Thursday, November 15, 2012

Behind The Curtain

Maybe it's human nature, but there's always a certain temptation to make things appear harder to do than they are, all in pursuit of the ultimate compliment: Wow! That's probably harder than it looks.

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

A case in point: recent family events put me somewhat behind schedule in completing an assignment for on the development of Blue Note Records as one of the most recognized brands in popular culture. Two days before deadline, I had only one source lined up—former Blue Note artist Javon Jackson—and that was something of a 'gimme' since we're friends. I'd also promised my editor someone who could talk knowledgeably about what it takes to build and maintain a global brand and someone from inside Blue Note who could comment on how they manage the heritage that founders Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff developed between 1939 and the mid-'60s.

The first break was probably just timing: Blue Note president Don Was had an opening in his crazy schedule (you know, The Rolling Stones didn't need him in the studio that day, or something). Don was incredibly gracious and generous with his time, and gave me a great quote about how he manages Blue Note: "I just try not to make any shitty recordings."

It's tough to go wrong with a quote like that, and to make things even easier, Don repeated a story he had recounted to the New York Times about how he constantly refers to Lion's original mission statement for Blue Note.

The second break was more astounding. Here in Canada, advertising veteran Terry O'Reilly has become well known outside his industry with his extremely witty and insightful radio program Under The Influence. He's another busy guy, so I was very happy when he made himself available to respond to some email questions. Very nice, but what were the odds that he would know much about Blue Note Records? Turns out, he had not only done a lot of thinking about Blue Note and its brand, but he actually worked with legendary Blue Note designer Reid Miles back in the '80s. He had a ton of interesting things to say.

When you get good stuff like that, an article almost writes itself. You just have to make it look hard.

Check out the article here.

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