Pearl Jam's Fan Herder May Be Used, But He's a 10
Uniting with others under the umbrella of common adoration for an entity isn't for everyone. Going the extra mile and declaring true devotion to a band, a teen heartthrob, or athlete by becoming a card-carrying member of a fan club takes a special kind of person. But it takes a very special kind of person to run one: Meet Tim Bierman, the head honcho for Ten Club— home to thousands of (you guessed it) Pearl Jam fans from all over the world. When he's not taking advantage of the perks of the job (free PJ embroidered socks! Batting practice at Fenway Park!), he's doing all he can to help make the "Jamily's" dreams a reality, one carbon-neutral concert ticket, T-shirt, and bootleg at a time.
Please introduce yourself and give us an idea of all that you do for the Pearl Jam empire:
I'm Tim Bierman, and I run the Ten Club, which is the fan club organization for Pearl Jam. My responsibilities also include managing the band's Web site, www.pearljam.com, and merchandising for touring, retail, and online.
How long have you ruled the roost there?
I've been here since the summer of '98.
How did you come to work in music?
I've been involved in music one way or another since I was 14, when I joined my first band. Then, in college, I worked at Rockin' Rudy's Record Rental in Missoula starting in '81, I think. After graduating from University of Montana, I was able to invest in a small part of the store and ended up sticking around until '97. During that run in Montana, I played in a bunch of bands, including Shangri-La Speedway with Randy Pepprock, Clodhopper with Danny Pearson and Tim Mooney from the American Music Club, and Tarkio with the Decemberists' Colin Meloy. After Missoula, I went to the Bay Area and got the ultimate record-store-geek job—buyer for the fabled Amoeba Music.
How did that lead to managing the fan club?
One day I went to L.A. to go to a Sonics-Lakers playoff game with Jeff Ament [who I know from Montana], and he told me that they needed someone with a retail background who understood music fans to take over the Ten Club. He actually said, "You know what we need? We need a Tim Bierman." I obviously knew where they could find a perfectly good—if not a slightly used—Tim Bierman. Before I knew it, I was in Seattle interviewing for the job.
As a former co-worker of yours, I know that the fan club can receive some pretty interesting packages, to say the least. What would you say is one of the craziest things you've ever received?
I'd have to say that one person's "crazy" is another person's "creative." Let's just say there has been some really "creative" stuff sent in over the years.
Do you ever keep treats that people send in?
Factory sealed or homemade? Big diff.
Who would you say is PJ's ultimate, No. 1 fan and why?
I thought it was you, Aja. Just kidding. There's this guy who we'll call Bruce who seems to go to every show and is always right up front. He's like a lawyer or something. I don't see how he ever gets any work done when the band is on tour. But for every Bruce that I know about, there are 100 others just like him.
I know Pearl Jam does a lot of work to keep things on the green level. Is there anything in particular the fan club does to reduce negative environmental impact on the Earth?
We conducted an eco-audit on the Pearl Jam businesses about six years ago. It's something that we take very seriously, and we're always looking for ways to improve on it. Our philosophy is—as a business—it's our job to seek out ways to continually reduce our impact on the environment. Some of the things we've done so far include: offsetting our carbon; establishing the Carbon Portfolio Project to invest in green technologies and practices; using energy-efficient lighting in our offices; and powering our buses and trucks with B100 [biodiesel] when we tour. Most recently, we've been focused on trying to find the right textiles for merchandise that are environmentally and socially responsible and still pleasing to our fans.
What are some of the best perks of working for a band as ubiquitous as Pearl Jam?Besides the socks?
I'd have to say taking batting practice at Fenway Park as a guest of Theo Epstein was a pretty amazing perk. He's a sweetheart of a guy.
What are the drawbacks?
Lots of phone calls from people I used to know when the band gets close to their town.
How many stickman tattoos have you seen in your lifetime?
Enough to realize that I don't need to see any more.
Top five records to listen to while contemplating all of those stickman tattoos:
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black.
The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema.
Neil Young, Live at Massey Hall 1971.
Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass.
My Morning Jacket, Okonokos.
Interview By Aja Pecknold