Tag Archives: Warped Tour

On interning: “If you’re just going to make copies all day, at least work at Kinkos and get paid for it”

Those were the first words I ever heard from Warped Tour creator Kevin Lyman’s mouth.

Funny enough – and completely unbeknownst to Kevin – I got that first internship after stealing leftover food from his back stage lot on Warped Tour earlier that year. I ended up in a huge office building interning for the TV/Film department trying to get my big break as a music video director. At that time everyone ran their company on buzzwords, and the word of the day was “synergy,” so the company I worked for also owned a record label, a management office, a sports agency, and a touring division, where Kevin worked. The thinking was that by putting all these great creative people within shouting distance of each other that their work would start to overlap and everyone would end up helping one another. A year after I finished interning the company went bankrupt.

I guess that’s how I got the position in the first place. They were short on money and needed someone to make the coffee and run the photo copier. Not a single person there knew my name but I couldn’t blame them, because there were ten other interns just like me making coffee and running the copier. One of the execs – he was always ‘dating’ some aspiring actress and sleeping with them during lunch breaks – had bad eyes and would make me photo copy his novels at 125% so he could read them easier on an airplane. If the pages were crooked I’d get the whole thing physically thrown at me and I’d have to start over.

It was no wonder the interns all hid in the break room. The job was pretty thankless and if you looked available you’d get grabbed and sent on some God awful task. If you hid or acted busy, well hell, you’d still have a good bullet point on your resume. It became a game to see who could find the most creative ways to get out of doing work. But no one was learning anything.

If I was a pretty cute girl, this would be a picture of me happily making photocopies while my boss banged actresses in his office.

It was about this time that I met Kevin Lyman. He caught me at the Xerox and joked I should go around the corner to Kinkos where at least I’d get paid for my work. It was an eye opening perspective. Kevin was the only guy at the company who realized us interns did all the shit jobs around there and he was the only guy who treated us well and learned our names and gave us any respect. His words and his attitude inspired me and it made me want to find a way to get real value from my experiences before I burnt out. Was my only experience at this major company going to be learning to use all the features of the photocopier?

Half way through my internship the company I worked for had to move offices. There wasn’t any money to do it so I got volunteered to use my weekends packing boxes, putting them in my car, and then driving them across town to the new building. Most of the other interns didn’t bother to show up.

On my lunch break curiosity got the better of me and I cracked open one of the boxes I was moving. There was all kinds of good stuff in there and I spent the rest of the day sitting under a desk and reading. I saw what a record deal looked like and why certain movie scripts got axed and I learned how much everyone at the company was making.

After that, my whole attitude changed. Instead of hiding in the break room I volunteered for every photo copy job and read everything that crossed my path. I’m pretty sure I learned more in that six months than I did after four years of school. All my volunteer work started to gain me some notoriety within the office and people began asking for me by name. It was a small thing, but that little boost of confidence grew me some balls I didn’t know I had. At the end of the day before I left I’d knock on all the executives’ office doors and introduce myself and find one interesting thing to tell them about. For the music department, that meant bringing in CDs from artists no one knew of yet. My first batch was Taking Back Sunday, The Used and Brand New.

This little album got me a meeting with the president of a major record label when it ended up going platinum.

When those albums did well, it led to me getting an offer to run my own major label imprint. It also led to me telling the biggest lie I’ve ever told to get out of it. I’ll save that story for another day. But looking back, I don’t think any of the other interns at that company stayed in entertainment. Or if they did, it was surely at an assistant level, where they took what they learned as an intern and applied it to a 50-hour work week. Most of them used their internship as one more bullet point on their resume and moved on, and I feel really sorry for them. And I was almost one of them. But what makes someone successful is their perspective, and Kevin Lyman changed mine. If all I was going to learn from my internship was how to photocopy, I should have just taken a job at Kinkos.

Funny side note, over a decade later and Kevin and I share an office and are partners on a bunch of projects. When I had my nervous breakdown and fled California, Kevin was the only guy I would have come back for, because he was the only guy in the entire industry who bothered to talk to me while I was an intern. And when that company broke down and everyone got laid off, Kevin’s strong relationships ensured he didn’t skip a step keeping Warped Tour moving.

