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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2009/04/26
by Mike Gruenberg

Rob Reynolds

In My Life
The first rule in creating a successful product is to understand the relationship between marketing and sales. Those who attempt to tell you that the product sells itself or that they have never been sold anything in their lives that they didnt want to buy are at best, kidding themselves and at worst, very na. Behind every successful product is the axiom that states that marketing creates the need and sales follows through and fills that need. For without careful planning and substantial marketing support, most products will usually fail to live up to their sales projections.
MBA classes throughout the world regularly study the reasons why some products fail while others succeed. To begin, someone comes up with an idea about bringing a new or improved product to market. That person develops tests and studies all the different aspects of the product. Once developmental steps like these are completed, a marketing team comes in and figures out how to effectively bring the product to the public. If marketing does not complete their analysis and use the data they gathered effectively, then the product has a better than average chance of failing. If on the other hand the marketing team completes their chores and works out a clever program to present the product to the marketplace, then the odds of success are greatly enhanced.
In the music business, marketing plays a key role in the launching of new acts and the support of the current ones. In the old days, record companies paid promo guys to call radio stations when a new record was released so as to get the djs to commit to giving air time for the new releases. Furthermore, the artists would commit to visit radio stations in the cities where their concerts were being held to help promote their record and get friendly with the people who ostensibly would play their records on the air. The practice of sending out advance copies of the latest records to the radio stations is another practice that has been around for over fifty years and continues today as way to promote the artists.
Sending out the latest advance copies of the newest songs to the radio station is a tried and true method of attempting to get air play. The problem is that the volume of new releases is staggering which makes it incumbent upon the marketing folks to devise even more creative ways for the radio stations and MTV networks to pick up on and listen to their companys bands and not someone elses.

Recently, while visiting my favorite local record store I was rummaging through the CD promo box. Contained in this section of the store are the actual promotional CDs sent out by the record companies to the radio stations hoping to entice the djs to take a listen and play their CDs on the air. The packaging of these sampler discs is designed to catch the eye of the people at the radio stations who make the decision to play the songs. Bright colors, clever wording or whatever it takes are tactics used by the marketing department of the record company so that the CD will be picked for play. . Getting air time is the ultimate goal of the marketing group.
On this day I came across a sampler CD of a few songs by an artist named Rob Reynolds from Britain. What differentiated Mr. Reynolds disc from all the others in the pile were not so much the colors or pictures or the packaging, but the message contained therein. On the front of the package was an identification number along with the usual titles of the artist and the songs. On the back was a message that encouraged you to listen to the offering, register your name by including the number on the disc at a website, describe how you liked the disc on the site and then give the disc to someone else to repeat the process. In other words, listen to the sampler, tell Mr. Reynolds how you liked it and then let the disc go and travel the world so someone else can do the same thing. . Quite clever, I thought and so I took the CD # 24992 home.
CD # 24992 contained five sample cuts from Robs 2003 release Sightseeing. This was his third album recorded in London with a stellar group of music session veterans. The arrangements were crisp, but somewhat overbearing. Robs baritone voice was strong and soulful. All songs were written by Rob and he produced the album as well. The album reminds me of songs that would be played on a cool jazz FM station. On the strength of this sampler, I requested the entire album from Robs record company
The first song on the Sightseeing album is Sweet Mother and its a message song that implores our civilization to be kind to one another and save our planet. All good stuff, but weve really heard these sentiments before. Apparently, when it was released in England, it was positively received and garnered considerable airtime. Its a good tune for a middle of the road or jazz radio station. The rest of the album follows a repeated formula of a very polished production, super vocal quality of Robs voice, pleasant songs that meld effortlessly into one another making the listening experience a pleasant, but somewhat indistinguishable experience. There was one song on this album, Heaven Knows which I really liked but I really disliked the musical arrangement. Much to my happiness, the song appeared with a different arrangement in a subsequent Rob Reynolds collection.

In 2006, Rob released The Curious World; An Introduction to Rob Reynolds. Included in this collection are songs from all his albums and EPs. I particularly liked Robs treatment of the classic tune, Stormy Weather, which is a classic song written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. It looks like Rob recorded this song in 1996 on his Waiting for the Tide album. It is soulful, beautifully done with simplicity and taste. Rob states that that its the only cover (song) hes ever released. I would encourage him to attempt other covers to round out his repertoire since this arrangement by Rick Taylor combined with Robs voice is quite extraordinary.
As I listened to this sampler of all his work, it occurred to me that I seemed to like his older material better than the newer stuff on Sightseeing. Maybe its because I am really not a fan of soft jazz or soft rock or middle of the road songs, but I particularly liked every selection from the older Waiting for the Tide album.
For example, One Armed Bandit is just Rob on guitar and vocals accompanied by Reg Webb on the Hammond Organ. Its melodic, soulful and beautiful. This is another selection from the Waiting for the Tide album. There are a few more selections from this album on the Curious World album and I liked them all.
However, just when I think I like his older material better, I listen to the single version of Heaven Knows on a 3 song sampler as a 2006 release. Here again, its Rob on guitar, harmonica and vocals with a simple, yet poignant string arrangement by Sally Herbert. Rob says he wrote this song when he had a broken heart. Quite frankly, he didnt have to point this out in the liner notes because it is obvious that his heartbreak was the impetus for writing the song. But the bottom line is that the tune stripped of unnecessary, overbearing arrangements produces a very likeable product that showcases Rob quite well.
Rob has an incredible range of his voice to go along with his unique array of many talents. It is obvious that he can sing in all styles. I prefer the more folk/rock style with just a few musicians since Robs voice can carry off the rest with great results. Rob is immensely talented as a singer and songwriter. If he can decide which genre suits him the best, then he should pursue it and will probably enjoy a very long and successful career.
This journey into the works of Rob Reynolds all began with CD sampler # 24992. I gave it to a friend in Michigan and I dont know where it is today. It could be in Bangkok, Barcelona or Bayonne, but the CD has the ability to get to these places because some clever marketing team dreamt up a new idea to publicize Rob Reynolds.
Marketing works!

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