Marv Brown brings awareness to a serious cause the best way he knows how—a rocking party
By Fennella Bruce
Marv Brown is a man on a mission. The task at hand: planning the inaugural Cantor Fitzgerald Celebrity Concert at Radio Music City Hall in New York this September. Not bad for a Canadian who got his event planning start as a teen holding parties for $1.50 in his Brampton, Ontario basement.
“I loved being the centre of attention. That’s what motivated me to start holding house parties in grade nine, then to renting halls, and eventually bringing local acts to perform,” said Brown, who is affectionately known as “Big Marv” by everyone in the industry. He’s the A&R music executive for Sony RCA’s Polo Grounds Music (The label Pitbull and A$AP Rocky are with) and also runs his own company, Top Cat Entertainment.
“I started Top Cat in 1993, because me and my partner Roy (who has “cat eyes”) were the “top cats” in Toronto at the time,” he says with a chuckle. “We brought in the biggest R&B acts; 112, Faith Evans, and Dru Hill. Later, I managed my own act, Ram-Z.” The R&B boy band got him his first big record deal with TVT Universal and led Polo Grounds president Brian Leach (who was the A&R rep at TVT that signed Ram-Z) to take Brown under his wing and give him an A&R spot at Sony RCA in New York.
Fast forward to 2017, and Big Marv is a major mover and player in the global entertainment world. His chance meeting courtside at a NBA game with Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick led to a strong friendship and business partnership that Brown could never have imagined.
“Cantor Fitzgerald lost the most employees in the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack. Every year on September 11th, celebs are on the New York trading floor and all the money raised goes to the victims’ families and victims of natural disasters around the world,” he explains. This year, Howard wanted to add a celebrity charity gala—The Cantor Fitzgerald Celebrity Concert—the night before to raise even more money for the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund. He asked Big Marv to organize the whole event, from start to finish.
“There is a saying, be careful what you wish for,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve got to pick from Ed Sheeran, J-Lo, Alicia Keys, A$AP Rocky and a dozen other big names and decide who is going to headline, who is going to speak, how many songs they’ll sing—don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad problem to have.”
These are also decisions he is used to making as an event planner and concert promoter. He recalls when he brought R.Kelly to Maple Leaf Gardens to an audience of 20,000, which gave him the experience to negotiate a concert tour in India for singer Chris Brown this fall. He also keeps busy bringing theatrical productions including Tyler Perry’s Marriage Counsellor, and Umoja, to both Toronto and New York. For the time being, his focus is strictly on September 10th.
“I want to bring more awareness to this cause, but also make the event fun. We have to remember the ones we lost, but remember that life is for the living. Entertainment and music can bring so much joy.” Just then, the phone rings, “Sam Smith is a lock? Excellent, we’ll put him on the trading floor,” he gives a wink and a smile. Big Marv is on the move.
For more information on this event, please go to www.cantor.com