For about a year or more I had been working on promoting dance remixes. As I wrote in a previous post, it was a great job because I got to learn a lot about the industry. It also got me out of a very toxic work environment for a brief amount of time and allowed me to be somewhat independent. The only stipulation was that I sell as much as possible. In the beginning, things were going well . The release was limited to vinyl records and with over 10,000 sold it was considered a success. There were two subsequent releases that did not reach those numbers. The main reason was because the dance music industry had gotten over the novelty of the band releasing their remixes. People in the club scene are cynical by nature. They often abhor pop music unless it comes from well-known icons who have crossed over into dance. Back in the day those included Madonna , Michael Jackson, and Sade. None of these artists produced their own remixes. They always got a professional remixer to do the job for them. In this way, those artists could take advantage of the remixer’s expert knowledge of dance music and its audience while the remixer could benefit from the reputation of major artists. Perhaps the only mega popstar to have done it himself was Prince when he did the Batman soundtrack. Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx also created their own dance music but they were originally electronic musicians born from the dance music scene.
The band leader insisted on making his own remixes. On the surface, it made sense because he had extraordinary skill with composition and electronic music. Unfortunately he had absolutely no understanding of dance music, and this is where the trouble began. I mentioned this before in a previous post, but he was upset when I suggested that he also hire a well-known dance music artist to do the remix of the songs. He thought the idea was basic and it echoed too much the advice he had gotten from the record label, which was Virgin Records at the time. I had no power to stop him from doing what he wanted, so I went along with his plan because I needed an opportunity to move forward. I suppose it's a bad idea to take on any assignment that you know is doomed to fail because the failure will only blemish your own reputation. I was green and had nothing to lose by failing. I was very much in the situation where I had to employ the strategy of fake it till you make it. I didn't know the first thing about record promotion or producing vinyl records but I figured it out very quickly.
The other thing that I didn't know about was how to tell someone with so much influence and power that the idea they were so into was actually the wrong direction. This was a big puzzle. After the second release, complaints started to come in from the distributors. They insisted that the band hire established remixers to do the job for them just as everyone had suggested before the project even started. Sales had gone down. The second release was only half of what the first one was. The third release was a little bit less than half. I had great admiration for the band and deep gratitude for the bandleader’s belief in me. I did not want to see him crash and burn because of this project even though it meant certainly that I myself would crash.
One day, I had a brilliant idea. Up to that point I simply reported the good feedback that I had gotten and purposely left out the negative feedback in order to protect him from the emotional trauma it would cause. I realized that wasn’t a good idea because he could not see the reality of what was happening. I decided, after the third release, to send him the unedited correspondence that I had received from many distributors, record shop owners, and DJ's. It was a brutal move but one that needed to be done in order for him to change directions before it was too late.
Just as I suspected, he took the messages to heart and was slightly hurt by them, though he would never show it to me. Very soon after, he decided to end his remix project. What's interesting is every time I see him now, he always says that he was the one who decided to end it. Actually, I was the one who decided and I did so in order to save him, even if it meant sacrificing myself. I was a nobody but he had a whole crew of people whose survival depended on his success.
In Japan, companies rarely fire people. At least they didn't back then. After the remix project was over, I was returned to Limbo until the president called me into his office one day. I had been proposing that we start a subdivision within the company to explore the promotion of dance music because we were in the heyday of the electronic music boom. It wasn’t as lucrative as mega pop stars that the company was managing but it was still a viable income stream that we should explore.
The president told me that his best friend’s son was returning to Japan from Toronto Canada and that he was interested in promoting dance music. He then made me an offer. If I could work with the son, then I would be allowed to start the project. Of course, I said yes . I didn't care who the person was if it was going to allow me to move forward in the direction that I wanted to go. I trained the kid and taught him everything he needed to know to be able to put together a business proposal. I introduced him to all of my contacts and set him up so that he could get started in the music industry. Within the company we created a sub company called Groove Kitchen. It was a name that I came up with to represent the fact that we would be cooking up something good musically. Like I stated in a previous post, teamwork makes the dreamwork. The son turned out to be a nightmare. The dream crashed and burned like the Hindenburg. Oh man, do I have stories to tell, but I'll save those for another day.