Interview: Steve Hogarth of Marillion
Marillion are a UK band that have been going for a long, long time. Last year they were in the charts but what's interesting about that is that they aren't signed to a big label -- they put their stuff out themselves. Here we talk to Steve Hogarth about labels and other things. www.marillion.com
Mstation: Jam bands have a long history of interesting relationships with their audiences and also creative solutions to the issue of recordings... something that was probably exemplified by the Grateful Dead. Do you duck away from the tag of Jam Band?
Steve: We write by a process of jamming and selecting our favourite accidents that happen. Live on stage we don't jam so much, so it would be misleading to call us a Jam Band from that point of view. All labels are misleading as far as I'm concerned.
Did the Dead form any part of showing your band a path -- musically or otherwise?
I saw John Perry Barlow speak at a conference in London a few years ago and he explained how all of the Dead's official records went slowly gold, then platinum as a consequence of their decision to allow their fans unlimited access to bootleg their live shows. His point being, that making the music more free led to a massive increase in the band's popularity which, in turn stimulated sales of the band's "official" recordings. I believe that he was right in this and that good artists can make a better living if music becomes free (by asking their fans to buy the music they haven't yet made - as we do already!) than they could when recorded work was sold by a greedy and inefficient music business.
Who were your main influences when you started out?
Beatles, Who, Kinks, Yes, Deep Purple, Genesis, Focus, Jerry Lee Lewis, Glen Campbell, Beach Boys
Who do you like now?
The Blue Nile, Rufus Wainright, Waterboys, Joni Mitchell, The Talking Heads, Blur, Relish, Massive Attack.
You recently performed the feat of getting into the top ten in the UK without record company backing. Although being in the top ten is usually not indicative of quality, it still pleases most bands to make it. How did you feel about it?
It amazed us how the media became suddenly interested in us after the single entered the British chart at #7. I found this bizarre and funny. I think the influence of the singles chart is out of all proportion to it's actual worth. The single chart undeniably remains a huge marketing tool for music of any genre.
For your model to work, do you think one of the prime things is to be gigging constantly?
At the beginning, you have to build up a database of people who believe in your music. This is best done by playing live, but there are alternatives like viral marketing. We have explored these but so far, viral techniques have brought limited rewards.
What would you say to bands starting out who have an ambition to make a living and also bypass the Big Music cartel?
Get out there and play your music to people. Never miss an opportunity to collect email addresses of anyone who likes what you do. Ask for these from the stage during each gig. If you're genuinely exciting people they'll be only too happy to keep in touch with you. Over a period of time you will amass enough support to make your band sustainable outside the music business.
What dates have you got coming up this summer?
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