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How to Make a CD: A Poet’s Perspective

Marketing Poetry: Title and Cover Art, A Contest

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Other pieces take hours, result in six “finished” mixes. Even the poet has his hands all over the board which is beginning to resemble a glass bead piano and it’s headache hungerdrome at 3 am.

The first half of Bob Holman is now mixed, so we take off a few weeks to listen, then return to Prairie Sun. Kathy dies, Jeff Buckley dies. Let sadness seep in, and love’s fight. One day I cook a barbecue and Jenni Muldaur hops into the recording booth and we’re making “That’s Why” and the next it’s all over and I’m flying back to New York.

Work in sequencing, shaving, even back into the studio for a more taping, the Chinese poems of “Poetry by Number.” This is where Bill Adler weighs in, shaping the CD like a book with Foreword and Afterword, his exquisite ears meshing the totality of the album. Bill is the key man at Mouth Almighty, and every album that we produce is lifted by his taste and vision.

While listening to “The Impossible Rap” with text in hand, the words fall to the floor. Reading them, they now say, In With the Out Crowd. We’ve got a title, and it was in our own backyard the whole time!

So I walk in wonderment into Tip Dunham’s show at the Metro Pictures Gallery, around the corner from the Mouth Almighty offices, and the album cover is hanging on a wall! It’s “The Wanderer,” of course. But Tip has a better idea—he’ll make a new painting. It’s called “Bob Holman”!

Over the next months it’s art and marketing and clearing samples. I work closely with Jeff Schulz at Mercury on the booklet, the insert, the j-card. Sekou feels it’s not respectful to miniaturize poem fonts to fit in the CD booklet, but I want them in there, an arbiter for late-night poetry scrabble sessions, a gift that counters “We cry now in your beer” with “We cry now on your bier.”

Marketing is neither art nor science, and marketing poetry is filled with all the horrors of the triumph of capitalism. Mouth Almighty is the first poetry label attached to a major, which gives us unprecedented distribution, but the idea of poetry on CD is still finding its audience. Is that audience in Kmart and Tower, where the bulk of CD’s are sold? Do cafes and poetry bookstores want to crossover to retail CDs? Can Mouth Almighty be major (only!) publisher of poetry CDs in poetry world and be the small press of rock’n’roll? These and other questions can only be answered by you and in time.

Corey Llewelyn, new media maniac at Polygram, comes up with the idea for a Web site contest: First Prize, Immortality (I write poem). And Ken Weinstein, product manager at Mercury makes trims: cardboard album covers with poem and Mouth Almighty logo on back, and gets behind a rock-style poetry tour.

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