Todd Durrant’s Random Thoughts
Follow the efforts of a creative, crazed entrepreneur.

I Love My Job

APOLOGY

Wow, I’m looking back at my last few blog entries and realize I’ve been pretty negative.  I’ve been too sarcastic too, and have exaggerated a bit in a couple of places to make my point.   I don’t want you, the readers of this silly blog, to think that I’m a bitter person, or that I am too critical of other people.   For example, I made it sound in my last entry like I don’t think much of DJ’s.  Well, that’s not necessarily the case.  I actually like a lot of the DJ’s I’ve met.  I used to be one.  It’s a fun yet somewhat thankless job, but most DJ’s do what they do out of pure love for the music.   I indeed wish that they’d shake up the playlist a bit, but it’s really their call– they learn what they have to play to keep their audience interested, and if that playlist doesn’t include anything I’m promoting, then it’s probably not to the taste of that particular audience.  I shouldn’t act  like I’m blaming all the DJ’s.  I was trying to explain why I don’t spend a lot of money mailing promos out to club DJ’s anymore, though I’ve done plenty of it in the past.  I didn’t want to just slam the poor guys and gals who keep the dance floors hopping.

So, please forgive me for my negativity.   I don’t want to turn my personal blog into a place for venting.  I’d rather have it be a place for sharing opinions, feelings, and also finding feedback from those who are kind enough to read and comment.   With too much negativity, it runs the risk of becoming nothing better than some of the forums I’ve long since learned to ignore, where it is nothing more than a public, internet platform for griping.   Ooops, see…I’m starting to gripe about forums.   [slaps own face]

I’M POOR, BUT I’M HOPELESSLY IN LOVE

I think back a few years to when business was better.   Those were good times.   A Different Drum was releasing an average of 3 or 4 titles per month.  The quick turn-down in sales with the growing digital revolution is part of what suddenly stranded me in more debt than I could feel comfortable with.  Suddenly I had a lot of inventory, but fewer people were buying those CD’s, yet the factory bills remained.  It is taking years to turn it around.    Anyway, thinking back to those better times, I was occasionally tickled by the calls or emails I’d get where people obviously thought they were dealing with a large warehouse and a business with a large staff.   I remember somebody mentioning a conveyor belt once when they called to place an order, as if I had a crew throwing CD’s onto a conveyor belt where they were carried to the shipping department.   We both ended up laughing as I explained that my conveyor belt was holding my pants up.   I’d get phone calls asking for the “sales department”, or “advertising department”, or “shipping department” or whatever.   It was always tempting to say, “Just a minute please,” lower the phone, then bring it back up, “hello, this is shipping.”

Even in those days when A Different Drum was selling a lot more CD’s, it has always just been me.   My wife, Myra, has helped with the books and calls herself my “office manager” though she spends very little time here anymore because she’s had to go back out into the workforce to help pay the family bills lately.   There was a time when my buddy Mike helped to package CD’s for an hour or two a couple of days a week.  That was back when A Different Drum was shipping Alphaville box sets day and night.   It has always just been me, trying my best to keep things going.    I’ve read criticism on occasion from people who think A Different Drum has never been a truly big success because of that very fact– that I don’t actually have a staff to take on different responsibilities.   But now, more than ever, I know that A Different Drum has survived partly because I haven’t had the expense of a staff.  I’ve always said that I can’t justify hiring employees when I don’t even make a decent paycheck myself.

Before I start to sound like I’m whining again because I don’t make any money, I only mention the fact that A Different Drum has been far from a thriving money machine to emphasize the point that I absolutely love my job.  That’s why I’m still doing it.  There is little financial motivation involved, and every time I’ve had a nice little boost due to a large order or a surge in business, that money has always gone right back into the business.   Rather than thinking, “wow, I just made an extra $1000!” I inevitably find myself thinking, “wow, I can put out another CD now!”

