Thirty Years After — Part 17: Is Your Timing Right?

Not for a moment should you believe that any part of Scout66.com’s existence is a mistake or a failure. My posts about everything related to my career in music are totally honest. If I were to say that everything was seamless, cool and groovy – that would a horrible waste of time, not to mention a really boring read as far as blog posts go. Controversy and conflict are inherent to the human spirit.

And there is no reason whatsoever to spin 30 years as if everything went perfectly.

The point is, more things go wrong in the process of marketing music than those that are smooth as buttah! It’s a reality that most people would rather ignore, but do so at their peril.

In artistic pursuits of any kind there are no guarantees people will like what is created.  That’s not the point. Creating things to determine if they are useful, poignant, shocking, or any other reaction is the point of art.

Artists are problem solvers attempting to fill a void with a thoughtful response. Timing has a lot to do with how audiences of any sort receive the artist’s gesture. There are no mistakes. It’s just that the timing wasn’t right.

To that end, each and every person involved in the process of making music has to accept and understand there are no failures. We must continue to create things for audiences that have an impact at just the right moment.

When the collective consciousness is ready to receive a song, a book, an exhibit, a sculpture, or whatever is being offered artistically, that’s when things start to take off.

For the past 15 years, music has saturated the collective consciousness. It’s everywhere. And when people have too many decisions to make, most often they choose nothing. Conversely, when there is a brand new generation eager to step up with enough authority to purchase something at will – whether it costs 99 cents, $1.29, ten bucks, or it’s altogether free – the sheer number of people creates demand.

It really has nothing to do with the music, or the art. It has to do with how the art makes the audience feel.  If it empowers them, chances are good your timing was right.

Art has everything to do with the audience, and nothing to do with the artist. Audiences don’t applaud the musician at the end of a song. They applaud themselves for getting it.

For some unearthly reason, we’ve been led to believe for almost a century it’s all about the creator and nothing could be further from the truth.

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Thirty Years After — Part 16: They Call It Oz For a Reason

Yessiree, Bob. Everywhere I looked the Internet was the place where all the cool kids hung out. Figuratively and literally hanging out in thin air. Talking to people who weren’t really there.  Reading people’s thoughts that weren’t in the room.

Sounds a little crazy, no?

Hours, days, and weeks passed as I became, like so many, addicted to the time continuum of social media, Internet marketing, and learning what I should be doing to be ahead of the curve. There were instruction books all over the place. Yet no one was saying the same thing. More aptly these were opinion-based “versions” of what could happen as individual “experts” attempted to become the first brand leader.

Even if any given person were to follow the advice of the marketing gurus, where would it lead?

What was learned quickly is you had to be careful. I was very accustomed to guarding everything in my career against shadowy types music subversively attracts. To be perfectly honest, in hindsight, had I met most of these people face-to-face that I was talking with on the phone or in social media, that meeting would have been the last.

Yet determination had the best of me.

I would figure this thing out come hell or high water.

So I came to the conclusion I needed to take the plunge and have a reason for being involved not just as a publicist, but have a presence on the net. Over this period new platforms were springing up all over and to fill a need media could no longer afford, I decided a website dedicated to live music reviews was something I could contribute. The live music review had always been one of the most coveted pieces of information any performing artist could obtain – given of course, the review was a good one.

Setting out to get bids on a unique model I had in mind, the first one came in at $200,000.00 Two hundred thousand dollars! Sure, why not? Next was a bid for about a tenth that number. Finally, I set my number and had a website built for $15,000.

It took forever — literally months to construct what we can now achieve in one afternoon with no investment. This Internet platform thing was a scam. A huge living lie everyone bought into because we were pioneers with no measuring stick to tell us differently.

Scout66.com went live sometime in 2010, in a soft launch that frustrated the livin’ daylights out of me. I won’t go into details due to naming names which serves no purpose.  Anyone involved in this explorative era was supposed to become a part of a larger community working with others, according to every bit of research I found. These folks didn’t want to play well with others. It was their way or no way.

The number of free things I suddenly had requests for was astounding.  Because indie music was free, somehow being involved in music meant everything was free. I would love to find the guy who made up that rule.

I worked harder than ever, sure this entrepreneurial thing had legs. In ten months’ time, 12 people contributed reviews of live shows. And I thank them, but this was nowhere near the anticipated volume of live music reviews.

