Posted by: crustynomad | June 19, 2007

Missed Opportunities

Today I will be talking about missed opportunities.

I’m sure many of us have tales of ideas we’ve had and we’ve not done anything about them and then they mysteriously turn up in reality and someone else takes the credit and rakes in the cash. This is infuriating not because someone else has had the success but because as individuals we personally did not take action.

I can point to three examples in recent months where I’ve had an idea but have been too slow off the mark.

First of all is my sitcom which is based on a successful life coach whose own life is a disaster. I first had the idea for this back in the summer of 2004 and I was assured by a senior person at BBC comedy earlier this year that I’d sat on it too long. Here’s what he said:

Unfortunately you’ve picked a very over-populated area for your sitcom. In the past six months, I’ve had eight similar proposals, which is quite zeitgeisty, but not much help when two of them have been from name writers. We’re definitely pursuing one, so I’m afraid it would make more sense for you to have another idea. Sorry.

If I look back over the dates my script could’ve been first on the pile and who knows where that could’ve lead. I’m not prepared to give up on it yet though as there are other production companies who could help me develop a series through one of the other channels.

The following ideas indicate that I could have had an impact in the pop world. Don’t laugh!

A few years ago I found myself humming the keyboard riff to a long-forgotten number one ‘Are friends electric?’ by Gary Numan on the album Replicas by the Tubeway Army. My sister bought the album circa ’79 and I always loved that particular track. It always struck me as odd that it was rarely played on the radio and if I did hear Gary Numan it was usually with his song ‘Cars’.

I felt this was a really catchy tune and with sampling of older songs such as the Police’s Every Breath You Take and Spandau Ballet’s True in contemporary dance tracks in the early 90’s, I felt AFE? could be another. As I didn’t feel inclined to come up with new lyrics the idea remained just that…an idea in my head.

However, some years later a band called the Sugababes had a single out under the title of Freak Like Me which effectively did exactly as I imagined and low and behold it went to number one.

I found the following background on AFE? and the Sugababes Freak Like Me on the Song Facts website.

UK based DJ Richard X came up with the idea of making a bootleg sampling the music of this song and putting the vocals of Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me” on top of it, calling it “We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends.” This became a classic anthem in UK clubs, and it was decided that it would be a good idea to release commercially. However, Adina Howard wasn’t happy with her voice being sampled. After some time Universal, the record company which had rights to this song, also signed The Sugababes, a band who had just been dropped from London Records. They sang the vocals to “Freak Like Me” in place of Howard’s, and Richard X remixed the track to suit their vocals. Retitled “Freak Like Me,” the song went straight to #1 in 2002 in the UK, and in effect saved their career. This meant that, in a way, “Are ‘Friends’ Electric” has been #1 twice.

More recently I had the idea of sampling the keyboard part of Bronski Beat’s Small Town Boy with a dance rhythm track and again it’s happened and I believe it’s in the charts as we speak. It’s by a ‘band’ called Supermode and is called “Tell me why”.

Hmmm, so I could’ve had two hit records – it’s quite fun to think that. In fact I’ve had a Roxy Music song going round in my head for the last couple of weeks that could get the same treatment. It’s one of the groups less well known singles which in many ways gives it a bit of a chance in my book. Now I have mixing software on my PC I should try and come up with something.

I did get a mix played on a local radio station Lite FM during the 2006 world cup when I made a new version of Three Lions that combined the best bits of the ’96 and ’98 version so I can at least say I’ve had airplay! 🙂

There’s some more details on successful singles using samples from other records at Sampled Hits.

The message is clear. If you think you have an idea that would take the world by storm you must grab it by the horns and try it out. You never know what lurks in that gold mine of an imagination unless you explore the possibilities.

Make sure you note down your idea and take steps to explore the possibilities and do research to see if anything else out there exists. If not you’d be wise to do the low-cost safeguard for your idea of writing out the full details and mailing the letter to yourself in a registered envelope. The important thing to remember is that you must not open it as that’s the whole point. If the envelope is sealed it means that your idea is dateable.

Some ideas should clearly be patented if it’s a technological innovation and while the cost may seem prohibitive it’s certainly worth consideration. Be aware that it may be in your interest to look at European patent and copyright registration depending on the main markets for the product develop you’re interested in.

For information on UK patents visit the UK Patents Office website or the Copyright Service website for copyright issues.

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