A few years ago the DJs from the Mens Room on KISW partnered with Elysian Brewing to create a beer, Mens Room Original Ale, and they asked their listeners to participate in a contest to be the spokesperson for the beer. All one had to do was create a thirty second video featuring the beer and the tagline, “Mens Room Original Ale. Because we think it’s yummy.” Being a fan of the show and of beer, I decided to enter the contest.
Hard to believe that was 2009. Seven years ago. The long hair is gone, as is that wonderful Trace Elliot amp. Given the amount of time, I’d actually quite forgotten about the video until May of this year when I got a bit of bad news. It was the kind of bad news that wasn’t wholly unexpected, but it still gave me pause, gave me doubts about the future in some respects because one road came to an end, and I was left to wonder what, if anything, I could do about it.
That bad news was this: The publisher of The Music Book, Booktrope Editions, went out of business, and what that means is that book is now out of print. It cannot be purchased save for a used copy that might exist in the odd used bookstore here and there or over on Amazon where there are new and used copies—as of this writing—priced between one penny and $51.00. Yeah, that’s right, fifty-one dollars.
It’s disheartening to think about because I’m proud of the book. It has its place, and the bands and the music in it have their place not only in Seattle but in the world beyond. And so after I received word of Booktrope’s closing, I bought a few Mens Room Original Red beers (It’s Red these days, changed from the original ale) because they—the show and the beer—were featured in the book, and I went down to my writing room. I listened to some music, played the guitar for a bit and while doing so hit upon the riff I used in that beer commercial, and it popped into my head. I did a video for that.
I found it on YouTube and played it a few times. It cracked me up, that run to the bathroom at the end. It spoke honestly about a night of drinking beers and laying down bass lines. And well, if you haven’t guessed by now, I didn’t win that contest. It doesn’t matter though. I had a lot of fun making that video. And though it was an extraordinary amount of work, I had a lot of fun writing The Music Book. In both instances, I created something.
To think about it one way, it might seem like I lost with the book too. My publisher never really did much for it so the word never really got out. Sales never quite took off. Some of that might be my own fault as well. I deliberately chose a small, Seattle-based publisher. I knew I had a part to play in the whole marketing bit. And now Booktrope is no more, and seemingly the book if I can’t find a new publisher.
And yet, I would say I didn’t lose in either case. Again, I created something. The video made some people laugh. The book spoke to some people, connected with them, maybe made them laugh too. It got me on TV and into Barnes & Noble stores for a while. It’s a matter of how you define success, a matter of why something is done in the first place. There’s a passage in The Music Book that speaks to this.
“It isn’t about making millions, though no one would mind that. It’s about being heard, even if only by a precious few people, and understood, and remembered for what we had to say during our brief time on stage.”
I’m currently working on a third book. Horse Bite is still out there, and even if I don’t find a new publisher for it, so is The Music Book. And if you buy it for $51, let me know. I’ll buy you a few beers, Mens Room Original Red, because just like life and writing books and making videos, it’s yummy.