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8 August, 2006

Breaking the 'Loop

In 1994, whilst composing the music for the 'The Sky Moves Sideways' album, Porcupine Tree recorded a 40-minute improvisation.  This was later edited down to 17 minutes as 'Moonloop', but the full improvisation was made available to mailing list subscribers as 'Transmission 4'.

However, P-Tree's then record company, Delerium, owned the rights to the recording, so released a limited number of CD copies in 2001 [Delerium makes the point that this was the first commercial release]. Some found this a little surprising at the time, since Steven Wilson is known to be a record collector himself, who values the idea of truly limited editions (and the 1994 'Transmission 4' release was it!).

In March 2006, Delerium re-released 'Transmission 4' as a limited edition vinyl LP. Porcupine Tree left Delerium in 2001-2, but the label retained the rights to the early material, and the right to make reissues with or without the involvement of the band [Delerium reports that it was remastered for vinyl by SW; I've heard that from no other sources, but presuming it's true, that suggests a degree of support, or perhaps making the best of the inevitable].
At least P-Tree still receive royalties and had the opportunity to sell some of the reissues via their own web store at Burning Shed.

A couple of days ago, Delerium reissued the vinyl edition – anyone spot a slight inconsistency in reissuing something billed as 'limited'? Whatever; they have that right. It's now possible to preorder copies, exclusively from Delerium's web store, Freak Emporium, not from P-Tree's store. The band will not be selling their own music this time.

This entry has two purposes.
Firstly, it's to express my personal distaste for Delerium's use of their ex-clients' back-catalogue – as is their legal right, of course. No-one is suggesting it's illicit.
Secondly, it's to pass on a rumour.
[No longer relevant - basically, it was rumoured that the band would not object to fans trading the 'Moonloop' improvisation on CD-Rs, on a strictly non-commercial basis. Soon after that rumour spread, it became clear that it was incorrect, and I updated the entry to say so. As I said in the update, I hope fans will respect that, and buy CDs legitimately.]



The only distastefull thing here is the fact that this music has been sold as a limited edition and then resold at a later date making it slightly less limited. All the other things are what you should expect from any company in the music business, they do after all own the music and so should be allowed to do what they want with it. It seems to me that the band are only angry at this because they still feel they own the music, if this was instead an arguement over an actual physical commodity no one would be in any doubt that the person who sold it forfeits their right to have a say over what happens to it.

Posted by AKALucifer at August 15, 2006 03:08 PM

That's a view, and fair enough. As I acknowledged, Delerium haven't done anything illicit. I dislike the idea of offering something as 'limited', and pricing it on the basis of that scarcity, then subsequently offering more, but it's their right.

However, I have to question the relevance of your final point. If it was about a physical commodity, that would indeed be more straightforward, but that's not the argument, and the comparison is bogus.

If Richard Allen bought SW's car, that'd be the end of the matter; it'd be Allen's property entirely and he could do whatever he wanted with it, whether use it, scrap it or sell it via his company, Delerium.
Yet he wouldn't be duplicating the car 100 times and selling the copies (then making and selling 1,000 more), and he wouldn't have to give SW a proportion of the profits. Evidently, the parallel between a one-off physical commodity and endlessly-copyable music just isn't relevant.

Posted by NRT at August 15, 2006 06:23 PM
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