneur or creative that want to really make it. It's about finding those people that are going to help you understand how to grow and what you need to do. Then I would say build a team, you can't really do a lot of this stuff on your own. Understand what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are and then find people that can help you fill the gaps. Even if you're good at a lot of stuff, someone is going to be better at certain things and as you get bigger projects, you're not gonna be able to do everything. That's something that I've been learning and practicing more. As my projects get bigger and more complex and I have more of them, I realized that I can't spend as much time on certain things. I need to see the bigger picture and make sure everything happens and coordinate the teams. I think if you spend time building a really solid team that you can you can grow with, you're just going to be that much stronger. We had a situation for the festival where we grew really fast and then we had to scale back and regroup and get the team up so that we could grow again. So I'd say, just being perseverant and really dedicating yourself to it. That’s what I would I would tell any entrepreneur or creator.

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