EIGHT DAYS A WEEK.

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EVER WANT TO START YOUR OWN RECORD LABEL? BEFORE YOU DIVE IN HEADFIRST, PLAY VOYEUR ON A WEEK OF INDIE-LABEL MADNESS
[posted 01.10.2001]

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Still recovering from “‘tis the season” hell? For Jon Solomon, owner of My Pal God Records, the work never stops. This July he found time to record this diary while in the process of moving his business from Chicago, Illinois, to Princeton, New Jersey, and finalizing work on the label’s holiday record. While he wouldn’t call the week’s events typical for his work, he hopes he’s painted a decent picture of the day-to-day operations of an independent record label.

WEDNESDAY. DAY ONE. [07.26.00]

Overslept after stopping at Kinko’s late last night on the way back from the movies. I had gone to a triple feature of Titan AE, Final Destination and High Fidelity at my neighborhood $1.50 theater with the understanding that when the third movie got out I would have to rush down to Wicker Park [an area of Chicago about 15 minutes south of where I live] to go to my friend Carl Saff’s house. I needed to drop off some CDRs and DATs so that Carl could help with the initial sequence of an upcoming release, The My Pal God Holiday Record 2. This record is due out in November, so preproduction on the disc and the artwork is in full swing. Carl also had 250 copies of some one-sheets for me. Two were for the upcoming Drums and Tuba Cd reissues of their first two records that are coming out Sept. 5 Box Fetish and The Flying Ballerina and the third sheet was a press release about My Pal God’s move to New Jersey and change of address. My friend Carl, who is half of Emperor Penguin, does most of the bulk printing, sequencing and mastering for My Pal God.

Carl’s printer was down, so he gave me a disk to print these one-sheets out on my own, which I took to Kinko’s on the way home. This took far longer than it should have as the woman working last night had to deal with three different copier jams during the printing of my project. I spent some time updating various MPG web pages while watching Sportscenter before I went to bed around 2:30 a.m.

...

So, as I said, I overslept.

For sake of the scorecard, Titan AE featured an amazing amount of “modern rock” from the 2000s for a movie set so far into the future. The movie also featured an alien that looked like a turtle screaming “Who’s your daddy!” repeatedly.Final Destination was great $1.50 teenagers-in-peril material — up there with The Skulls as best $1.50 movie of the summer — and High Fidelity would have been better titled “Hey, I know that guy!” Not a decent movie by any means, but sort of fun to sit through.

Today I need to run some long overdue statements for several old MPG releases to see how much money I owe various bands in royalties. I keep putting this off because I feel like I might be missing an expense somewhere and I want to make sure I get it right for both my sake and the bands’. Doing this and triple-checking it should take up most of my morning.

I now have 250 copies of each of the two Drums and Tuba Cds, 250 one sheets and 250 mailing envelopes in boxes of various sizes on the floor of my living room. Once the new mailing labels with my new business address show up I can start packaging these for shipment to press and radio. Much of my job is made up of waiting for things to happen and then acting on them as quickly as I can after they occur. Coordinating other people to do their jobs on time is perhaps the other large part of what I do.

Was correct about the financing taking up too much of my time. I feel like I am missing something and that Quickbooks is somehow cheating me out of the right numbers. We’ll see. Will now spend much of my afternoon printing addresses for these mailing labels and trying to figure out why my computer’s mouse stops working from time to time.

A very meek-sounding boy just called on the phone looking for “an A&R person” to invite to see a band perform at the beer garden at Navy Pier. I don’t know what people think will happen if they call me about these things. Awful creepy in my mind. But nice to be mistaken for important, I suppose.

Time to go watch WCW Thunder and call it an evening. It is amazing how many of my early evenings are spent watching wrestling in some form or another. I should do a better job of making plans and I should spend more time setting my VCR. However, once the day is over, watching wrestling with my roommate is one of the few ways I can relax, and that I need.

THURSDAY. DAY TWO.

Good morning. Spent the hour after wrestling using AOL Instant Messenger to talk to my new publicist, Diana Willis. She works for You Just Don’t Know PR. I’m excited to have someone do PR for the business, but I am slightly apprehensive about this responsibility being in someone else’s hands. I find myself hands-on to a fault about every aspect of My Pal God. My business is my baby, after all. Hiring Diana will make her the first person besides myself on the My Pal God “payroll.” But she does not appear to be crazy, so I am feeling very positive about this.

The blessing and the curse of self-employment and working from home in general is that you are always on the clock. Everything gets done, just not necessarily in traditional 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. hours. Sometimes (last night, for example) I’ll come home at 1 a.m. and work for a few hours before I go to bed just because I have momentum on my side that particular evening.

Today, sadly, looks to be built around trying to get two individuals to call me back on the telephone. Oh, the waiting game. There are three reissues of bands from Boston who released great LPs in the 1980s that I am trying to get the rights to re-release on CD with bonus tracks. The confirmation of each of these projects has dragged on for most of 2000. I only hope that the existence of a contract in one case [yet to be signed] and a verbal agreement in the other case [yet to be confirmed] can be turned into releases for February 2001.

