July 25, 2013

A Different Drum Update - July 25th, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd @ 11:22 am

Hello friends of A Different Drum!  It is time for a brief update, though I must apologize, since I haven’t had a chance to write the next installment of A Different Drum’s history yet.  Still, I wanted to let you know of a couple interesting new releases that came during the last couple of days.

NEW ARRIVALS:

IAMX “The Unified Field” $18 — IAMX has become of the scene’s most interesting and dynamic performers, and now we have the new album in stock.  You can order the CD here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/4046661293524/IAMX-The-Unified-Field

De/Vision “Strange Days” (Box Set) $30 — I only got a couple of these boxes, since I wasn’t sure how many fans needed to pick one up.  As a big De/Vision fan, I found the release interesting as it represents a collection of works from De/Vision’s early days which are perhaps my favorites.  But if you’re like me, you already have these tracks– consisting of the first three albums and some of the remixes from singles and bonus discs.   You can see the complete track list and order the box here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/POP022-2/De-Vision-Strange-Days

Christopher Anton “In Silence - Rename Mixes” (limited promo CDR) $12 — This limited edition promo CD features four versions of “In Silence” as remixed by Rename.  There are only 50 numbered copies worldwide, and I’ve got only a few here.  You can see the track list and order here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/RENPRO/Christopher-Anton-In-Silence-Rename-Mixes-Promo

Mechanical Apfelsine “RED” $16 — After a great debut album which sold well in A Different Drum’s store, we now have the cool, 2nd album by Russian synthpop band, Mechanical Apfelsine.   You can check out one of their songs and order the new album here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/MechAP2/Mechanical-Apfelsine-RED

That is all I have for you this week.  I’ll try to get another installment of A Different Drum’s history written next time.  Thanks for your support!
-Todd

July 13, 2013

A Different Drum Update - July 13th, 2013 - History Part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd @ 1:35 pm

Hello, this is Todd at A Different Drum.  There are three great, new releases that arrived into the store this week, so let’s take a quick look at them before diving into another piece of A Different Drum’s history:

NEW ARRIVALS:

Zynic “Blindsided” $20 — This is the 2nd album from the top-notch, European synthpop act that made a big splash with their debut album, “Fire Walk With Me”.   You can listen to an album sampler and order the new CD here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/CRCDZC04/Zynic-Blindsided

Tenek “Another Day” (CDEP) $12 — As previously announced, this is a taste of the new music being produced by TENEK, a well-produced and talented synthpop act from England.  You can order this new 4-track CDEP here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TENEK1/Tenek-Another-Day

Neutral Lies “Cryptex” $18 — This new import from France is the second album by Neutral Lies, a rising synthpop act that has a sound very similar to some of the popular bands in the 90’s.  Watch their video to get a taste and order their new CD here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/BDMCD22/Neutral-Lies-Cryptex

Now, as I head into another installment of A Different Drum’s history, I want to point out that all of the updates and the history segments can be found on A Different Drum’s blog page here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/blog/

Though I have made a regular practice of posting all updates on that blog, and mention it via Twitter and Facebook every time, it was pointed out to me by a friend that many people only see my updates through email and may not know about the blog if they want to look back at previous posts.  Feel free to check it out.

HISTORY OF A DIFFERENT DRUM - PART 4 - BRINGING A SHOW TO TOWN

Provo, Utah was my home for several years.  It is where I went to college, it is where I fell in love, where I got married, and where my wife and I started our family.  It is also where A Different Drum was started as a business, and it is a beautiful place to live.  It has grown a lot from year to year, along with the surrounding cities in Utah County.  I’ve always loved Provo, where despite the growing population, it always felt like your neighbors were your friends, everybody shared similar values, and your kids were safe to play in the streets without worry. Plus, it was beautiful, where you lived under the shadow of a great range of mountains.  But with all of Provo’s great attributes, it was true that not much happened there in terms of entertainment, other than a huge, Independence Day celebration and some great college sports.  There had never been more than two dance clubs ever since I can remember.  The long-time club was The Palace.  Another called The Edge was around for a while, later changing its name to The Omni.  While I was a college student, I had never danced at The Palace, but instead drove to Salt Lake City where there were many dance clubs to explore, and one in particular where I eventually became the head DJ.  The Palace in Provo had a reputation of being…well…kind of a boring place, though I never went to find out why.  After I’d started my business, I ended up getting hired as a DJ in the pop/rock room on Latin Night, and I found that it was a respectable business run by a respectable man.

