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Interview: Brad Mindich From Definitive Authentic and Inveniem

The Founder and CEO Explains the Process of Taking Care of Rockstar Artifacts

We’ve all got a lot of stuff, the concept is so prevalent that one of George Carlin’s most famous routines is about the relationship between us and our stuff. We’ve got things that we’re not sure what to do with: is it garbage, is it useful, or is there just a magical nostalgic aura surrounding the thing which leaves us at a loss about what exactly to do with it? It’s common for us regular folks, but what about someone in the entertainment industry who’s got a few decades of a career behind them? We’re talking about items like lyrics, photos, posters, handbills, tickets, or any number of keepsakes that can be deemed historically relevant given their relationship to the performer’s timeline. Just like you, rockstars have stuff, too!

Someone’s got to go through it all, dig through the dusty boxes and creepy-crawlies and get to the good stuff. Then, a game-plan has to be made for what to do with it. In this day and age, it’s just not enough for a performer to release records and perform concerts; fans are looking for ways to engage more intimately with their favorite artists and one of the ways they can do this is by engaging directly with their historical artifacts.

Enter Brad Mindich who is the Founder and CEO of Definitive Authentic and Inveniem. Brad’s focus is wide, as he’s a key part of both companies. On one hand, the work he does with Inveniem is quieter; a sort of archiving job done when an entertainment individual of note desires to clean up and catalog their chronologies. On the other hand, the goal of Definitive Authentic is to share these items with the public in an effort to continue telling the entity's story. 

So, as you watch, or read our chat, realize that you’ve got something in common with your favorite superstars and luminaries: you’ve both got a lot of stuff in your attics and garages, and much of that stuff has value although it may not be financial. Once the context is revealed. however, they take on a whole other meaning. So, whether it’s a note dashed off by Lars Ulrich, or the sneakers you wore during the birth of your first child, both things have meaning and value. It’s Brad’s job to convince the owners of those items of that value and to create a captivating story about the significance of those items for fans and those who simply want to know more. Read on to learn how Brad takes a bunch of stuff and turns it into something profound.

Evan Toth: You're here to talk about, not one, but two companies that you're a part of. We're talking about Inveniem, and of course, Definitive Authentic. If we're meeting someone on the street and you're trying to explain to them what you do at either of these-- with these groups, what do you say? How do you separate them? How do you explain this to someone at a cocktail party?

Brad Mindich: It's a great question. I think these businesses have evolved over time. I think overarchingly, if somebody says, "Well, tell me about what you do?" what we tend to say, which at least starts to frame the discussion, and I think generally raises some interesting questions from people, is we talk about how we help our clients connect their past, present, and future. I think that framing or scaffolding of what we do overall and how we do this for some of the most extraordinary cultural icons in the world is it sets the stage for some very interesting conversations about what we do, why we do what we do, and the meaning and the relevance for clients and for their fans or audiences.

In terms of the two different parts of the company, Inveniem was always the foundational part of our business, and it still is, because everything comes from, if I can see from the wall behind you, knowing what you have and where things are.

ezt: Right.

bm: That applies to you, as I'm sure you have an extraordinary cataloging system. It applies to you. Yes or no? 

ezt: bm, it's just got to be alphabetized, otherwise I'm lost.

bm: All right. Fair enough.

ezt: That's my catalog. It's strictly alphabetized, numbers included, otherwise, I just can't-- I don't know. Some other people have other systems, but I can't do genre or anything like that. I just have to be alphabetized and I can easily find whatever I'm looking for.

bm: Okay. That, in fact, is the key phrase right there, find what you're looking for. The Inveniem work is really that exploration, discovery, archival, preservation, putting systems in place that allow our clients to understand across their entire career what they have, where things are, what they're worth, and then ultimately what to do with them. It really is that baseline. That's from where everything else comes.

For some clients, they really do just want things safe and preserved and protected, databased and archived, and we do that. A lot of estates really start off that way. For most clients, and this is where the Definitive Authentic part comes in, they want to do things publicly. They want to engage with their fans. They want to create digital experiences or physical experiences or pop-up stores, whatever it happens to be, but ways to take this content, these artifacts that have been discovered, and share them with the world.

