Underneath the natty three-piece suits and shiny silk cravats, some record industry moguls said yesterday they felt like barefoot ambassadors from backward nations achieving diplomatic recognition for the first time. They had met the President, and meeting the President can do wonders for the soul.
"It's the first time our industry has been given any official recognition beyond the drug incidents and riots at concerts you read about in the newspapers," said Phil Walden, 34, president of Capricorn Records of Macon, Ga., whose performers have not gone untouched by such acclaim. "Sure, we're concerned about our image."
Walden and 18 executives of the $2.7-billion-a-year industry emerged from a meeting with Jimmy Carter yesterday afternoon in the Roosevelt Room at the White House looking as if they had just signed another Beatle. The agenda called for two hours of give and take with special assistants to the President Midge Costanze and Hamilton Jordon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of Educational and Cultural Affairs Christian Chapman, Commissioner of IMmigration and Naturalization Service Leonel Castillo and a brief photo opportunity with Carter.
But the President, who plopped down next to Walden - a placement that did not go unnoticed - stayed about 20 minutes, listening attentively to industry concerns about tape piracy, copyright dilemmas and the visa problems musicians with shaggy beards and Medusa curls must sometimes endure at border crossings.
During the few minutes the press was allowed into the room, one record company presedent was overheard to tell Carter, "We're looking for ways the White House can help our industry contribute to solving world problems, like drug abuse and hunger. But to do that, we need access to the White House."
The President said he was aware that the record industry had been "very helpful to me" - and they would always find the door open at the White House.
Back in the hungry days of 1975, when contributors were asking "Jimmy Who?" Walden put together four key benefit concerts to help oil the Carter machine. As estimated $500,000 was raised from rock 'n' roll concerts and contributions.
"If you think about the total we raised, it wasn't so much" said Democratic National Committee staffer Tom Beard, who worked on the concert fund-raising and accompanied Walden to the White House yesterday. "Actually, it was fairly small. But if you look at when we raised it, it was a key factor. The $50,000 we raised from Gregg Allman's Rhode Island concert was enough to keep the coampaign going for a month back then."
It was a money-raising plan that took into account the $1,000 limit on individual campaign contributions laid down by the Federal Election Committee. Walden figured if you got, say, 10,000 kids to fork over $10 each, and make them sign the concert ticket stubs to qualify the money as a political contributions, voils, you've got $100,000 - less expenses, of course.
Were the music men calling in the chips, so to speak? No, said Walden, future, in such areas as voter registration, drug abuse and the campaign they just wanted to be of help in the against world hunger.
Did the White House feel overburdened by gratitude? an aide was asked. "No," he said. "We have meetings like this all the time. Tomorrow, we're having the linen supply industry. But, you could say we want to be friendly to the record guys because they do reach an awful lot of people out there."