My Dinner With Sam

Actually, we were at the EMI Publishing table.  That’s what everybody says, that the best A&R people in Canada are Michael McCarty and Barbara Sedun.  They’re not like Americans.  They take their jobs very seriously, it’s not about the glitz and the glamour, it’s about the MUSIC!  Hell, Barbara placed Lukas in "Rock Star Supernova".  You might not think much of the act, but you’ve got to give Barbara credit for seeing the POSSIBILITIES!  Finding a lost act and seeing his potential, that he could WIN!

You see Michael and Barbara are in it for the long haul.  Is EMI in it for the long haul?

Doesn’t look like it.  Looks like they’re trying to make the company look good on paper so they can merge with Warner.  But with CD sales in free fall and the horrible Christmas what IS the value of EMI?

Actually, EMI is worth a ton.  If only it would enter the twenty first century.  And start monetizing existing music acquisition as opposed to tentatively following in the public’s footsteps from years before.  Yup, keep cutting costs, i.e. people.  You’ll end up with a company that looks good on paper, but is utterly devalued, because it’s not a running concern.

That’s all anybody can talk about.  EMI.  They could have merged with Warner at a reasonable price, now, with the firing of Levy and Munns, and the collapsing of the operation in the U.S., value has been ELIMINATED from the proposition, the company’s worth a lot less.

But this wasn’t an evening of business.  This was an evening of music.

Well, not really.  You get a lot of music business people together, and you talk a lot of business.

But they did have a piano player bang out the tunes of the inductees.  Both past and present.  And when he hit the notes of "If You Could Read My Mind" a large cadre of people started singing along.  Nobody would sing along in the U.S.  It would look bad.  You’ve got to be cool, first and foremost.  Better to check your BlackBerry than sing.  But cool is irrelevant in Canada.  You see in Canada, everybody’s in it together.

At the center table were James.  And Joni.  And Herbie Hancock.  There was star power.  But the action was in the penumbra.  Connecting with the various personages in the Canadian music business.  And that’s what it is, a MUSIC business.  USED to be the record business, but the labels killed that, around the world, by not embracing new technologies, not selling music how people want it.  Yeah, sue ISPs and drive music acquisition even further underground.  That’s a solution.  Just like the death of Napster was gonna prevent the ascension of KaZaA?

Used to be the tour was the advertisement for the record, now the record is just the advertisement for the tour.  That’s what Sam said.  Sam Feldman.

Sam and Bruce are partners.  Not many people know this.  Oh, they don’t really work together, but they split the money.  And in an era where the Firm gets all the press, A&F is earning all the money.

You see they used to book bands.  Bruce Allen and Sam Feldman.  And Bruce called Sam into his office thirty odd years ago and suggested they become partners.  Well, suggested…  Bruce doesn’t suggest ANYTHING!  As Sam said tonight, Bruce sees the target and elbows ahead.  He convinced Sam.  They threw in together.

They controlled every venue in Western Canada.  If you wanted to play, you had to go through them.  And via this system, they resuscitated Randy Bachman’s career.  And, after everybody passed on the initial BTO album, Bruce went to Chicago and made a deal with Mercury.  The result was "Blue Collar".  And after that track, with the next album, they took care of business.  You see you’ve got to believe, and dedicate the time, allow something to percolate.

Meanwhile, Sam continued with the agency business.  A steady income.  Without the highs of Bryan Adams’ career.

Oh, they worked in the same office for a while.  But after one of Bruce’s tirades, DECADES AGO, Sam and the rest of the staff walked out.  Leaving just one assistant.

And they haven’t worked in the same place since.

But they remain partners!

In America you make a deal, and in half a decade, at most, you’re at each other’s throats.  Oh, Bruce and Sam are OFTENTIMES at each other’s throats.  But they never see the divorce lawyers, unlike their American counterparts.  They keep it together.

And they kept it together long enough for Sam to get his own stellar management clients.  Like Diana Krall.  Like Elvis Costello.  Like Joni Mitchell.  Like Norah Jones.

Seems kind of funny, doesn’t it?  That someone in Western Canada manages this New York denizen who’s sold thirty million plus albums.  But it’s a perfect fit, they’re both low key.

Denise Donlon told me I needed to write about Sam, as a counterpart to my piece about Bruce.

But don’t consider this justice.  Just illumination.

That’s what I had speaking to Sam tonight.  Talking about the new Norah album.  There wasn’t hype, but realism.  There’s no realism south of the border.

There were tales of the old days.  Doing acid the night before he met with Bruce when the deal was sealed.  Starting off with a staple gun, putting up posters for gigs.

You see we all share the same history.  We started at the bottom.  We needed to be in the circus.  We persevered, and we’re still here.  Each and every one of us an integral part of the machine.

And Larry LeBlanc is adding flavor.  Talking about winding up Bruce.  Then again, with the shit Bruce talks about Sam, you’ve got to equalize the pressure every once in a while.

But when it was all done, when they turned on the lights in the hall, Larry told me about Bruce calling him the night his mother died, and staying on the phone with him for two and a half hours.

You see Bruce is haimish.  Everybody in Canada is haimish.  You can’t be a crook, you won’t last for long.  Hell, you need Larry to write an article about you eventually!

It wasn’t an evening of entourages.  Nobody left early, certainly not the stars.  It was a great hang.

And everybody says tomorrow’s show is gonna kill.

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