S J Birkill
just a sensible reserve
« : 03.10.04 at 10:19 »
This thread attempts to bring together the answers to your recurring questions about Pete Atkin, the man, his life, songs, recordings and concerts, to save you delving into our vast and unindexed archive to find out. Some of the answers here originate from Pete himself, but they may have been altered in detail (without changing the facts!) to fit the FAQ format. Please post any new questions in the appropriate section of the Forum.
Q: Between 2001 and 2004 anyone could buy CD reissues of all Pete's 6 original studio albums. Now they're unavailable again -- Why?
A: During 2000, Pete worked hard with Colin Miles (of See For Miles Records) to secure the necessary permissions for reissue. Bertelsmann Media Group (BMG, owners of the RCA back catalogue) were especially difficult but eventually yielded, and SFM were able to release all Pete's albums across 3 CD packages, two 2-on-1 CDs and one double CD. Not only that, but they also reissued Julie Covington's mega-rare album of Atkin/James songs, The Beautiful Changes, originally on EMI's Columbia label. MV's Year 4 Archive contains accounts of the stages leading to reissue. We were confident at the time that SFM, with their efficient production and distribution system, would keep the CDs in print and in the shops.
But in 2003, before SFM's first pressing of the CDs was sold out, the company ran into difficulties and was wound up. Existing stock continued to be available in some stores and on-line outlets, notably reissue specialist Magpie. Seeing the reserves dwindling, Pete was able to acquire all SFM's remaining stock of the four titles for his own Hillside Music, and make them available via mail order and on-line purchase.
By November 2004 all Hillside's stock of the double CD (A King At Nightfall and The Road Of Silk) had been sold. A handful of retailers (one was a German on-line vendor) continued to advertise stock, but eventually the only way to obtain a copy was through the secondhand market, with elevated prices being paid on eBay. Exhaustion of the other albums' stock followed, till by April 2006 Hillside had sold its final copy of The Beautiful Changes... Plus -- see the Hillside Music page.
Q: Surely though it's only a matter of interesting another reissue specialist label, and letting them negotiate a reissue deal?
A: This might not be so easily done, given the fact that on past record it could take a matter of years for even a short pressing run to break even. But there's a larger obstacle -- see next answer.
Q: Why then doesn't Pete reissue the CDs himself, on Hillside? Or, if that's too costly, make the tracks available for paid download?
A: It's all bound up with ownership of the Intellectual Property Rights on the recordings -- Pete doesn't actually own his own recorded work from that period. IPR is a very complicated business. Pete summed up the position in December 2006:
"It's boring but important to understand that there are three co-existent kinds of right involved. There's the writers' copyright in the songs being sung, i.e. in this case basically Clive's and/or mine; there's copyright in the (i.e. my) recorded performances; and there's the ownership of the physical recordings themselves. Only the owners of the recordings can authorise or arrange to make them available commercially. If and when they do so they are obliged to pay the writers and performers appropriate royalties, statutory in the case of the songs and according to contract in the case of the performances. But if the owners of the recordings do not want to -- usually because they think there is insufficient commercial advantage in it -- they do not have to make them available at all.
"Back in the late '90s, thanks to the renewed interest roused up by the Midnight Voices, I was able to persuade the reissue specialist label See For Miles Records (now no longer with us) to approach the owners of the six '70s albums and to acquire the rights to reissue them, which, after some considerable difficulty in the case of RCA (BMG), who effectively own the last four albums (from A King At Nightfall onward), is what happened. Since the demise of SFM a couple of years ago, all the remaing stocks of the CDs have been sold.
"I think there's a reasonable chance of Bucks Music (the owners of the first two albums) being persuaded to do something with them at some point, but RCA/BMG have always been - how shall I put it? - unenthusiastic in their responses. They are the people you should lobby. They are the only people it makes any sense to lobby. I myself try writing to them from time to time to ask, for instance, why I have received no royalty statements regarding the SFM reissues, and have never ever received a reply of any kind.
"I agree that making them available as downloads makes an awful lot of sense these days, but the bad old/good old days of Napster are long past, and unless you are willing to have your metaphorical legs metaphorically broken I can't advise going via any but the legal route. The whole download thing had barely begun - and had no legitimacy at all - when the SFM CDs were issued, and the business has changed quite a bit since then, to the extent that it may be difficult now to find a company like SFM willing to take on doing the necessary deals to reissue CDs. If I could get the rights myself I would seriously consider making the albums available myself via Hillside Music. That's not impossible, but the barriers are sturdy and large.
"I myself don't by any means disown the old stuff, and I'm immensely flattered that people should remember it so fondly and want to lay hands on decent modern copies of it, but I hope I'll be forgiven for saying that that was then and this is now and that for myself I'm a whole lot more interested in putting energy into the now rather than the then."
...to be continued