Bryn Schurman: Hi this is Bryn Schurman from the Eleventh Hour and I’m here with “h” a.k.a. Steve Hogarth from Marillion.
h: Hello there, mate. Where are you, Bryn?
B: We’re in the Florida Keys.
h: The Florida Keys… lovely. You lucky bugger.
h: Well, I’m in Stuttgart in the rain, next to a railway line
h: (laughs) Yeah, it’s not beautiful
B: First of all, would you like to take a few minutes to talk about the new album Somewhere Else?
h: Sure, ask me a question.
B: How many songs are on it? I’m sorry, I haven’t heard it yet.
h: Ahhhhhhhhhhh… Well maybe you should listen to it and then call me back.
B: (imitates hanging up) No, um…
B: Well, do you have any tour plans for North America?
h: Not in the offering. No, nothing this year.
h: This is not going well, is it? (laughs)
B: Ahhhhhhh… Ok.
h: Can we talk when you’ve heard the record? There’s not a lot of point in talking about a record you haven’t heard
B: Well, I’ve got a couple questions about the internet and stuff like that, if you don’t mind, or if you want me to call back afterwards, I can.
h: I don’t mind. We can talk about internet if you want, but I’d rather talk to you about the record we’ve just made.
B: What’s your take on social networking sites like MySpace?
h: I don’t really have a take on it. I know it’s everywhere now. My kids seem to live on it when they get in from school. I suppose anything that gets people together from all over the world is good and all, so anything that allows people to disseminate information about what excites them is a good thing. If kids are discovering new music, they can get together with their friends or they can spread the word around the world that they get excited by something. That’s a good thing, because it actually makes everything more real and it takes away the power from the media to decide what is and isn’t supposed to be a “good thing”.
It makes everything more real. I think the record companies and the media at large have had too much control over what should and shouldn’t be popular over the last thirty years or so, and I think the advent of MySpace in the advent of the Internet generally means that people can get excited about real things and they can spread their real excitement to other real people instead of there being that agenda of someone having paid someone some money, or spent an awful lot of money to put a video on MTV or something. So ultimately, it’s gotta be a good thing for music.
B: What’s your take on file sharing: outright thievery from the artists, or a way to reach new fans?
h: I’m all for it, personally. I also think that it’s an inevitable development, and I think that’s where the future’s going. I think it’s going to become increasingly difficult to encode media in general, and to stop people from sharing it. I think ultimately, everybody’s going to have to bow to it.
From my point of view as an artist, it will mean that music will ultimately become free, I think, or very nearly free. I don’t personally see that as a problem, because again, if you make a piece of music which, for whatever reason, really excites people and touches people, they are going to spread that word themselves. If they can attach your album to an e-mail and send it to all their friends, then the Internet represents a medium for good things to spread like wildfire, whilst at the same time leaving bad things or things that aren’t very good dead in the water, which I think has got to be good for music.
Artists like myself will always be able to make a living, providing they’re making good and interesting work and there are a sufficient number of people excited by it, because if the music spreads across the world like wildfire, then of course the tours will become bigger. The gigs we play will become bigger. People will be happy to see us play. Also, and more importantly, if you end up with a fan base that believes in you personally as an artist, and in the art that you create, the music you create, or whatever, then you can always go to the fans that you have and ask them to buy your next record before you even record it.
I can go to the 60,000 people we have in our database at the moment, and I can send them an e-mail and say “OK, we’ve just written a great album and we are going to go and record it once we have a million dollars in the bank, so send us something.” If you’re rich send us a hundred dollars if you want to see this album exist. If you can’t afford it, if you’re a college student, you’ve got nothing, don’t send us anything, but listen up and check out our website. When we’ve got a million dollars, we’ll start recording and not until. Once we recorded and mixed the album, we’ll upload it to the Internet, and it’s free for everyone, forever.
There’s no reason why an artist can’t do that. It just means that they have to get into the mindset of being paid for music that they haven’t made yet instead of the music that they’ve made in the past, in the old days. What you’ve got to remember is that the major record labels always took most of the money and gave some tiny fraction of the selling price of each album to their artists.
So, this whole thing about artists losing out to the Internet, in my opinion, is rubbish. It’s the music business which is losing out.
B: How did you come to the idea of the Front Row Club?
h: Well, really that’s just a consequence of the passion of our own fan base and the fans coming to us. They were bootlegging us very heavily. They turn up with little cassette machines in their pockets during the shows – they still do; I still see people holding up machines in the audience now – and we thought, instead of these awful, scratchy, horrible recordings that people are making of us by holding a couple of little mics in the air or having a cassette machine in their pocket, why don’t we offer the really hard-core fans just the stereo mix out of the mixing desk – you know, that’s going to the PA each night – and make that available to the people that really want it. We are talking about the real real hard-core, because at least it will sound great, and if they want some sort of record of some of the shows that they’ve attended, why not record those and make them available?
It was an idea that Robert Fripp from King Crimson first had, where he would even invite members of the audience to send their bootlegs to him. He would clean them up a little bit, sonically, and make them available and sell them. So he was effectively putting himself in a position that he had a product he could sell that he didn’t even record, which is always quite good.
So the Front Row Club kind of developed from that, where we thought: “Well, if we ask people just to subscribe annually to the Front Row Club, that gives them a certain amount of credits, and they can choose which live shows they want to have.”