new six by seven album RELEASE FORMAT

It’s looking more and more likely that I am gong to release this album on vinyl only and high quality download WAV format. In a way it’s a bit like semi commercial suicide, as CD’s are still the best selling format for music, but it seems to me that a great majority of people are now happy with Vinyl and high quality downloads. I don’t mind CD’s, they sound great and look ok and are portable and durable but the drag is in the manufacturing. It’s really expensive to make a small amount; in fact nobody will really make less than 1000. This is because the glass master that is required to produce the plastic CD’s is expensive to make. Once you’ve made the glass master the rest is just stamped out plastic and printed paper and costs very little and even become ridiculously cheap when you start going over 10.000 copies. (Imagine how much money the music industry was making when they were selling CD’s at £16.99, just 15 years ago, when it was costing them under 10p to manufacture each unit)

So, these margins make you produce much more than you need and you start to feel a bit like you’re pumping out tins of beans. If you can sell 2-3000 CD’s you manufacture 5000 because the cost of making 5000 is about £400 more than making 3000 units. If you are putting them in the shops you need 3 CD’s for every 1 you sell, the shops like stock and need to be looking full. So you make all these CD’s and distribute them in all the outlets knowing you will sell one third and then get returns about 8 months later. For each return you get, you get a minus figure on your statement.

In 2004 we released sixbyseven:04 and we manufactured 10.000 copies. We sold about 6000 initially and then the whole house of cards came tumbling down. After we released ‘Artists Cannibals Poets Thieves’ people in the band jumped ship as the waves came crashing over and I was left with the bucket in my hand, bailing out water. I had already paid people in the band and they were long gone but now I was running into minus figures on my distribution statements as shops and big distribution companies went under. Before I knew it I was £8000 in debt and it took me years to pay it off. I couldn’t make any money out of Twelve albums, Fuck Me USA or my solo album, A Streetcar Named Disaster, that went out through Cargo Records, all the profits from these rcords went back into paying back six by seven’s returns deficit. I was lucky that Cargo stuck with me though, they are brilliant people down there. In the end I had to stop releasing anything commercially because the next releases were having their own returns issues and we just had to button down the hatches and wait for the storm to blow over. (Everything trickles out and sells eventually, it just takes a few years.)

So what do you do with all the returned cd’s? About 4 or 5 years ago I got a phone call from the distributors saying they had no room in their warhouse anymore because of all the returns from all of the different labels and they were sending stuff back to people to store at home. There was a knock on the door and a lorry unloaded 100’s of boxes of CD’s at my front door, enough to fill my entire hallway and dining room. We couldn’t move around and I had to take a couple of car-boot-fulls down to the tip but after I had thrown those into a recycling bin they told me it had to be disposed of as trade waste. Now I had to pay to even sling them in the bin!

Cargo had to slash the price on export and shift as much as we could through bargain bins and the new emerging cd retailers like Fopp who had created a business from selling all these returns cheaply. I had a brainwave to take all the packaging off and sell the albums in bundles in a box for £5 rather than burning them in the garden. It worked to a certain extent but I felt it was crass. How could I justify stripping these things down and flogging them like this when people had paid good money for them only 2 years before?

Eventually, over 3 years, I managed to get rid of a quite a lot and Cargo even asked for some to be sent back as the industry started to level out again after the initial collapse. Now we have almost completely sold out of everything, and it feels good, it feel like the albums are worth something again.

So do I want to do the same again? At the moment, with Love And Peace And Sympathy, it’s happening again, the returns are now coming back and we have to slash the price and sell off what is left, simply because it’s the normal procedure to over produce CD’s. I don’t like doing this. I would much prefer to make a set amount, have it look really good, and sell what I have at one price, to everybody, and not manufacture 3 times more than the world actually needs! But wait, I can!

The resurgence of Vinyl has meant that the prices of manufacturing it are not sky high anymore and also the retail price of vinyl has adjusted itself according to the laws of supply and demand and bcome dearer at the retail end so you can make money out of it again. It has its problems in that you manufacture just about the amount you think you will need and you will probably sell out and some people may not be able to get it. However, you can then wait until the demand rises again and press a second edition and then you have first and second editions and collectors become interested! This means that because you bought the first edition, it will now be an investment.

