Letters for the week of October 12-18, 2005 

Indie record mavens past and present, impatient zinesters, and muckraking journalists respond to our article on the decline of Lookout Records.

"Kerplunk," Feature, 9/14

Thanks for nothing
Thanks to Rob Harvilla for not even mentioning my name in the article about Lookout Records, Green Day, and Operation Ivy. For the first two years of Lookout Records, the label was registered under my name. Both of those bands were not signed; they were friends that verbally agreed to do vinyl records because we were ALL friends.

I even did the logos for BOTH bands' 7-inches, AND the Lookout logo that they still use to this day. You'll know which one is "mine," 'cause on the T-shirts, right under the logo, it's copyrighted by Cinder Block ... NOT by ME. The "signings" came later, after I quit. I have received from Lookout not a damn thing for my efforts since 1989. So while people are crying RIVERS over screwing up such a sure thing, I'd just like one to put my patched inner tube in, grab a CAN of beer, and float down ...
David E. Hayes, Portland

Editor's note
In fact, Harvilla did mention that Hayes was Livermore's original partner in Lookout Records.

Stop smoking pot
I'm vain, okay? I want to see my letter to the editor in a timely manner. I wrote a letter about the Green Day article weeks ago. Now I notice you publish letters to the editor a month after the newspaper has been published. This is the stupidious and laziest thing I've ever seen. What the hell are the editors doing? Smoking pot or something? It's so not cool. Maybe other people might want to slightly remember the articles in which the letters are referenced. Hence called your "fifteen minutes of fame" at the East Bay Express -- it's more like ninety minutes of fame on Quaaludes or something. Get with the picture already. I don't have time to waste.
Don Irwin, Walnut Creek

Well, now that you asked
Coming from Washington, DC/Arlington, VA, a year and a half ago and not totally being into the East Bay scene of Lookout Records, I have to say I am a fan of the Ted Leo and Mary Timony Lookout releases. That said, everything in the article rings true. There is a cost of promotion that is a double-edged sword. Promotion and exposure is expensive and it promises little in return. There is no way to compete with the majors; Epitaph is a major. Throwing $50,000 at the Warped tour is stupid. All the bands that left Lookout for other labels are lucky that they could take their master tapes.

With the collapse of Mordam Distribution, it just further shows what is left of independent music. A handshake or friendship is very important, even if the accounting books are a little crazy. Who understands double-entry accounting anyway? Did Lookout abandon the East Bay sound? That is a silly question. Did they overextend themselves? Yes. Should the bands on the label be upset? No, because Lookout tried; the bands tried their best. At the end of the day, at the end of the year, it's just a tax write-off anyway. Self-release, self-promote, or sell your music to the devil (the major labels) and then really see how screwed up you'll be.

Green Day will be all right. Let's hope Ted Leo will be rocking on for a long time with a powerful message in the future.
Don Irwin, Punk Life fanzine, Walnut Creek

A must-read for moguls
Incredibly well written. I have had almost thirty years' experience of reading about my own company and other indies, and your article really sums up the issues involved. That said, I am also scratching my head as to how the label went into the toilet. Usually you know year to year if your business plan is not working. This article is required reading for anyone tempted to go into the music business.
Robbie Fields, Ladismith, South Africa

All to no Avail
Thanks for your great story on Lookout. As a biased observer -- I roadied for Avail in the 1990s and remain friends with the band -- I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts.

First off, bands like Avail got screwed in a pretty big way. Lookout stiffed them for roughly $10,000 in royalties, money that was supposed to go into an account to cover health insurance for the band, their spouses, and their offspring. While Lookout quit paying, the health insurance company didn't spontaneously start offering its services for free, so Avail was forced to run up thousands of dollars in credit-card debt to cover the expense. I wonder if Chris Appelgren, who paints himself as a guy who was simply "naive," sacrificed his own paychecks and medical coverage while trying to right the sinking company.

Secondly, a reading of California's civil and criminal fraud statutes is in order. Lookout honchos may have transgressed several different laws if they knowingly diverted funds earned by bands to other purposes. Hopefully somebody -- law enforcement, plaintiff lawyers, reporters -- will investigate this possibility. After all, property records show Appelgren still has at least one asset: his Adeline Street office building, which was assessed at $529,000 last year.
A.C. Thompson, San Francisco

CORRECTIONS
Due to a printer's error, the opening page of last week's cover story on cuddle parties was missing its headline, subhead, byline, and a couple lines of text. Go to EastBayExpress.com/Issues/2005-10-05/news/feature.html for the intact story. Also, a cover tease misdirected readers to Bottom Feeder for a story about Don Perata's private detective; it should have sent them to Cityside.

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