Then, another whippersnapper of a young pistol decided he’d offer me a deal. Take Scout in a different direction, flip the model, destroy the premise, and move the site. At the time, Scout had a decent Alexa rating, and contacts were in the making all the time. Traction, however, wasn’t part of the equation, so the whippersnapper took over as webmaster as a noble gesture, as I wasn’t about to spend any more money. The site was moved and renovated within 10 months of being launched. Reviews began to trickle in a little faster, but not near the rate one would anticipate.

YELP was in full swing and there was an offer to purchase it around this time for some astronomical amount of money but refused by its owners. Thinking I’d gone down the right path, Scout was nurtured, praised, but patronized at an alarmingly slow rate. I’d overestimated the idea of fans giving their time to help artists’ careers. Fans are the lifeblood of the live music scene, yet I’m told writing a review was too grand a gesture. Asking to phone (text) in a review was more like a homework assignment, and not at all as cool as just being there.

So much for the idea fans actually wanted to help build an empire around the indie movement.

Then what I believed was a tragedy in gift wrapping came into being. My husband had been ill for a very long time suffering from addiction he refused to take responsibility for; one that eventually took his life. On Christmas Eve 2010 he told me he wanted to part ways. Once it hit me this was an opportunity – a slim one – but an opportunity nonetheless to continue my music career in a bigger way, I packed my bags and moved to Nashville within a month.

Here, in Music City, live music is played 24/7. Scout would live, and so would I, albeit far from my children who were in the throes of their early college years.  Having been successful in Seattle, it seemed Nashville was a no brainer. Certain things would work themselves out, others not so much.

My office and living space on Music Row was an adventure like no other. Tons of people made appointments to stop by, meet for lunch, dinner, or shows. Nashville’s a living, breathing network.  But, to be honest about the whole thing, nothing ever comes of it. There’s an awful lot of talk, and very little action.

As the saying goes, Nashville’s a drinking town with a music problem.

Southern charm, is just that in many cases.  People I’d spoken with many times turned out to misrepresent their authoritative positions here. In fact, the music business is a closed society with only a handful of people actually calling the shots.

Having never worked with a major label – ever – now was not the time to start. They were falling down badly, but it was interesting observing how things in the most powerful town in the music business worked. Thousands of people scurry around appearing to be involved at a level they believe they’re getting something accomplished. All the while a few people are pulling strings behind some magic curtain. It doesn’t matter what you know or who you know. There are power players who call the shots and that’s all there is to it.

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Thirty Years After — Part 15: Veni, Vidi, Vici Vel Non

The last part of the first decade of the 21st century was interesting.  Things were changing by the minute in music and media. Old school media began to crumble in the wake of technology exploding our reality. Social media was on a meteoric rise and the indie movement caused such a mean spirited dust up, only time will tell the true outcome of that tune.

In 2008, I knew the traditional role of publicist was on its way out. Internet marketing was the buzz, and I was heading into my 25th year of being old school in every way. At the urging of a client, I went to a meeting at a company who touted their expertise in online marketing. It was the biggest bunch of BS I’d heard in a long time. How can you be an expert in something that has just begun and no one could be sure where it was going?

We left the meeting and I told the client what I thought, but agreed to look into figuring out how the whole thing worked. I spent days researching, reading, trying to find the buried secret code. The longer I looked, the more I dug my heels in.

Nothing could happen in cyberspace that wasn’t manifest in the real world. I called Internet marketers Space Cowboys, and insisted we needed Boots On the Ground to create something unique enough to talk about in this new universe.

MySpace.com was all but a ghetto. Talk of the longtail this, leverage that, tribes, 1,000 True Fans. FaceBook was up and running and this silly little blue bird called Twitter was emerging on the scene.

By 2009, I was still just as skeptical, but dipping my toes into the Internet’s eternal ink looking for a footprint. In 2009 I joined Twitter, and had a Facebook account – though it just seemed ridiculous to watch all these people talk about what they had for breakfast. There was “work” to do, and nobody had ever asked me what I eat for breakfast before. Why was it important?

It wasn’t.

But pornography? Altogether a different story. It would pop up on social media sites, Twitter in particular, with no notice whatsoever, and worse, no way to stop it. Social media and marketing gurus were everywhere extolling what they thought we’d swallow, hook, line and sinker.

Building a contact base was important, but that too, turned out to be a false reality 99% of the time.

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails was preaching the idea of giving music away for free every chance he got. A List artists had a platform and influence in the new movement giving their music away, and if you’ve read some of my posts, you know I consider the industry at large to be like sheep.  What worked well for one or two had to be good for everyone, right?

