Jun 27, 2012

The Most Unfair of Professions

A dear pal of mine is a musician of some regional notoriety in the Appalachian mid-south, one of many from that neck of the woods I've run across over the years when dabbling in that hobby-biz of mine.  I don't know what's in the air or water down there in Tennessee that produces such fine and talented human beings (tobacco?), but I can testify that there are fields full of them.  As an added bonus, all  of the female members of this tribe are most beautiful; both inside and out.

Anyway, this particular gal rang me up out of the blue the other day after too-long an absence from my radar screen. After getting updated on the big changes in her life (a new hubby = the luckiest guy in the world), the talk naturally turned to her songbird persona.  To my dismay, I learned that she was pretty much OUT of the business, having basically tossed in the towel.  No more touring, no more recordings, agent, manager, publicist, label, band or road van. Nothing but the occasional solo show (the so called 'chick on a stool') in the local area, rarely venturing more than an hour from her front door to a small gig here or there.  It's no longer a profession; it's back to being a sideshow -- just like it was during her college days twenty years ago.

In this case, we are talking about an artist who at one time was signed to one of the major record labels (back when that meant something), which then went about funding at $50K each her music videos and slotted her as the opening tour act for one of the major stars of our era -- all as a means of boosting her into the stratosphere.  But it's a tough business, with luck and timing and other intangibles having precedent over raw talent as the key qualifiers for success.  Unfortunately, fate was not kind to our dear friend.  The first album didn't sell, the label quibbled over what genre tag she belonged in and things got shaky when talks began on whether they would exercise their option on Album #2. That decision finally got made when industry consolodation reared its ugly head and the label was merged with an even-larger major, and economies of scale kicked in.  You can guess where this story went: offices were closed and rosters chopped.  Our girl was a casualty of both, and suddenly she became a One & Done (album) statistic. For the next ten years, it was the indie route: lower production budgets, small rooms, self-management and dealing with idiots like myself out there as opposed to the bandits (i.e., the  Live Nations and Clear Channels of the world) holding the keys to the mint.

There are no guarantees in the music business, just like there are no guarantees in that larger sphere called life. But in most professions, the cream of the crop rises to the top, at least to some degree.  There is little doubt that a Major League baseball player is a more talented athlete than a pine-rider down in the AA bushes.  Your better sales people make better money than the plugs; the more efficent office clerk is first in line to be office manager, the creator of superior graphic design masterpieces will tend to get the association awards at the end of the year, and on and on.  In general, there is usually some sort of connection between merit and reward.

But in music, all of that tidy logic is tossed out the door like a cat coughing up fur balls. Ace songwriters and crack musicians often play for the proverbial "$100 a man" while the Demi Lovatos, Justin Beibers and Sugarlands out there pocket millions a year. Locally, a shockingly popular cover band earns $3000 per night to play Mustang Sally and other lowest common denominator hits made famous by others. Original creativity goes unrewarded while hype and mass market brainwashing is.  But we shouldn't be surprised: these same people consume their basic goods from WalMart and the mall, absorb network television and their destination for fine dining is the pavement outside a chain restaurant on Gasoline Alley.  Sheep are more easily herded from Point A to Point B than are foxes seems to be a fitting allegory.

As I put in more and more years into the aforementioned music-biz dabbling, the type of conversation as shared above becomes more and more common for me. The system is broken -- for a whole number of causes -- and the money doesn't flow to those most deserving. But if the masses don't care and the deck remains stacked against the Unchosen, it will never change.

Now who wants to hit downtown to shake our booties to some Golden Oldies at a $3 cover?  Order me an ice cold Bud and I'll be right there.


Jun 24, 2012

Random Blah-Blah-Blahs (June)

Long Live

Q: If eMail Marketing is so dead, then why does Twitter send me regular "Here's What's Happening On Twitter" updates ... via email?  As does Facebook with its traffic stat reports ... and Linked In ... and ... and. Hmmm?

Square Peg / Round Hole

While on the Twitter subject: I get it --  and I always got it.  The 'it' being the stream-of-consciousness sharing via this handy dandy infrastructure dreamed up by a couple of dreamers. Then again, Facebook's Wall posting serves the same function, does it not?  But that's for those two behemoths to battle over.

What I don't get ---  or better: what I don't buy ---  is the ultra hyped commercial, promotional and monetization value that Twitter allegedly brings to the table. I've called this bluff myself with my own campaigns, as have others close at hand.  I'm not seeing it.  If anyone out there has a first hand case study that shows otherwise, let's hear about it.

Same with Twitter being the supposed new form of journalism. I'm not buying it. A big reach....

I'm Living in My Own Private Idaho

Speaking of journalism (notice these nice transitions?), I hereby pose this as a contrarian view to the popular wisdom as to what ails the mainstream print news profession:

Contrarian Theory: The inter-tube is NOT the primary driver of people abandoning and neglecting the traditional print news media (i.e., declining readership). Instead, I contend that the #1 factor is that people simply don' give a shit anymore.  This is especially true for local news journalism.