My store was established and I had rediscovered synthpop, thus diving head-first into the new underground scene of the 90’s.  I started to wish that the fun would come to my town instead of always happening in faraway places.  I’d met my friend, Gary of New Wave Records, and we often talked about putting together a show in Provo.  After all, Provo and Utah in general was home to a great fan base for 80’s music and synthpop.  Many of the local fans were completely unaware of the underground scene, but you would regularly hear the classic synthpop stuff on the local, alternative radio stations.  Finally, Gary and I got serious.  I had been calling these bands regularly to order CD’s, so why not line something up with them and bring a show to town?  We had no experience as promoters, but how hard could it be?  We had credit cards, so we could cover the costs and simply pay ourselves back after the ticket sales, right?

We chose our first targets.  Anything Box was well known on the local radio station for their hit song, “Living in Oblivion”, which still played regularly, so we decided to make them the headliner for our first show.  We grabbed the local synthpop band, Agnes Poetry, as an opening act, and we even got another underground synthpop act from California called Turning Keys to come play a set.  It looked easy.  I called Orangewerks, which was the independent label for Anything Box and a man named Tim answered the phone, as usual.  I’d always dealt with Tim for CD orders and he knew me well.  He referred me to a lady who was the band’s booking agent and explained that I’d have to propose the show to her, and then she’d arrange the payments and let us know the equipment list, etc.   Basically, the rules to promoting a show with a band that is popular enough to get paid is that you cannot advertise that anything is happening until you have signed the contract and have paid the required advance (usually half of the total booking price).  Gary and I split the costs and booked Anything Box.  The opening bands were simple arrangements consisting of something like, “hey, you want to play?” “Sure, we’d love to!”

As soon as the wheels were in motion, we excitedly began making preparations.  For advertising, we paid for a few radio ads, but they were expensive, so we didn’t buy many.  I mentioned in my previous installment how the radio station’s DJ was even heard to make fun of the show after running one of the ads, saying something like, “That will be a great show…with one song!”  But despite the minimal budget invested in advertising, a few tickets started to sell.  In fact, a few fans were worried that they wouldn’t be able to get in.  “Did it sell out already?”  Of course they could still get in!  Tickets weren’t selling that quickly…we had plenty.  We booked The Palace as our venue.  They gave us a good deal, since I knew the manager and had been working there once per week as a Latin Night DJ.  Gary and I thought that we might sell a lot more tickets to college students who may not know the band, but who simply wanted something to do, so we made flyers and spent many hours posting them in every dorm complex in town.  Maybe we sold a half dozen tickets through our flyer efforts, but we learned quickly that the media was far more effective than flyers, and that was why it was so much more expensive.

There are other things to take care of before the show can go on.  Aside from paying the advance, we also had to book a hotel for the band, buy their airline tickets, and acquire all of the necessary gear on their technical rider.  I took care of the airline tickets right away.  We’d been informed that there were three people in Anything Box, plus one extra person who would come to sell merchandise.  That was four tickets total.  Thinking myself rather clever, I figured that Tim, the man who always answered the phone at Orangewerks, would be the merchandise guy, so I bought one of the tickets in his name.  There was Claude, Dania, Gary S, and Tim.  When I called Tim and told him what I’d done, I got something of an odd response.  “Um….um….well…I don’t think I’ll actually be coming…”  Apparently I’d jumped the gun by assuming that Tim needed a ticket.  After a little confusion, Tim assured me that everything would be OK, and that they’d transfer the ticket to whoever was going to come.  In the end, three people walked off that plane.  It was with some amusement that I came to realize later that Tim could not have come as a separate person.  After all, these guys were on their own label, right?  Who else would run a label that released music that was written and recorded by one person?  I didn’t care that the airplane ticket was a waste, and I understood that “Tim” had to answer the phone to avoid many endless conversations with strangers wanting a little time with the star of Anything Box.  It made perfect sense, and in the end was simply amusing.  Even more amusing was the fact that I now had my first CD release, “Rise! America’s Synthpop Underground” printed with a permanent “thank you” to Tim.