We separated the two parts of the company so that the Inveniem business is always quiet. There's really not a lot about it anywhere. There's nothing on our website. We don't publicly talk about any of it and really all built word of mouth because trust is the foundation for everything we do.

ezt: Interesting.

bm: Then Definitive, when something's public or when you know you know. That's where the Definitive piece comes out. When we do our certificates of authenticity, it's under Definitive. Any of the digital museum experiences that we've built are all powered by Definitive. Inveniem is not even there.

ezt: Interesting.

bm: It's a different way to be able to serve both sides of the value chain.

ezt: Thinking about the Definitive Authentic side, maybe you could talk a little bit about-- The nature of fandom has really changed in the 21st century. You can see I'm a throwback. I have my record collection, and that's how I connected with a lot of these things. I'm not personally one of those guys who gets into ticket stubs and other things but talk to me a little bit about the appetite of our culture, the appetite of what a fan is in the year 2024. What are they looking for? What do they want? What goes around in some of the artists that you work with?

What goes in their mind about how we connect with these people and give them something that really is more meaningful than just simply buying the record or the CD or going to a concert? How do we elevate that? What are some of the conversations that you have? What is some of the feedback that you get from consumers about what they want in this day and age?

bm: It's a really great and insightful question. What we see about fan behavior, which in some ways is certainly different just due to the nature of things that are available for fans these days, but the fundamentals and what we spend a lot of time focusing on with our clients and obviously with their audiences is the story. Fans are buying stuff, right? You're buying records. I don't even know. I couldn't even calculate how many records you have there.

ezt: It's about 8,000 records.

bm: All right. You have just a few records, right? There's a story for you with each of those records.

ezt: Sure.

bm: What we see really consistently is if there's something that is really unique that comes out of our discovery process and the archival process for our clients, and that's brought to a fan for them to engage with, it may not even be to buy it, it literally is just to see it, to interact with it, it is the story. It's not like, "Okay, here's a pen," that's great, but this pen was used to do this, to write these lyrics, to do that. All of a sudden it takes on such a different meaning for the fan and also the value.

The value, however you interpret value, it's much more significant, as soon as you can attach some story or moment, because, this is a command of the obvious statement, is that's what emotionally connects us. That's the thing. It's that feeling where you ingest that story and then I want to tell my friend, "Oh, guess what? I saw this pen. You're not going to believe it." That's the sort of thing that I think we see pretty much across the board, regardless of the client.

ezt: Is there an interesting anecdotal story you could share, maybe where there was something as mundane as a pen or a paperclip or something that you got to witness fans really getting a bang out of? Can you share something with the audience about something that someone shared with you and you found people really responded to that? That unexpected item.

bm: Oh, there's so many of these cutting across different areas because I think it's everything from the demos, the things where fans are like, "Wait a minute, that's how this song came together?" It could be demo audio. It could be lyrics and you see things where the artists cross things off. We see that pretty consistently, whether it's Metallica, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Mötley, or any of these, is just the creative process. That I think is pretty extraordinary.

Certainly, things like, if this is Steve Clark's guitar that hadn't been seen or something like that, or it's a photograph, a very early photograph from one of our clients that had been hidden away forever, buried in a box or things like that. We found a note, here's a real example for something that's just fun and speaks a little bit to the personalities. We found, for Lars (Ulrich), this note that he had written in 1991, just on a yellow pad paper. Basically, I'm paraphrasing a little bit, but it's a pretty quick note that says he's no longer going to use wooden sticks because he's breaking too many of them and he wants to save the trees.

He wrote this in '91. It just happened to be in a box. That is a critical moment in the band's history, as you well know, and he just was having fun. He just had a fun moment. It turns out we actually have a box of his broken wooden sticks from The Black Album era. We have the sticks and we have the note. These things contextually go together in a meaningful way. Whether you're a Metallica fan or not, it's just a fun story, right? It gives you insight into the artist's personality.

ezt: That's interesting. I have some Metallica records back here. Of course, I'm familiar. Is that true? Does he not play with wooden sticks anymore? Does he play with something else since then?

bm: Some other sort of material, yes. I couldn't tell you exactly what it is, but it's back 30-something years ago. I don't know when he switched over in terms of that, but it's just that I'm not a drummer, I'm a terrible guitar player, so I've never had the broken stick issue. These things are artists going through their moments. It's fun. We smile a lot at these types of things.

ezt: Interesting benchmarks. It's interesting you brought up photos a few times I think of-- I'm of the age where I remember there was no internet. I remember when you saw some photos that you'd never seen before of The Beatles or Paul McCartney and you found it in a book or some old magazine or in some weird library, whatever. The internet now, I see a picture of Paul McCartney every day I'd never seen before. Maybe it's tricky with how long you've been with these companies, but how has the internet hurt and helped the-- I want to use the word specialness. You know what I mean. How has the internet impacted how special some of the artifacts are that you've collected? Maybe photographically specifically is what I'm asking.

