How Can I Tell You…

…that the customer is always wrong?

Unless you've been living under a diamond rock, you've probably seen the "buy a diamond,  your partner-will-forget-you-can't-get-it-up" spots featuring the immensely talented Chan Marshall covering Cat Stevens' "How Can I Tell You?"

For the past several weeks, our esteemed General Manager has been besieged with daily email from persons desperate to purchase some version of this recording.  Some of these pleas are perfectly reasonable. Others fall under the category of dangerously delusional, self-styled "experts" who somehow believe your 2nd or 3rd Favorite Independent Label has something against making money (or perhaps has a vested interest in making Cat Power fans unhappy). One by one, these persons are politely informed by Patrick that all that exists from this recording session is a 30 second snippet of the former Mr. Stevens' composition. Much as we'd love to oblige, we cannot possibly release a 30 second selection and pass it off as a bona fide commercial release.  Not without getting our heads handed to us by the same individuals who are writing to us, anyway.

And still, the messages continue to pour in. So with that in mind, I'm only going to say this one last time : "How Can I Tell You" is not available to purchase because Chan only recorded 30 seconds of music

I swear to god, the next person that interrupts Patrick's busy day asking about this commercial  is gonna rue the moment they ever turned on the TV set, because I am going to show up in their living room and deliver my own extra special rendition of "How Can I Tell You", followed by such classics as "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald", "In The Year 2525", "Losing My Religion", "Needle Up My Cock" and of course, "MacArthur Park".

I'm not kidding around. Don't make me drop the Gordon Lightfoot bomb.

In the meantime, just to show you we're not all heartless fucks at Matador Records & Filmworks, Miwa has tipped us off to the following bit of footage from Cat Power (featuring the crazy skills of Judah Bauer and Jim White), live from the Transmusicales Festival, December 7.


12 thoughts on “How Can I Tell You…”

  1. Please make a full version recording of the song. Buy the rights from good old CAT. Then sell the songs. There’s demand and you got supply. What’s the problem?

  2. Does De Beers have their devil diamond hook claws in the rights…? Is that why there is no full version? Or is it because Cat Power has no real interest in recording a full version? Either way, my heart is aching. I think Cat should ‘fight the man’ by ‘looking the other way’ while someone records a ‘private jam session’ and ‘leaks’ it onto the internet.

    “I’ve seen the ending anyways, and Love wins.”

  3. Andy –

    believe it or not, Chan’s got bigger fish to fry, both performance and recording-wise. But this is her call, either way. We don’t make the recordings. We just flog ’em to you.

    T –

    it’s a bit less sinister than that. The diamond folks specifically wanted a certain section of the song, so that’s what Chan gave ’em. Had any of us anticipated there’d be such great demand to buy the full length version, certainly it would’ve been a conversation worth having, but to Chan’s credit, she’s been pretty busy trying to promote and sell a newish record of her own songs, too.

  4. Seriously – get her to record the whole song… it can’t be that hard. If it’s not up to you, then do your best to convince her. Surely a relatively obscure artist isn’t jumping at the chance to turn down thousands of potential new listeners and fans. She would be in entertainment if she didn’t care to entertain masses in the first place. Its what people want to hear. You should be grateful that your small record company and one of your artists is getting some exposure and recognition from the song, and instead of being all haughty about it you I would think you would be at least somewhat willing to see what you can do about appeasing potential listeners. They just might become life long Cat Powers fans. That’s good for you, that’s good for her, and that is good for the listeners. So do something!

  5. with all due respect, my good doctor, her performing name is Cat Power. Not Cat Powers. And she hasn\’t been \”a relatively obscure artist\” for several years — which I suspect, had a little to do with her being offered the diamond gig in the first place (along with the plethora of other commercial work Chan is offered on a regular basis).

    As far as being haughty is concerned, you might wanna save the money you were gonna spend on a cover version of \”How Can I Tell You\” on purchasing sense of humor. Or failing that, try to come to grips with the incredible notion that Chan isn\’t just some human jukebox put on earth to soothe your material whims. She\’s pretty darn busy these days performing, writing and recording, with no small emphasis on songs she wasn\’t commissioned by a commercial entity to cover.

    That said, I do thank you for your constructive criticism. Indeed, we are a very small company and we can use all the help we can get from smart persons such as yourself.

  6. sorry, I can’t resist —

    Dr. Shanoi — and I presuming you are a doctor of music —- if Matador Records and Filmworks was in the habit of forcing it’s recording artists to do things they didn’t want to do, how many of those artists do you think would eager to continue working with us?

    “get her to record the whole song”. Sure, just as soon as we’re done hypnotizing the rest of the roster.

  7. Hello Gerard-

    I understand your frustrations. One of your artists has created a tremendous amount of buzz over a commercial, and your artist really wants people to focus on her original music, not her commercials.

    I do not know Chan’s (is that the artist’s name?) career motivations, but I am assumming that she is looking to grow her base. If she is not, then not wanting to produce that song is understandable. If she does want to grow, then I suggest she reads on.

    That being said, there is a tremendous amount of demand being generated by a market that is well beyond the current Cat Power market. I am probably not your target demographic- middle age married male; but I did purchase her music as a result of the diamond commercial.

    As a disclaimer, I am not in the music industry and wouldn’t know the first thing about music promotion. I am an executive in the software industry and get paid a pretty hefty salary to promote those products. So here is my unsolocited, non-industry advice!

    The 30 second snippet of that song has created tremendous demand. A full version could very well vault your artist to become a household name. Christmas is over, and so is that commercial. Your window to market is closing rapidly, as the public’s memory is very short.

    In my industry, the moto is produce and promote or die. I have to assume that is the same for yours.


  8. Dear John,

    I appreciate your comments and your constructive advice. But I would submit that Chan has worked VERY HARD to “grow her base” on her own terms, and her numerous televison appearances, worldwide touring and willingness to be involved with a wide range of film and advertising endeavors speak to that point.

    Though Ms. Marshall has other projects pending at the moment, if she wanted to record a full-length version of “How Can I Tell You?”, we’d certainly be supportive. But with all due respect to you and the several dozens of persons who have written to Patrick, Chris and myself about this issue, there’s more than one way to grow a career. Chan’s had a pretty good handle on how to do so for the past 12 years, and had she not already achieved a substantial fan base, name recognition, I sincerely doubt the diamond co. would’ve paid her a pile of money.

    I am pleased you’ve been encouraged to purchase Cat Power music via the TV ad in question. However people learn about Chan is a-ok with us.

  9. Agree with everybody else…Chan – PLEASE make a full version of this song. I would buy any album with this song on it.

  10. Gerard- Thanks for your comments. I wish that my career was as successful as Chan’s in that I could walk away from opportunities such as this one!

    Best of luck to your label and Chan’s career in 2007!


  11. I had never heard of ‘Cat Power’. I had never heard the Cat Stevens song before.

    I saved the diamond commercial on my DVR so I could remember the lyrics and do a net search to find the artist.

    Very disappointing that a full version of the song does not exist.

    I have listened to her other songs on iTunes. They are nice – but not in the same feel of “How Can I Tell You”.

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