Song Of The Day 3/13/2017: Love – “Seven and Seven Is”

The Final 17

Kiosk Party

My first music business job was at a startup that marketed compact discs directly to record store customers via a listening station. I came in during the summer to replace a guy who was, I believe, going off to college in the fall.

It was started by a guy named Clark who described himself as a serial entrepreneur. Later he’d create two web sites that were extremely successful: eCRUSH and Ranker. But his first business was Oasis Music Marketing Program.

My job was to write up copy for 24 different alternative-flavored albums that would go in the display case on these music listening kiosks, which were installed in various independent record stores throughout the West. Eventually we expanded to the rest of the US, in 180 different retailers.

I also shipped the product, worked accounts receivable, slapped together some marketing materials, and collected data from the stores. These were the days just prior to mp3’s basically decimating the whole indie store business model from top to bottom, so we had a nice run of success before that wall caved in.

In addition to all the in-office duties I personally repped stores in the greater L.A. area. This meant two days a month I’d travel all around the Southland to various record stores, take out the CDs that were going out, install the ones that were coming in, putt the copy in the display case, and chat to the staffers if they had time. I loved that part of the job.

Moby Disc was one of our stores, a chain actually. I didn’t socialize with anyone at any of the other record stores, but I did hang out with a couple of Moby Disc employees. Nicole in the Valley was one. Mike and Rusty in Santa Monica were a couple of others. They were in a great power-pop band called Baby Lemonade, and also the last version of Arthur Lee’s band Love. That’s right: the Forever Changes band. (Arthur Lee and I shared the same birthday, March 7, which was roughly the topic of his song “7 and 7 Is.” Not about me and him sharing the birthday, but him and someone else.)

I also liked getting the used CDs back because, uh, they were practically currency at used record shops (never at the stores we serviced) which I could trade for other CDs. My collection kind of mushroomed in the five years I was in Los Angeles. I went box set and multi-disc compilation crazy, especially with selections from Rhino Records. I got the whole Didn’t I Blow Your Mind 20-volume collection of soul hits from the ‘70s, which supplemented my usual KACE diet and…

…Oh, wait a minute. Rhino Records. Let me tell you something about Rhino Records.

Take It to the RMAT

There was this thing called the Rhino Musical Aptitude Test (RMAT). Rhino, if you didn’t know, was the greatest reissue record company of all time. Other labels who mainly handled reissues were Rykodisc, Hip-O, Sundazed and Shout Factory.

The RMAT was a 300-plus-question, SAT-styled music trivia quiz that covered all kinds of music, excepting classical. The questions were notoriously tough. They held this contest every year for a while, and I took part in all of them.

And boy, was I disgruntled about losing it. The first two years.

You could take the test either online, or in person in the parking lots of the Tower Records locations with a bunch of others. A winner was then declared in all forums—online, and at each Tower location (like Sunset Boulevard). Each winner got 100 Rhino CDs and a new home entertainment system. Then, the grand prize winner of the entire shebang, among all locations and media, got all those prizes plus a copy of every CD Rhino put out for the rest of his or her life.

This was not an easy test. You were allowed to take it open book. But you only had an hour and change to get through it all. Incorrect answers lost you a point, unanswered questions lost you a fraction of that point.

The first year I took it online. Breezed through it. Unfortunately my web submission didn’t take, so I didn’t place anywhere. I was a bit miffed at that. The guy who won it was a music writer named Peter in New York.

The second year I took it at Tower Records’ Sunset store in Los Angeles. Dr. Demento hosted. Peter  from New York was there, and was introduced as the grand hoo-hah winner from last year.

Again, it was open-book. I want to remind you of that, because I brought no books.

I finished the test and waited for the results. When they came out, I had finished in second place in Los Angeles, amongst about 100 takers.

But I wasn’t happy about it, because who was the person who won? Peter from New York.

I was livid. I was outraged. I figured if this guy was flying in to Los Angeles on Rhino’s dime, he would therefore be considered compensated by Rhino and shouldn’t even be allowed to compete again. But he did (and won the whole thing again, incidentally).

I wrote Rhino Records in protest about this particular controversy. I outlined all my arguments as set forth above. Then I made a threat of self-immolation and demanded that if Rhino didn’t change their rules that I was going to—I believe this is a direct quote—“have the phrase RYKODISC RULES tattooed across my hot, heaving chest.”

It was kind of a tongue-in-cheek threat.

Anyway, they did not relent, so I just had to wait until the test came around next year, which was my final year in L.A. I took it at the Tower Records Sunset location again.

This time I won the goddamn thing, or the Los Angeles regional, whatever you’d call it.

I got the 100 CD’s. I got the home theatre setup. I was truly prideful. I remember Clark telling  sales people on the phone that I’d won. It was a solid marketing tactic.

The next year I was in the Pacific Northwest and took the last RMAT at Tower Records in Seattle. I won that one too.

I don’t know for sure, but I have to assume that I’m the only person who ever won the RMAT in two separate cities. And for years after it was a resumé highlight. More than it should have been.

So that might be considered my major accomplishment. Well, and having the children. The kids are alright. Pete Townshend said that.

The last known version of the RMAT was administered a few years ago at South By Southwest in Austin. Kind of a last gasp for the contest. I took it there—I estimate about 50 to 60 people wound up taking it there—and finished second.

Just to summarize, then, here was my track record at the RMAT over the four years I took it in person: 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd.

We're talking New England Patriots-style domination. As automatic as it gets.

I hereby accept your offer for position of music subject matter expert. I'd like a window office if you don't mind.

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