A portion of every afternoon is made up of running errands. Today I went to mail some items at the post office, went to pick up some medicine at the drugstore, and got a hole in my tire patched at Just Tires. Most errand afternoons involve the post office [checking the po box], the company who does my distribution and where I process my credit card orders Southern Records and the bank. However, I ran out of time to go to Southern and the bank today.

Spent my post-errand afternoon sending pages and pages of faxes.

I hope everyone’s work life does not look so tedious on paper. This diary exercise is starting to make me worry.

Time to watch WWF Smackdown and go out. [Editing this diary, I know that I went out somewhere on Thursday night after Smackdown, but I have no idea where I went. Can’t have been too exciting.] Smackdown was very satisfying, but it only helped fuel my unrequited crush on the leering Stephanie McMahon.

FRIDAY. DAY THREE.

Was unjustly woken this morning at 8:15 by the fax machine going off four times in a row [but with no faxes going through], followed by a phone call to top things off. My answering machine beeps until you pick up the handle of the cordless phone, so I had to get up and make this noise stop. Starting work simultaneously was simple enough. The phone call was from Carl Saff, who told me that the CDR of all the tracks for The My Pal God Holiday Record 2 should be finished this afternoon, so mastering and sequencing can begin shortly. The only remaining delay is that the Drums and Tuba DAT has several versions of the same song on it and I can’t track them down right now to find out which version is supposed to be used. Drums and Tuba are a great band, but they are very evasive and always missing when you need to talk to them the most.

The royalty check I got for European distribution from Southern UK this week needs to be sent back to England because it is made out to the wrong person. Aggravating. This is the second check this month that I have had to send back. I am not strapped for business cash, but I’d rather have the money now than have to wait for it again.

I need to go to southern Chicago today to pick up a US royalty check and I need to go to my bank to deposit some other business-related checks. So, while I didn’t get a chance to go there yesterday, Southern and the bank get covered before the weekend.

While I was out I picked up the CDR from Carl. So, my exciting Friday night? Here I am at 9 p.m. sorting tracks from this disc trying to figure out the perfect song order for The My Pal God Holiday Record 2. Volume One from 1998 had 21 songs. That track order was harder to finalize, but this CD, with just 13 songs, took me only four or five listens to get a sequence I dig.

Went out to local venue The Fireside Bowl around 10 p.m. to say goodbye to my friend and old roommate Mike Solita, who was moving to New York City on Saturday morning. I went to see Mike more than to see the show. Didn’t even really know who was playing when I got there. Had an amusing time and was delighted to find out that a band I was very interested in seeing, The Mooney Suzuki, was playing. They were pretty great, to say the least. Some girl kept showing off her new belly ring all evening. My friend Ted introduced me to his sister, only to tell me at the end of the show that this was not really his sister and they had decided to fool someone all night, namely me. I was impressed with how well they sold the fact that they were brother and sister. Some other girl kept poking me in the stomach and telling our off-the-record [to me at least] conversations to her friend in the ladies room. Ended up at an ersatz diner called The Hollywood Grille after the show with Mike and his friends. Ate very oily onion rings. Left before the teary goodbyes and went home to sleep sometime after 2 a.m.

SATURDAY. DAY FOUR.

Spent this morning finalizing the holiday record track listing and answering an electronic Q&A for the My Pal God Label Stand on Insound.com. It is now 1:40 p.m. This looks like all the business I’m going to need to take care of today. Emailed Carl the track listing and emailed my “art guy” Craig McCaffrey the track listing and artwork specs so there should be some good progress next week. Craig plays in the band Paul Newman and he has been in charge of My Pal God’s art design since he moved to Chicago in July 1999. He does a fantastic job making the records, posters and catalogues look fantastic. I am very excited with his rough ideas for the holiday record.

I went to see Blood Simple in Evanston, Ill., with Brett and my friend Jim and then ate a large vegetarian burrito from Chipotle. So large, in fact, that I went home and fell asleep, ruining any plans for a big Saturday night, but not before listening to my friend Mike Lupica’s fantastic radio show over the internet on WPRB. I had forgotten how wonderfully glacial Blood Simple is, even with four minutes cut out as part of this new “director’s cut.” They should show that movie in every film-making 101 class nationwide. In fact, I’m sure they do.

SUNDAY. DAY FIVE.

Besides email, no work today. Took some items I don’t need any longer to Goodwill. Started packing Store-All boxes for my move to New Jersey. Watched the Cubs game. Rented the Aliens DVD. Ended up doing a little bit of work over at Craig’s house tonight before we watched Aliens. Just some small things, editing and commenting on the rough art for the Holiday record. Everything is on pace for this release, which is a good feeling.

MONDAY. DAY SIX.

Seriously, where are my mailing labels? I am waiting for these labels with the new business address so I can get these Drums and Tuba promos mailed. It rained all day. Got some bills and MPG mail ready to ship. Put together some D&T promos for Diana, the new publicist, so she can handle some tour promotion. Packaged up posters for venues putting on shows on Drums and Tuba’s two-month fall tour. Still need the complete list of shows and venue addresses from Drums and Tuba’s booking agent so I can get all of these posters mailed, but he has yet to send me the information I requested.

