The Band's Replies to Your Emails about Our Ideas : 11 April 2003
Well here we are again, back in the studio and working hard on the new album. Before Christmas we sent out an eWeb outlining our plans for financing the new album and the worldwide marketing campaign, and you have replied in your thousands. Thank you.
Some of you raised some questions about our plan that we thought needed addressing, in order for you to all understand fully our vision and our expectations. We have put together this 'document' which hopefully explains a few things more clearly.
Please be aware that we are not launching the campaign just yet so please don't start emailing us yet - we'll let you know when we're ready!
With over 10 million albums sold, why aren’t Marillion rich?
We don’t intend to go into too much detail about our financial affairs. We aren’t a public company or a registered charity. Furthermore, we aren’t asking for you to give us money for nothing (just in advance occasionally...!)
We hope you will agree that the pre-order version of Anoraknophobia represented good value for money. We don’t want to get into a debate about the price of CD’s but let’s just say that we charge what we think our music is worth. We put everything into our work and we know you appreciate it or you wouldn’t come back for more.
Normally, when an artist signs to a record label, they are given an "advance" against future royalty income. This is on a repayable but non-returnable basis. This means if the band never manages to earn enough royalties to repay the advance, they don’t have to sell their grandmother to repay the debt. This cash advance is normally required by the band to cover the costs of writing and recording the album, not to mention living expenses. The reason why the record companies are happy to advance money to an artist who may never sell any CDs is because when an artist does hit the big time they make enough money out of them to cover all the money wasted on the failures... and still more on top.
A successful artist can command a significantly better royalty rate, once out of contract, than a new unproven act at the beginning of their career. When Marillion signed to EMI in 1982, we had to accept a royalty rate roughly half of what we would get today - should we decide to go to a record company for a deal. We were contracted for 7 albums! At the time we thought that was great but we soon came to realise that we were locked in to the same lousy deal for as long as EMI wanted to keep putting out Marillion albums. Had we been signed up for a three album deal we could have negotiated a far better royalty rate for the 4th album after the huge success of Misplaced Childhood. As it was, we were bound by the terms of our original deal.
Here is one example of how little we get paid by EMI for the sale of one copy of our biggest selling album. Misplaced Childhood is what’s called a "mid-priced album" and sells for roughly £9 -£10. We are paid the princely sum of 15p, not each, but between us! Didn’t we have a lawyer look over the contract? Yes, of course we did. He thought it was OK. That’s how it was, and still is, in the music industry. Legal theft.
There has been plenty written about the way the industry works, so we won't go into it here, but if you are interested, pick up a copy of "All You Need to Know About the Music Business" by Donald S. Passman for further reading.
There are many other reasons why we haven’t all got tons of cash, not least the amount of touring we have done over the years at a loss. Not to mention the amount of time and money we spend writing and recording our albums. Time is money. We could work quicker, but would they be as good? Probably not.
Please don’t think we’re complaining, we’re not. Compared to some artists out there we have done very well. We’re still here 20 years later, making music we enjoy, and earning a living out of it. Unfortunately, as some helpful soul suggested in an email to us, we haven’t all got £100,000 each lying about that we can put into the marketing budget for the next album…
Is spending money on marketing and promotion (M&P) the answer?
The truth is, we don’t know. We do know that relatively little has been spent by our record companies on M&P over the last ten years. The net effect of this lack of investment is that our profile has suffered. Many people who once bought our CDs and came to see us play aren’t even aware we are still together. M&P isn’t the only thing we need to spend money on. We need people to hear our music if we are to have a chance of turning them into fans. That requires money and creativity. We are always open to creative input or suggestions so feel free to drop us a line if you have a suggestion. At this stage we haven’t got a detailed plan, we don’t even know how much we’ll have to spend on it! All I can promise is we will do our best to make sure that the money isn’t wasted. We will also let you all know, through this website, what we spend it on. Simply put, we want to increase our sales to the point where Marillion continues to be financially viable. We’re not after world domination, just some sort of future.
Why should the fans pay for the marketing budget?
In 1997 we toured the USA and Canada thanks to the "Tour Fund." The tour fund was the brainchild of American fan Jeff Pelletier. He came to me with the proposition that willing fans could contribute what they could afford to a fund, to enable Marillion to tour North America. That’s the closest we came to accepting charitable donations. We didn’t feel comfortable about people giving us money to pay for a tour but felt unable to refuse because our stateside fans wanted that tour so much. We are glad we did it. It was a great tour and everyone involved loved it. It also gave us the confidence to ask if you would be willing to pay for Anoraknophobia in advance.
With this album we aren’t asking you to "donate" money to our cause. We intend to make a double CD. Not a single CD with a bonus disk containing some demos and a remix or two but two CDs worth of original music. We intend to charge £30 for this.
Expensive? Maybe… If we were to release it as two £15 CDs maybe you wouldn’t think so. It won’t come in a standard jewel case (that’s a clear plastic box to you and me) but in the sort of package that made the Anoraknophobia pre-order version so special. We intend to make it value for money. Still not convinced? Think of it as an album plus b-sides. Remember when we were signed to EMI? They used to put out 3 singles with previously unreleased b-sides. By the time you bought the album and all the singles in their various formats it cost you a small fortune. This way it’s easier for you and we get to spend the extra income on promoting Marillion rather than the latest pop idol.
What about touring?
If you don’t live in the UK, Germany, France, or the Netherlands it may have been a few years since you’ve seen Marillion live. What can we say? Sorry…sorry…sorry. We really have tried to look at touring in all those places we haven’t been to for so long, but by going to those countries, we would stand to lose more money than we can afford. What would you do?
We intend to mount the biggest Marillion tour for 10 years, including North America (South America depends more on the economic climate there). We can’t guarantee that we’ll play in your back garden but hopefully inter-continental travel on your part won’t be necessary!
"Yeah yeah, I’ve heard it all before" we hear you say. Lucy Jordache is already in the process of booking a 42-date European tour and she won’t stop there. Part of the financial shortfall for such a long tour will be made up by sales of the new album at the shows. The advertising for the tour and the album will be combined cutting costs further. Are you getting bored yet?
What if I’m not interested in taking part in your "campaign"?
That’s fine. Please understand we know that for many people, involvement with Marillion starts and ends with picking up the latest CD and listening and hopefully getting into it. That’s great. If you are one of those people you’ll still be able to do that, (although we suspect from the fact that you are reading this that you’re not). :)
We intend to make a "standard" single CD version of the album available through the shops. The hard part for us will be deciding which tracks to leave out because there won’t be room for them all.
We could go on, but let’s just say we are planning a big year for Marillion. If you’re interested in the details, check the website from time to time over the coming months. If you just want to buy the album and come to the show, great! See you there and thanks for listening.
Mark, h, Ian, Steve, Pete