illustration from chapter about email marketing

Chapter 4: Huge Deal, HUGE

Here's the fourth installment of how my life in marketing got off to a very rough start. Chapter 4 of Marketing Mishaps.

Haven’t read Chapter 3 yet? Do that first.

Turns out mike z was a BIG deal...

I wanna tell you about how email marketing changed my life, and it all starts with a weird folk band named The Trachenturg Family Slideshow Players. The time was 2005 I think, and the location was half Manhattan, half Brooklyn. I was selling weed at the time, and one of my clients was a BIG DEAL.

BzZz. 

I woke up and reached for my phone, which was dead smack in the center of my hardwood floor. It was just far enough out of reach from where I’d fallen asleep in a drunken slumber and not moved a muscle since so that grabbing it was nearly an impossible task. I stared at the screen, which read 9AM, and at the caller ID: Tech Zach (Survivor) (Train)

Each parenthetical denoted the breadcrumbs that led to the contact calling my phone.

I cleared my throat to make sure he knew I was up, hard at work already.

“Tech Zach,” I shouted into the phone to keep my voice clear and distinct.

“Yo. What’s up… man!?

I could tell he already forgot my name.

“What brings you to my Blackberry?” I asked.

“You sound tired, I wake you up?”

I spoke louder to clear out any crackle. “Me? No man. I’m always up. Whattaya got?”

“Sounds like you’re screaming! Pull that receiver back! Just kiddin ya. Gonna give your info to Mike Z. The guy is a character, but a good guy. He’s got tons of stories like you. I bet you’ll get along. He’ll order a lot.” 

I hated when people said the word “order” or any words in the slightest bit similar to that on the phone. Why use words that could incriminate me? Just say some shit like “he’s always hungry and eats big meals” or whatever. But it was Tech Zach, so I tried to be patient. Besides, the government isn’t paying attention to me.

Are they?

Anyway, Mike Z sent me a message, I sent him my address, and prepared my apartment to make it look like I was more than a drug-dealer. You know, a couple dense books about producing theatre on the dresser, screenplay on desk, coffee and a bagel to my right, bed made, all that shit. 

bZZzzzz.

I buzzed door number one and waited for the twelve seconds it generally took people to get to door number two and—

Zzzz… 

Shit. This guy is a fast-walker, I thought. I buzzed the second door and quickly positioned myself as if I didn’t even remember he was coming over, at my desk, fake writing. The sound of his footsteps in the hallway walking up the four-flight staircase sounded like he was wearing metal boots. His knock was as clunky as his footsteps—loud for no reason.

I got up slowly, brushed my valor sweat suit to smooth the wrinkles out, and opened the door.

I was probably twenty-two or some shit at the time.

In came a bald man in his mid-forties with a leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet.

“Just sold EVERY SINGLE BRITNEY SPEARS TICKET. EVERY FUCKING ONE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE FUCK THAT MEANS? 700 GRAND. OFF ONE FUCKING DEAL.”

The guy talked a mile a minute. I wasn’t ready for it. “That’s a ton of money,” I said. I wasn’t sure if he was lying or some big shot. Coulda been either or. I took out my weed, all three jars, and prepped my station. “So you produced a Britney Spears show?”

“Dude. Listen to this. I was meeting with Randy Phillips— you know Randy Phillips? CEO of AEG?— anyway, big fucking deal, dude’s huge… runs Madison Square Garden and every other major venue you know, anyway—holy shit. Stuff stinks. STINKS. Whatever you give me, package it good. MUCH better than it is now. What was I saying?”

“Uhh… Britney Spears.”

“Right. Every fucking ticket.” He put his motorcycle helmet down.

“Always wanted a bike,” I told him.

“Yeah? Give you a ride right now, want one?”

This guy wants me to get on the back of his bike? No way. “Nah man, thanks though. I’m good.”

“You sure?”

“I’m good.”

“Any time, just let me know. Gotta experience the world we live in. Who knows how long we got, right?”

“Right. No, yeah, you’re right.” 

Then he looked around my apartment as I waited for him to signal to me he was ready to discuss the different strains I had. 

“So, how you doing my man? Zach tells me big things about you. BIG things.”

“Yeah Zach’s a good guy. I met him about—”

“Whattaya doin? Writing a book or something?”

I was so glad he asked. “Better, screenplay. Writing a screenplay about this girl I used to date, a chick I knew from rehab who said she witnessed a murder and—”

But he cut me off again and said: “What’s that?” and looked at the ginormous poster-board I had on display that read: The Wonderland One-Act Play Festival. It was like eight feet tall, another thing crowding my minuscule living space. 