Supporting Argument: Communities continue to lose their deep connectivity and social capital. People now move from 'burgh to 'burgh, and they do it more and more frequently.  One's neighbors are no longer people you went to school with; nor is there one single degree of separation between them and you via common acquaintances. Meanwhile, there is less a likelihood that one will "make new friends" in the new town due to the fact that there are fewer mechanisms for doing so compared to generations past -- ethnic clubs, trade unions, business associations, etc. Strangers live among strangers in today's Anytown, USA.  So when one happens upon a newspaper, it is filled with unknown names and unknown faces involved in activities and organizations of no consequence. One simply can't relate to the stories any more than he or she can relate to the new and temporary community in general.  Many just don't care --  it's as simple as that.  Heck, they don't plan on being here for more than a few more years anyways, so why invest in the Emotional Capital? Without this type of passion, how can a business that specializes in telling locally-centric stories hope to succeed?

Thirty years ago, I could pick up the daily newspaper in my birthtown (The Saratogian) and recognize almost every name mentioned. Today, I don't know any of them.  Who the hell are these people?

A Newspaper Once Operated Here

Speaking of the Saratogian (yee-haw, he does it again), we read of the fact that its Lake Avenue facility has been sold to a developer and the arrangement supposedly gives the paper three years to find a new base of operations to which it moves.   No doubt, the troubled chain that owns the local rag is taking advantage of the bubbly local real estate scene as a means of bandaging its bloody balance sheet.  The old cliche of "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" suddenly comes to mind for some funny reason

Prediction: said rag relocates to a tidy suite of rented work space under a trade deal with some commercial realtor as more and more of its functions are handled by its sister paper down in Troy in a consolidation effort. The current building is soon thereafter demolished to make room for a 38High Rock, Part 2 type of condo mishmash. The Village Idiots then begin their rah-rah about how this is just another example of Saratoga's vibrancy as the metro-NYC crowd ponies up to trade their downstate addresses for life in the foothills. More of the aforementioned strangers arrive to live alongside other strangers and live off the largesse provided to them by their family inheritance, with most of them well past their peak productivity years and perfectly content to schedule their daily lives around their morning strolls to get a Broadway coffee.  The city's brain drain continues, the age demo gets older and the neighborhood around Saratoga Hospital continues to transform from residential to professional as the health care industry cluster there expands to serve this aging Boomer demand.  The air gets stale as the safe and sanitary gentrification elephant continues its slow motion rampage.  Some major magazine ranks Saratoga in the nation's Top 10 Retirement Communities.

Consider also the fact that these new condos butt right up against the Caroline Street nightlife district.  Can't a guy get some sleep in this town?  Now won't that accelerate the movement to tame this chaos?  Commissioner Mathieson will be lionized as he moves to close the bars at 11PM  --- and for an hour during afternoon nap time.

Meanwhile, this once great city finds itself without another physical representation of what it means to feel like being a part of a local community.  So don't be shocked if the same fate awaits the Post Office building up the hill.  Maybe one more coffee shop?

Somebody get the historical plaques made up to place on each site.

Is that Indian for...?

To hear something once can be deemed a fluke.  To hear the same thing twice, one starts to notice. Three times, it becomes a downright movement.

Three times now in the past month, I have heard Saratoga being tagged with a slightly modified handle: Milfatoga.

I can picture our less worldly readers hitting Google right about ... now.

Batting Third

Baseball teams put their biggest slugger into the cleanup spot; number four in the batting order. But the entertainment industry has a different approach. A long running rule for performing artists has been to place the best tune in the set list in the Number Three spot, for some reason.

Interestingly, I notice that local television news broadcasts are following this same method.  The weather segment is what they define as their key eyeball-draw. In a rare viewing of the opening minutes of two different examples recently, I notice that both of them placed the weather tickler story ("It's HOT out there! OMG we're gonna die!") --  right there in the three hole.

Old School - New School

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's approach to economic development seems to be via these regional councils which go about making long wish lists of desired projects and then submits them to a juried awards system which is a bit light on explaining its methodology as well as its over reaching aims and objectives. Conveniently, every region seems to at least get a substantial consolation prize when the dust clears.

So how exactly is this new fangled process fundamentally different than the age old legislature Member Item system?

Cutting to the Chase

Did anyone ever actually play the Mousetrap game instead of just going ahead and building the fancy contraption?  Nah.


"I'm not interested in paying you for your time, I want to pay you for your success."

"Do not confuse activity with accomplishment"

These are two of my guiding principles when dealing with prospective employees or contracted resources offering to get involved in any of my business units in some sort of sales/revenue-generating capacity.

But most of the time it is like speaking in an unknown foreign tongue.  For some reason, everyone thinks their "time" is the key element to this dynamic. "I need to get paid for my time" is a common refrain.  It matters not if that time results in money coming in the door as a direct result, whether they are any good at the needed task or not.  Many even have a rebuttal to my approach, something like "even if I don't make a sale, I am out there promoting your product/company."