This was a very frustrating time to sit back and watch just what in the world was happening. Hard to comprehend then, and as I look back, I wonder what might have happened had I just stood my ground, combat boots firmly planted.

Veni, vidi, vici, vel non. I came. I saw. But no one was conquering a thing.

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The Winner’s Circle

Much like the advertising world, the world of music is much more interested in what awards it has to offer and who wins. If music were more important than awards do you think we might hear better music?

Music is not a contest, but somewhere along the line somebody made winning something off some made-up list more important than how the music makes you feel.

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Millennials vs. The Cultural Creatives: They’re One in the Same, But Do You Really Know Them?

There’s a huge misnomer and gap marketers are missing when devising strategies to reach the Millennials everyone seems so urgent to reach. These are the children, and perhaps grandchildren in some cases, of the Cultural Creatives.

The idea and profile of the Cultural Creatives (CCs) was first introduced in the early part of the 21st century by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson. The profile Ray and Anderson came up with matches fairly closely to Millennials in terms of values and lifestyle choices.

Perhaps the problem marketers are having is not so much in identifying general profile characteristics, but in reaching them. This is a certain segment of the population who do not want to be reached. It’s that simple. They are independent thinkers who rely on themselves, not what social media, new apps, or advertising and other forms of interruption marketing are telling them.

Cultural Creatives have always been a niche market and their children hold a similar position. They are already hip, they don’t need hip products. They are already on the cutting edge because they created it. They buy what they need, and they want things that fit into their lifestyle — not a lifestyle of things. Many of them eschew “things” altogether, preferring to live minimally, eat sensibly, aiming for a life of moderation over excess.

At the time Ray and Anderson released their findings in 2000, they estimated there were 50 million Americans who are Cultural Creatives, and approximately 80 to 90 million CCs in Europe. Combine that number loosely to the number of Millennials every advertising and marketing group on the planet thinks they understand, and it’s one huge number.

Here’s a list of characteristics that make up the profile of a CC to compare to Millennials:

  • They care deeply about nature
  • Are deeply aware of the problems that plague the planet
  • Would pay more taxes if assured the money would be spent on cleaning up the environment
  • Put a lot of importance on the development and maintenance of relationships
  • Value the importance of other people and invest time in bringing out their unique gifts
  • Value volunteerism and participate in one or more voluntary activities
  • Value psychological and spiritual development deeply
  • Are concerned with the presence of religious beliefs in politics
  • Want equality for women in all spheres of life
  • Are concerned with the well-being of women and children around the world
  • Want politics and government to focus on education, infrastructure, community development, and ecological practices
  • Are unhappy with a two party political system that is extremely left and right wing; and would prefer a third party offering that isn’t a mushy middle of the road option
  • Tend to be optimistic, and distrust the pessimism and fear mongering of media
  • Want to be involved in creating a better way of life
  • Are deeply concerned with the practices of big business
  • Have their financial lives in order and are not concerned with overspending
  • Dislike the importance of “making it” and obscenely decadent and luxurious lifestyles
  • Like people and places that are exotic; enjoy learning about and visiting other cultures

If you are a small business owner and entrepreneur, it would be wise to focus on, if not study, the list above and find a way to attract a very large portion of the world’s population to your door. It’s about a way to live, not a way to appear to live. While the Kardashins, Hiltons, Clooneys, Clintons, and Obamas attract media attention for their self-important opinions and lavish lifestyles, just remember the people you really want to reach don’t invest themselves in myopic foolishness, and neither should you.

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30 Years After — Part 14: A Loose List of Facts for History’s Most-Recorded Rock Song

In 2007, music historian, Peter Blecha documented, that simple little 3-chord ditty, “Louie, Louie” had surpassed Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” as the most-recorded rock song in history.

Richard Berry wrote “Louie, Louie” backstage while waiting to perform at the Harmony Club Ballroom sometime in 1955.

Berry recorded “Louie, Louie” in 1957 as the B-side to a cover of “You Are My Sunshine” with only a minor regional hit on the west coast.

Rockin’ Robin Roberts, the lead singer for The Fabulous Wailers, a Tacoma Washington-based garage band,  found a copy of Berry’s recording in a discount bin. Urban legend says he bought it for a dime.

Rockin’ Robin Roberts turned the tune into a rock-based R &B single from Berry’s calypso-styled sea shanty.

This line, “Let’s give it to ‘em right now!” a seven-word phrase changed the feel of rock to a more raunchy sound with The Fabulous Wailers release of the tune.

