Bossing It in association withLBB Pro

Bossing It: Marcus Nelson on His 'Ted Lasso' Moment

Music & Sound
Los Angeles, USA
SoStereo’s west coast EP on empowering the team, constantly working to do more and why culture is everything

Marcus Nelson wears many hats. Today, it’s likely a Stetson.

Marcus grew up in Berlin Germany, Colorado, Texas, and Los Angeles, all of which feel like home. Home is where you hang your homemade cashmere beanie. Yes, there will be many a hat reference, cause duh. After years as a busy successful working actor, shooting campaigns for W+K, DDB, BBDO, CPB, Goodby, TBWA / Chiat, MAL, 72 and Sunny, RPA, to name a few, Marcus became infamous for being the only person Leatherface let’s live in the film ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’. Quality cinema.

Having found his way into advertising wearing a mic, Marcus began to focus his energy on his passion for others using the mic. Growing up singing with his daddy, Marcus met new family members on the dusty record shelves of second hand shops. He met Willie, Sonny Rollins, Miles, Zappa, Buck Owens, Mingus, Pavarotti, The Dead Kennedy’s, Porter Wagoner, Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash to name some favourites. Skateboarding his way through middle school one Butthole surfers record + Bones Brigade video at a time, Marcus soon began to realise that his path would be guided by art, tacos, the universe, + Serge Gainsbourg.  Collecting records, playing in bands and working at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas paved a solid way for ultimately getting a job in music that didn’t just pay you in beer. Not that there is ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

Many moons ago Marcus met the BUTTER music + sound boys + girls in Cannes, and went on nearly a decade of adventures spreading the love. Armed with apple products, Marcus went on to open the successful west coast office. He then, became partner, and went on to build BUTTER’s European outpost in Berlin. After three years waxing sonic sausage with some of the best creative and monster accounts in the European market, Marcus turned his focus back to the west coast and to new adventures. After having dipped his brand development / strategy feet into the waters of some of the leading music companies in the US, Marcus found his new home with the brilliant minds and huge hearts of SoStereo. Music = life.

Marcus is an avid outdoorsman who loves to ski, hang with his partner Brandi + two sons, two cats and Maurice the labracadabra doodle. He likes to cook, make art, drink beer, and drink lots of coffee. And wear the same outfit everyday.. he’d probably ski and drink beer for a living if he could.. and who knows what else is in the wardrobe. Probably more hats.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership? 

Marcus> In 2011 when I started working with my old partners at BUTTER music + sound, Marc Schwartz and Andrew Sherman. They hired me, someone who had never done the job before because they believed I could do it and make it great. A real Ted Lasso moment. They simply supported me, gave me the tools and got out of the way; my mind was blown. I am forever grateful. 

LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be? 

Marcus> I wanted to be like them. So, probably at that same moment or not soon after that, I realised what it meant to be a leader. I have worked with others that have differing views on what collaboration means. Removing your ego, trusting who you’ve hired and remembering why you’ve hired them is key. Obviously there are performance, numbers and productivity to factor - that said, it’s up to you to be a guide / Jedi to allow for the very best to come from your team. Get out of the way, but get in the way when you feel like they need you.

LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership? 

Marcus> I found myself producing a huge automotive job with tonnes of assets, five years global usage, etc.. It was a big one. It was crucial that the client could get to a point where they knew that fear wasn’t going to get them anywhere - that the reason they hired us was that we were professional sonic craftsmen and women, and that they actually needed us as much as we needed them. I felt like we didn’t need a massive team, endless demos with numerous composers / artists, or gratuitous meetings to achieve what myself, a producer and our creative director could achieve. We carefully guided the client into simplifying the creative process. We made it fun, gave the client parameters, empowered the team and nailed it. 

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you? 

Marcus> Not sure if it’s that simple to answer. I usually know what I want and hopefully know how to articulate it. I like when people make decisive decisions even if they might fail. I love building a team. But did I know this when I started? I didn’t even know this was a real job when I started ;) 

LBB> It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters? 

Marcus> I just assume it’s always a challenging year and that times are always difficult. The entire way in which we work is totally different, but what we do hasn’t changed. We are already ‘out of the way’ - so in an effort to be ‘in the way’ and on point, we just have to be hyper aware. It almost feels commonplace though… right now I’m sitting in my kitchen… working. 

LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this? 

Marcus> We are at a breaking (and most importantly) a mending point as a human collective. We give artists from around the globe and from every walk of life a platform to be heard, and we strive to amplify these voices on a regular basis. We’re constantly working to learn and do more in support of diversity and inclusion - but ultimately, there is so much more to be done across the industry. 

LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020? 

Marcus> That’s a better question for Beto and Salo, the owners of this ship. What I know is that we believe culture is everything. We have weekly meetings, and despite being spread across the globe, lots of folks actually see each other in human form. We are a music company, so we celebrate life through music (and beer).

LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey? 

Marcus> Other humans. People that listen and take risks. And beer again