CMU Beef Of The Week #150: Sub Pop v Derek Erdman
By Andy Malt | Published on Friday 22 March 2013
Hey, it’s the 150th Beef Of The Week, and thank the good lord of unnecessary arguments, it’s a good one. Even though it may not be exactly as it at first seems.
Earlier this week, Seattle-based label Sub Pop delved into its mail bag and pulled out a complaint about the new Father John Misty album ‘Fear Fun’. The grievance was not with the music on the album itself – “I enjoyed listening to the CD” the author, named only as ‘Helen’, noted in a PS – but with its artwork.
“I think you went overboard with the art design for the CD”, began Helen. “Not putting any name on the [actual] CD is lame. My friend unloaded the player, it got mixed up and then the CD sat out getting dusty … Think about it. I had to write the name [of the album on the CD] in my sloppy handwriting”.
Shit, man. That’s not all though. Helen continued: “More cutesy were the inserts; rambling on and on. I read books. I listen to music CDs. I do not read stuff inside CD packages”.
Being compassionate types, someone from Sub Pop’s customer services team, Derek Erdman, got straight onto the matter, writing a response that was also posted to the label’s website, telling Helen that all in the office were “disappointed that you’re disappointed”.
“We thought long and hard about your dilemma and couldn’t come up with a better solution than yours”, continued Erdman. “Writing on the CD is the most efficient way to discern it from others, we applaud your ingenuity! We were hoping that you wouldn’t mind if we suggested this idea to others who are having the same problem. If you’ve patented the idea, we’ll be happy to forward the proper paperwork to pay you for our use of the idea. Let us know what fee you’re comfortable with”.
He added: “In regards to all of the pesky, unwanted information on the CD sleeve, we’ve included a handy cover sheet to place over any words that you don’t want to look at while listening. It might seem that it’s just a piece of paper, but it’s rather opaque and should serve as a soothing emotional blanket. In fact, I’m using one right now”.
Now, some of you might possibly have noticed the, erm, slightly sarcastic tone in Erdman’s response. If you did, you may be one of the people who, upon reading it, were up in arms about it. How could a company treat fans of its work in this way? So Helen might be an idiot, is that her fault? Does she deserve to be publicly mocked for it? Many thought not, including – or so we were told as the story developed – the top dogs at Sub Pop.
Later the same day, the company’s Director Of E-Commerce Sam Sawyer wrote a new blog post apologising for Erdman’s earlier conduct, adding that rather than being a key member of the label’s customer service’s department, he was the new receptionist who had only joined the company that day.
“The only course of action we could reasonably take was to terminate the employee immediately”, wrote Sawyer. “Though he’ll have the distinction of being the shortest (in more ways than one! (he’s tiny)) Sub Pop employee, he’s also aware of what he’s done wrong and that he shouldn’t be proud of himself. To avoid a situation like this in the future, we’re currently taking steps to make sure we don’t hire this type of person again”.
In addition to this, and the posting of a picture of Erdman looking rather sad as he stood by a lift that would take him back down to street level for the very last (and possibly first) time at Sub Pop HQ, the company posted a full transcript of his exit interview. Opening question: “In your cover letter, you mentioned ‘numerous’ positions in your employment history where you dealt firsthand with customer service. You failed to mention you were such a dick. Why?”
Quoting Erdman himself, the post revealed how he had been “ecstatic” to get a job at Sub Pop and was now worried “how I’m going to tell everybody that I didn’t even last a full day”. He then apologised for his conduct, saying: “I can’t even make sense of what happened. I mean, I want to defend myself, but people seem really angry over this. I got a personal email from a person claiming that I ‘ruined the integrity of Sub Pop’. I feel just awful about this”.
So there you have it. With the sacking, we can only hope that the integrity of Sub Pop has been saved. And that Derek Erdman has seen the error of his ways. Certainly this whole affair goes to show how people power can make the world a better place. A man said a thing on the internet, and now he has no job, which can only be a good thing. Good work outraged people.
Of course, anyone who has ever had any sort of communication with Sub Pop will likely have smelt a rat already – particularly any bands who sent demos to the company in the 90s, only to receive the infamous “Dear Loser” rejection letter in return. Also, some of you might be aware of the Seattle-based artist Derek Erdman who has a long association with Sub Pop.
Presumably it wasn’t the people already aware of Sup Pop’s sarcastic tendencies who were outraged by the original post. Let’s hope not, because those outraged folks have no sense of humour. However, if reading about all of this here has caused you to become outraged, I wholeheartedly apologise and will fire myself immediately.