About music and food

This article was published in this quarter’s issue of Georgia Music Magazine (in which I write a regular music technology column) under the title “Music and marketing can be downloaded; A meal is a different story“:

Francine ReedBack in the mid-’90s, when I worked at Ichiban Records, one of our marquee artists was local Blues Diva Francine Reed. Once a month or so, Francine would pay us a visit and bring lunch with her. She would spend the morning cooking a hearty southern fried style lunch: Colored greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, meat loaf, corn bread – her meals where absolutely delicious, and doubly so on a cold winter day. It was heart-warming to see an artist invest so much in her relationship with her record company. She’d cook enough for forty of us, which is not trivial. And she’d hang out at the kitchen to greet everyone as we lined up to pick up our plate, shake hands with a bright smile and chat with each and every team member. What a wonderful lady! 

Do you think that when the time came and we all got on the phone to market, promote and sell her records, this personal touch made a difference? You bet it did! A good meal is a sure way to a man’s or woman’s heart. Everyone felt the love, everyone felt invested, everyone felt committed. Everyone adored her and wanted to invest in making her releases succeed, and succeed they did. 

Another fun Ichiban Records memory is how we tried to use email for marketing. There was only one PC in the entire building that was connected to the internet back in 1996, and it was in a small station in the windowless printer room. It had a 14k modem (yes, 14k) and an Ichiban AOL account on it (though you’d wait an hour before you heard the PC scream “You Got Mail” at you). We tried to be “innovative” and start communicating about new releases to radio stations and stores. PAINFUL. Do you remember what the experience was back then, sitting in front of a noisy and slow modem and waiting for it to connect and to send and receive? It would literally take a 2-hour session to blast an email to a list of a few dozen people. And with this being the only connected PC in the building, there was often a line at the door, people waiting their turn to get on the magic box to view an email or, God forbid, try to print one out. 

We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we? Not only in how we communicate, but also in how we access information and music. All the music you want, and all the cooking recipes you want, are but a click or two away via your favorite music site or cooking site – or just via Google or Bing. My smart phone can access those, plus email, faster than any computer could back in 1996. In 15 years, our communication methods and habits have been totally revolutionized. And we are not done yet.  

A younger generation is growing into their own now which would not recognize the world without smart phones, tablets, and the internet. They take it for granted that millions of songs are purchasable or streamable at their fingertips. Their interaction with one another and with the rest of society is largely digitized. They learn, read, play, listen and view the world on digital devices that are ever-connected to one another. It is hard to imagine what those devices would look like, and be able to do, fifteen years from today.We still, however, have to re-connect with earth to cook and eat a good meal. You can’t digitize mashed potatoes. Yet.  

(Shachar Oren, CEO).