bm: Really interesting. I think there's a couple of answers to this. First of all, the photographs that we are dealing with with our clients are, and obviously, they're working with extraordinary photographers and we have good relationships with a lot of them, as these are from the artist's own possession. These are their photographs.

ezt: Their stuff.

bm: It could be tons of them. Literally, hundreds of thousands of them, in some cases, that are theirs. There's a specialness, to use your word, that already is like, "Well, this is from this band's own personal collection." I think that adds value and there's uniqueness. There's always something to be seen, especially if an artist has had a significant career. I think regarding, "Well, I can see something on the internet all the time," yes, you can. I think the internet has obviously helped in a lot of ways to bring awareness to a lot of these artists and bring awareness to the photographers.

Obviously, we can talk about value, leakage, cannibalization, and all that stuff, which is certainly a part of it, but I think one benefit that we've seen this, this has happened to us a couple of times, is we may see something online for one of our clients that a fan has that the band doesn't even know. They had no idea. That allows us to then reach out to the fan and say, "Hey, we saw you got this. Can we talk about this? The band would love to see it or see more things," or whatever, because some of these fans, some of them they're just photographers themselves, even if they're amateur, and have caught these moments that nobody else caught. I think it's a little bit of a-- I don't know. Maybe the right way to say it is a symbiotic tension in some ways between these. I think if the overarching question is around value or things like that, I don't think having a lot of things on the internet, if you have all these photos of Paul McCartney, diminishes the value of actual photographs from Paul or from photographers that are close to him or what have you. I think there is something very special about being from the artist.

ezt: Everybody has to have an AI question nowadays. Back to the Beatles pictures and photographs and things, I'm a member of some of these Facebook groups, and you get these people posting all these things and they say, "Here's a picture of Paul and John standing on the whatever." Then somebody says, "That's a fake." There are all these pictures floating around.

I guess you guys are really getting access to the initial stash that the people have, so you know that those things are all authentic, but do you have a process in which you-- Obviously, you authenticate these things, but what is that process? What does that look like? How are you challenged by AI in this day and age with those kinds of things?

bm: One of the things in terms of the authenticity of the artifacts we have is that we are getting these things directly from the artist. There is no risk of this being some AI-created thing that was sent to us by somebody that we don't know. We are truly taking this directly from the artist or from the photographers themselves. We know that the value is there. We know it's real. There really is no question with that. Our tagline for Definitive is "No Question," which is intentional, obviously.

In terms of AI and what happens, and I've seen some really fascinating and obviously quite scary things that AI has been able to do with-- You mentioned whether it's photographs or whether it's music and, and - this is not a sidestepping of the question, but I think it just remains to be seen exactly where this goes. I think there is something to be said around really creative, managed, iterative works that come out of this, especially if, I think this is really the key thing, if it is in partnership with the artist. Then it's like, "Well--" You have some very forward-thinking artist who's like, "Well, I want to apply AI to these certain things, but it still is coming from me the artist to fans," great.

ezt: Using it as a tool rather than...

bm: Yes, to expand their creative footprint and engage in new ways. We're already obviously seeing some of that, but I think there'll be a lot more of it. By the same token, and we've seen this countless times already, there are lots of bad actors and bad people. Internally, we call those people weasels. That's just our word that we use. There's only so much you can do, but I think for us, at least starting with the foundation of we have the trust of the clients, we know that we have everything from them that's real, and then how to use that, again, to just connect these with the fan bases in a way that protects the client's brand, because that is also paramount to us.

ezt: When you're setting up, say, an exhibition, I know you've done museum installations, you're trying to tell the story of an artist through their stuff. What's the magic? How does your staff work to do this? Not to give away your secrets here, but what is the secret to effectively telling the story of this person through items? Do you think about that? What's worked for you in the past? Is there a certain way? What do you get a good response from when you do stuff in a certain way? Maybe I'm being a little too vague, but I think that’s what I'm trying to say.

bm: Yes, I do. Honestly, I don't think it's a trade secret thing. There are some extraordinary museums around the world that are really quite good at this, obviously. Our filter, whether it's a physical museum or a digital museum or some sort of pop-up experience or whatever it might be, the starting point for us, the first filter, is we want fans or visitors or however you want to frame it, if they can walk away with a comment, "I had no idea," or "I can't believe this," that's really it.

