It’s been about 13 years since the original four members of The Ramones gathered together for their last signing at the Virgin Megastore in New York City (RIP Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and the Virgin Megastore). Since then, a lot has changed in the music scene, as well as in the way in which bands interact with fans — a shift that’s pretty well exemplified in a signing that Marky Ramone (the last surviving member of the band) is holding on Friday entirely via the Web.
On Black Friday, ex-Ramones drummer Marky Ramone will be the first musician to try out a new platform called Image (Interactive Meet And Greet Entertainment), which lets fans watch their idols autograph items for them, thus guaranteeing their authenticity.
Image was founded by Gary Sohmers, an appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. It works thusly: 1). Fans sign up via a band’s website for an autograph session, 2). Pre-purchase an item that they want signed, 3). Wait in a virtual line to “meet” their idol, 4). Watch said idol sign whatever it is they purchase, 5). And, after all this, they’ll receive their items, a flash drive with a video of the autograph session (which can feature a personalized message) as well as a video call and a downloadable version of the autograph vid. The whole thing is meant to ensure authenticity and prevent fans from getting ripped off.
“My fans can call in and get an autograph without having to really meet me, which could be impossible for a lot of people because they have their own places to go and live far away,” says Marky Ramone. “Now they can see me actually sign something that isn’t fake or in question. That’s what’s so great about it — that they actually see the person signing it.”
Ramone doesn’t yet know how many people will be lining up to have their gear signed on Friday at 6 p.m. EST/3 p.m. PST, nor if he’ll be able to spend that much time chatting. He’ll be signing jars of his “Marky Ramone Marinara Pasta Sauce” for $49, cases of the sauce for $99, photos for $39, drum heads emblazoned with Ramone’s art for $149, signed sticks for $89, and plain drum heads for $149. Ramone will be the first musician to use the service; it has only been used once before, by Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster). Image declined to elaborate on the revenue split situation, but did say that it was “artist friendly.”
In an age in which bands who count The Ramones among their influences are putting out cassette-only releases and shying away from the Web, Marky Ramone is an unabashed fan of new technology. “I always liked technology — a lot of people don’t like it,” he says. “I like it if it’s used to help society. Help ourselves to be better, to be aware, to learn more. That’s what’s important to me. I like the communications due to Facebook and Twitter — as long as people respect each other on it and don’t create animosity among friends.”
Naturally, however, Marky couldn’t have imagined such a signing back in the day, when The Ramones were assembled for the last time at the Virgin Megastore. “It’s just amazing how technology just keeps going and going,” he says. “Who would have thought about this in 1999? It’s 13 years ago. Things really change. Who knew, in 1999, that this would happen?”