The Bottom Line: promotion is for the Marketing Department or ad agency. If one does not have confidence in his or her own ability to "make things happen" and base their financial well-being on their own skills and abilities, then they most likely are in the wrong profession. Like, maybe retail?

Competent sales rep's are the hardest people to find for most organizations. That's because there are very few people out there that are any good at it.  You never know the answer to that question until AFTER you hire someone.

Related Story: a woman recently told me that she would take the reins as our lead sales exec if I would "at least cover her expenses."  I replied that this seemed like a reasonable request and could be done.  My assumption, of course, was that she was referring to the costs directly related to the sales process, such as gas and toll money, the occasional client lunch and postal & copy fees for mailing out our collateral.  Turns out, she was referring to her "living" expenses, namely her mortgage, cell phone, groceries, medical insurance, car payment and so on. Four grand would do it. Be advised, this involves a small little nano-biz that is a part time endeavor for everyone that has ever been involved in it.  I kid you not ...

Not in synch with the local poseurs, but....

I miss the Saratoga Diner on South Broadway, known long ago as the Spa City Diner.  I'll miss it even more when a Red Lobster or Chili's or Hooters takes its place.


Jun 1, 2012

Attention Saratoga Degenerates: Poker (with money!) Hits Town Next Month

We got a little advance notice of something you gambling degenerates in Saratoga (and there's a bunch of you) should be made aware of...

But let me get this one straight: it costs nada / zip / nuttin honey / zero to enter this poker tournament, but it has $1,000 in purse money? WTF, sign us up, bro!

Sunday, July 15th at The Parting Glass.  Full scoop for this baby is RIGHT HERE.

I'll see YOU at the final table!

Here is a story that touches on the 'legality' of this event as well as the means in which business activity is enhanced by a simple loosening of government bureaucracy....

July 15: Free Entry
New Ruling Opens Way for Cash Prize Events and New Businesses

$1,000 Poker Tournament Slated for Parting Glass

(Saratoga Springs) …. After a full day of elimination play, the poker tournament is down to its final table. There, eight stern-faced card sharks are looking to outfox the others in successive rounds of Texas Hold 'Em, with a pot of cash on the line for the top finishers. Finally, the last round is won, a single player has all the chips and the onlookers burst into applause. A champion is crowned.

Where, now, might one envision the above scene unfolding? On late night cable television, possibly? Or maybe a Vegas, Atlantic City or Native American casino? All would be logical options.

Now, how about the possibility of this unfolding locally in a place that bills itself as “Saratoga's Original Irish Pub,” otherwise known far and wide as The Parting Glass? Well, not only is it a possibility, but reality, as that downtown establishment will be hosting the $1,000 DILLIGAF / Parting Glass Open Poker Tournament on Sunday, July 15 at 1PM.

With $400 earmarked for the tournament winner and purse payouts awarded down to the 20th place finisher, the question becomes: how can such a scenario possibly be legal in New York, which is just now starting the long and complicated process of modifying the state constitution to allow poker and other cash card games in racinos and casinos as a legalized form of gambling? The answer lies in what is the player-friendly aspect of the Parting Glass contest: it is absolutely, 100% free to enter.

Using the standard risk /reward dynamic as a means of defining 'gambling' has long raised the issue of whether a Free-To-Play But Real Cash Prizes event is legitimate; a question that has remained unanswered as New York gave conflicting opinions on the matter. But that all changed in November, when the State Liquor Authority issued a Declaratory Ruling that, in essence, authorized such events in licensed premises under its supervision. Take away the risk (entry fees, cover charges, table cash), it stated, then all is legit – even if one is offering prize money.

Although several SLA-licensed venues around the state have since convened tournaments that offer soft prizes (point accumulations leading to a casino trip, etc), the July 15th Saratoga event appears to be the first (in the Capital Region at least) to offer a substantial amount of cold hard cash.

We've been running smaller poker sessions on Wednesday nights for a few months now,” said Linda DiBlasio of The Parting Glass. “But about a month ago, the people that bring music shows in here walked us through the complicated SLA rules and taught us how we could offer cash prizes.”

From there, all that was needed was a tournament sponsor who would help to fund the prize pool in return for the promotional publicity that would come with such a move. Enter the DILLIGAF lifestyle clothing line of Lake George, NY and Miami, FL.

The poker demographic is perfect for our brand of in-your-face t-shirts, hoodies and caps,” related DILLIGAF principal Bill Massry, a Saratoga native. “This Parting Glass gig will help us launch our new poker-themed line of clothing.”

Making all these connections come together was the local music & events company 398Productions, which has since formed a spinoff called the Free 4 All Poker Tour to take this sponsored-tourney concept on the road to venues throughout the state.

A new entertainment option for the city's residents and visitors, a new clothing line introduced and a new company being formed --- all taking place right here in Saratoga Springs.

For full tournament info, rules, purses and entry, visit www.Free4AllPokerTour.com