Vinyl is just cool isn’t it? Is it not something to behold, covet and cherish and it’s definitly not based on nostalgia because I could see the glint in my 15-year-old sons eye as he looked at, and held ‘real’ Nirvana and Van Halen ‘records’ in Fopp lst year. “These look great, I want to collect them all!” he said. (I was of course quick to reprimand him and told him that CD’s were much better as they would never ‘Crackle or Jump’ and could take the immense punishment of being driven over and stood on.)

When I helped out on tour with the band ‘Real Estate’ a few years ago I couldn’t believe how much vinyl they were selling at shows. A couple of years later we also sold all our vinyl after just 3 gigs. People love vinyl and with the inclusion of free downloads codes inside, many people who don’t even have a turntable buy it. You know who you are! You had a record player, it’s broken, the needle is fucked, you haven’t used it for 3 years but you can’t get rid of your old vinyl, not all of it anyway! Why is that? Are you gonna buy another deck? When is the right time? Now? Maybe it is!

It’s quite a bold move to do a vinyl only release and it will piss certain people off and money will be lost by guaranteed CD sales not happening. However, maybe by releasing this record as vinyl only and other bands and labels doing the same thing, it will cause some of us to make the move and buy that turntable again! They are pretty cheap now and all good quality, not like the old days! And what happens when you’ve done it, you’ve made that move and bought that turntable? My guess is you will be looking out for more and more vinyl releases to buy and behold and love and cherish and hang on to. The days of over-mass-consumer-produced CD’s may be overtaken by vinyl and the manufacturing and retail prices of vinyl would then come down. Happy days? Given the choice would you buy vinyl or CD? I’m talking about those of you that care about the packaging.

Another reason for going the vinyl only way is that this record is very different from any six by seven album before it. I wanted to make a record that sounded like the play-list of a club night in (old London Night club!) BLITZ in 1982. I wanted to do this before we did Love And Peace And Sympathy; it’s the record I would have made this time regardless of what went before and it was written while the band was still playing the last album. It’s not electro but it’s synthesizer heavy and extremely atmospheric. It still has guitars, and there is a bone crushing 9 and a half-minute guitar track on it that makes European Me sound like Peter Paul And Mary. It’s loaded with an early 80’s production feel because it was recorded on 8 track with one reverb, no compression and lots of space echo delay. It was done like this for a reason. Maybe I’m getting old.

I’ve always loved Neil Young and the Doors but I wasn’t down at ‘The Whiskey..’ in 1967, I was however down at the front for Talking Heads in 1980 on the Remain in Light Tour and it had a significant effect on me. So far, people who have heard the record have said it reminds them of Joy Division, Bauhaus, early Human League, The The and Nick Cave. I know I’m gonna lose some fans when it comes out but hopefully I’m going to gain some new ones too, I know it’s definitly a six by seven album.

I feel like I’m starting again and the best way to do it is to go back to the beginning, both musically and aesthetically. Our first proper release was a 12″ vinyl single of European Me, which the NME described as ‘one of the greatest debut single of all time'(!) and it consequently sold out of it’s 1000 copies between the first Monday and Wednesday of its release. It should have set us up. We went on to do the same with the next single 88-92-96, 12″ vinyl but also CD this time. We got NME single of the week. Then, in my opinion we blew it. As a teenager my parents had told me I was unworkable because I never compromised. Subconciously it had an effect on me and I couldn’t help thinking I needed to change and take this on board and I went into life as a young adult prepared to always compromise and accept other people’s challenges. Bad move.

Now that I am 20 years older than my parents were when they said I could never compromise, I now realize that it was actually them that refused to compromise. Compromise is something I no longer believe in and with hindsight is something I won’t do anymore. If pain is weakness leaving the body, then compromise is letting weakness back into it! This doesn’t mean I have to turn into a one way, it’s my way or the highway, Nazi bastard though, it means I need to think about what I want to do more carefully. Think about it carefully and then as a consequence of that thinking and reasoning with yourself and others you trust and love, work out what you want and then stick to it, without compromise.

