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Our dear friends, the music industry

Interesting tidbit from Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan's latest open letter to his fans:

Fact: Deep Purple sold around 150,000 tickets in the UK alone, at the beginning and end of the 'Bananas' tour that covered about 38 countries in 18 months and played to millions around the world. EMI, in the UK, pressed - and sold easily - 18,000 copies. They refused point blank to produce any more.

I couldn't in all fairness even paraphrase the reasons they gave to our management and - even more insultingly - to our friends in Cologne, because those reasons are beyond my comprehension. But I do wonder if they have ever had to explain this sort of thing to the shareholders, who might be baffled at the decision to pass, on - at a conservative guess - the potential of half a million pounds worth of gross sales in one territory, and that from a band that has generated in excess of one billion pounds of income from the public into the coffers of the industry as a whole over the last thirty five years (not that we've seen much of it you understand).

One other thing - I think most of us on the creative side were appalled at the rejection by our industry of the Internet potential when it emerged quite a few years ago. That's what happens when you fire your bright people and rely upon your suits. Had IT been embraced instead of being seen as a threat then... ah, what then?

[snip]

Enough, we move on. DP is no longer with EMI and - if the silly grin on Bruce Payne's face is anything to go by - the future looks very bright indeed, in the category - new record company; but that's for him to announce. (BP is our beloved manager).

(Bold emphasis in the original, italics mine) As long as record companies continue to hurt their artists through incompetence and obstructionism, and steal whatever proceeds are made in spite of their incompetence and obstructionism, their arguments against file sharing and other forms of unauthorised use will ring hollow.(Note:as a copyright owner, I don't want them to ring hollow. On the merits, the record companies have a point although it's not a sure-fire one). EMI UK, in their infinite wisdom, killed off a perfectly commercial album. Were the decision makers the same who starved Under Wraps and Ian Anderson's 1983 solo album Walk Into Light of promotion? They might well have been - EMI bought the record company these albums were released on in the early 1990s.

If you look at the way many older recording artists handle their releases, you'll find that many of them do the same thing specifically to insure themselves against record company stupidity. They will only sign short-term contracts, reserve the right to put out fans-only live records themselves and increase their output through the fans-only channels dramatically after leaving major labels. And they will rescue their songwriting catalogue from their old labels by putting out live CDs and DVDs featuring their core material, at the risk of appearing to trade on their old glories (an accusation that can safely be leveled at Jethro Tull these days, but not at, e.g. Richard Thompson who is always working on many new projects but still took out time to record an acoustic record of his best-known material).
Deep Purple do all these things; let's hope they figure out a way to make the Internet work for them as well. For all the good that EMI have done, the band might as well have released Bananas under a Creative Commons license and given it away for free to promote their concerts.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 19, 2005 8:45 PM.

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