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Much of what I know about life I learned from Led Zeppelin. Don’t ask.

It happened again this week as I continued to try to get my head around the whole partner-to-partner relationship thing. I know this is supposed to be hot in the channel now. Force multipliers. All of the distributors are tripping over themselves to develop the go-to Web 2.0 platform that will put solution providers in touch with their peers so they can combine skills or improve regional reach in order to tag-team engagements.

I understand the point. I just don’t see it happening much in real life. Almost to a person, VARs give you that crinkled brow, what’s-that-smell expression when you suggest they join forces with their competition. All VARs have a couple of longtime relationships that serve the purpose of picking up jobs they can’t handle or pitching in where they need additional expertise. Like high school buddies and ex-wives, most people think they have enough partners and aren’t in the market for any more, thank you very much.

So I’ve been thinking that the effort to play in the channel and connect VARs en mass across the vast reaches of the Internet is a fool’s errand. It’s the answer to a question nobody asked. A solution in search of a problem. Proponents never address the main barrier to such liaisons, which is fear—fear of having your business filched or your reputation dinged by the actions of another.

 And then I was poking around YouTube.

Last month a group of YouTube musicians, who specialized mostly in making videos of themselves jamming along to CDs in their basements and bedrooms, formed a band, of sorts, called Virtual Zeppelin. In an Internet filled with musicians of every imaginable stripe and talent level, these guys share something special. They can play Led Zeppelin with freakish accuracy. The fact that they live tens of thousands of miles apart—from Canada to Japan to Northern Virginia—is no longer a barrier to putting together the best Led Zeppelin cover band in history. And yes, I’ve seen Physical Graffiti live, twice. Physical Graffiti kinda looks like Led Zeppelin. These new guys sound exactly like Led Zeppelin.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out Virtual Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song.” Spooky. 


The technology behind "Virtual Zeppelin" isn’t rocket science. Each guy records his part. They pass around multitrack files along with individual videos, and the last guy in the chain mixes everything down into the finished product. Easy. And because of that, there’s already a few similar projects popping up online—virtual mashups dedicated to Deep Purple, the Beatles and Kiss, to name a few. Almost as soon as you see and hear these things you understand the brilliance of it, and you just know it’s going to be huge.

Is there a parallel for the channel? I think now there may be. After all, despite their reputation as easygoing, friendly slackers who love to hang out, support and collaborate with one another, musicians are a pretty catty, jealous, suspicious bunch who always suspect rivals of trying to steal their next gig. Sound like any other group we know?

The magic behind Virtual Zeppelin lives in both distance and the ultimate end product. These guys didn’t go looking for a decent singer in the next county. They went looking for the absolute best Robert Plant impressionist and found him on the other side of the world. And what they created was something much greater than any of them individually could have mustered. Now think about what you could deliver if you partnered with four other great specialists to deliver services that transcend distance and are greater than the sum of their parts.

Think about the pieces that would make up the best possible regional health care IT offering; the top-of-the-line national retail solution; a world-class global finance offering. All the pieces are out there, in the form of talented solution providers flying under the radar, slugging away in their own markets. They are in the garage bands of the channel. Their mojo could be vertical markets knowledge, technical specialization, boots on the ground in a new place. All that matters is a willingness to think big and to deliver.

And, of course, to never ever play "Stairway to Heaven."

Rock on.

Chris Gonsalves is Editor-in-Chief of Channel Insider and a passable bass player. Tell him about your collaborations, musical, channel or otherwise at