If you've listened to the radio shows then you'll know that I'm a big fan of Longpigs and so are you probably, because their songs always get a great response whenever we play them. Comments are normally of the "I'd forgotten how good they were" variety; On And On, She Said and Lost Myself all big hits and quality tunes.
So when I saw that there was a new Longpigs anthology coming out this month, including 5 previously unreleased tracks, I was quite excited. I tweeted about it, and gave out the Amazon link. 33 songs for £9? Bit of a bargain.
Then I started to get a couple of comments back from people suggesting that all was not as it seems. The label behind the release was, it was suggested, "a bit dodgy". Richard Hawley, now mega-selling solo artist but formerly Longpigs guitarist, said on his web site:
"This has nothing to do with me,I know two of us haven't been asked about it,it's some dodgy company as far as we can tell,I doubt very much that anyone from the band will get a penny,the"artwork"is shite,I don't endorse this in any way......thanks folks for your time"(Richard Hawley)
This was worrying. As much as I'd like to see more Longpigs material released, nobody wants to think of artists not being paid. Time to investigate...
So who are the company behind this? They are called 3Loop Music and their strapline is "re-engaging artists and fans".
As I understand it their model is to partner with bands and release archive material, licensed from the original record label. In return for helping to promote the release, bands earn a cut of the sales. It reads like they are breathing new life into old back catalogues, enabling physical releases of specialist material to a non-mainstream audience (that's you and me folks!), activity that would be uneconomical for a mainstream label. You can read more about how their business model works on their own web site, here.
The 3Loop website clearly states "our partner artists receive a direct share of the profits from the relevant projects; this is in addition to any recording or publishing royalties that they may be due from the relevant rights holders". So that's alright, isn't it? So how come Richard Hawley thinks it's dodgy? Now I was confused. So I sent an email off to 3Loop asking some questions and today they called to give me some answers...
3Loop have licenced the Longpigs back catalogue from Universal, who are the rights holders. They initially spoke with Crispin Hunt (Longpigs frontman and songwriter) about 18 months ago about the project but he was not keen to get involved in promoting any future release. They state that he is fully aware of the project. They decided to proceed with the Anthology anyway though, whilst saying that they would have preferred to do it with Crispin's involvement. Therefore the band do not get a cut of any profits that 3Loop might make but they do get the recording or publishing royalties that come from the licence that 3Loop is paying to Universal. So by my reckoning Crispin, Richard and the rest will get the same royalties as they would if Universal had put the record out themselves.
There is a problem though. On their website it clearly lists Longpigs as being a 'partner artist' and they manifestly are not. So anyone reading the website and buying into the ethos of 3Loop will think that they are supporting the band directly and they are not. I put this point to 3Loop and they agreed that the website was wrong and that "we really must sort that out". Yes, they really must and they should do it quickly if they want to retain any credibility.
I'm pleased that 3Loop were open about all this and took the time to get in touch with me. I don't think that they are 'dodgy' but for a label whose whole ethos is supposed to be about connecting artists, their languishing back catalogues and fans, it is regrettable that their highest profile release so far doesn't follow that actual model.
The model that they are trying to follow is an interesting one and if it can bring unreleased music out of the vaults that can only be a good thing. I will follow their future releases closely as there is the potential for some really good music to come out - they just need to be careful about how they are listing people on their web site!
For now though, I shall leave the final word to Richard Hawley again:
"Although further to this I hope it gets Crispin some well deserved respect as a songwriter and lifts the band out of an undeserved place in history to something a little nearer the truth"
[Update: Within 24 hours of our contacting them 3Loop had updated their website. Longpigs are no longer listed as 'Partner Artists']