Sold Down The River… (Don’t buy our single!)

Before this post begins let’s make it very clear that these are the rantings of an extremely disgruntled individual (Me!) and nothing you read below is endorsed by the band, the organisation, the label or any part thereof ;o) [I was going to post this on the band’s blog, but it wouldn’t have been right, or fair, to do so. ]

This story begins way back in the dim, distant and dark past of Morpheus Rising. Back in the days before even the demos had been released and the thoughts of a commercial release were something of schoolboy fantasy and mirrored posturing in the bedroom.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin:

Picture the scene, if you will, of two friends both of whom have suffered loss and, due to their artistic bent, had written music and lyrics to express that loss in the best way they knew how. At the urgings of another friend the decision was made to release the resultant song on an unsuspecting public. The cost of all this was negligible, in fact it cost nothing but the time needed for the vocals to be recorded over the already recorded guitar part and the use of a hand-held video recorder to record the accompanying ‘video‘. There was no pomp or circumstance about the release, just a small ripple caused by word of mouth. There was no physical product, just the option to purchase the download of the track from the Morpheus Rising website.

Within a very short period of time the single had gone viral (well, viral for an unknown band, with an unadvertised single, without a budget) and the video views and website hits were in their thousands… We didn’t sell many copies of the single, but that wasn’t the original point, it was a cathartic process to alleviate the feelings of loss and to allow individuals to feel as if they were contributing in some way.

Fast forward 12 months and a second single was being released. This was a much different affair, there was much to-do about the release, the newspapers, radio and TV became involved and expectations grew…

The band spent time in the recording studio, there were meetings with PR agents, there were TV, radio and newspaper interviews, there was a video shoot. Everyone involved was really positive and those who would normally charge ‘industry standard’ fees for their services either waived them or reduced them significantly.

In theory both of these singles were cut from the same cloth. There was, however, a fundamental difference between the two releases other than the production values. One was done from an altruistic point of view and the other, no matter how noble the intention, had far more expectation attached.

This expectation, no matter how understated, was to be the downfall of the project and it was to fall before it really got to any height at all.

Where did we go wrong? Simple, we looked for commercial success as opposed to financial success. In other words we were hoping for recognition rather than profit. It’s a classic tale of running before you can crawl, let alone walk.

The singles were both released with the hope of raising funds for Armed Forces charities and, in hindsight, that was the only reason for the media interest. None of the interviews focussed on the band or our music, they focussed on the cause, the underlying reason for our getting involved and the personal story behind the release. And so it should be. But without an audience (which you won’t get if the band aren’t known/promoted) the whole endeavour was doomed to failure.

Please understand that I am not belittling any of our achievements, I am a firm believer that we, that is Morpheus Rising, have achieved far more in our two-year existence than we dared hope. I am saying, with a painful honesty, that I believe we (or at least I) got ahead of ourselves. Despite reaching #2 in the Amazon UK CD Single Charts (which, to be honest, is an astounding feat for an unsigned, independent artist with no PR budget or marketing campaign!) the single can only be regarded financially as a failure.

And, after all the above meandering, this brings me to the reason for this post:

Don’t buy the single!

That is to say, don’t buy it from the low down, money grabbing, back stabbing, corporate cnuts called Amazon. Why?

I’ll tell you why. The song cost us thousands of pounds to record, produce and promote, not to mention the money spent on the manufacture and distribution and the production of the supporting video.

And then what happens? We see an opportunity to sell the CD from a reputable online retailer under the auspices of our own label… surely that’s a better option than only selling it from our own site? You would have thought so, wouldn’t you?

We established an account with Amazon UK, set up the single with a price of £1.79 (yes, that’s right, half of the original Amazon price) which meant that we would cover only the manufacturing costs and be able to donate the amount we wanted to the charities involved. So, what did they do? They put it up for £3.79 (or something similar) which, if we’d received an increased share would have been great but, as we didn’t seems a little steep for a charity single, even one which is for a good cause. The result? I’m sure that price had an impact on the number of sales, and what’s happened since has all but killed them!

Earlier this year, with no warning, and no discussion with us, the supplier, Amazon increased the price of the CD single to £4.99! £5 for a bloddy 2 track CD single? Are they mad? Needless to say we haven’t sold one on that site since the price increase, and they were still selling albeit in small numbers.

Do we see any more of that money? No, we still receive only 70% of the original £1.79 we agreed… what can we do? According to the T&Cs, very little. In reality we can withdraw the single from Amazon, point everyone to our own store and sell it from there. Other than that, we can live and learn.

Commercial success is not the same as financial success. To be commercially successful we would need to be functional, and profitable, as an ongoing business, a position which we are some distance from as a band. To be financially successful all we need to do is cover our costs and, if possible, make a profit. If we’d concentrated on the latter (and providing people would have been happy to purchase from our own site) we’d be in the position to donate thousands to the charities and have the funds to tour/record our album.

Or, if Amazon weren’t such greedy b’stards,we’d be in the same position.

As it stands we still haven’t even started to cover our costs.

Ah well, at least we haven’t signed a contract, received an advance and spent it on wine, women and song and still not produced a record ;o)