We all compromise in our lives at mostly we do it for an easier life or just money, think about it. When you sign a records deal it’s great, at first. Everyone is your friend and smiles at you and loves you and tells you that you can do what you like with their label because they are independent and cool. Wrong. They are ripping you off from the start and they are only investing money in you because they want to make a return. Nothing wrong with that, it’s business and like any business it also must have an ‘exit strategy’ so you are already history before you’ve even started. Whoever you are and whatever label you are on, independent or major, it won’t be long before they start to fuck with your music, your artwork and the way you look.

six by seven weren’t signed because we could write European Me and 88-92-96, we were signed because we could write a Candlelight or a For You. Both these songs were on our earliest demos and were probably the only reason we got a deal. it wasn’t long before Candlelight was being mixed and remixed and edited and fucked about with for radio on both sides of the Atlantic. I remember begging the label not to release it as the third single, I wanted to release Oh! Dear as our third single, on 12″ vinyl and keep things steady and build on what we had. I was told to compromise and without a flinch I did. When someone is giving you cash to go on tour and live in a recording studio it takes someone pretty strong to try and call the shots with the guy paying the bills. Strong is what I should have been though. I soon found myself running around like a headless chicken trying to please everyone. What should have been the bet time of my life became a really bad time. As a band we argued and drank a lot and relations between band, label and management were always pulling in different directions.

We wanted success and we were continuosly being told that having radio hits was the way to go about having it and we bent this way and that to try and give the label the songs they needed to ‘break’ the band.

We never had a water tight plan and we hadn’t thought things through and because I compromised and tried to please everyone we lacked leadership. I was probably being more selfish than I realised at the time because by trying to please everyone, I was just trying to be liked rather than thinking about what was best for the band. It wasn’t the right way to be and ultimately it fucked things up, what we had built up got fucked up and fragmented.

Now, I’m still here and still doing this because it’s what I do and I don’t want to do anything else with whatever life I have left. I want to be doing this when I’m 70 and I don’t want to be standing on stage playing Candlelight! I want to build this back up but do it without compromise and make music that has a sound metaphor and make albums with a tightly nit set of ideas and a concept to their being there. An atmospheric album sounding like a set list from a club night at Blitz in 1982 should only come out on vinyl. No computer or software was used to record the music and no computer or software should be used to make the artwork. Nail your metaphor and stick to it, then, at least if you have nothing else, you have your art.

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20 comments

  1. Fucking right on brother. I just finished reading songs on the key of Fife that documents the ups and downs of king creosote. He turned his back on compromise and never looked back.

    Looking forward to the new album and sound.

    All the best

    Russ

  2. Don’t think less of me Chris, but I first of six by seven thanks to the evening session playing “candlelight” on radio 1 (when they were decent, thank christ radio 6 exists!!) I was reduced to tears and hooked! The way I feel today also soundtracked a summer for me and the free gig in Coventry was one of top gigs I’ve ever attended.

    How do you feel about vinyl and cd box sets? A lot of bands tend to release their albums like that. Whilst the majority of voters may be favouring vinyl, there’s a few of us out there who do prefer CDs but want the vinyl too, so offering them as one package (allowing in-car systems access to the music – since vinyl can’t be played in them) might make sense and not cost the earth? Maybe as a limited run for the collectors? Then vinyl outright. Thoughts?

    1. I don’t think any less of you! I think Candlelight is a great song, it’s about my favourite Auntie Anneliese!!

      If you get a free high quality download, (which is twice quality of a cd until burned to cd) is it not possible to burn a cd to play in the car?

      1. The download is good for iTunes and iPod purposes but a cd in a limited box set (with a higher price reflecting such) guarantees faster sales initially. It’s like the complete set in one for true train spotters!

        Of course you could release an even more limited deluxe edition with a cassette of demo’s too… But that’s just getting daft!

  3. I buy CDs if vinyl isn’t available, or sometimes at gigs to play in the car on the way home…

    Have you thought about doing limited DIY CDs?

    Packaged in those plastic envelopes, they don’t take up much space and with paper inserts they are sort of collectible and bit less anonymous than jewel cases. You could do an intial ‘press’ of whatever amount followed by a second run subject to demand / being arsed. Just have some kind of difference to keep the first lot limited.

  4. Thanks for the explanation, Chris; it makes a lot of sense. The simple money factor always raises its ugly head. Personally, I still wish you would make a cd available; for sound quality, portability and ease of use on my radio show. Nonetheless, I will be one of the first people to purchase the new album on vinyl. I appreciate your integrity, commitment & talent.