It sounds very simple, but when you can take that, you want that emotional feeling. You want people to just be-- See things they've never seen before, have the stories told in a way that they hadn't heard before, and have it be contextual and not necessarily linear. Maybe this is part of where you're going with this a little bit, I don't know, but it's like, we don't tend to be like, okay, this year, then the next year, then the next year, or this record, then the next record. It doesn't have to be that way.

ezt: Right. This is his lunchbox from third grade. This is his lunchbox from fourth grade.

bm: Exactly. It's really what are the things that we have, getting back to the same thing, how does it tell the story? Really, this is probably a weird thing for me to say in this way, but to also ask the question, does it matter? Do you care? If you're a fan and you're going to see this, do you care? If the answer is like, "I really don't care about this." If we can ask that ourselves or our curators or archivists can ask that, or folks who are writing all the copy inside our company, if it's like, "Oh, this just really isn't that interesting," that's a good barometer for us to say, "Okay, maybe we should pick something else," or "We saw this that goes better."

ezt: I'm flip-flopping here between Definitive Authentic and Inveniem. Back to Inveniem, just so we're segueing our audience here too, which is the leg where you're archiving an artist's things, but it's really not for public consumption. This is just more for their own cataloging and archiving needs. I don't know, maybe you could give an example, but since I guess there's a confidentiality element here, maybe you can't.

Can you talk about a collection that was like, "Whoa, how are we going to get through this?" If you can't answer that specifically, maybe you could just talk about the process of-- because obviously most of the stuff is probably in boxes and cardboard boxes that were in attics for maybe 10 or 20 or 30 years or longer and you get all this stuff and then your team has to go through and be careful with it and take care of it and preserve it and catalog it. Right after you get those boxes loaded up in the truck or whatever, how does that process work?

bm: I think the first thing I'll say is there's nothing that we haven't seen in terms of just whether it's you open up boxes and there are, this totally gross me out, but the little silverfish…

ezt: Oh, yes.

bm: I'm not a bug person.

ezt: No, I have to be careful with them with the records too, because they love paper. People that collect records and books, silverfish are a real problem because they eat paper. That's what they love.

bm: Exactly. It's such a cool bug name. We've seen mold. We've seen water damage. These are really disasters. Then we've seen things where it's like, "Okay, this actually is--" May not be organized, but they've been treated properly. The process is the same in the sense that we will take possession of these boxes-- Sometimes they're-- We had one client where they sent us 120 boxes. It was overwhelming just how much stuff there was, and no organization, just things thrown into boxes and sent.

There's a very clear methodology with how we do these things. It starts from, are we dealing with mold? Are we dealing with silverfish? Is this okay? Then it's the inventorying process. Then it's the archival process and the digitization or photographing, and then pulling this all together in a way that clients can start to see very quickly what they have. We overlay that with, what are their goals? Do they just want to make sure things are safe? That's fine. Great. Let's make sure they are professionally treated.

A client might say, "Look, I want to do an auction," or "I want to sell things," or "I want to do a reproduction." It doesn't matter. It could be any number of areas that a client might want to pursue, depending on where they are and what's important to them. This is going to sound self-serving and I don't mean it to be, but we do it at the absolute highest and most professional level because that's how it needs to be done.

If a client says, "Look, I don't really care. Just throw it back in a box," we'll just say, "Actually, we may not be the right people for you to do this," because there's an integrity that needs to be maintained. I don't mean integrity in doing what you say you're doing, but an integrity you have to maintain with the artifacts because these are culturally extraordinary ways. Sometimes there was only one copy. "Oh, these are the only DAT tape recordings of," whatever it is. Like, "Okay, well, DAT don't survive very long."

ezt: No. In fact, on a lot of my interviews of the last few years talking about, and it segues into another question, the DATs have been particularly not happy over the last 20 to 30 years. People should understand that even though DAT stands for digital audio tape, it's not tape like people know what a cassette tape is. When it goes bad, you just get terrible noise or squeals or something. It's very difficult to remaster.

Just back to the audio side of things, so many artists are doing these archival boxes. If something is a 40-year anniversary, a 50-year anniversary, or a 60-year anniversary, they need to get those extra photos. They need to get the extra tracks. They need to get the handwritten lyrics and all that stuff. I would imagine that with all of these things that are being reissued from the '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s now, I would imagine that your doorbell must be ringing or your phone must be ringing quite a bit with record companies calling and saying, "Hey, we’ve got to do a 60th anniversary of this thing. What do you guys have?" How does that process work? Who usually approaches you, the artist or the label? How does that go?

bm: It is typically the artist or management who will say we're doing this project. Again, going back to what I said in the beginning, this fundamental thing of helping our clients understand what they have, where things are, what they're worth, and what to do with them. Those four pieces. We have a lot of clients who are at anniversary moments, how do you make their releases, whether it's a box set release or whether they're doing a documentary or they're doing a book or they want to put something on tour or whatever it is? Again, all these things intertwined with what should the experience be for a fan.

