Monday, November 16, 2009 

Copycats, Ripoffs and Shameless Followers

I was recently contacted by yet another person who found it easier to copy something I'd done, vs. actually creating something original themselves. Although this person didn't know it was me - he thought he was soliciting a show from an online property I own - he was looking for a gig for his band (I will not give him the luxury of a mention here, he won't be getting any promo push from my side). Here it is:

This joker actually auditioned for my tribute band nearly two years ago. Although he isn't the best drummer around by any stretch, he was pretty enthusiastic/watchable; and my tribute doesn't require the best drummer, making him acceptable for the job. When things didn't pop for shows as quickly as we'd all hoped, the guy sent me a shitty email, telling me not to contact him again. Hmmmm....

So imagine my train of thought when I get an email from him, pushing forth the regular PR spin about his tribute "playing to packed rooms," "Chicago's premier tribute," etc. The fact is, I'm now directly responsible for THREE CCR tribute bands in the Chicago market. Not sure what that fact means (although I am sure it doesn't mean any extra money in my pocket), but here's the funniest part: Plans & actions are already underway with the musicians in my tribute to move away from being a tribute band! We've already hit our goals as live performers - we are knocking out every audience, every time - and now we're focusing on how to transfer whatever chemistry we have working with cover tunes to original tunes. A deliciously fun challenge, actually.

And so... assuming things go well along these new lines, these other jokers actually will be the premier CCR tributes, doing their damndest to catch up to an empty wagon with cardboard cutouts waving in the wind - we will have vacated the throne towards greener pastures...



Dale Bozzio's Consalvi Foods

"The difference between crazy and eccentric? Money..."At least, that's how I think the old saying is properly quoted - and I think Dale would probably enjoy the saying in context with her.

Truth is, I don't know any musician, entrepreneur, restaurant owner or the like who couldn't be called crazy for being in the business they're in. The difference? Money. Only the ones who achieve commercial success seem to be immune to being lumped in as a hopeless dreamer/loser/failure. I guess it depends upon how you measure success, eh?

As any real fans of Dale know, right now she's in the pokey in New Hampshire ("Kitten In The Can"), doing 90 days or so for animal cruelty.

FYI, this whole thing is ironic; anyone who knows Dale knows she prefers animals to most humans, and does her best to rescue & adopt them - too much, in the opinion of some. My hope, however, is that she can "do a Martha;" come out stronger than ever, and use the experience to reinvigorate her career - but this time, with food as the backbone.

While I'm not sure where things are at with her food company dreams, I am sure she has some pretty heavy-duty fans (with national TV shows) she could probably book segments on when/if she's ready to roll with her line. Some names Dale kicked around: Jimmy Kimmel, Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, Ellen Degeneres... that's an amazing promotional edge any startup food company would kill to have...

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Monday, November 09, 2009 

Halloween Industry Pioneer? You Decide...


Unfortunately, this is a quote I have both coined and experienced firsthand. I would also offer that the key to success - in one's own lifetime, anyway - is to be JUST ENOUGH ahead of everything; say, 6 months to a year out. Certainly no more than 5 years out.

This Halloween season, I had a bittersweet experience while shopping for some craft tools at Joanne Fabrics (is it wrong to admit I dig arts & crafts stores? I've certainly made some nice coin, courtesy of that industry). While at the store, I noticed a pumpkin carving product from Pumpkin Masters that "borrowed" (i.e., stole) a concept I pioneered with X-Acto with my "Halloween Carving Kit" years ago: Self adhesive sheets for the pumpkin templates.

Granted, Halloween truly is "knockoff city." Most of the craptastic products are made in China, they come & go within a year or two, and it's extremely difficult - if not impossible - to police your proprietary goodies. It takes months to develop a lot of the stuff, get the prototypes overseas, manufacture it, etc. And then it takes 3 months "on the water" to get from China to US ports. The fight is usually won or lost by the time the fall season hits. Fact is, if you ever want to learn the real-world difference between copyrights and trademarks - and which one has more teeth in a US court of law - I invite you to enter the Halloween industry.