The technical rider for a show includes all of the necessary equipment for the band to perform, because most bands who are popular enough to use a booking agent and charge for their gigs don’t actually bring their own gear. Nobody wants to haul expensive keyboards and equipment around on airplanes.  Plus, there is also a list provided of hospitality needs.  Aside from a hotel room, the band may request things like “a dozen, ice-cold water bottles and three clean towels in a secluded backstage area.”  They may have special meal requests or other things that they want to make sure are not forgotten.  Gary and I looked over the list of equipment that we needed to secure and found that there were a couple of items that were not available locally for rent.  We had to call several store in Salt Lake City to rent the specific keyboard that had been required.  It was an expensive rental, and we had to drive an hour each way to pick it up, all while we were also picking up the band and taking care of other last-minute arrangements.  But in the end, we got everything, including the large mixing board and the professional audio engineer to run it.  We set the equipment up on the stage and then, during sound check with the band, got another amusing surprise.  The microphones (which were already at the club, and thus the cheapest piece of equipment on the stage) was really all they needed for the sound check.

I pointed at the top-notch keyboard with great pride.  “Look what we got for you!”

“Oh, nice.  Thanks.”

I plugged the cables into the keyboard and asked which channel they wanted it plugged into for the mixing board.

“Um, just toss the leads off the side of the stage.  You don’t need to plug them in.”

“Really?  Why?”

“We’re not going to play anything on the keyboard.  That’s just where Gary stands.  We only need to plug in the DAT machine.”

They had brought a DAT machine (digital tape) which was set on top of the keyboard where Gary S. could push play, pause, or whatever while dancing his fingers around on the keys.

“So, you don’t need this particular keyboard?”

“Not specifically.”

“It was on the technical rider.”

“Oh, we just put a quality keyboard on there, but it can be any good keyboard.  We’ve just had shows where we show up and there is a cheap Casio on stage, and we look like idiots, so as long as it has Roland, or Korg, or some legit brand name on it, we’re good.”

I thought to myself, “Well, I have a cool Roland sitting in my home.  I could have brought that for free, but we just spent hundreds of dollars to bring this thing from Salt Lake City for a night. Oh well.”  I shrugged it off.  After all, this was Anything Box, and they were awesome.  I loved these guys!  I still do.  Anything Box will forever be one of the premier, American synthpop acts.

I think back to when Gary and I were at the airport to pick up the band.  Back in those days you could actually meet your party at the terminal as they walked off the plane.  All I knew about the appearance of the band was what I’d seen in album covers and promo flyers.  There was the unforgettable hair that defined 80’s new wave, and the cool fashions.  Gary wasn’t as fooled as I was when the band came out of the tunnel.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was looking for black leather, hair that defied gravity, and somebody…well…a bit taller.  When you think of your heroes and the people you “look up to” your mind sort of makes them larger than life.  You expect them to be tall.  So, when three regular people came out of the tunnel and my friend Gary moved to them to shake their hands and welcome them, I took a split second to realize that this was who we’d been waiting for.  They were just regular people, in regular clothes, with regular hair, and a bit shorter than myself.  Again, I was laughing at myself for being somewhat naive in the entire process.  We got to talk quite a bit with Claude, Gary S, and Dania, and found them to be very kind, down-to-earth individuals.

By the time the show rolled around, we were surprised by a long line outside of the club.  Based on pre-show ticket sales, we really did not know what to expect.  We were looking at financial losses, for sure.  But the line went out the door, across the parking lot, and down the street.  When we brought the band to The Palace and they saw the line, they too seemed a bit surprised.  This was Provo, Utah and nobody had known what to expect.  There were between two and three hundred people at the show, which was a great crowd for the size of the club.  It wasn’t too many, and it wasn’t too few.  I stood with my wife and my sister in the back, next to the mixing engineer who was finding the entire thing somewhat amusing since he wasn’t mixing much at all, except three microphones and a DAT player.  But you know what?  Once Anything Box started singing those songs, the crowd went wild and the show was more fun that I had imagined.  Claude sang wonderfully, and Dania was like a cheerleader up there, working the crowd into a frenzy.  Every song got the crowd bouncing and singing along.  A funny thing about Dania was that she had not planned to do her hair, but Gary had begged her, saying, “Dania, everybody expects you to have the hair!”  So, she did it.  The wife of Ronn from Turning Keys gave Dania a trim in the hotel, then helped her apply the necessary, gravity defying gels and sprays to make it stand on end.  So when Dania hit the stage, she was exactly what the crowd expected, and I think they loved her most of all for the energy she brought to the show.  Gary and I were in heaven.  We’d brought a show to Provo, Utah, and everybody was having a great time.  Nobody knew or cared how much of the instrumentation was live, but they knew that Claude was singing the songs they loved.  There was one brief snafu when the DAT player came unplugged and the music suddenly stopped, leaving only the mics on.  But Clause and Dania kept singing while Gary S got the DAT hooked up again, and people seemed to love the brief acapella performance as much as the rest of the show.