“That? It’s a play festival I produced.”

“Oh yeah? Wonder World huh?”

“Wonderland.”

“And it’s what? A play thing?”

“Yeah, we produced fifty-five—well, actually fifty-six—”

“When is it? I’ll bring my partner Alan. HUGE in the industry. HUGE.”

“It’s done, over, it was fuckin awesome.”

“Yeah? Make any money on it?”

He had a sly grin. So, I lied.

“A shit ton. We made 40K in profit in three weeks.”

“Wow, not bad.”

“Want in? Got some other ideas brewing.”

I was just trying to be a good businessman, know what I mean? Can’t show your whole deck, right? I think that’s right. Besides, if he knew the whole story he wouldn’t be interested. So I lied about the entire enterprise.

“Ever heard of William Morris?” he asked me.

“Of course. I was repped by them when I was an act—”

“Fuck repped. I got the head honcho as my partner.”

Ever since I had been kicked outa acting school, I’d become resentful at acting, resentful at the entire acting industry too, including fucking William Morris. But maybe that chapter of life wasn’t over yet…

“The owner of the company?” I asked.

“Fuck the owner. I got the head of legal.”

Head of legal? I was thinking that sounded a bit… well, not like the head honcho. “So he’s a lawyer?”

“Maybe I’ll bring this wonder world thing up with him. Huge name. Head honcho of William Morris for two fucking decades, MORE even, he did the legal, all of it. Hired like fifty fucking guys.”

“No, it’s not wonder world. That sounds like some Disney World rip-off. It’s Wonderland. But it’s over. I got this other idea though…”

“Either way, you should meet him. Big fucking deal. Major.”

“Totally, bring him over.” Then there was silence. Better just sell the lunatic some weed and get him out. “So whattaya want?” I asked, not willing to inject any more personal relations into the visit.

“Oh just an eighth of some good shit, whatever, I don’t care.”

An eighth? Are you fucking kidding? I didn’t say that obviously, but still… this guy is a big shot? A guy buying an eighth like we’re in middle school?

“I can do an eighth today but usually if you can get at least a half-ounce that’d be preferable.”

“How much is it?”

“An eighth? Depends. This one is sixty, this one is—”

“Sixty? Expensive! I’m in the wrong business! Sure, give me that, what’s it called?”

“This is Sweet Island Skunk and this one—”

“Fucking names. You believe this shit? Unbelievable. Who comes up with these names? Give me the skank.”

“The skunk?”

“Whatever. But pack it up good, real tight. Don’t wanna stink up my next meeting. Know who I’m about to meet with?”

NO AND I DON’T GIVE A GODDAM MOTHERFUCKING SHIT YOU NAME-DROPPING DIPSHIT!

“No, who are you meeting?” I asked patiently.

“David….” And he said some famous person’s name. But I didn’t really care. I just wanted his money and to get back to writing this movie. I was now on my third draft of the Robyn Smith story that I was determined to solve. But the point of all this is to say that a few weeks later, I was eating sushi alone, on my second large sake, when I got a text from that douchebag:

U avail for biz call in 10?

YES!

I waited by my phone for two hours. Finally, my Blackberry buzzed.

“Hello?”

“I want you to come up with a name for a company and meet me at 7AM in Brooklyn tomorrow to meet your first client. I talked to my partner about it. Talked you up big time, BIG time… You owe me. But congratulations man, you can stop slangin weed like a freshman in college. Well, I’ll still need some, but you can do it part time now, cause my man, you’re officially the CEO of your own music booking agency. 

“Music booking agency? Whattaya talkin about? I don’t know how to do that shit.”

“You’ll learn. I’ve got faith. Don’t let me down. Talked you up REAL big to Alan. Head of fucking William Morris. I’ll text you the address right now. 7AM, don’t be late. And don’t wear that ugly valor suit, no offense. It’s disgusting. DISGUSTING. This group is big, BIG. Rockstars almost. See ya then.”

I was horrified. Music? I been listening to the same Eminem song for ten years. I don’t know dick about music. But that’s how Black Apple came to be, and that was my ticket to freedom. And in a strange way, it finally got me there…

But my main point here is this: It was my introduction to one of the golden marketing rules I’ve cemented in my head since that time…

Everything is a numbers game, and email marketing was the perfect medium for numbers. Of course all this shit is different now in 2024 than it was in 2005 or whenever this happened, but still… This was where the beginning of digital marketing started for me, and many of the principles still hold true.

More to come.

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