In a series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.
This installment is with Troy Staton, who pioneered hip-hop touring sound with acts like Body Count, Ice Cube and Eminem before becoming Las Vegas senior operations manager for live-audio company LMG.
Troy Staton: Tame Impala did a 14-truck rehearsal in our studio for two weeks, then they did their load out and went on tour. We had other clients lined up, but then the pandemic hit. Everybody wound up postponing at first. When things got more serious, everything turned into a cancellation. Big names canceled. It doesn’t seem like anything’s coming back.
It took us a year to build [LMG’s Las Vegas tour rehearsal space] up and running, and we were in for a great year. Next thing you know, it just dissolves right in front of you.
Here in Vegas, I’ve got about 50 employees. Next week, I’ll have about three. We furloughed people, then we brought them back. Now I’ve got to furlough them again. I’ll just bring them back sporadically as I need them.
The studio and the warehouse together is about 90,000 square feet. I’m here every day. I did a company-wide inventory, made use of the time. Maintenance, reorganization, working on more efficiency, cleaning up our inventory software, database. A lot of needed stuff, because we were moving 1,000 miles a minute prior to this. We were averaging 50-hour weeks.
LMG’s been offering virtual capabilities for years, so when the pandemic hit, we were ready with knowledge and experience. We transformed our studios for broadcasting and virtual events. It’s corporate clients and artists. Do you want to stream, do you want to record? We can send packages to each band member’s home and they can set up and do it on Teams, Google, Zoom. And we have IT technicians. They control the network so there’s no latency.
I was a touring engineer before I came to LMG. Born and raised in the South Bronx, where it all began. I grew up in the projects, DJing in the parks and streets, block parties and so forth. Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation were my inspiration. There used to be gangs in the park. The music’s playing, then a fight might break out. Get a bullhorn, get a microphone, “Hey, everybody, stop fighting over there!” Next thing you know, somebody was talking with the microphone with the music. To me, that’s how hip-hop started.
I went to New York Institute of Technology for audio engineering. I met Ice-T, wound up on the West Coast. Ice got the deal with Warner Bros. and we got studio time: “Hey, Troy, we need an engineer, we need to do a remix, we need to cut these vocals.” I went on tour with Body Count, Ice-T, Ice Cube, Lollapalooza. I worked for Death Row Records for three-and-a-half years. While I was working with Cypress Hill, Paul Rosenberg [Eminem’s manager] called DJ Muggs and was like, “I need somebody, Eminem’s opening up for Dr. Dre, but Dre’s blowing him out.” Next thing you know, I’m doing all of Eminem’s live events for two years, then 50 Cent, G-Unit.
LMG started out as a video company, and we transformed into doing concert systems. I brought Lil Wayne to the table and we did his front-of-house lighting package. We did Madonna at the Super Bowl halftime show. There’s still a lot of recording going on. Thank God, we were always doing virtual solutions, but we had to step it up, bring more awareness, advertise ourselves more. That’s doing okay, and it’s going to get better in the next couple of weeks. Just finished a high-profile corporate show and a video shoot for BET.
But it hasn’t come back in that volume. I got a warehouse full of gear here that’s just collecting dust. I told them, set it up as a museum! “Okay, these speakers were for Lana del Rey. These speakers — we just finished doing Korn in 2019. This microphone was used by…”
We’re surviving, but barely. I’ve laid off about 90% of my staff, and next week I’m going to furlough the rest of my staff. We’ll come back, though.