B-G-B (Bonus Guest Blog): The Warner/Reprise Loss Leader LP’s

Picture 1Guest Blogger: Todd Crisman

Interactive Group Creative Director Todd Crisman, also known as Super Todd 5000, maintains an anachronistic low-fi, beer-swilling mystique despite his accomplished digital resume.  With his trademark 100,000 volts of heavy action at the ready for anyone or anything, Todd somehow leapt from an early career as a bank teller to the world of advertising, along the way helping birth such gems as Career Builder’s Monk-e-Mail and NOLAF.org.  When he’s not making fuzz-rock mix tapes, he’s probably working on your brand and conning others to do the same. All in the name of awesome wonderfulness.  He is, quite simply, the special sauce in interactive.

The other day, I left my office to go chill out in the large hallway that bisects Element 79, which the weirdos I work with call “the boulevard.”

More Than a Hallway
More Than a Hallway

Maybe I was looking for a new idea or trying to get away from a bad one. Don’t remember. Why the boulevard?  Because we have a turntable and stereo there to help people chill out and get away from the job for a while. All in the name of creativity, baby.

Hot Turntable Action
Hot Turntable Action

It didn’t take me long to select an album from our expanding collection.  I grabbed a record called “Songbook”– a double slab of wax released in 1969 to promote a group of Warner/Reprise artists. It’s a great compilation of music that would become the first in a series of record-buyer focused/artist friendly records called “The Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders.” This collection of mostly double album samplers would be made available to the record buying public for more than ten years.  These records sold for $2 per album and the label didn’t even charge postage!

Warner Bros. PRO 331, 1969
Warner Bros. PRO 331, 1969

These “albums about other albums” became the place to hear new artists, discover a hidden gem, collect an unreleased single or to hear a Van Dyke Parks original composition used to hawk Datsun automobiles.  “Songbook” features stuff from Neil Young’s first album, songs by Jethro Tull, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix and some guy named Tom Northcott. I’ve never heard of him other than this compilation, but Wikipedia says he’s a Canadian folk-rock singer whose hits are played on Canadian classic rock stations. Whoa. When I was listening to this particular album at work, some people heard it and asked what it was. I said something like “Maaaaannnnn! Get lost if you can’t recognize the genius that is Tom Northcott!”  Maybe Warner/Reprise was hedging on Neil Young or something?

This got me to thinking about my first experience with Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders. I remember seeing the ad for all these $2 records on the inner sleeve of Black Sabbath’s Sabotage album. I remember reading that copy and laughing. I still have that album – complete with a heinous cut-out that’s over an inch long.

Loss Leaders… What a cool way of turning people on to new music – very sympathetic to both artists and record buyers.  But even better was what they wrote–their ad copy sounded exactly like you overheard it from some guy at a party.  Let me clue you in to a dose of the Warner/Reprise marketing “hype,” transcribed lovingly from the inner sleeve of my Sabotage album.

“Each Loss Leader is divinely packaged, having been designed at no little expense by our latently talented Art Department… Loss Leaders are compiled from new stuff, NOT old tracks dredged out of our Dead Dogs files. No selections are used on more than one album…  If our Accounting Department were running the company, they’d charge you $9.96 for each double album.  But they’re not.  Yet…  Still, if you’re as suspicious of big record companies as we feel you have every right to be, we can only tell you that Warner/Reprise is not 100% benevolent. It’s our fervent hope that – after hearing one of our Loss Leaders – you’ll be encouraged to pick up more of what you hear on these special albums at regular retail prices.  That’s where the profit lies.  We think.”

And, in a move that pre-dates “social networking,” the 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook invites you to “…write directly to our Creative Services department, at 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California 91503. Or, if you prefer, pick up the phone and call us – Stan Cornyn, Hal Halverstadt, or Don Schmitzerle – at (213) 843-5115.”

Pretty cool, huh?  It’s hard to find examples of this type of self-aware, empathetic, and honest copy in today’s ad campaigns. I’m sure they exist but I can’t think of any. Can you?

If you want to dig deeper and learn more click on these links:

More on Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders

Album artwork and list of songs by album  

By Todd Crisman, Interactive Group Creative Director, Element 79

One thought on “B-G-B (Bonus Guest Blog): The Warner/Reprise Loss Leader LP’s

  1. spindly says:

    I ordered ‘The Big Ball’ thinking FOR SURE I’d never see my 2 dollars again.

    I became obsessed with side four (look it up, kids) which kicked off with Ed Sanders’ filthy, homophobic, anti-Confederate, un-American epic, The Illiad.

    It was nice to read liner notes calling the artist in question a “Bathless degenerate…from that most teeming hotbed of hippie depravity, the East Village.”

    How could I not listen after reading that! Truth in advertising!

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