What is it about the Four Seasons Partnership that makes us all feel they are ineffective and a let down. Whilst ‘Jersey Boys’ success has been acknowledged by Bob Gaudio as ‘luck’, anecdotal information has indicated that many prospective deals and promotions have failed due to bad management. Maybe it is the realisation that they are not there for our benefit shows our naivity over the ‘values’ we expected. It is quite apparant that Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli have too much to do and plan to be bothered about a few hundred ‘old’ fans complaining about their lack of well designed and mastered CD releases. And is it time for someone to defend their position and put the situation into a realistic context from their perspective.?
The problem over the release of this poor collection of tracks on a forthcoming CD seems to be not their fault as Charles Alexander says in their defense.
“Bob and Frankie have sold, for a substantial lump sum, the rights to
the catalog to Rhino for a period of time. It's Rhino that administers
the catalog and does the releasing and licensing. In 2010, for
example, Rhino licensed 15 of the biggest hits to some outfit called
Green Hill Productions, a division of Spring Hill Music Group in
Brentwood, Tennessee, for a CD called Jersey Sound. I bet 99% of you have never seen this CD. I picked it up in a souvenir shop in Cape
May, NJ. Was this the Partnership's idea? Most certainly not. At most,
Bob and Frankie let Rhino license the CD. So please don't think that the Partnership is responsible for every collection that comes out.”
Fair comment but how does selling the rights and allowing irresponsible licensing benefit the ‘brand’ or the customer especially when the company in question Rhino are focusing mainly on ‘rock’ and appear to be in severe financial difficulty?
And in a our CD Discography of 213 CD releases, we can identify 74 devoted to ‘Greatest Hits’ compilations (ie 34%) and only a handful have a quality of mastering that could be classed as ‘good’. Why is this?
Charles again….”But I will admit that the 4 Seasons are very different from other supergroups like Beatles, the Who, the Eagles etc. Those groups appear on one label and one label only. The output is tightly controlled. They don't license their recordings for every Tom, Dick and Harry to do their own reissues. You don't see Beatles songs in Various Artists collections. Years can go by without any new Beatle product on the market. Which is the best approach? To keep tight control of your catalog or to license it to almost all comers? When someone like PID, whoever that is, wants to put out a new collection of their Seasons favorites, and it doesn't include any tracks that have never been on CD, it just pisses most of you off…..What this group of fans want is … three Anthology collections, which consist of unreleased alternate takes and tracks and studio banter. That's what would really make all of us happy: a Four Seasons anthology, with a bunch of alternate takes and unreleased tracks.
A huge amount of work would have to go into creating such a thing. (the Beatles re-masters of 2010 took four years..ed). And while it was very profitable for the Beatles, it would not be profitable for the 4 Seasons. I'm sorry, guys, but even after Jersey Boys, there are not enough 4 Seasons fans out there who want to buy a collection of outtakes.
It would be nice if Bob and Frankie would finance such a project as a favor to the fans. But they didn't get where they are by giving away money. They've had plenty of lean times. They grew up poor. Even at the end of the sixties, after a long string of hits, they were deeply in debt because of mismanagement….., I don't see how you can expect them to do expensive projects for our benefit only. Maybe they would prefer to leave money to their grandchildren. Maybe they would prefer to support Habitat for Humanity or some other worthy charity. I don't know. It's none of my business. “
But this whole argument doesn’t stack up. Reliable sources have confirmed that Frankie and Bob are millionaires many times over and even with a decimal point share of JB they are still making a fortune. They could afford to document their history and do this both musically and factually to a good standard. The reality is they simply don’t care. Depressing huh! Particularly when one of their worst ever recordings in terms of sound quality , The Jersey Boys’ cast album CD is one of their biggest ever sellers.
But they should be concerned…..and their continued refusal will have implications, Long-standing fans have a lot to complain about. As Malcolm Grace a former key committee member in the early 1970s UK fan club aptly puts it..
“Its a funny thing back in 76 I resented the new 4 Seasons ie Gerry, Don, John and Lee for taking over from the group that I saw as the 4 Seasons. OK they soon became the NEW 4 Seasons but I never quite forgave the way that Joe Long (and now it seems Dimitri Callas) had been discarded. Again when another "new" Seasons turned up on tour with Frankie in the late 70s early 80s (without any explanation) I assumed that Lee and John had quit. Now the truth is unfolding I have a new respect for them.