  5. the first six by seven record i bought was the Candlelight 12″ and I instantly fell in love with it. Without that record I would have never listened to 88-92-96 and European Me. So, God bless Candlelight! I also learned to play those songs with my old band back then, and six by seven were our heroes, our inspiration. And I’m talking about living in Sicily at the end of the 90s, no internet, myspace and such things; music magazines and mail order was everything we had. So, Chris, as I really, really appreciate what you’ve written (you’re absolutely right about almost everything, musicbiz, vinyl, compromise, and the importance of not always pleasing people), you should also keep in mind that your music and your band have been important (and still are, I’m sure) to people, much more than you think. Ah, I also bought “Artist Cannibals…” back then straight from your website, I kept the mail. I’m looking forward for the new “Blitz” record, I’m sure it’s going to be brilliant just as Love And Peace And Sympathy, which has been one of my favourite records of 2013. Looking forward for the vinyl versions of both. My best regards, Antonio

    1. I think the way I’ve written things seems to sound like I’m being negative about Candlelight, I’m not, it was just the time it was released and how it was released. It never quite sounded as good as it did live on the record. It was meant to be our Debaser but turned out more Charlatans. I don’t have a problem with Candleight or For You or anything else we did. I don’t wanna slag off songs people like!

  6. I noticed that the new Eno Karl Hyde album has 2 extra tracks on the lp version. Ive been saying for years now that vinyl will return and it has. I sell audio stuff and have seen a big jump in record players the last couple of years.

  7. Great blog as usual. You namecheck Blitz and 1982 in your article above Chris – I find that very interesting and most intriguing. I too remember with fondness a lot of the electronic stuff that was being played around that time – and a lot of it had a Teutonic edge to it. That cold, clinical Germanic sound which was all the vogue for a lot of the acts who were having success around that time – including quite a lot of the much-maligned (why? cos they looked ridiculous? so?!) ‘New Romantics’ bands of the day such as Eurythmics, Spandau Ballet, Japan, Duran Duran, second-phase (Midge Ure-era) Ultravox and, most notably of all, Visage [possibly the most underrated of them all]. I say underrated because those first two albums of theirs were pretty bloody good – and still sound great now, over 30 years later! In fact I’d even go so far as to say that 1982’s “The Anvil” is one of the greatest ‘electronic’ albums of the time …..and yet how many critics and pop punters these days even bother to acknowledge this?? It’s practically a forgotten obscurity now. People who have never heard “The Anvil” really should go and hunt it down – on vinyl!!! The title track even had a German language version issued a year later to appeal to the hip Camden Palace (now Koko) crowd!

    Put simply, none of their early records have been afforded the sympathetic reissue/remaster treatments that they truly deserve [i.e. complete, comprehensive album + all single A and B sides and official remixes] and yet their more successful and celebrated contemporaries have had countless reissues/repackages afforded them……

    Back in 1983 when I was preparing for university, aged 18, I used to be occasionally in touch with one of the main men involved with the former Blitz club – a certain Rusty Egan – ex-Rich Kid, and Visage drummer/producer, and would have long chats with him on the phone [him speaking from his base in London’s Trident Studios!!] about the sort of playlists he would put together for his later Camden Palace club nights, which of course were overseen by the most celebrated Blitz-kid of them all, Steve Strange (who returned last year with a new Visage record, oddly enough – thus the whole thing appears to have turned full circle!).

    His enthusiasm for making music and remixing stuff back then was infectious – it completely overshadowed his ‘day job’ with Visage to the point that the latter project (of course, it wasn’t a ‘band’ in the true sense – more a studio collective) ultimately became almost redundant in the end – and I couldn’t believe the lengths at which he’d go to telling me about exclusive white label electronic releases from all over the US and Europe that I’d never ever heard of – truly, that guy was at the very cutting edge of what is now widely pigeonholed as ‘electronica’.

    1. Yes, I agree about Visage, and Cabaret Voltaire too, whose early stuff is more punk than punk ever was. I was 18 in 1983 as well, I think that’s why this music resonates so much with me now. I dunno about you but when I was at school in 82-83 girls were more into the ‘new modern romance’? It wasn’t something for boys unless you were really weird and prepared to have your head kicked in on a daily basis. Great stories about Rusty Egan and Strange! Are you still in contact with them? I’m just reading a really interesting new book about Krafwerk by David Buckley. What’s good about it is he’s talking about so much of the music around Kraftwerk at that time and how they were infuluenced all the time by the British bands. Normally everyone bangs on about Kraftwerk being the pioneers and influencing everyone else.