Having enough things where a fan can say, "I had no idea. I didn't even know this existed," that's what we love to do. To be able to go to a client and say, "Look, I know you gave us 100 boxes, here's what we were finding." We're obviously very collaborative with our clients and how we also super-serve them. If we know this is coming up or this is an initiative, whether it's an anniversary or something special, some moment, we will strategically figure out what should be dealt with first.

Even though all of our archivists are masters in library sciences, they truly are librarians in the most general sense of the word, but they are really cultural historians. They understand the value of what it is a client is trying to do and what that emotional connectivity should be with whatever it is they're putting out into the market. It's super fun. If we say, "Hey, we did find the lyrics," or "We found this photo," or "We found the artwork," or something like that, that becomes part of the offering for fans. I'll give one example that happened around an anniversary, and it was cool. The band Rush, one of our clients. They were actually our first client.

ezt: No kidding. They were your first client, really?

bm: Yes. For the anniversary of Moving Pictures, we had found, the band didn't know they had this, we found alternate cover shoots for the record, for both the front and the inside and the back. They didn't know. For the anniversary, we did something special where we created these really spectacular high-end lithographs and we had Geddy and Alex sign them along with a photographer, Deborah Samuel. It was all done for charity. Ultra-limited. If you didn't get one, you're not getting one.

Different takes of Rush's Moving Pictures album cover

That whole thing tied with the anniversary, and this thing where a fan, and I happen to be a Rush fan, to be like, "I didn't even know these existed." Hearing the story about them and then looking at the actual cover against the lithograph and saying, "Oh, wow, the artwork has turned this way or that," it's really neat, right? That aligned perfectly with the 40th anniversary of that record. It's things like that that can be on a smaller scale all the way up to really full box set curation tied in with whatever channels or initiatives the artist wants to do that go along with this.

ezt: Just back to the Inveniem process a little bit, if you don't mind, are all these people in-house? When you get all of this stuff and you get these boxes or whatever it looks like, and some stuff is moldy, some is in good shape, is everybody under one roof? How do you have this set up? I'm just curious how the Inveniem team shows up and says, "Oh, this is how we're going to break this thing apart and put it back together again," how does that process work? Nuts and bolts in other words.

bm: Everybody is in-house. We have two main teams. One is in Los Angeles and one is in Newark.

ezt: No kidding. In Newark, New Jersey?

bm: Yes.

ezt: Oh, I'm joining you from New Jersey. I'm about 20 minutes away from Newark.

bm: Okay. Fantastic. We can send people over and check all your records…

ezt: Absolutely. You never know. I don't think I have anything that special, but yes.

bm: I suspect you do. Those are obviously the two key areas. Nashville is the other key area, but they're all there. There's no central Inveniem office where people-- because that's not where the stuff is. That's not where the clients are. The clients are really in New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles mainly. If something is from a client somewhere else, like if it might be in Texas or Las Vegas or whatever, we will drive those things through secure transport to whichever location makes the most sense.

It's all done there in-house and under ultra-tight security, for obvious reasons. That is the process. We have done things where we've gone on-site and we've brought equipment, if a client says, "Look, I don't want any of this stuff to leave the house." We can do that too. It just tends to be a lot more fluid and faster if it's done where there might be 10 archivists or something like that, as opposed to 1 or 2 at a time. It's a mix of art and science. It really is. How do you photograph something? This is very simplistic, but in a flatbed scanner versus the overhead camera that does the same scanning work but allows you to have-- It's flat without weighing them down. There is a real system that we approach for every artifact, whether it's a two-dimensional artifact or whether it's a guitar or a piece of clothing or something like that, but it's all done-- The vast majority of it is done actually in a secure environment.

ezt: Yes, that's interesting. I'm sure that is a great concern. These things, these items, and particularly records, have become so valuable lately. A lot of the things behind me, and we keep talking about my collection, but I bought as a kid for a quarter or 50 cents or $1, 75 cents. Now it's silly. I look them up and-- Good luck getting the money that you see that you should get for them. Still, I would imagine these things are almost more valuable now than ever before.

