One To One

I know this guy, Marty Albertson, he’s CEO of Guitar Center.

We had lunch at NAMM.  It’s a tradition.  He and Felice get together every year.  You see he’s on the board of the foundation she runs.  Although wearing a jacket, having decided a few years back that he wanted the industry to take his company SERIOUSLY, he was not attired in the flashy way of a major label CEO.  He was like your best buddy from math class dressed up for a family occasion.  Nor did he have the haughty attitude or the ass-kissing demeanor of a classic record exec.  He came across as an equal.

And as soon as we sat down at our table in the hotel restaurant Marty asked me if MySpace was over.  I was stunned!  Most people in my world had just become AWARE of the site.  He was taking everybody’s pulse.  Word amongst his employees and customers was the site had PEAKED!

Then Marty told me the most amazing statistic.  In six months in 2005 his business had flipped.  From being 30/70 catalog to net to vice versa.  And when we had lunch in New York in March he said net sales had gone up another three percent in the first few months of the year.  And sure, Marty was questioning whether to continue to send fourteen million print catalogs a year, but he was even MORE interested in the mind of his customers, how they were now no longer afraid of the web, rather, they EMBRACED IT!

And as we’re talking net strategies in this French bistro on Madison Avenue, Marty starts talking about rare guitars.  When they sell replicas they take no ads, they do no conventional marketing, they just tell one person.  The guy in the rare guitar department sends ONE E-MAIL to a treasured customer, and in a DAY the entire collector marketplace is aware, and the edition usually sells out almost instantly.

Conventional marketing is dead.

I’ve got this friend Shilah.  When I first met her, at a party at her house in the Wilshire District, she didn’t exactly treat me right, she didn’t know who I was.  But as Lisa and she and Polly continued to work on the tribute concert for Polly’s dad, we hung out more, we became buds.

Shilah’s a good time.  She’s irreverent, but competent.  She’s about the music, not the money.  She CARES!

Her latest venture is the Sin City Social Club at the Mint on Friday nights.  And she also manages Tim Easton.  Not that I knew this until I wrote about him.  And ten days ago, at Lisa’s house, Shilah started waxing rhapsodic about Tim’s new album.  How I should have him on my radio show.  To tell you the truth, I thought she was crossing the line.  Working me is the KISS OF DEATH!

So, when Shilah e-mailed me three tracks off Tim’s new album last week, I didn’t bother to even download them.  They could wait.  Furthermore, I wasn’t sure whether Tim truly had it.  When I met him at the EMI Grammy party he was so quiet, and uncomfortable in his tight suit, and although I loved the live acoustic tracks on his site, he could go either way, he could push ahead, or deliver a lame overproduced record, probably the latter.

But today, going through hundreds of e-mails, I took the time to download Tim’s new work.  And it was SPECTACULAR!

I don’t mean it will stop traffic.  Drive up the ratings on MTV.  Rather, it went straight to my heart, and I had to play the three songs over and over and over again.  I had to transfer them to my iPod.  I just came home from a hike and fired them up again.

But I figured it wasn’t worth writing about the tracks.  Because you couldn’t HEAR THEM!

I knew Shilah would cough up permission, I wouldn’t even bother to ask.  But Tim’s signed to New West.  And who knows who owns the publishing.  I’d love to just post the tracks on my site, but I’m a lawyer, I understand the rights involved.

Years back, prior to Napster, I’d write about unreleased records all the time.  That’s how it worked for DECADES!  We’d try to entice the listener into buying what we raved about.  That was the business the labels were in.  Getting you to buy their product without hearing it first.  But those days are through.  Now the customer expects EVERYTHING to be instantly available, instantly sampled.  If you’re holding back a record for the proper release date, if you’re not at least streaming the entire record on your website, you’re living in the twentieth century.

The old paradigm is dead.  It’s not about records, but ARTISTS!  Selling acts, not discs.  It’s not about physical product, but winning over hearts and minds.

There’s this track, "Next To You".  It sounds like a walk in the park with your babe.  If said walk were one in which the couch you were sitting on strolled, not the human beings.

Intimacy.  We all strive for it.  But it’s nowhere in evidence.  Everybody’s about image, and too afraid to reveal their inner selves, their hopes and desires, their weaknesses, their HUMANITY!

And the acts are faux.  Part of this phony culture.  To the point where when something is real, we don’t gravitate to it, we run to it, and EMBRACE IT!

Oh, there’s this other brilliant track, "Back To The Pain", whose deal is sealed by Lucinda Williams’ background vocals, which eclipse the stuff on her recent records.  It’s like Emmylou Harris singing with Polly’s dad.  All world-weary, wanting to hold back from playing, but knowing she’s going to ANYWAY!  Because real people play.  That’s what life is about.

I’m running on empty.  I’ve got to get up early.  I should be winding down.  But listening to these songs on my iPod I realized I HAD TO WRITE!  To convey how much I like these tracks, how GREAT THEY ARE!

I wouldn’t expect every one of you to love them.  But if you’re into music more personal than pop.  Stuff that sticks to your bones.  If you always loved singer-songwriters and have given up on anybody ever delivering again, there’s a good chance you’d LOVE THEM!

Magazines have long lead times.  Newspapers are edited to hell.  The web is about instant, from one person’s heart to another’s.  This is more important than any New West plan to break Tim Easton.  This record is finished.  We don’t need physical product, we don’t need all kinds of terrestrial radio bullshit.  When something is done now, it needs to be RELEASED!  Kind of like the new Neil Young album.  Like "Ohio" in the old days.  There are no delays on CNN.  They air the news when it happens.  But over the years, the record labels have held on to finished work forever, waiting for the right WINDOW!  Polishing the tracks, reworking the album.  Just RELEASE THE SHIT!

I have an audience.  It believes in me.  Maybe not everything I write, but people don’t subscribe if they think I’m a twit.

I’m not the only one.  All over the web are individuals like me.  Who with one word can do more damage, can get the word out better than ANY of the straight media.  Nobody trusts the asshole critic in the paper.  SoundScan sales are STATISTICS!  And statistics have no heart.  These Tim Easton tracks have heart.

I’m supposed to wait till the album comes out.  When you can hear thirty second snippets.  I’m supposed to be part of the machine, play the game.  But I’m a cog in no wheel, and I’m not on the endless gravy train of cash, anything but.  I’m just looking for great stuff.  I hear it SO rarely.  These Tim Easton tracks are real.  You should be able to check them out instantly.  But the fucks playing by the old rules are preventing you from doing this, they just don’t get it.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.