Marillion One-Ups Radiohead, Releasing Free Album On To P2P

Here’s another discussion point for our upcoming EconMusic conference… prog rock band Marillion is releasing its latest album for free on to P2P networks – with the proviso that downloaders cough up their email address for marketing use.

Marillion’s online community has built a relationship with listeners so strong that fans paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in advance to fund the recording of Happiness Is The Road, with each fan gaining a sleeve credit. Now the band is deliberately releasing the album on to the networks many consider “illegal”, in a bid to maintain a listener base and drum up custom for other revenue streams…

Whilst the basic recording will be free to share, several deluxe and double-CD versions will retail on CD via preorder, then there’s an imminent tour and that all-important email database. Listeners are reminded of all this via video message when they play a song downloaded via P2P.

Keyboardist Mark Kelly (via release): “While we don’t condone illegal file-sharing, it’s a fact of life that a lot of music fans do it. We want to know who our file-sharing fans are. If they like our new album enough, then we want to persuade them to at least come and see us on tour.”

Though some will compare this to Radiohead’s pay-what-you-like experiment, official In Rainbows downloads were dwarfed by those over P2P, according to recent MCPS-PRS/Big Champagne research, which urged labels to release straight on to P2P because consumers are already so used to those channels.

Whilst the claim by Music Glue, which is coordinating the P2P release, that it’s a world’s first, isn’t strictly true, to say that Marillion “gets it” is an understatement – and it’s in part thanks to Erik Nielsen, the net-savvy roadie they hired in 1997 and who has masterminded Marillion’s online strategy ever since. Nielsen will be sharing these strategies with us at EconMusic on September 23.