Etiquette Records, the first indie rock label, released “Louie, Louie” in 1961 under Rockin’ Robin Roberts name instead of The Fabulous Wailers, as the Wailers were legally bound by another record contract.

The Kingsmen are credited with creating a national and international sensation with the song, though Paul Revere and The Raiders recorded the same song in the same studio the day after The Kingsmen recorded it in 1963. Both bands were based in Portland, Oregon.

There was widespread misinterpretation of the song’s lyrical content. Parents became very concerned the song contained profound obscene language.

Radio stations across the country banned the record.

Indiana’s governor, Matthew Welsh, personally banned the record.

The FBI was called upon to lead a 31-month investigation into what many  believed were indecent lyrics on The Kingsmen recording. The investigation was eventually dropped without any sort of prosecution, penalties or prejudice.

Due to The Fabulous Wailers’ influence in the legacy of “Louie, Louie,” there was an unsuccessful attempt to make it the state song of Washington in 1985. Washington’s governor at the time, Booth Gardner, said he’d never heard it.

In 2007, there were 1,600 known recordings of “Louie, Louie.” Here is a short list of some notable names associated with releasing commercial or bootleg versions of the timeless ballad that became the anthem for a generation; a much bemused 3-chord powerhouse of a song.

Otis Redding

The Beach Boys

The Sonics

The Troggs

Jan & Dean

The Byrds

Floyd Cramer

Motorhead

The Clash

John Belushi

[Bootleg versions]

Led Zeppelin

The Beatles

John Lennon

Patti Smith

Lou Reed

Blondie

The song’s author, Richard Berry, sold the rights to the song in 1959 for $750 to pay for his wedding and never saw a penny of the royalties until the 1980’s. California Cooler wanted to use the song in a marketing campaign but needed Berry’s signature to do so. A lawyer talked Berry into taking action to regain the rights to his now world renowned tune. The publisher settled out of court, and Berry became a millionaire before he passed away in 1996.

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30 Years After — Part 13: What Do John Kerry and The Fabulous Wailers Have in Common?

[Over the span of three decades, once in a while you can forget the sequence of certain unforgettable events. The summer of 2004 was a doozy and I lost track of which year it occurred.]

In early August 2004 a call came into my office regarding a local festival that could have historical importance, and if I wasn’t busy, they could sure use my help –for free. So I listened to the rambling pitch on the other end of the line, and decided I could at least look into helping promote LouieFest, a music festival in its second year celebrating the much bemused 3-chord sensation, ” Louie, Louie, ” a song that became an anthem for the Baby Boomer generation.

There’s hardly a person on earth who’s never heard the early rock version of this tune, one that set a new, somewhat raunchy standard beyond what Elvis was doing in the early 1960s. Fewer still are there guitar players who didn’t teach themselves this tune early on when they were learning to play.

At the time this whole concept was being pitched I didn’t know too much about the history of the song, or any of the sordid details, of which there are many. So I went to a meeting and became familiar with the ragtag team of players who were putting together a two-day event to commemorate the song’s legacy; establish a music education program; and ultimately set a Guinness World Record featuring the most guitar players ever assembled playing the tune simultaneously. The initial world record was set in 1992 with 1,342 guitarists playing Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business.”

All in all it was a down and dirty, get ‘er done situation under the direction of two members of the group who helped make the song famous: Bass player Buck Ormsby, and keyboard player/vocalist, Kent Morrill.

The Fabulous Wailers – not to be confused with the Jamaican reggae group who played with Bob Marley—were local boys from Tacoma, Washington, with a long and somewhat checkered past in rock and roll. More than anything they had a dark cloud hanging over nearly everything they did; a cloud they’d never escape, and for the life of me, one I’ve never figured out. What they contributed to the beginning of the rock and roll era is staggering.

Originally they were The Wailers from as far back as 1958 when they were all still in high school, and released what is thought to be history’s first rock instrumental, “Tall Cool One,” written by Kent Morrill. In 1961, they launched the first rock indie label, Etiquette Records. Their first release was “Louie, Louie,” a version of Richard Berry’s 1955 calypso sea shanty, a B-side recording they found in the discount bin of a local record store.

The list of historical details is really long and twisted as most incredible stories in music are. So I was treading lightly in this situation working with people who had a shadowy presence in the local music scene. The event deadlines were approaching fast, and of course, not enough time to get it all done. The week prior to the event was a powwow with the ragtag team and the confirmed news that a rally for John Kerry’s presidential campaign was being held in the same facility as LouieFest.