When the band had finished and the show was over, they came out from backstage and hung out with the fans who had stuck around, hoping for an autograph.  They didn’t just sign autographs, but talked with people and sat around, sharing themselves until the club finally insisted that we pack up and leave so that their employees could finally go home.  Everybody seemed very uptempo and happy to have been there.  In every way it looked like a huge success.  Gary and I counted up the cash from the door ticket sales, which were better than we’d hoped.  We already knew what we’d spent, and we already know what we’d sold in advance, so when we tallied everything together, we’d lost about $750.  I remember we both agreed that we’d never had so much fun losing $750 before and that we should do it again.  Next time we would know better what worked and what didn’t, and we now had one show’s experience under our belts.

We immediately put the wheels in motion to do it again, booking The Palace for another show with Red Flag, Seven Red Seven, and Cosmicity.  We indeed moved through things more smoothly, spending less time plastering the city with flyers and putting more money into strategic radio ad placements.  Guess what…my keyboard ended up on stage this time, though I had to make sure that the extra man who came for Seven Red Seven’s stage show, Robert Semrow of The Memory Garden, knew that it was actually my keyboard and I didn’t want it damaged from the performance (Robert loved to pound on keyboards for stage effect).  Once again we had a lot of fun hanging out with musical friends, particularly the Seven Red Seven and Cosmicity guys who joined Gary and I for Chinese food before the show. Once again we had a good crowd between 200 and 300 people, and once again everybody seemed to have fun.   We didn’t get as much of a chance to talk to Mark and Chris from Red Flag, as they tended to stay in the hotel until the last minute, and weren’t quite as sociable as Anything Box had been.  But at the end of the day, Gary and I counted the money and gave each other high-fives for having once again lost about $750 on a synthpop show in Provo, Utah.

In the end, money was lost, but memories were made, and some of A Different Drum’s long-time customers and friends were found in those first audiences.  In fact, I think that those two shows did more to boost A Different Drum on a local level than anything I’d done up to that point.  Suddenly people were walking into my store to buy synthpop CD’s that they couldn’t find anywhere else.  Suddenly, the business felt a little bit more legitimate.  It felt less like a home for all things international, and more like a home for nostalgic synthpop fans who wanted to look at my one little rack of CD’s and discover something new.  Gary and I had started a life-long friendship through those collaborations, and I had also made my first face-to-face contact with bands who I’d work with for years.  I have further stories which include these people, which I hope to touch upon later.

Next time…

PART 5 — MAKING A RECORD LABEL

Thanks for reading!
-Todd

July 4, 2013

A Different Drum Update - July 4th, 2013 - History Part 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd @ 10:49 pm

Hello friends of A Different Drum!  It is time for another update, and another installment of A Different Drum’s history.  I hope that you’re enjoying the history segments.

But first, here are the NEW ARRIVALS…

The Voice In Fashion “The Moment of Truth Re-Loaded” (2CD) $15 — This is a new import from a classic synthpop act, featuring the album “The Moment of Truth” with a bonus CD loaded with remixes for a total of 23 tracks!  You can see the complete track list and order the 2CD here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/SA018/The-Voice-in-Fashion-The-Moment-of-Truth-Re-Loaded

Jens Bader “Second Life” $15 — Hot on the heels of the Unisex CD release, this is another collection of remastered and remixed songs by the prolific German synthpop act.  You can see the track list and order the CD here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/JB2013-2/Jens-Bader-Second-Life

PRE-ORDERS:

Tenek “Another Day” (CDEP) $12 — This is an exciting new selection of new tracks leading into the upcoming Tenek album!  Tenek has a connection with the old days of A Different Drum’s label with Geoff of THE NINE and ALIEN#SIX13.  You can read about this new material and pre-order the new EP here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TENEK1/Tenek-Another-Day