      1. You’re dead right about the ‘girls-at-school-being-into’ sort of thing….because when I was in the sixth form at the time (same years), most girls would favour the more ‘glamorous’ and ‘chart-friendly’ stuff whilst most if not all of the boys would be into the ‘intelligent’ and ‘cerebral’ stuff like Dire Straits, Marillion, Genesis, Rush, Zeppelin, Floyd, prog/70s rock etc…. and anything ‘contemporary’ such as the electronic/futurist chart music of the time (those aforementioned acts above, plus countless others) or indeed even ‘alternative’ stuff like Joy Division, Bunnymen, Cure, Banshees, Cocteaus, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Gang Of Four, Wire, etc, they’d just frown upon… there was a certain degree of snobbishness then all right! I – and a couple of my like-minded mates – would be there at lunchtime in the common room with my cassette mix tapes with these segued compilations of stuff I loved at the time, and they’d be telling me to take it off and offer to stick their Marillion albums on, to which we’d just say: “fuck off – get your own tape machine to play your own shit!” 🙂

        It wasn’t until later on that, through the recommendations of other school/college mates, I’d be expanding my interests to take in weirder and more left-field / esoteric stuff of which the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Psychic TV/Clock DVA and those other ‘industrial’ Sheffield acts were just starting points…..

        But going back to Visage – they had links with Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees as well (who happen to be my all time favourite post-punk band ever) – as they shared personnel – the late great John McGeoch having played with all three acts! Because he was a very busy guy involved in production, club duties (with The Camden Palace), and trying to also keep the Visage project going, I’d kind of lost touch with Rusty Egan by the time I started university up in Newcastle upon Tyne [I studied BA graphic design and media production for four years]…. those chats I had with him on the phone were only during the summer of 1983 to early 1984 – around the time when he and Steve Strange were trying to get themselves out of that endless contractual wrangle that Visage were having with their record company Polydor, which prevented them from releasing any new music for two years between late 1982 and late 1984, resulting in a compromise of a ‘best of’ album being issued for the autumn of 1983 as a stop-gap measure. This was where that German language version of “The Anvil” [“Der Amboss”] came in – Rusty had told me exclusively about this white label promo he’d circulated to various music magazines and clubs – and Record Mirror at the time gave it a great review …. and he said it would be only made available on the cassette verson of the Visage singles compilation.

        Back then, before the age of CD, cassettes were a medium with which to exploit for better value-for-money….in that certain 80s acts (notably those on Arista Records, such as The Thompson Twins of all people!) were obliged by their paymasters to release a whole side of remixes on side 2 of the tape to accompany the main album on side 1. Rusty hit upon the idea of segueing all of the singles and b-sides on the standard vinyl album into a seamless dance mix for the cassette version, and throwing in the bonus track “Der Amboss”. This ended up being so popular with the clubs that there was a clamour for this cassette version to be issued on vinyl to appease the club DJs…. so six months later, he convinced Polydor to re-release the singles album on vinyl format – albeit the cassette remix version – in a strictly limited edition of 5,000 or so ! So I ended up getting special notice of this weeks before it was released and promptly got an advance copy of the finished article – and it remains one of my most treasured vinyl albums because of its scarcity! Curiously, this special release was again only a single 12″ album (six tracks per side) despite its running time [due to the extended dance mixes of the singles] of over 63 minutes!!!! These days, such releases would be invariably double vinyl for greater sound fidelity!

        I haven’t come across that Kraftwerk book as yet – I will keep my eyes out for it, sounds intriguing….I have too many music books as it is – that I have bought cheap (for £2 / £3 each from my favourite record shop in Manchester – FOPP – to add any more to, as I have to start getting through all of these first!! So much to read – so little time in which to set aside for it! 🙂

  8. I still have a few vinyl albums, who could throw away the Beatles, but got rid of the record player years ago and no way am I going to buy another. I could buy the download and burn it to CD myself but that looks crap on the Cd shelf. Now if you could provide some artwork and track list to print I could make up something that looks OK. I fully understand your financial reasons, and there’s nowt wrong with money, but I still would like a CD.

  9. I am not sure who musicians go through to get their albums burned and covers printed and made up but have you thought about going direct to a trade printers to get the albums done and covers made up, some do quite a broad spread of production and can handle this as well as mailing them out if needed.
    As I was in the print I did handle a few of the like but for fashion houses and pharma companies. There should be standard die for the cover and this can be supplied so you can set the artwork too and yes you were right there are normally a minimum order for discs (approx 1000 copies) and the more you buy the cheaper each one becomes but as ever this defeats the object of having excess stock once initial sales have happened.

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