Mixxing it Up with Global Mixx Founder Mary Datcher

Tuesday, 03 November 2009 18:37 Written by  Tiffani Alexander

“Anyone who came from that Def Jam era, from 98-99, they are probably the top music executives in the world.”

md You may not throw her name around like Russell Simmons or Jay-Z, but Mary Datcher, founder of On the Street Promotions & Marketing and the Global Mixx Music Conference, is arguably one of the most recognized names in hip hop promotions in Chicago. Having worked for Def Jam during this golden era she refers to, it is safe to say she’s a top executive in her own right.

With more than 22 years of experience in the music and marketing industry, Datcher began her journey while still in high school. As an intern for radio station WGCI, she learned about everything from running the station to editing, promotions and programming. “I became amazed and infatuated with the whole process,” said Datcher. “From that point I knew this was the industry I wanted to be in.”

Although she got to interview many artists like Jada Pinkett (before the Smith), El Debarge, Chuck D and KRS-One during her internship, and even wrote articles for a local paper targeted at high school students, Datcher figured out early on that she didn’t want to be in the “spotlight” as an on-air personality or journalist. “I admired the people behind the scenes – that’s where I wanted to be, where I got my motivation.”

The contacts that the Chicago native made during this time were essential for her future career. Surprisingly, Datcher’s mentor advised her not to go to college for communications, a logical next step for a high school student interested in radio, marketing and promotions. Emphasizing that she wouldn’t make the same contacts that she had made, and would continue to make working in the industry, Datcher decided to forgo college with her peers. The risk paid off as the young professional watched her newly degreed friends struggle to get the jobs she was currently working without a degree.

Thee enterprising young woman worked for record labels, including MCA and Def Jam, where she became the Southwest Promotions Manager. She did rap promotions for Def Jam covering the Dallas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana territory working with artists like Scarface and the Geto Boys.

During this time, Def Jam was really expanding as a company and as a brand. Russell Simmons was promoting his clothing line, comedy shows and more, causing the execs in place to be involved in many aspects of the budding hip hop empire.

“I was handling artists, comedians, working with Phat Farm and its branding, going on tour with Public Enemy…I learned a lot about cross marketing promotions and branding. We [Def Jam execs] really had to wear a lot of hats.”

Full of stories from her record label past, Datcher recalled a pool party thrown by LA Reid and Babyface where the music icons introduced a young group with baggy pants, wearing condoms as accessories that would become TLC. She also recalled when Diddy (then perhaps going by Puff Daddy or simply Sean Combs) was denied entry into a Mercury Records party following his release from Uptown Records and before he founded Bad Boy. Urging caution and constant professionalism no matter whom you are working with/meeting for the first time, Datcher stresses being nice and treating everyone with respect. “You don’t know whose going to be where, or become what––you just don’t know. So treat everyone as nicely as you can.”

While she learned a lot working for Def Jam, Datcher didn’t love Texas and returned to Chicago where she worked as manager at George’s Music Room and assisted in organizing the first National Urban Independent Retail Coalition.

In 1992, she went on to form On The Street Promotions & Marketing, a small boutique marketing agency “specializing in Urban culture and lifestyle marketing programs,” focused on the music and entertainment industry. Through this company, and drawing on her extensive background, Datcher decided to give back to Chicago––the city where she helped usher in the hip hop music and promotions scene––and produce a music conference like the ones she had attended coming up in the business.

“Urban networks, conferences … the national black programmers coalition… there used to be conferences that were forums for people of color to get together and work our projects, break our music, and still strengthen those relationships through these types of music conferences and social gatherings,” she said.



According to Datcher, many of these conferences no longer exist, or there are regional ones that are headed up by people who don’t make the big decisions at the record labels.

“Only a handful exists, and now the labels are into cross marketing promo, etc. Global Mixx tries to bring them all together,” she said.

She started the conference by focusing on bringing DJ s together with label representatives and then expanded. “I try not to make it exclusive to just labels, radio or DJs. I opened it up to emerging artists who need that creditable outlet now because this is the new hustle –– everybody is doing a new artist showcase or indie network.”

Datcher went on to describe how many of these “showcases” are headed up by party promoters who have little to no connections to record labels or experience in the business. “You look at the people putting them [showcases] on and they have no history in the biz. They are a party promoter trying to put on a show for their cousin and unknowing artists will pay to be spotlighted in front of these crowds of other artists –– not record label execs.”

This is why Datcher felt it was vital to create the Global Mixx Music Conference. She has the history, the connections and the passion to bring these artists, managers, DJs and other industries professionals together for a meaningful exchange of information, entertainment and networking.

“The conference makes no money, but we do it for them so that they can have that platform, and to be there for the artists that really do want that knowledge, that networking and those resources we can provide for them.” She continues, “Whether it’s 50, 100, 300––somebody walks away from that conference with a new connect, a new idea, with renewed energy. They leave like, Okay, this is why I should continue to do this and it will pay off.”

While she had no plans to expand the conference in its entirety to say New York, the conference will expand into other genres like gospel and alternative rock and will also include more focus on the radio aspect of things. In addition, there will be one-day, mini music conferences in other markets like St. Louis, Indianapolis and Detroit where Datcher will reach out to those connections she has made along the way to make the conferences a success. And she will do more than send them a message to do so.

“At the end of the day, the relationship building is the most important. Every once in a while, put down the text and pick up the phone. You have to build in person relations,” she advised.

Another nugget of advice from the industry veteran for young people interested in working in the music business: “Find a couple key people who are already established, who have been in the business at least 10 years and connect with those people and build a bond where you can talk to them, or have lunch with them once a month for an hour and share with them what you’re trying to do. Allow them to be in a position where they can mentor you. Build up a mentorship relationship and offer to do the things they don’t have time to do, to help in any way.”

Datcher also stressed the importance of working hard and not expecting those who have been there before you to hold the door wide open and let you walk right in. That sense of entitlement that many young professionals have, let it go and work on creating your own niche, carving out your own place––be it with the inspiration and guidance of a mentor––in the industry where you want to thrive.

She said, “No one gives out the blueprint, you have to design it a bit yourself.”

Tiffani Alexander

Tiffani Alexander

Publisher and Editor in Chief of GlossMagazineOnline.com (GMO), Tiffani Alexander came to Chicago in the fall of 2004 to pursue her Master's degree in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management at Columbia College Chicago. Tiffani earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of
 Maryland, College Park. She has worked for both Cygnus Business Media and Maher Publishing before embarking on her dream to start her own magazine. In addition to publishing GMO bi-monthly, Tiffani freelances and works as an editor on a legal journal in Washington, DC.


Tiffani can be contacted at TiffaniA@glossmagazineonline.com

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