Email 24th February 2009

Fish 2009 - Gone Fishing Leamington Spa 2009 part 2 and the bootleg question

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,

Things are moving ahead and we are already in contact with the local council for permission to launch 200 papier mache penguins into their local river. :-)
So far we know we can't have any nuclear powered birds over 20 feet in height! Reactors are a big no no! :-D

I have decided to name this convention "Gone Fishing" and Mark Wilkinson is putting together artwork for laminates, posters and T-shirts in the next month featuring our beloved jester in appropriate mode.
I'll be getting stickers made up with the logo which you can grace cars or houses with and inform all and sundry what you are up to that weekend. These will be sent out with the laminates for entrance into the convention.

I am still working on at least another act for the Sunday and hope to have confirmations this weekend.

If you are planning on coming I'd appreciate if you could send an email to Elspeth with the subject of "Gone Fishing". Let us know how many of you are coming (and which days) in the main body of the mail and we will log you in our Convention database and keep you up to date with developments and exactly when tickets go on sale etc.
This will help give us an idea of numbers so we can plan and organise events.

I talked to Trevor White at Planet Rock today and as well as supporting the event we are looking at a broadcast from The Sausage on the Friday night of a special "Fish on Friday" programme. There is also a possibility of recording the shows for broadcast in the future.
On the subject of the station, recent official RAJAR figures show that the listening audience is now up from 600,000 to just under 700,000 and my programme is more than holding its own ;-)

The shows at night will be supported by projections and during the day I plan to put together a medley of different live and interview material to be shown between the events.

Calum Malcolm takes the Nearfest tapes away on Friday and our American friends will be sifting through the footage their end to bring together the 13th Star tour DVD. I hope to incorporate other shows from Europe on a bonus disc along with an in-depth interview and some wild footage shot on the tours. As always, Mark Wilkinson will be putting his magic into the project. ;-)

This will be yet another "official bootleg" in the ever expanding series across the years.

The question of bootlegs has been raised on the forum and rather than answer it there I thought it should be answered in more detail on a FishHeads post.
I am quite proud to be one of the first to use the term "Official bootlegs" (I think Bob Dylan was one of the first to issue his own in the '70s)

My first batch was back in '93 when the Polydor deal ended leaving me broke and hung out to dry.
I was just starting the Dick Bros label but had no funds and a lot of live DATs from over the solo years. Times were very hard and I decided to fight my way out using "alternative" methods.

I had been approached by a rather shady character in Holland who I'd been introduced to by a Dutch fan who himself had dealt with this guy over my recordings in the past (unbeknown to me >:-o ). I negotiated an advance on 4 titles for a limited run and they came out as a boxed set called "The Mask". Pressed in Italy, where it was easier to avoid questions, he sold them at record fairs and festivals as bootlegs.
Soon after setting up my own label using the advance I repackaged them as "official bootlegs" and distributed them myself as Battleside Records much to the consternation of the Dutch bootlegger who was himself now being "bootlegged". I figured it was evens as he had made a fortune off my back over the years and hadn't paid me a gilder.

"Sushi" was the first official release on the Dick Bros Record Company and enabled me to bail out the ship for a while and set me up for my first independent solo studio album release two months later - "Suits" - in May '94.
Without those live albums I would have gone down in '93 and the studio would have been sold and my house lost to the banks.
And the live albums have continued to support me over the years, "Candlelight in Fog" supporting my US foray and the various others all backed up my perilous financial situation as I stuttered and stalled through the '90s trying to keep myself and my studio together.

It wasn't just for my benefit. Over the years the musicians in the bands have all been paid for their contributions and the session fees have been welcome additions to tour wages. The albums don't sell tens of thousands but enough to give them a parachute after tour and me a back up on the balance sheets which in the late '90s were distinctly red as I got caught out with recessions and over ambition.
(The Sunsets tour went down for about £80k as detailed on the bonus interview disc on the DVD)

The other people who benefit are the writers as the official bootlegs are all licensed and monies are paid to publishing companies through MCPS.

And of course the fans benefit as we control the quality which in the main has been pretty good with some outstanding recordings amongst them.

I understand the desire from fans who collect as I have been there myself and been mostly disappointed by hissy recordings taken from the crowd with distortion and background noise making the gig unlistenable.
The first bootleg I ever bought was in Germany in 1976 in Hanover where I bought a vinyl double album "Crackers (Damn Braces: Bless Relaxes) - The Entire 1972 Hollywood Bowl Concert".

I walked round a number of record stores asking where I could buy bootlegs which felt like I was trying to score drugs as some owners looked at me with disdain and offered no clues. I'd been told boots could be found relatively easily in Germany but it didn't appear the case.
I eventually found a small dark shop up a staircase plastered with tour and promotional posters and on asking the question was shown a bunch of vinyl from behind the counter. These were the first bootlegs I had ever seen and to be honest it was a bit of a let down.
A white sleeve with a photocopied bit of pink paper with the track listing and dodgy Geisha girl riding a stork printed in blue.
It was supposed to be a 3 disc set but the third disc was missing and someone had scored out the track listing on the single sheet of paper that constituted the cover with a ball point pen.

