Hangin’ with Tony

I got to spend all day Saturday with my buddy Tony Alves, who I rarely see. It was also his birthday, plus the first time I got to meet his girlfriend, and the first time he got to meet my wife and son. To top off a momentous day, we also finalized plans to finally revive his long-neglected website, TonyAlves.com.

Tony first contact me in the early 1990’s when I was publishing Western Front News, a rock newspaper I founded when I was 18. He was one of many photographers over the years who offered to send me photos to publish, but one of the few who was almost always reliable.

I had a sizable “staff” of volunteer writers and photographers, all of whom did it for the love of the music business and certainly because of the perks, like free shows, meeting and interviewing rock stars, and plenty of schwag like advance review copies of records and CDs.

Tony had been sneaking his camera into shows since the early 1980’s and had a backlog of shots of artists like Kiss, Jimmy Page, and Morrisey. But perhaps more importantly, he was a passionate music fan who had his ear to the ground and attended tons of local shows. Subsequently, he had shots of bands that were still somewhat unknown then, like Faith No More and Primus, and others that were about to become the biggest acts in the world over the next few years, such as Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.

After I had to shut down my newspaper in 1992, Tony and I kept in touch off and on over the years. In 1996 Tony came to my design office in Palo Alto and we created his first website in one day, posting a long list of all the bands he’d ever shot and the years, and how many photos he had. There was a gallery of just eight or ten photos, but it was pretty good for the times.

Over the years, I always thought it was a shame that Tony’s photos remained stowed away in his closet or a storage locker somewhere, and we’ve talked several times about trying to gather them up and put them online for sale. Part of what bugged me was that there’s this small treasure trove of unique pictures which fans of these bands would love to see. The other part that bugged me was that Tony doesn’t make any money from these photos today, and my newspaper never made enough money to pay him either, other than in free schwag and tickets, and film when I had some to spare. He’s a good guy, and he deserves to make a little scratch on those pictures he made.

In the past few years, new Internet services have cropped up which make it more and more possible to make this sort of thing work. Tony’s film is mostly in negatives, and most of it’s black and white, so it’s costly to get scanned (and ridiculously prohibitive to do it ourselves). But I’ve used ScanCafe a couple times for my own slides and negatives, and Tony and I identified about 1,000 images of bands that are most likely to sell, and we’re going to send those in first.

After that we’ll upload them to one of the many photo printing/fulfillment companies such as Shutterfly, which will serve as the back-end for our sales. I’ll put together a new site for Tony and we’ll probably do some limited edition print runs of his best shots and sell them on eBay to hopefully get a little exposure (“If you liked this print, check out 100s more at TonyAlves.com…”).

It’s hard to say whether this will be a money-maker or loser. We just don’t know how to gage the demand for prints of some of the bands. If it doesn’t pan out in a year, we’ll shut it down, take the loss, and move on. But hopefully it’ll provide a small stream of income for Tony and myself, without much overhead.

It might take a few months to get up and running, so I suppose this “announcement” is a bit premature. As some of my dear readers will know, I have several prior commitments that take precedence, the new addition to the family chief among them, but also the full-time gig I go to each day, a small but important home remodel project, and another business side project for my wife and father in law. Tony is aware that we’re not in a hurry, or at least that I’m not able to be. But I think we’re both excited to be finally doing this. Hopefully people will like the results.

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