What do you think would really surprise someone? Again, we're talking about fans changing in this new world. As we said, you don't just buy a T-shirt and a record anymore. There are these experiences. All concerts now have a VIP event where you can actually meet the person, which when I was a kid and you went to a concert, forget it, you're not meeting them at all. It doesn't matter how much money you're paying. Of course, bands and management teams have learned how to monetize this and how to figure it out and do it in a way that works for everybody. From your point of view, what do you think really would surprise the average lay person or the average fan about what it is you do?

bm: It's a really interesting question. Just when you were talking about the VIP thing and meeting the bands, I just had this instant flashback to being 17 years old and meeting Van Halen, which for me was one of the greatest moments of my life quite a long time ago.

A Van Halen publicity shot circa 1984 featuring Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony

ezt: Interesting. What was the context of that meeting? Was it just that you were lucky enough to meet them or was it an actual sort of a VIP thing?

bm: It was just somebody that I knew, somebody who knew the security guy at Worcester Centrum that was like, "Okay, I can sneak you and your buddy in," or whatever. The plan just aligned.

ezt: That's how it used to be.

bm: That's how it used to be.

ezt: Nowadays you buy the ticket and you get the upgrade or whatever it is and you can actually meet these people. It's cool because you get that opportunity, but it takes a little bit of that magic out like you had, where you have a-- That's a real story that you'll always carry with you.

bm: Yes, which is it. We can talk about this forever, but it's even trying to figure out which hotel the band was staying at, could you find them, whatever, and sit and wait and wait and wait. It's certainly a different time from being able to just spend money to do a meet-greet. I think when you ask what would surprise people about what we do, it's the fact, because I've heard this said many times from people just outside our world, that we are in fact trusted to get these artifacts directly from the client in a way, and I'm very grateful for this and we're all humbled by this as a company, that really nobody else is.

We've worked really, really hard to earn that trust from our clients, but we're not finding something on a site somewhere or something like that, or this was given to me by my uncle's cousins. It's not that. It's literally, we are getting this directly from the artist, and stuff that cuts across the entire creative process. For fans or for people who just maybe don't do this kind of work, when they see things that are either in a digital experience or a physical experience or something that we might do for auction or whatever, to actually know that, yes, we actually took this. The client said, "Yes, come to my basement, just take all this stuff." The 17-year-old me sometimes is like, "Okay, this is cool. I would not have expected this so many years ago."

ezt: It seems like artists have a real interest in telling their story. It's almost as though using some of these artifacts are almost like we were talking about AI, this history of theirs is almost a part of their way of continuing their artistic journey. I don't know if I'm making sense here, but do you ever get that feeling? Do they ever want to give something to the fans that is like, not only is it going to-- It would simultaneously serve as a nostalgic look back, "Hey, look at all this cool stuff," but at the same time serve to inform the future of that artist's work, if that artist is still with us and still performing and still creating.

Do you ever see that intersection, that tie-in between the past and the future and fans getting that, or more particularly, an artist really wanting to capture something like that?

bm: Yes. As you may or may not know, our trademark tagline is "Your Past Is Your Future."

ezt: Oh, there you go. I didn't know that. See? [laughs]

bm: There you go.

ezt: I swear I didn't know that. I swear I didn't know that.

bm: It was about as perfect as softball as you could have thrown me for that, but seriously-- I think what's really interesting with this, we do see different behaviors with artists, where some are-- they take some convincing that their past is really important to preserve and protect and share. Because a lot of them say, "Well, I just care about the future. I just care about the music I'm making right now." I get it, as you should.

However, one of the things that we've said to clients, obviously, depending who we're talking to, is there's a 12-year-old kid who's discovering Metallica or Bon Jovi or Mötley Crüe or Def Leppard or Heart or Dolly Parton, whomever, today. For the first time now is hearing these artists. The whole thing is how do you capture new fans? Then when you do bring them in, how do you then have them discover? You want them to discover the rest of your history and all the stuff that you've created because that's how you build a deeper connection.

One of the interesting things, which we saw 2 years ago or 18 months ago, maybe 2 years ago, is Metallica with Stranger Things. It's like, there are all sorts of people who love that show who really were not Metallica fans who all of a sudden became Metallica fans.

ezt: Yes. What's this cool music?

bm: Right. I think having artists, as soon as they get it and they say, "Okay, this is cool to share--" Obviously, the hardcore fans and super fans, they love this stuff. Even as you get out in these concentric circles of fans, you don't know which entry point a fan is going to come in to discover you for the first time. Why not have a lot of these things available so that-- Because once you pull them in, if they like it and they feel, this sounds a little silly in some ways, they feel welcomed inside your environment as an artist, then there's so much that you can share. Then you just build literally another 30 or 40-year relationship with a fan who just discovered you who's 10, 11, or 12 years old right now.