The day went slowly, but it is time for WCW Nitro and Raw Is War! Monday night is “wrestling night” in my apartment, where my roommate Brett and I watch both Nitro and Raw, always trying to get more people to join us in the festivities. It is like the Super Bowl 52 times a year! Plus, it’s a good excuse for Brett and his brother Eric to get consistently hammered.

Cut some additional checks and did some accounting post-wrestling. The accounting for the A Minor Forest record is done. Each band member is owed a royalty check in the neighborhood of $570. These will mail on Thursday.

Got confirmation late Monday night that my new phone number in New Jersey is a “go,” so I was able to update the MPG web site with the August 2000 news accordingly. Good to be able to cross this off my list of things to do. First thing Tuesday morning I will send out the monthly My Pal God e-newsletter to my list of recipients. I hope people take heed and change the MPG address in their databases. I have change of address forms and mail forwards set up, but I want this transition to go as smoothly as possible.

TUESDAY. DAY SEVEN.

The newsletter went out this morning. Still no sign of the mailing labels, but on-line tracking says they will be here today. I can’t take a shower for fear I will miss UPS.

1:24 p.m. UPS is here. I’m going out to the post office/Southern/bank/etc.

Post-errands, I discovered that I wrote a check from the wrong account. Will clear this up at the bank later in the week. Waiting for my friend Bob to come over and pick up some shelving units I’m selling for my move. Tonight I will package the Drums and Tuba promos, hopefully with the help of some friends.

Ended up covered in sweat, packaging these promos by myself watching Mexican luchador wrestling on TV. Each package that I am mailing gets a copy of both reissues, a press kit, a change of address sheet and a catalogue. Finished fifty of these 250+ packages and went to meet Craig and Paul from Paul Newman at dinner. We ate at Wishbone, a great soul food/southern cooking restaurant near Craig’s house. I had the stuffed eggplant. Was able to recruit Craig and Paul to help me out. Finished the packaging, which took until 12:53 a.m., long after Craig and Paul had left and long after my roommate Brett had gone to sleep. I am worn out. Tomorrow, they mail.

WEDNESDAY AGAIN. DAY EIGHT.

Makes sense that all of the “action” would be saved for the last day of this diary. Woke up this morning and took in the quiet before the inevitable post office storm. They don’t hate me at the post office where my PO box is, but the several times a year I mail 250+ envelopes are not days they look forward to.

Since there are less than six of these big mailing days a year, getting a postage machine is not cost-effective. You should see some of the leers I get from other customers while I’m in line. I took care of 150 of these mailings at my PO box post office and came home around 1 p.m. to get the other envelopes and to fill out customs forms for the European promo packages. I decided to go to my local post office branch to “spread the wealth” and to take some of the burden off of the nice people at my regular post office. This was a mistake. Trust me.

At my local post office, the man whose window I approached [Mr. Chang] told me that I could only mail ten items of the same weight/class at any time. If I wanted to mail all of my packages, I would have to get back in line to mail each additional ten items. I told him this was asinine. He went to get a supervisor at my request, who told me that this was national post office policy. When I told him all the other post offices in Chicago have never had a problem with this, I was told they were going against policy. Usually, when I have many items to mail that are all the same weight and that have the same contents, they print ten labels at a time [the maximum the computer can print is ten] and they affix these labels while I stamp “4th class mail” on each envelope. It goes pretty quickly when done as a team. In fact, in the time it took the man at the post office to find his supervisor, we could have finished.

To add to the stupidity, after telling me this rule, Mr. Chang then ran SIXTEEN different items for me before running the ten items that were the same weight/class. He ran these 16 items separately because they were different sizes and were going to different countries. Yeah, I don’t get it either. I sucked it up and went to the back of the line [which was only three people deep through all of this]. Again, in the time it took to run my credit card, we could have been finished with all of my transactions.

I got to the front of the line quickly and was called up to a different window. The woman working at this window was kind enough to run 40-50 of these envelopes without question, until Mr. Chang told her to only run ten more items and then to send me to the back of the line. I returned to the back of the line [now four people deep] with 22 envelopes remaining. A third trip to the front of the line and another ten packages mailed left me with 12 envelopes and a seething rage. To finish my trip at this post office, I got Mr. Chang again, who found it in his heart to mail the remaining 12 envelopes at once, going against policy. All in all, I was at this post office for an hour and a half. I don’t think I will ever go there again. At least everything is mailed.

Got home around 4 p.m. and fell asleep for an hour out of annoyance.

Woke up, got caught up on business-related email, and then watched WCW Thunder just as I had done the week previous. The wrestling never stops. Can’t get enough of this new wrestler, Elix Skipper. There are still 15 promos that need to be mailed, but they can wait until Thursday. First I need to go to Southern, and the bank, and…

I made dinner and slept like a baby. Less than one month until I move. Should be interesting.

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jon solomon founded my pal god records while in college in evanston, ill., in 1993. since its inception my pal god has released nearly 40 cds, lps, 45s, light switch covers and t-shirts from a wide variety of bands and artists.