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2 April, 2007

Still ripping off t-shirts

Like Porcupine Tree, Marillion aren't performing in Manchester on the forthcoming tour, instead appearing in Liverpool on 7 June (Porcupine Tree are in Preston on 20 April).  Primarily, that's because their usual preferred venue, the Manchester Academy, is closing for refurbishment, but there's a specific reason why they didn't simply select alternative venues in Manchester.

Marillion explain in a message that mightn't be archived, so I'll reproduce it in full:

Reluctantly, we are not playing Manchester on the Somewhere Else Tour. Our old friend, The Academy, is closed for refurbishment. All the other suitable venues in Manchester have a policy of charging a 25% merchandise commission. Basically this means that if we sell one of OUR tee shirts or CDs (already bought and paid-for by us) to you, (OUR fans) we must pay the VENUE one quarter of the money YOU part with! You might think this is outrageous. You might even wonder how it can be LEGAL and so do we.. Unfortunately, it's rapidly becoming the norm at venues throughout the UK and Europe and we have decided to take a stand against this practice which is really no more than plain extortion.

All venues (quite reasonably) charge artists no-small-amount to hire the place, to provide security for the show, and to cover venue staff and running costs. The venue then takes a ton of YOUR money across the bar on the night and despite the fact that we, the artists, are responsible for the bar being full of thirsty customers, SOME venue owners somehow feel they have an additional right to ask for a hefty slice of artist's tour merchandise!

So we're going to Liverpool instead (it's Liverpool's turn anyway), but we'd love to do both.

We charge £12-15 for our t-shirts and refuse to put the prices up just to cover the merchandise fees which is what has been suggested to us in the past. Why should we make the fans pay? Of course we could put a higher price on the concert tickets but we donít want to do that either. Why should we be forced to do that? Selling merchandise on tour can often make the difference between an overall loss and an overall profit so we don't want to be forced to give it all away. We've asked for 25% of the bar takings in return but, oddly enough, the venues won't go for that!

Some venues want to charge 20% for t-shirts, 15% for CDs and a massive 30% for programmes - we donít understand or accept this concept either.

With us it is a question of the revenue and also of principles. So we're boycotting the gigs who want a merchandise percentage, and we're getting together with other band managers and forums to spearhead a campaign against this practice.

We hope you understand and can make it across to Liverpool or Leeds instead.

If you remember, Sigur Rós encountered the same practice at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas in 2005, and protested by selling merchandise extremely cheaply ($1 per T-shirt). The venue took its cut of the profits (but "30% of nothing amounts to nothing") and the ongoing bad publicity.

Conversely, let's spread a little positive publicity: the Manchester Academy doesn't rip-off bands and fans in that way. Well done.

As I said in that earlier Sigur Rós entry, I consider it better to buy merchandise from bands' own webstores, wherever possible, as I think that gives them the greatest financial benefit.


Unfortunately Liverpool clashes with Mostly Autumn's show at Crewe Limelight, so I'm trekking all the way down to London to catch them at the Forum the weekend after.

Posted by Tim Hall at April 2, 2007 08:21 PM
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