Kerry’s team and an expected 10,000 supporters would be on the grounds of the Tacoma Dome on the opening morning of LouieFest. In one fast jab there was good news and horrible news. The horrible news: How could a facility like the Tacoma Dome double book two (potentially) enormous events for the same day? The good news: During his high school/college years Kerry was in a rock band that performed an early Wailers’ tune called, “Shanghaied.” Instantly, thoughts went to Bill Clinton’s campaign when he played his sax on a late night talk show. Ten thousand Kerry supporters would surely stop in to hear some music at LouisFest. What will happen to parking? How will we handle all those people?

Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into an already stressed out understaffed group of folks who had no idea how to approach this situation with so little time. Fast forward a few days, an emergency powwow was called and there were rumors the Kerry team was bringing a high profile rock group with them. The Wailers still wanted to approach him about playing “Shanghaied” with them to kick off both events, but who was going to do the talking? When all eyes in the room focused my way…I was like, no, no, and no!

The ring leader for the festival’s PR and promo, I knew, was totally ill-suited for a chat like this, so I gathered all my courage after a while, and finally agreed to interface with Kerry’s team. The conversation was very brisk, patronizing, and who the hell did I think I was asking John Kerry to perform with The Wailers.

They said they were still considering flying in either Carole King or The Black Crows.

Mr. Kerry had absolutely no interest in kicking off the event on the LouieFest stage, or performing. I could have politely excused myself from that conversation, but instead, I explained I was not prepared for the idea of someone like Carole King or The Black Crows competing with our festival. Would it be possible for The Wailers to greet John Kerry on his stage? It was possible and they’d get back to me.

Suddenly my phone was hotter than a pistol and the flurry ended with the local media calling asking for a quote about The Wailers supporting John Kerry. New problem. I knew from talking with Kent Morrill this would not be possible. Kent’s religious beliefs would not allow him to support a political candidate. So I had a go round with the journalist who was writing what she believed might be the biggest political story of her career.

Until that very moment, I’d always been wearing the other shoe when talking with journalists, trying to get something included in a story. This time I had to fight like hell to keep something out. And I won just before the story went to press and appeared on the front page of the News Tribune the next morning, the opening day of LouieFest.

We all arrived bright and early at The Tacoma Dome ready for whatever might happen that day. There was only one thing we weren’t prepared for: Nothing. Kerry was to take the stage at 10:00 a.m. and The Wailers decided everyone in the band but Kent would go over to greet him.

By 11:00 a.m. traffic reports of gridlock along Interstate 5 cautioned people to take alternate routes. The Tacoma Dome was empty and cavernous, while thousands of Kerry supporters were lined up in droves just outside waiting for him. Secret Service was strategically placed at every doorway. Sharp shooters were positioned along the perimeter of the dome’s roofline as a fairly intimidating sign to anyone who might be planning to attend a music festival. And the gridlock continued along the Interstate all afternoon.

From inside the dome we could hear the rally in full force, and by early afternoon, I surmised Kerry’s staff was totally blowing hot air about Carole King and The Black Crows. They had no musical guests.

About the time I was leaving someone came to me and said in a fairly ominous tone, “The Wailers would like to speak with you.” They had all kinds of questions as if I might have a crystal ball I hadn’t shown them. Why had the media tried to keep concert goers away from the festival? Who was in touch with the media all day? What was going on? Why is this happening to us? After explaining I had no idea what was going on, I told them I would go home and contact the media and let them know there was a festival indeed, and could we get some coverage to help this group recover what was lost after months of planning in one fell swoop.

This was Labor Day weekend, and finding someone in the news room who could handle this situation was going to be tough. But it worked out. The top news station in the area sent a crew out the next day to film all the guitar players who’d registered to play “Louie, Louie” in unison for the Guinness World Record. They fell short of breaking that record, but no one knows for sure by how much.

Overall, the festival and all the goals they tried to reach were mostly a huge failure. Several phone calls came in over the next few weeks about how to resolve the situation, none of which were easy solutions to unraveling the rope that brought down the albatross. Kerry and his team came and went like thieves in the night. Imagine that.

And so, a seven-year long relationship working with The Wailers, The Fabulous Wailers began until early 2011 when the last original member of the group, Kent Morrill, passed away.

*As a side note, this entry is being finalized just as news that Paul Revere of Paul Revere and The Raiders has passed away. The Raiders played a big hand in the legacy of “Louie, Louie,” and helped contribute to the song’s legacy as the most recorded rock song in history.

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