I picked it because it was "Dark Side" live. I'd missed the tour when it had come to Edinburgh and thought this would let me experience to some degree what I had missed.
I packed it carefully in my suitcase and couldn't wait till I got home from the trip.

I laid the needle to the groove and closed my eyes.
To compare the sound that came from the hifi to a Floyd gig experience was like a jar of sand being given as an idea of what the Mojave desert was like at sunset.
The sound was dreadful, recorded from the crowd, tinny and hissy and in all a depressing couple of hours. It had been expensive and to be honest I felt ripped off.

And I had been.

I bought a couple more over the years but always only bought radio broadcasts that were out on vinyl.
It didn't enter my mind that artists didn't get paid or that I was buying into a huge illegal racket. I just wanted to collect live material of bands I loved that I'd seen on tour.

The reality of what was behind it all sunk in around the early '90s when a couple of German fans were asked to trace a recording for me and followed the route through a couple of ranks of sellers. They met a guy who was close to the main team and they were told to back off or they would be hurt.
The arrival of the CD had changed everything as it became so easy to press plastic rather than press vinyl and the runs were higher.

In the early '80s Marillion were solidly bootlegged out of Italy and Holland and although it pissed me off I just had to accept it as the major labels including EMI weren't interested in busting small outfits and were more concerned with pirates. As long as they sold the studio albums the live material didn't matter that much.
We put out "Real to Reel" to at least earn something from our live performances and EMI were happy to see our deficit balance decrease on the back of a cheaply recorded album.

"Magpie" was made for similar reasons and in retrospect I wish we had kept control somehow of the 82-88 live recordings and utilised them in a better way.
There will always be a demand for quality live recordings as shown by the sales of "Early Stages" which is a great box set and time piece of those early gigs. The sound is great and captures the performances a lot better than those awful early cassette recordings some of which made it onto vinyl and then CD.
The CD era and the development of recording devices opened the floodgates and as old pressing equipment found its way East when the plants upgraded in Europe the pirates and the bootleggers joined forces.

I don't think bootlegging is a major problem when it comes down to live recordings but piracy is a totally different matter.
Anyone who copies material which is already available for sale from artists and sells it for their own profit at no costs is just a plain and simple thief.
No question. They should be prosecuted and are.

Live recordings are now more readily available than they ever were and more and more artists and record companies are recognising their value in an ever shrinking music market.
I am glad that this has happened so money can filter down to writers and performers rather than end up in someone's pocket who contributes nothing to the industry and who earns his money from the talent of others.

We will never get rid of this and to some extent I accept it happens.

File sharing just makes the question more awkward.

The problem I have is that apart from the fact that the artists etc. aren't paid - which is always met by the answer "well no one else makes money as it's shared for free" - we have no control of quality (and there are some performances artists would prefer not to enter the public domain after the event), you don't know who you are sharing with sometimes and when it appears as a live set in Poland on CD then it isn't a freely shared file.

In the end there is nothing I can really do about it but at the same time I won't promote it.
We don't allow dealing on the forum. If someone wants to do this, do it elsewhere.
If I find any sites where my copyrighted material is being sold without permission I inform the authorities involved.

I can only deal with the problem in my own way which is to embrace the issues and put out our own quality live "official bootlegs" and hope to some point that it keeps fans relatively sated and the bootleggers disinterested as the competition is too good and the demand weakened.

One thing I do hate is standing on stage watching someone on the edge of darkness hold a recording device up in the air or looking at me through a digi camera lens for an entire show. Watching a little red recording light trying to hold steady in the crowd in front of me all night? That's a gross insult and I have to question that person.
Why are they at the show? For the live experience which they are sorely missing as they check on gains and white balance and stereo panning? Or to collect something to sell onto others who are there for the real experience?
Either way it feels like you are having your soul stolen sometimes.

The size of recorders nowadays and the technology available on phones makes it so much more difficult to police and so we are really left to the discretion of the fan in the main. I will and have however brought it to people's attention when I have been on stage. Or sometimes I am even more cruel and just pinpoint the red light and have Yatta pick up the recording on the encore >:-}

I hope that helped you understand my position a bit more.

Finally some good news on the Tyneside Tavern.

It has just been taken over by Neil Forbes and his wife Trish. A former member of the illustrious "6 o'clock Club", Neil is planning on taking the "Tynie" back to the good old days after a dark few months since Paul Kinnoch moved next door to open the Waterloo Bistro.
And I found the best Scottish mince pies I have ever had from Anderson's the Butchers in North Berwick.
Ironically it was when I was returning after dropping my mountain bike off for repair so I could get some sort of exercise regime in motion.
Ah the yin and yang of it all! :-D

More news later this week.

Onkel Fish xxx

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