I’ve tried to keep that same philosophy. If you ever bump into me feel free to stop me and ask me questions. Or leave some in the comments below and I’ll write you back or save them as topics for a future post.

Bankruptcy and the path to total success

It was nice being young. You could do stupid things and get away with it, like dig up your ‘friends’ front lawn and plant them a garden while they were sleeping. Maybe hang some CAUTION tape around town, forming a labyrinth for late night drivers. Or take all of your money and start a record label right after college.

It was this very romantic notion, graduating college and using all that newfound knowledge to go to rock clubs and make posters in the living room. I tried to pitch the idea of starting a label to my friends, but they were all being re-conditioned by The Man to take jobs at banks and software companies. I was crestfallen. So I did what any self respecting artist would do, and moved back in with my parents. I started the label by myself.

My favorite label at the time was The Militia Group and I wanted something equally cool sounding, but I over-thought it and named it American Jealousy. I had no idea what I was doing except I knew I had a good ear for music. At the time I was also moonlighting as a not-quite-yet-failed music video director and I had some good connections in the scene from that. The first band I signed were these group of local kids who hadn’t been playing for a long time but were ‘talking to a bunch of labels.’ I kind of fell for the hype and spent all this money on promo photos and album artwork and tour support. No matter what I budgeted, I ended up spending three times as much. I found out later the tour support money went towards drugs.

Near bankruptcy, I put the rest of my money into this band from Texas called The December Drive. These guys were really talented and Charlie from that band ended up producing Meg & Dia’s “Cocoon” album almost a decade later. I’m really proud of the album we released together and in fact that may be one of my proudest moments ever. Napster had just come out and I saw that recorded music was going to price itself right out of competition, so I had this genius idea to sell albums for $5 and make it up in volume. Turns out kids just thought it meant the music was shitty. We raised prices in line with the industry standard near the end of the album cycle and sales doubled, but it was too late. I was broke.

The December Drive - handslikegunsandcrashingsounds

My one indulgence each year was going to the Warped Tour in Ventura. For $25 you’d get to see all the bands you cared about, maybe get an autograph or two and some pictures. And there I was, defeated and broke but I went anyway. Half way through my best friend and I are starving and pizza slices are $5 or something we clearly can’t afford. Then we notice that behind one of the stages they’re filming some kind of TV show and the crew has full catering, so we literally distract a guard and run through the side gate to get back there. My friend and I, we’re in heaven, eating all this free food and watching this show being taped. I’m stuffing my mouth but trying to act cool and fit in back there, talking to some other woman who is equally as smart as us by hanging back at catering. I kind of half-assedly mention I want to intern for a place like this and she gives me her card, which I stuff in my pocket and forget about for three days.

Im cleaning out my pockets when I find that card again, and just as Im about to toss it, I figure I may as well look her up online. So I jump on AltaVista and type in her name, and it turns out she manages The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. Well, fuck me. I call her up that second and tell her about my label and she invites me in that same day. I drive the 90 minutes to her office and she hires me on the spot. Turns out they’re begging for interns. I had no idea at the time, but most places want free labor and are willing to put dipshits like myself to work for free.

Me and my best friend bugged the shit out of Good Charlotte until they agreed to take this photo with us. Can you tell?

The rest, as they say, is history. Kind of. I thought I had struck easy gold, but my Big Break as an intern ended up being a disaster although it definitely got me started down the right path. Everyone there really admired my spirit and respected the fact I was out signing bands. Starting that record label cost me all my money, but it was an investment into my career as an entrepreneur. I could have spent that money at grad school on Music Business courses but it was so much more effective going towards real-life sales and marketing, because I was the guy working my ass off to get even 60 CDs into stores, and begging Skratch Magazine to write a 4 line review of my album. I don’t think there’s any way to learn the music industry other than going out there and trying to make things happen.

A few years later my friends with their bank jobs and software programs would call me and tell me their big regret in life was not starting that record label with me. They were still at the same jobs doing the same things and I shared in their regret. I would have liked a partner back then while I was going bankrupt.