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Selling CDs on the side

About a year ago, Tumbleweed Restaurants went into the music business. Sort of. It pressed 1,000 CDs by the group Sedona and began selling them on its website. “The Spirit of the Southwest,” which retails for $9.99, is a 10-song collection of atmospheric instrumentals, which grew out of a 30-second television spot that featured a song called “The Whisper” by composer Tom Mabe.

“The music just attracted a huge amount of attention,” says Tumbleweed president Terry Smith. “People started sending email and calling, saying, ‘How can I get that song?’”

Louisville-based Tumbleweed has sold 330 CDs, promoting it only on its website and tabletop cards. It expects to sell the remainder within the year.

All profits from CD sales, after expenses, go to Habitat for Humanity. Tumbleweed began the ad campaign in 2004, replacing another campaign that, while effective, says Smith, was also controversial. The theme was “Need the ’Weed.”

“We knew it was edgy,” he says.

Stickers with the slogan became prized possessions among high school students.

Smith says, “I got a call from a guy saying, ‘I watched that ad and I have concerns about the message. Couldn’t you do something positive with your ads.’ I took that as a challenge.”

The new campaign features South­west scenery interspersed with plate shots and no voiceover, except for a whispered “Tumbleweed” at the close.

Smith says sales have increased 6.6 percent and guest counts 4.5 percent across 59 units since the ads started running. Now, with CD sales, the marketing continues.

“Whenever anyone hears that music,” he says, “Tumbleweed is the thing they will be thinking about.”

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