Tuesday, October 8, 2013

just like that soul singer in the session band

After toiling for years in school and working with dedication in unpaid internships, my son E. landed his dream job. He is an on-air host and producer at a local Philadelphia radio station. And he has become something of a "minor local celebrity" (his words, not mine). Accompanying him to a concert has become an experience that is much different from the shows we attended together when he was in high school. We can't take three steps inside any local concert venue without someone saying "Hello" to him or offering a friendly back-slap and a smile. He knows the band members, the technical crew, the club owners, PR guys, even the people selling T-shirts. It's ridiculous. And it's very cool.

Recently, my immediate family went to a gathering at my in-laws' house. Invited guests included a mixture of friends, family, friends of family and a few stray acquaintances. After filling a plate from the buffet table, my son and I found a quiet area of the living room to talk. My wife (who was mingling among the other guests, something I choose not to do) and I had picked up my son en route between an afternoon Phillies game and her parents' house. My son and I were discussing the sorry state of the 2013 Phillies when a couple we did not know approached us. They stood side-by-side and smiled, obviously waiting for one of us to pause long enough so they could interrupt our conversation. My son glanced in their direction.

The woman began. "Are you E.?"

E.: "Yes."

Woman: "I'm Abby. I'm a friend of your aunt's*. You work at W*** (the local radio station, which, in order to protect my son's privacy, shall remain nameless), right?"

E.: "I do."

Woman: "We're big fans and we listen to you a lot."

E.: "Thanks." He smiled.

And then — claws out and fangs bared — she dove in for the kill.

Woman (turning slightly and gesturing to the gray-haired man to her left): "My husband is a singer-songwriter and he was wondering......"


My son didn't know where to hide. He hears this introduction often. So often, in fact, that he could have said it himself, word for word. "Blah blah blah - singer - blah blah blah - I have a CD - blah blah blah - play my songs on the radio." As this guy took a close seat and elaborated on his own musical talents and songwriting prowess, I silently watched my son's eyelids lower and all expression disappear from his face. He innocently came to his grandparents' house to say "Hello" and maybe have a snack. He didn't come to be pitched to.

I will say that my boy handled the situation like a seasoned professional. He politely, but firmly, explained that radio is a structured medium and that programming is a complicated, multi-level process. He cheerfully offered suggestions for performing and making a name in the local music scene. The man insisted that my son take his CD, a copy of which he conveniently brought with him, and give it a listen. Reluctantly, my son took it, chuckled, and told him he would. Then, he informed the man that he gets hundreds of unsolicited CDs each week. He said he'd do his best to give it a listen, but added the caveat: "Please be patient." The man and woman thanked him and, with their mission accomplished, left.

My son was furious.

The next day — the very next goddamn day — the guy emailed E. and asked if he listened to the CD.

My son was furious. Again.

I can tell all of you aspiring musicians, singers and songwriters: This is not the way to go about furthering your career. I can't say for sure, but this guy probably ruined his chances of my son (or anyone else at the station) ever hearing a single note of any of his songs. Initially, my son was very diplomatic as he faced a very uncomfortable situation. But even diplomacy has its limits.

* * * UPDATE * * *
The guy sent a text message to my son this afternoon. Guess whose CD will never get listened to now?

*An interesting aspect to this story (that makes the situation even more infuriating) is E.'s aunt, to whom Abby refers, is not a fan of E.'s radio station and her husband has made many a disparaging (read: insulting) remark about the station, as well.

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