ezt: Yes. They get connected to the story. When they're connected to the story, they want to see where it's going to continue to go, where it's going to end.

bm: Correct.

ezt: You have two projects that you're really working on. Obviously, I'm sure you're working on a hundred things right now, but there are two things that are happening right now. There is a Nancy Wilson collectibles thing. Can you tell us a little bit about that one?

bm: Yes. For Nancy, we've done a bunch of things for Nancy. She's got some pretty extraordinary things, from her career, obviously. It's the 50th anniversary of Heart as I'm sure you know. We've started to take some of those things and create an opportunity for fans to buy some of these things, all authentic, all directly from Nancy. A lot of them are signed and numbered, whether it's photographs or old fanzines or things like that that really it's until you go through this process with an artist, they don't really know what they have. All of a sudden it's like, "Well, we have these, this is pretty amazing. Fans want this. This traces your history."

Nancy Heart surrounded by a sculpture of electric guitars

Being able to share that in a way with fans directly from Nancy is-- It's cool. She's an extraordinary person, guitarist, artist overall, songwriter, and everything. I think the timing of this and Heart going on to do an enormous tour and all that, it's very authentic. We use that word a lot. That's where we're adding more and more things to that.

ezt: It's funny you say this. It reminds me of just a garage sale you might go to, "You want this? You mean this old stuff? You want this old junk back here?" and you're like, "Yes, these are great records or something." I guess if we're talking about what would surprise people, it surprises me to think that some of these artists may not understand the value of what they have-- the significance, I guess is the word I'm looking for-- the significance of what they have and how important it would be to their fans to see. It's funny that they're surprised at it too.

bm: Yes. It's a really good point. I'm glad you framed it that way too. The follow-up, because we do see pretty frequently that clients will say, "Why does anybody care about this? It doesn't mean anything to me." "To them." We'll say, "Well, we understand that because you created it. This is just what you do, but fans have never seen this before. If you look at it through a fan's perspective, some of the stuff is-- It's amazing. They're like, "Yes, I don't care, whatever. Sure. This is me with this person, or this is this, or I wrote this thing, but I don't really care." It's like, "Yes, but you need to care."

ezt: Is there a lot of explaining to that artist? Do you have somebody there that would say, "Listen, let me tell you why this is significant. This is--" Do you have to go through that process really with them and explain, "Here's why this is really a big deal. This is a priceless thing, this matchbook, because," and the person I imagine maybe has a light bulb moment, 

"Okay. Maybe"?

bm: Yes. That does happen. I think, to your point, when you start talking about the story, especially if you can get the artist to talk about-- "Tell us a story about this matchbook." We see this. It's a really interesting thing. You see the energy of the artist lift a little bit because they start getting into the memory of it. Then they do have these aha moments. They go, "All right. Yes. This is interesting. It'd be great to share this in some form or another with fans."

Some clients get it right away. They live it, they're excited, they want to participate in all of it. Other clients, sometimes it takes some convincing to be like, "This does matter. I know maybe it doesn't matter to you right now, it really does matter. Here's why." We'll be like, "Just trust us on this."

ezt: Okay. Another important project that you're working on right now is Mötley Crüe and their Crüeseum. What's going on with the Crüeseum nowadays?

bm: The Crüeseum we launched in January and started with a couple of collections. Those guys, obviously another very significant career. We captured a lot of artifacts that were initially released, and then we're adding more into that and it will coincide with a lot of other things that they're doing throughout the year. This is the 40th anniversary of Shout at the Devil. They have some other anniversaries coming up.

A publicity shot of Motley Crue

They're a band that really gets the value of their history, not only where they were and the beginnings all the way to what they are doing and new music and all that stuff and new tours. The Crüeseum is really, I would say, an integrated thread line that connects their past, present, and future. I'm starting to see these things from the early days and get some of those stories and have it be part of everything they're doing because the Crüeseum, as with any museum, it isn't just about the past and just everything, but it's the creative engagement between the band and fans.