For the record, I'm pretty much out of the industry these days - I really could care less if I never carved another pumpkin as long as I lived. I do, however, do a select few for my own purposes as gifts to companies or people I want to start a dialogue with and/or reward. But that's another story - here's the rest of this one.

THE WHOLE REASON I DEVELOPED my pumpkin carving kit for X-Acto was pretty much as a response to the shitty shitty pumpkin carving kits on the market at the time. These Pumpkin Master kits not only featured AWFUL, flimsy saw blade tools that broke if you breathed on them the wrong way; they also had a STOOPID technique where they wanted you or a kid (with an attention span of a gnat) to punch a boatload of holes around the image on their templates (patterns) to outline the design. Right. It took forever before you could even start to carve the image - totally lame.

I had been doing carving demos at Chicago's Navy Pier for about a month, and quickly figured out that trying to accommodate hundreds of kids with any sort of urgency was not going to go well with the Pumpkin Masters method. Instead, I created my own templates, featuring adapted art for everything from Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, "The Scream," sports logos, aliens, etc. From there, I used some spray adhesive to slap the templates on the pumpkins, and they were ready to rock. FYI, I also never saw anyone else do this: I used a door-handle circular saw-tooth bit to clean out the insides of the pumpkins.

From there, I thought the same idea would work without the spray, only we'd use self-adhesive, peeloff sheets on the templates. And it did work, and that's what X-Acto did for my kit.

NOTE: I just took a look around online for an image of their product (didn't find it); but I have to say one thing: After looking at all the different pumpkin carving kits I could find, I challenge anyone to show me a better-produced kit than what I did for X-Acto. In addition to my original template designs, it also featured a solid tool (interchangeable heavy-duty X-Acto saw blade with handle); inner booklet with illustrations by Monte Beauchamp; history of Halloween, recipes, etc.

In case anyone is wondering if it's possible Pumpkin Masters arrived at this idea themselves, the answer is..... hell no. I vividly remember the PM owners checking out my stuff while I exhibited at the Halloween & Party Show in Rosemont, IL, years ago; while they are certainly no strangers to "knockoff city," they cannot claim they weren't aware of my technique years ahead of them. What, no kiss? Not even a thank you?

So here's me, looking at a "new" product stolen from my archives, wondering yet again - why is it that all these thieves & copycats seem to thrive without repercussion, while the artists, originals & pioneers get kicked to the curb with nary a dime?

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"If Cats Could Talk...

... they'd let Dale walk?"

MAYBE YOU'VE SEEN SOME RECENT press about Dale Bozzio (singer for Missing Persons) and her "cat trouble?" I actually hadn't heard a thing about it until she showed up here at the studio last Friday on her way from California to do 30 days in some small town jail in New Hampshire next week (yikes!). My first thought: WHAT A CRAPPY LAWYER - FIRE HIM IMMEDIATELY! But my second thought: Consider the old saying that "any publicity is good publicity."

I'm always looking to make lemonade out of lemons; In Dale's case, it appears she's finally ready to move forward with something I've been talking with her about for awhile: Her own line of gourmet food & wine. She's always been big into cooking Italian food, which speaks to her Italian/French heritage. After spending some time with her this weekend, it also dawns on me maybe it's time someone acknowledged her role in the success of Missing Persons (much more than being the singer), plus the incredible quality of musicians and artists she's been able to befriend & work with in her career (more soon...)



Foodie Flakes vs. Rock & Roll Scum

Although most folks would never have a reason to consider it, I've discovered nearly an equal amount of snakes & outright liars populating the food industry AND music industry (about the only difference I can see is the way in which the kick in the nuts is delivered).

The latest dirtbags on my list include Chicagoland Speedway and The Taste Of Atlanta. They join "Whole Paycheck" (Foods) and Euro RSCG in the hall of shame for outrageous/unethical behavior.

Don't get me wrong: I'm no amateur, and know all the rules before committing time & talent to any project or show (i.e., signed contract and/or money up front before leaving town). These two organizations, however, both had extenuating circumstances (geographically friendly and/or prior relationships); but both ended up costing me $$$.

But here's a political question: Is it better just to take the hit, not mention a thing, and hope there's a deal to be cut down the road? Or go for "full disclosure," let it all burn, air the laundry, and vow to never deal with these people again? Discuss...