my indie ethics.

At the dayjob, my publicist was working like a crazy person, lining up interview after interview in advance of our planned product line launch.

And each time she landed another interview, she’d call me with another set of requirements.

“Such-and-such magazine needs a product photo,” she’d say.

“I don’t have  a product photo.  The product line isn’t done yet.”

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t have a product photo.’?  How the hell am I supposed to get you press in a trade publication if you don’t have a product photo?”

So I’d run around like a madman, get my designer to make a mock-up of a bunch of insert cards, print the custom labels on our thermal transfer machine, and have the factory actually package them up so that they looked like actual products.  Then I’d hire a photographer who would take pictures and rush through the production of 50 slides at a service bureau.

Two days later, she’d call me back and say “I need some product photos in black-and-white.”

“Black and white?” I’d ask.  “What for?”

“Because they publish in black and white!”

And so I’d have to get black and white photos made.

It was like that virtually every day through July, running around, putting out one fire after another.  An entire shipment of cigarette lighter adapters had to be rejected because they used the wrong plug.  Another shipment of battery chargers didn’t fit the batteries properly.

I was also hiring rep firms all across the country.  They’d fly in and meet with Fred to get the “big picture,” then they’d sit with me for the afternoon and I’d tell them about the new product line, what I was looking for, what the expectations were.

Then, if I felt confident in a guy, I’d tell Fred I wanted to hire him.  And, every time, Fred would say “no.”

Eventually I discovered the reason.  I was bringing in flashy guys with retail experience.  Fred was familiar with industrial guys who were experienced selling to government agencies.  They were two different types of people.

So I started interviewing two sets of rep firms – one for the industrial business, and a second for the retail business.

All the industrial guys wanted to sell the retail line also, and all the retail guys wanted the industrial line.  It was like a nightmare, trying to find firms that would take what I offered them.  But eventually, I did.

One day, I got a letter in the mail, addressed to the Label Manager of Dromedary.

I didn’t save the letter, but to paraphrase, here’s what it said.

“I sent you a personal check for ten dollars for the new Jenifer Convertible CD, and I have not received my CD yet.  This is stealing. I think it’s a sad statement on your indie ethics that you would steal ten dollars from a customer and not send him what he ordered.  Please send me my ten dollars back, or send me my Jenifer Convertible CD.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”

The letter was actually more than a page long, and it was a lecture. It was as insulting as hell, and I was incensed every time I read it.

I probably wrote ten responses to that letter before the “final” one that I actually put in the mail.  It read something like this:

“Dear Nick:

Thanks for your nice letter.

Unfortunately, I never received your check.  If you had actually checked your bank account before writing me your nasty letter, you’d probably see that your check has never been cashed.  That’s because I never received it.  I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Second of all, you ordered a record that we have not even manufactured yet.  In fact, we just signed the band.  I don’t even have the master tapes yet.  The record has not been released, and I have not advertised it anywhere.  Where did you find out that we had it available, and what price we’d be selling it for?  Because we haven’t figured any of that out yet.

Third of all, how dare you call me out on my ethics, without finding out all the details first?  We pride ourselves on being exactly the opposite of what you’re accusing me of being.  Do you think Dromedary Records is my full-time job?  It’s not.  I have a full-time job.  And a wife, and a baby boy.  And inbetween doing all that stuff, I own a record label that prides itself on giving bands a place to put out records so they don’t get screwed by their labels, and giving fans a place to buy CDs at a reasonable price.  And guess what – do you know how much money I’ve made at this?  Zero.  In fact, I lose thousands of dollars every year.

So thanks for the nice letter.  If I ever receive your check, I promise you I’ll tear it up.  You can keep your ten dollars, and I’ll send you the Jenifer Convertible CD for free whenever it comes out.

Love,

Al/dromedary”

That letter made me bananas.  You could do everything in your power to do everything exactly the right way, and some guy who’s never met you thinks you’re a scumbag anyway, because he put ten dollars in the mail that never got to you.  And there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change his mind – he doesn’t know who you are, he doesn’t care, he just thinks you stole his money – and he’s going to tell all his friends this, and write you a nasty letter, but never actually check his bank account to see if the check had ever been cashed.

The amount of aggravation in my life was astounding.

~ by Al on November 13, 2009.

2 Responses to “my indie ethics.”

  1. You should have invited him in so Fred could slap him right in the face.

  2. […] that I must have told him I was shutting down the label – so my telling of the story in this prior post was a little […]

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