Bob Gaudio and Frankie need to realise that if you cash in on your previous success by agreeing to a musical being produced they have to accept that it could turn into an uncontrollable monster and its obvious to me, the more "Jersey Boys" there are, the more "cashing in" there is going to be. Also when an important part of a groups history is deliberately distorted to such an extent that Jersey Boys has in relation to the Seasons 70s career, you have to be completely out of touch, don't care, or be totally conceited to believe that the fans and the people originally involved aren't going to react and do something to set the record straight, particularly considering it was such an important part of the groups career.”
And Patrick from the ValliSeasons e-group hits the spot…”It seems that the partnership is mainly concerned with money and is releasing yet another compilation on the coat-tails of the Jersey Boys fame. There is a whole new audience to tap...lots of money to be made for very little effort. Frankie and Bob don’t have to lift a finger. Their accountants will deposit the checks. And how much money is enough, what with Jersey Boys passing 1 Billion in world wide sales. ……..as for Valli, he’s almost 78. What the hell is he gonna spend it on and where does he get the time to with his unbelievable concert schedule and other appearances.”
And Bob and Frankie have always it seemed been ultra protective of us hearing their attempts to create ‘art’ via their sessions. It has been their ‘private world’. Some would say they are simply protecting the product quality whilst others say they are hiding the creative process….And as for their high royalty charges, their policy has restricted rather than enhanced their ‘brand ‘ and financial return. Management expert Peter Drucker stated…”Profit is a function of business not its purpose”...and it is accepted by many that art is the only important creation. But in reality not all of the creative efforts of Bob and Frankie are very listenable. But who should judge this? We know that for years Bob Gaudio has suppressed excellent demos like Valli’s ‘Michael and Peter’ and we know there is a full album of his own demos of these tracks he did for Frank Sinatra. Still unheard by most…(fortunately I would say having heard it!)…but in the meantime Brian Wilson’s unfinished ‘Smile’ productions have been made available to the world making him even more ‘iconic’. …and loved by fans.
The big risk for the Four Seasons Partnership with their current policy is ‘brand damage’. A current BBC website article analyses how bad news about your ‘brand’ on the internet can cause long-standing damage.
Reputation.com's Michael Fertik says that your reputation is "everything".
“In business and in life you're a brand” Herb Tabin – Author recommends keeping abreast of what people are saying, and responding quickly "Digital reputation is now your reputation, whether you like it or not. It's now the truth about you. We didn't vote on that fact, it just turned out to be true. The standard of conviction in the court of the internet is just to believe it enough to not take a risk on you."
"Anyone can write anything about anyone, and if they know what they're doing they can be really damaging. The most damaging thing is a person with a lot of time and a lot of hate."
Fortunately at The Four Seasons UK Appreciation Society we believe we are actually protecting the Four Seasons brand by honesty and openness re the history and we have a huge respect for all of the creators of the music and believe they should all get due credit. And we have the backing of former Four Seasons. We simply want to see a change of policy and more customer focused action.
So how can/should the Four Seasons Partnership change to stop the damage being caused to their ‘brand’ due to poor release management
Firstly re-cover the masters license from Rhino due to their lack of adequate management and promotion of the catalogue.
Secondly negotiate with a long-standing stable and reputable label with a track record for developing and maximizing the quality and collectibility of catalogues whilst preserving the historical context. This will give long-term growth of return from the catalogue.
Finally, negotiate for the management of other masters ‘not owned’ to ensure their managing licensee can apply the same principle to these unreleased masters.
Getting out of the contract with Rhino may take some time but working with Motown and ACE/Kent Records is a real opportunity as the review of the forthcoming Contours CD of unreleased material shows
A true collectors company like ACE Records of London would do justice to the whole Seasons catalogue providing they enable ACE to maximize the music’s collectibility…and they take a long term view by not being too greedy.,
And with acknowledgement of the contribution of all who created 'That 'Four Seasons' Sound' fans could then feel a sense of relationship with their music and the Four Seasons Partnership would start to repair their reputation.
In the meantime we’ll dig out more unreleased tracks to prove the collectibility of the group’s history.