As previously announced, these re-issues by ANYTHING BOX are available for pre-order and will ship to anybody who orders as soon as the CD’s arrive from the label:

Anything Box “Hope” Pre-Order Here
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TWI116/Anything-Box-Hope

Anything Box “Worth” Pre-Order Here
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TWI115/Anything-Box-Worth

Anything Box “Recovered” Pre-Order Here
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TWI114/Anything-Box-Recovered

Anything Box “Volumen One” Pre-Order Here
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TWI117/Anything-Box-Volumen-One

HISTORY OF A DIFFERENT DRUM - PART 3 - REDISCOVERING SYNTHPOP

As mentioned in the previous installment of A Different Drum’s history, the company first began as a special-order business that focused on hard-to-find, international music, with the bulk of the sales in Latin music.  The first incarnation of the physical store carried almost all Latin music on very few shelves.  The 2nd physical location, which was the first in its own building, saw an increase in space for inventory.  Customers could walk into the store and find both ethnic music and popular music from many countries, as well as musical genres generally ignored by the mainstream.  I had a fun time in that store, and it was there that my constant searches for unique products led me back to my musical roots.  While seeking rarities and imports, I found that quite a few of my old band favorites like OMD, Alphaville, etc. actually had new albums that I didn’t know about, because they had been completely abandoned by the market in the USA.  I ordered new albums by those bands, both to sell, and to add to my own collection. I figured that they could find a welcome home in a store that was focused on international CD’s.  Since my business was small, and customers were not frequent, I had plenty of time each day to dig around the globe, spending hundreds and hundreds of hours running up phone bills.  Looking back, I miss the personal connection that I was able to make with the artists, labels, and people behind the scenes, as well as with my customers, in a world that had not yet completely turned to virtual methods of communication.

Though I don’t recall exactly how the pieces came together, the discovery that my favorite bands from my youth had never quite vanished, but had merely been deserted by American labels, eventually led me to sleuthing out contacts for more and more of those artists, including American bands like Anything Box, Red Flag, and Seven Red Seven. Those bands had also continued releasing CD’s on their own labels once the majors deserted them.  For some, the abandonment of the major labels felt like a sort of liberation, allowing the artists to take their sizable fan bases and sell independent CD’s for a larger profit margin than they could have made with the labels.  For others, it felt like a slap in the face to see their support unceremoniously pulled away.  Some bands had barely even recorded debut albums, only to see them quickly sold as cut-outs and forgotten.  I saw that while my interests had expanded and my focus had changed for a while, I could not turn my back on the music I’d loved during my youth, even if the larger market had already forsaken it. I not only felt that I could expand my store’s selection by taking in some of those import and independent releases from what was now an underground scene, but I also felt a sense of obligation to reclaim my roots, embrace my old dreams, and even lend a hand if possible.  Sure, I was just one guy in a small building with very few visitors, but I was sure I could contribute in some way.  Soon enough, there was a little corner of my front counter with a small CD rack that carried titles like Anything Box “Hope”, Red Flag “The Lighthouse”, Seven Red Seven “Bass State Coma”, and Cosmicity “The Moment”, along with imports like Alphaville “Prostitute” and OMD “Universal”, among others.

One thing led to another.  My phone conversations and explorations led to new contacts with small labels in Germany and Sweden, where synthpop had not been as roughly treated as in the USA.  I talked frequently to a man named Dennis who ran a label called October Records.  We shared similar backgrounds and similar aspirations.  I talked to a man in Germany named Lorenz who managed what was one of the synthpop underground’s favorite bands in the mid nineties called De/Vision.  I started interacting with other folks online, connecting with people that had formed an underground synthpop network in Australia, and posting comments on a small, internet newsgroup called alt.music.synthpop.   I conversed with a wonderful woman named Jeri who had worked passionately to not only run an Information Society fan club, but also kept a series of printed newsletters going and put together some early CD compilations of new synthpop bands from the underground– bands who might never have been heard otherwise.  I found a man named David who publushed a wonderful magazine that not only focused on the 80’s roots of synthpop, but actually reviewed and interviewed new bands.  There were other magazines in Europe that included synthpop in their pages, but only as a spring-off of their main industrial and gothic focus.

