One day in 1992 the job of composer for a CBC Television series was offered to me. The producer called because she liked this song What The Astronaught Noticed and Then Suggested. She heard it used in a student film from the Canadian Film Centre and afterward decided she wanted me to be the composer for her series. I told the her I would love to score the series but unfortunately I didn’t have the necessary equipment. She said they could give me about $8,000 to acquire whatever I needed. Time to pinch myself.
That student film was a random act of charity. The CFC director was worried about how much money my fee would be because he didn’t have any. If I wasn’t open to letting people use stuff for free I would have never been offered the CBC series which paid me more than any other television job. The lesson there was if you believe in someone who has no funds just do it for free. Say yes and don’t worry about it.
Suddenly I had the very fun problem of being able to spend $8000 on a music program and a computer with the appropriate operating system to run it (plus some sound modules, synchronization gizmos and microphones). The software other composer friends used was Notator or Cubase. I bought most of my equipment from Long and McQuade and I knew a lot of their staff. I had a lot of midi sound modules and spent many hours on the telephone with them getting answers for my problems.
- Port what?
- Midi Channel where?
- Parameter who?
- Velocity curve number which?
But at that time they didn’t sell Macs – just Ataris.
It wasn’t so clear in 1992 who would still be standing next week, Mac or Atari? I decided I would spend the 8 grand at the only store I knew about that had Macs. The retail thing was all territorial then, they had specific contracts for who could sell what.
My instincts were that Mac was the future. But when I got to the store, in a back lane downtown, the sales guy ignored me, acted like I wasn’t there. Other customers came in and out and eventually I was the only guy there yet the sales guy gave me a dismissive frown or focused on his newspaper. Maybe this was all because I was wearing army pants and a t-shirt? Maybe in his mind he thought I was not a potential real customer? I got the not-so-subtle hint and left.
Later on the bus I started writing a letter in my head to the owner telling them what happened. I imagined my letter might even get the guy fired but then I became philosophically conflicted. Mr. not-so-subtle was an asshole but I have my moments too. I wanted to complain but I don’t want someone to lose their job.
I came up with a different idea, I went back to Long & McQuade and bought the Stacy Laptop by Atari (as you can see I had it altered to reflect my anti-drug stance) and I wrote Jack Long (Mr. Long and McQuade) and told him what happened when I was about to buy the Mac and how I decided instead of writing angrily to the other company – I would instead write him and praise my experiences there which never included being treated as weird as what just happened to me. I singled out three of their employees who especially helped me and mentioned all the help on the telephone.
About 3 weeks later I went to Long and McQuade for something and when Newton saw me, (Newton ran the accounting) he grabbed my hand and shook it firmly
“Jack got your letter. We have a photocopy of it pasted on the wall upstairs. Thanks man!”
“Oh that’s good, you’re welcome.”
And then every time I turned around someone was thanking me or shaking my hand. And substantial discounts followed during the next years and a letter of thanks from Jack.
The end of the story isn’t that I want to do a sponsorship for Long and McQuade. I’ve also had some disappointments there and the other store has since been a place where I got some good things. The end of the story was realizing it could be more meaningful to think a little more sideways about what to do with anger.
Of course there is alternate ending: Macs are here today and Stacy’s are, well.. did you ever hear of one?