Mary Datcher, founder of the annual Global Mixx Music & Film Forum, joins the 2020 edition of Reel Chicago Black List, an annual celebration of African-American creativity published during Black History Month.
The Reel Chicago Black List includes ‘The Chi’ cast member LaDonna Tittle, house music pioneer Vince Lawrence, and filmmaker Rhyan LaMarr. To view the archives, click here.
Mary Datcher is widely recognized for founding the annual Global Mixx Music & Film Forum, a two-day event that brings music business education and seminars to aspiring professionals and students seeking a career in the entertainment, arts, and film businesses.
It’s a crowning singular achievement for any professional; but there’s a lot more to Mary Datcher than that.
When she launched Global Mixx in 2005, she had already established herself as a prominent figure in the music and entertainment industries. The native Chicagoan is a journalist, marketing professional, and entertainment innovator boasting a career that spans three decades.
In 1992, she formed the On The Street Promotions and Marketing, a firm that specializes in executive field and event marketing programs and has developed marketing campaigns, produced national events, and built branding lifestyle concepts for more than 300 companies.
She also served as managing editor for the Chicago Defender, publishing stories about the 2016 Presidential races, statewide and local politics, hard-hitting investigative features, and community and entertainment profiles that have engaged interest and feedback from readers across the country.
During her tenure, Mary Datcher has held positions at WGCI, BMG Distribution, Universal music, DEF JAM Music Group, and George’s Music Room. She also recently launched thechicagomixx.com, a cultural blog dedicated to covering breaking news stories, political features, the arts, and cultural profiles around Chicagoland.
GLOBAL MIXX MUSIC & FILM FORUM REEL
Meet Mary Datcher
What are you working on now? Currently, I’m wearing my political consultant hat as Campaign Manager Congressman Bobby L. Rush for the 1st Congressional District. It’s a new role to move from working field operations to overseeing an entire campaign staff. Also, I’m a part of the working committee for the Year of Chicago Music, a celebratory tribute recognizing talent from the city led by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). No matter, the various projects I take on — music is my first love and being in the business for 30 years, the Chicago scene is very important to cultivate.
What did you originally want to be when you grow up? At first, I thought I would make a great lawyer until I discovered the required reading was too intense and didn’t leave much creative room to breathe. I discovered I had an incredible appetite for good music and became an avid record collector at a young age. I grew up on the Westside in the Austin neighborhood, where Mac’s Records was up the street from our building and I would grab the leftover display posters from the windows and put them up on my bedroom walls. Later, did I realize someone was actually making a living doing displays for the record companies. A few years later, I would find myself in the role of servicing record stores and creating visual displays, working with commercial and college radio stations and DJs to break new music.
When I was in high school, I was very active in Junior Achievement and New Expression newspaper as a young journalist. WGCI at the time launched a JA radio program on their 1390 AM frequency every Saturday to give high school students a chance to learn about the broadcasting industry. For two years during my Junior and Senior years, I began to intern for the station’s main programming department and later interning for Sony/BMG Distribution, eventually dropping out of college and starting my own street marketing company the time, I was 19 years old.
Who were your mentors? My first mentors were Daryl Green, who at the time was the Comptroller at WGCI when I was in high school; and Barbara Prieto, the Asst. Program Director and Music Director at the same radio station. Barbara and I are still good friends today. She very influential in how to conduct myself professionally and as a woman in a male dominated business. On the record label side, I had some incredible men such as Brute Bailey (former VP of Rap at MCA Records), David Linton (former Sr. VP of Polygram), Johnnie Walker (former Sr. VP of Def Jam), Charm Warren-Celestine (former VP of Warner Bros.) and the list goes on. Now, my mentors have shifted to non-creative industries from the traditional business and public policy world. I never limit myself.
What is your greatest achievement? I have several wonderful milestones throughout my career. One of my greatest achievements was transitioning my abilities from the music industry to the marketing agency world at a time when it was still new. I worked on some amazing brands, helping to identify fresh talent–hiring people who are still thriving in the agency world today. This gave me the confidence develop my own brand, The Global Mixx DJ Retreat in 2005–later renamed Global Mixx Music and Film Forum. This conference has helped many creatives in various fields grow.
How did you get into the music / creative media industries? What is your greatest disappointment? A major disappointment is to see the record and radio industry take for granted good talent. Technology has played a major part of jobs lost at radio stations due to a cookie cutter format through syndicated programming. At record companies, watering down good music to fit all formats, therefore affecting needed departments such as Urban and A&R divisions. In the end, the talent loses out from the songwriters, musicians, producers and artists. It all plays out, but the ultimate loss are independent retail stores who were the heartbeat of our communities. The local record store did more than sell physical items, they connected the artists to people who aspired to be as successful as the people creating the music.
Name your biggest pet peeves?
Constant grammatical errors in press releases.
Being non-punctual for meetings and programs.
Inadequate research and non-factual comments.
What are your predictions for the marketing industry over the next decade? Virtual reality is will be at the forefront. People are getting more convenient with not traveling to day-to-day activities but prefer the experience to come to them. It’s happening now but 10 years from now, it will be a part of our daily lives. The new generation of creators is developing new ways of communication, accessibility and experimental marketing to their peers every day.
Name a job you had that would surprise people. I worked at The Gap and Carson Pirie Scott as a salesclerk in high school.
What do you wish you had more time to do? I wish had more time to mentor young people in my old neighborhood on the Westside. My schedule is intense between election season, being an editor and writer in addition to running my marketing company–it’s nonstop. I know if we had more people who looked like me to spend time with younger people from our communities, it will inspire many more to reach their goals and to dream bigger.
What motivates you to create? The fearlessness of failure. Failure can be a stimulating motivator, but it can also paralyze us from taking calculated risks. I’ve always been a risk taker–some failures along the way but it has always led me to opportunities. When you invest in yourself–at any costs–people will invest in you as well.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you share with your younger self?
Definitely finish your higher education because it adds another layer to your experience. It will get you in the room as a starter, but the rest is up to you. If I wasn’t so ‘in love’ with the business back then, I would’ve taken my parents advice and finished college, but God had other plans for me. I was very blessed to be part of amazing era in music, marketing and branding.