One day a man named Gary walked into my store and saw my little collection of imported and independent synthpop on the counter-top.  “What?” he exclaimed with surprise.  “You carry Anything Box?  Alphaville?  Red Flag?  I thought nobody had this stuff!”  It turns out that Gary had come into my store to scout out what kind of establishment I had, as he was also starting up his own retail outlet.  He was starting a business called New Wave Records, with a focus on new wave and synthpop rarities.  We fast became friends and never once thought of each other as competitors.  He opened a very small store in a basement room in an office building, which was an odd location for retail, but it was basically a base of operations.  He had some CD’s, both used and new, spread out on tables.  Our conversations and sharing of resources quickly resulting in collaborative efforts to bring a couple of our favorite synthpop bands to Provo, Utah for concerts.   Those efforts may have been poorly conceived, but were fueled by a passion that we both shared, and soon enough we were organizing our first events.  We put together a concert with Anything Box, with an opening performance by a local synthpop favorite, Agnes Poetry.  We also organized a show combining Red Flag, Seven Red Seven, and Cosmicity.   I remember spending all of my evenings for a few weeks spreading flyers around dorm complexes surrounding BYU in Provo, hoping that the right people would notice.  I don’t think those flyers had any effect, but how could we know unless we tried?  We also paid for a few radio ads, and I remember both Gary and I becoming quite angry with the local alternative radio station for nearly mocking our shows right after the ads.  There was one time when an ad for Anything Box ran, and then the DJ said something like, “Wow, that should be a great concert– with only one song!”  Gary called the station immediately and told them, “We’re not paying for that one.”  They apologized..after all, it was their job to hype the show, not mock it.  I shall elaborate more on these initial concert events in my next update.  Suffice it to say for now that we didn’t make any money on either of those two events, but at the end of each show, Gary and I would look at each other and say, “That was the most fun I ever had losing $1,000!” (or whatever the amount had been).

My passion for synthpop had been rekindled. I continued to build my selection and opened a very simplistic, online store so that the CD’s I carried could be ordered from anybody, anywhere in the world.  Orders started trickling in as the fans who roamed the internet supported my effort to bring the remnants of the scene under a single roof.  Though the CD’s could have been ordered from each artist individually, it seemed that people liked the idea of a store that carried a larger selection, and business steadily grew.  I remember when I reached a point where I would sometimes sell more CD’s through online orders and phone orders that I had sold to any customer actually entering my physical store.  The business was still very young, but it was growing steadily.

Inspired by the “Cat Compilations” released by Jeri Beck in the USA, I put together my own collection of songs, gathered from American synthpop bands both new and veteran, hoping that it could act as a sort of exploratory tool for would-be fans.  It was then, in 1996 that I put together the first release to carry my store name of “A Different Drum”.  The CD was called “Rise! America’s Synthpop Underground” and it quickly became my best-selling synthpop CD as orders trickled in from around the world.  My associates in Sweden and Germany wanted to import a few and sell them to their fan-bases as well, and I could see that there was a small market for such compilations.  I quickly began planning more.  Why stop there?

During those early days of mailing CD’s out of my little store, I met some very good customers who became long-time friends.  Folks like Sal A., Sean N., and Ken D. (among others) would call frequently to find out what new titles I’d brought into my store, and I spent many hours propping a phone next to my stereo speakers so that they could hear the latest tunes.  It is with a smile that I think to those days of telephone sampling, and how costly it must have been to spend one or two hours with a single customer flipping through tracks for horrible sound quality.  But they kept calling, kept buying, and kept wanting more.  Even today I enter into regular contact with some of those early customers, but not to listen to music over the wire.  Instead we talk as friends and share our personal experiences and feelings.  Sal is a particularly prized friend who calls often to see how my family is doing or to share political opinions.  Even if there isn’t as much music to buy from A Different Drum as there used to be, we’ve watched each others families grow and we’ve shared wonderful memories.  He probably has purchased every synthpop release I’ve ever stocked in my store, from the early days until the present, but I believe that it isn’t even about the music as much as it is about supporting his friends, which is something I cherish.  Let me tell you a quick story about Sal, as it brings a smile to my face whenever I think about it– and there are many more stories about this great man.