It's becoming this nice anchoring point that I think fans are going to see just continue to grow and grow and grow and grow. What's exciting about when we launched the Crüeseum, and we do see this consistently, what we said earlier in our discussion, is fans saying, "I had no idea. I'd never seen it before." That's the thing, is you do the work to really do this the right way, professionally, and responsibly. All of a sudden there are these things that come out that are really meaningful.

ezt: Tell me a little bit about the-- You have some Bon Jovi things too that you went through. I'm a Jersey guy here. In fact, it reminds me of a story. I had a bunch of Bon Jovi records. I don't know why I let a lot of them go. I had a crazy Bon Jovi collection. It was rare stuff. It was all European imports. During one of my paring-down phases, I let a lot of Bon Jovi go. I do regret that one, but tell me about some of the Bon Jovi things you've had or what's going on with them.

bm: Yes. I'm sorry you let some of those Bon Jovi records go because they are worth something now. We talked about the value of records, especially these imports.

ezt: It's interesting too that you say that because I remember specifically when I brought them to sell them or trade them in or whatever I was doing, I knew that they were on the curve of becoming more valuable. I was like, "This is a really cool collection." The guy was just like, "Well, these are Bon Jovi records." He wasn't into it. You know what I mean? Selling them to him, I was like, "Hmm." I knew I took a little hit because I knew they were going to become more valuable.

bm: You make the decisions you make at the time, right?

ezt: It's true.

bm: It seemed like a good idea at the time. For Bon Jovi, this is another client where it's the 40th anniversary of the band. Obviously, an extraordinary history there. We built and launched Backstage. You can find it on the Bon Jovi website or Backstage at Again, another museum, storytelling, archive, collectible ecosystem that really traces the history of the band. We launched a number of collections in there, and there's more that are coming, and fans can see that there's more that are coming, but what's really interesting with the stuff with Bon Jovi is that the documentary is coming out on Hulu.

The documentary intersects with this digital museum experience and intersects with other things that Jon's doing and the new record. It's again, this overall Bon Jovi ecosystem that connects the band's past, present, and future. There are some pretty extraordinary stories and very open and honest commentary from Jon and the band about some of the things that happened and how it came together, the challenges and their successes, and how hard they worked to get there.

I've used this word before, but it's just very meaningful for fans. We saw when Backstage was released, just some of the comments, fans were overwhelmed. There was a fan group that did an entire hour-long podcast just going through the entire museum because they just couldn't believe what the band was willing to share with them. That's it. That's what you want.

ezt: It's interesting about Bon Jovi too, this is a band that always looked great. It looked like, being of the age that they were, I was in elementary school when they were hot, I was a real consumer at that time of music, these were the biggest stars of the day, but they always looked like it was a really professional presentation and they really had their stuff together. It is interesting, I think, to really think about the behind-the-scenes struggles that they had.

As you said, I did see some of the trailers for the documentary, and it does seem like they really get into some nitty gritty. I'd imagine the artifacts that you have and the things that you put together for them really give a different element to their story for those of us who didn't see-- Consumers take for granted what all these musicians and artists and actors and actresses go through. I think it'll be a really interesting extra chapter to their story.

bm: Yes. I think Jon was really very open and honest in that documentary. It comes through. It's in ways that I don't think a lot of artists do. Again, it's being authentic and sharing the struggles and how hard it was and the things that worked and the things that didn't. When a fan can see an artifact in the documentary and then they can see it on Backstage and then maybe will get to see it in a physical experience as well, all those things are connected, it all comes again from what we talked about in the beginning, this foundational process of let's just understand what you have and put it in a way so that you can make really amazing, creative experiences for fans.

Fans emotionally react. Truly there's emotion around it, which then just breeds an even tighter relationship between a band and their fans. That's what this is about.

ezt: Yes. It makes me also think of The Beatles, the Let It Be project, how for years that film was seen as such a negative shadow over the band, the final, everybody was in a bad mood and the band was breaking up. Then with this reissued talk about footage and archival stuff, it changed the whole idea of the project to being, "Oh no, they weren't in such a bad mood. It was okay." It was just this footage of them goofing around and having a blast.

bm: It shifts the narrative and it shifts the perception that fans have. That's good. That's a good thing. Brings more people in, and the more fans that come in and discover it in a way that gets below the surface in a real significant way, it's fan behavior that you're enhancing. I think it's so many amazing examples of that. The Beatles one is exactly that, and exciting and they're cool. That's the thing. If nothing else, it's just really cool to see this stuff.

ezt: Yes. That's it in a nutshell, right? It's just cool. That's why you got into this, bm. It's cool.

bm: It's cool.

ezt: Yes, it's cool. bm. By the way, this conversation was also really cool. You really enlightened me a lot about the process. This was great, bm. Thank you so very much. I really appreciate it. This was a really great conversation.

bm: No, thank you. I'm extraordinarily grateful for you having me on and allowing me to talk about what we do and how we do it. It means a lot. This has been really wonderful.


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