In fact, the love of my job has often acted as a sort of barrier to financial success because I have struggled for so long to practice any kind of self-restraint when it comes to releasing new music.   The heart has often stepped in the way because I’d rather put a new band onto the market than “play it safe”.    I do have a better grip on those urges now than I did in the past.  I’ve learned that sometimes the bands I personally get very excited about aren’t necessarily the ones that my niche market wants, so I’ve had to learn to say, “I like your stuff, but no thanks.”   I’ve even had to learn to tell bands who I’ve been working with that I can’t put out their next album, and that was a very hard step to take.   Sometimes the sales just aren’t there and I can’t ignore that flashing red light that says “warning! their third album will sell less than their 1st and 2nd albums!”    Love is always hard, isn’t it?

I work at home, in my basement office– the only finished room in an unfinished basement that is basically the warehouse.  Stacks of boxes sit on pallets, and there is a secret society of hobo spiders and black crickets living under the pallets.  This is the headquarters of what some people call “the world’s biggest synthpop label.”   Maybe that sheds a little light on how “big” the synthpop scene is?  I don’t know, but I don’t really care either, because I love waking up every day and “going to work”.   I’ve never had a problem motivating myself to work, and I put in a lot of hours (probably more than the average full-time job) trying to figure out how to make this business live on for years to come.  The tough times just make me work harder– work harder and make less.  But that’s what a person does for love.

Aside from loving the job itself, I also love the people I’ve been honored to meet and interact with because of my business.   Some of the guys and gals in the bands have become lifelong friends.   They are people that I respect and appreciate for their talents and for their mutual love for the music.   They also have little motivation within the realms of “financial gain” to keep them going, but they choose to keep making music, even if it takes 4 or 5 years to put together a new album, because they can’t help it.  They too are in love.

I’ve had wonderful experiences with people who are more than just “customers” of A Different Drum.  There are some people who have made A Different Drum part of their lives, and have thus become a part of my life too.   My family has received birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and nice letters, etc. from people who have become good friends because of this musical journey.   I remember a few years ago I got a note from a customer who just wanted to say that he’d been diagnosed as HIV positive several years earlier, and that he was still hanging in there, even though the doctors hadn’t expected him to live for long.  He said that it was the music that had given him the spark of happiness and hope in his life when things were hard.   The music was like a kind of life blood.   At that moment, I felt like my own love for this business might have in some way helped somebody else and meant something more to them than another CD on their shelf.   At that moment, and in others like it, I became even more dedicated.  Those are the times when I forget the huge credit card balances and financial struggles and say to myself, “this will be impossible to quit.”

So, it is much to the frequent dismay of my family, and sometimes against my own better judgment, that I keep plugging away, even when things start to seem hopeless.   I keep looking for a way, because I believe that love finds a way.

-Todd

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5 Responses to “I Love My Job”

  1. If I’d known that you worked out of where you live, I’d have started sending you Christmas cards years ago. It was awesome to meet you at Summer Synthpop 2000.

  2. Todd,

    Wow! Your wife must be very understanding. I hope she likes synthpop at least half as much as you do. This was yet another cool article. I like learning about your business. I wish I could help somehow. I guess I can since you have several records coming out this year that I’ll be buying.

  3. Todd,

    I’ve been a longtime fan of ADD. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your blog posts. I hope ADD will somehow always stick around. It would break my heart if ADD died. Glad it brings you so much joy, despite the frustrations and hardships.

  4. Reading your thoughts Todd, I genuinely feel you are the best person to be doing what you are doing! True passion for what we love allows many of us to continue despite the sometimes insurmountable odds. You have my support, I hope you continue for ever, as shall I 🙂 And I do appreciate your help in releasing my debut CD in 2008!

    George

  5. Since my early days as a synthpop follower and especially the ADD releases since the mid ’90s, I always had the desire to know how things were going in the background of it all. Reading your blog entries provide a unique and personal insight into this. It’s always interesting reading what you have to say about this business and life in general. Hope that ADD will keep on going for many years to come – it’s not always easy but it’s definitely worth it!


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