Back in those early mail-order days, I often had to wait for paper checks to arrive as payment for CD’s, and then I’d mail the CD’s to the customer.  Debit cards were not as popular then, so things had to be done the “slow way”.  One particular customer called and ordered quite a few CD’s, which he claimed that he needed quickly for some upcoming event.  He asked if I could ship the CD’s immediately, and he would mail the check at the same time, and the two would “cross paths” on the way to our addresses.  I agreed and shipped the CD’s.  Weeks went by, and no check arrived.  I reminded the customer that I was waiting, but the check never seemed to come around.  One day I was talking to Sal, and I mentioned that I had a customer who was not paying. I believed it would be my first loss to theft with the mail-order part of my business.  Sal was quickly frustrated that somebody would do such a thing to a young businessman who was sacrificing so much to support synthpop.  After all, every CD I stocked was with my own money, and not a small cost in some large, seemingly intangible entity.  Stealing CD’s from my store was really the same thing as walking in and taking cash from my wallet.  Sal lives in New York and has an Italian family background, and though he’s as honest and gentle as you can imagine, I’m sure that a certain tone in his voice when angry could shake somebody a little bit.

“So, Todd, can you give me this guy’s number?”

“No, don’t worry about it Sal, it’s really not a big deal.  I just know better now about sending large shipments with a payment first.”

“Seriously man, I’m not going to do anything stupid.  I just want to talk to him.”

“I don’t want him to think that I’m after him.  It might look bad for me, as a business.  What if the guy never orders from me again?”

“Who cares if he never orders again?  He isn’t paying you anyway!”

“OK, here’s the number, but don’t do anything crazy.”

“Look Todd, you know me.  I’m not going to do anything that would make you look bad.  I just want to let him know that he needs to be honest with you.”

Well, within a couple of days, I received a priority letter with a check enclosed, and the customer called long enough to ask, “So, did you receive my payment OK?  I told you I’d send it, and I have.”  I never heard from that guy again.

I called Sal and asked, “So…buddy…what did you say to that guy?”

“I just told him that I understand he owes you money and that you’re my friend, and he better send it to you, right away, because I don’t like people stealing from my friends.  Something like that.  Why? Did he pay you?”

“Yes, he paid right away…express.”

“Great!  So, no harm done?”

“Nope.”

I don’t really know what went down on that phone call that Sal made to the guy, but I imagine he was forceful, yet polite.  But that is the way Sal has been from the beginning.  He has been extremely passionate and even protective of the entire synthpop scene and A Different Drum.  He has the largest collection of CD’s I’ve ever seen in one place, and he treasures them, just like I treasure his friendship.   He has often asked me, “So Todd, how many CD’s to you have now?” I just laugh and reply, “Not nearly as many as you do.”

“Oh, come on!  You have tens of thousands of CD’s!”

“Yes, but I have thousands of copies of the same thing.  Hundreds of this one, hundreds of that one, a thousand of another.  But every disc is unique in your collection.”

“True, true.  But you still own them.”

There is also Ken D. in Canada, who I’ve been privileged to meet in person and who has called and talked to me all these years.  He also has a huge collection, complete with concert bootlegs and videos that I have never seen before.  He is more selective than Sal, but feels a very compelling drive to fill any hole in his collection if it comes to a band that he loves. He and others like him have filled their lives with music, and have shared parts of their lives with me.  I remember a customer who used to mail me mix CD’s that he made of his favorite songs and artists.  Then he asked me what kind of music my wife enjoyed.  When I told him, he then made her several mix CD’s of just the kinds of things she liked.  It was his little way of giving back and sharing the music that brought him joy.  With one CD that he mailed, he included a note that thanked me for all the CD’s he had found and purchased from my store.  He told me that he had been diagnosed HIV positive, and that the music had kept his hopes and even his body alive at times when he had thought the end was near.  He felt like the music was better than any other medication, and he had been grateful to have found A Different Drum.  At the times when I felt like I was throwing my life away and risking the well-being of my family because of my belief that I could make something of my business, it was letters and comments like that which kept me going.  It convinced me that the financial side didn’t always have to add up, as long as the human side did.

There are many more similar experiences that began with quick emails and telephone calls from that little store.  I’ve laughed myself to tears in lighthearted conversations about not only music, but about life, all because I was chasing a dream, and was too stubborn to quit.  That is probably why I’m still here, typing this update and this history– because despite the fact that A Different Drum has faded from its prominent position in a synthpop scene that may itself be fading into the noisy background of a myriad sounds that flood the internet and the airwaves…I’m too stubborn to just close the door on that old store completely.

Next time, PART 4 - BRINGING A SHOW TO TOWN

Thanks for reading :-)
-Todd