SWAG 5: The last five years pt.4 – Of Costs and Contracts

And so, dear readers, we reach the final chapter in our story of the last five years. Deciding exactly how we were to release the new album proved more time consuming than anyone could have predicted.

As well as being a key part of Thieves’ Kitchen from the beginning, and playing some seriously tortuous drum lines along the way, Mark Robotham has also been the guy who ran the business side of Thieves’ Kitchen. He did so very well indeed, and quite a lot of the success we’ve had has been at least in part down to him running a tight ship on the business front. We’ve always released albums ourselves, as this makes a lot of financial sense when you’re a band of TK’s stature (i.e. not multi-million selling chart toppers). However, with no Mark on board to run things, it made sense to look at other angles. We didn’t have to look far to find a record company willing to release ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’, and we progressed this possibility as far as reading a draft contract for the deal.

I know it’s fashionable to knock record companies, but the issue we had with the deal has nothing to do with greedy execs creaming off the profits or any other horror story. I’ll not name names, not that there was anything wrong with the negotiations at all, but the problems with the deal were to do with scale. Simply, even though TK had paid all the recording costs, and were happy to pay all the reproduction costs, the deal was such that we’d have to sell many times more copies than we did The Water Road before covering the costs. Association with the record company, by itself, was not going to add any real value in terms of selling more copies, so the deal made no sense.

We spent a couple of months pursuing this option before reaching the conclusion that we should just go ahead and release it ourselves. With some personal commitments later in the year, and the need to avoid the Christmas CD manufacturing rush, that takes us to a release date of January 2013.

Having flirted with the traditional record deal approach, we’re back to being an independent ‘do everything yourself’ band. Luckily we have help. Bert from We-Do-Band-Stuff is running our PR and social networking presence. Nellie at The Merch Desk is handling all the direct-from-band CD and t-shirt sales. Syn-phonic in the US, and Record Heaven in Europe, are handling CD sales and distribution in their regions. I think we’ve found a middle ground where we don’t have to either sign everything over to a record company or end up doing every aspect of the band business ourselves. It allows us to concentrate more of our free time on music making, whilst still retaining a level of independence. 2013 is shaping up just fine!