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Some words from Nick about stuff…

By April 16, 2023No Comments

Hi Everyone, yes we are about to bring out a new mini album and do some shows, our first shows in 3 years, which feels utterly amazing!

However, every time we announce something, whilst the majority of people are incredibly supportive towards us and have been for the last 45 years, [and I thank every single one of you for that] there are those who find something to complain about and I just want to take a moment to tell those people to think before they start grumbling.

We have had to put our Cd prices up and this is why : –

Standard Cds are still at least 85% of our album sales and this is where the problem lies – the dealer and retail price of Standard CDs has not changed in 30 years. THIRTY YEARS.  I cannot think of any other profession where this would happen. No one would accept no wage increase in 30 years.

And this must change – or we will have to stop.

Stop playing live and stop releasing music.

We’ve had to change our mail order recently as Nellie just could not make the Merch Desk viable anymore. But now our distribution costs have gone up 30% [more admin costs and VAT] Therefore the Cds must increase in price too.

[cd manufacturing has also gone up 20% and vinyl has gone up 50% since 2020]

Many concert fees we receive are the same, they have not gone up in 10 years.  In 2014 when we last played Spain for example, we were paid €3,000 [might even have been €3,500?] but on the Love Over Fear tour we were offered €2,000. That’s a drop of €1,000.

And some fans say, Pendragon can’t be bothered with their fans in Spain etc anymore. This kills us and is utterly heart-breaking as we have always tried our absolute hardest to get to all places over the world and it simply pushes us into questioning why we are even doing this at all.

We are not a big band with a big record label, management, agents or outside funding – it’s me and my wife round the kitchen table.

We were going to get paid $6,000 to play Brazil – that doesn’t even cover the flights – so why do we do it? Because in the big scheme of things –  it’s worth it. Those people who would have come to the Brazil show would have remembered that show for ever [so would we]. Then when we bring out the next album or a t.shirt, maybe enough of them would buy something and it might be enough to cover a bit more of the costs of doing it – this is the way it has worked for the last 45 years, it’s a good model, we have walked this tightrope for nearly half a century and the net result –  we are still here. 

But when those CDs are no longer covering the cost of these shows, it is trouble.

[the only 2 shows we play that actually make a reasonable profit are De Boerderj in Holland and the 229 in London, but that profit usually helps cover the losses of the other shows].

The tour bus is €1,700 per day, crew wages £1,200, not to mention food, rehearsal costs and a million other risky expenses.

[by the way, none of us have ever been paid for our time rehearsing – EVER]

So – a gig where we get paid €2,000 makes a loss of around €1,500.

People say ah but you make all your money on merchandise, well in Spain we never sold more than about €500 worth, and all merch money we make is paying for the bills we’ve racked up while making and writing the album. And that is the main point, it’s about musicians being paid for their time because all in, I probably get paid about £2 per hour! And all the while, while I’m writing the music and booking the tours etc – all our daily costs like heating, electric, insurance, food, petrol and so on are going through the roof. It’s a model that cannot sustain itself anymore.

Tour bus quote in 2019 €26,000

Tour bus quote in 2023 €37,000. for the same tour.

People complain about ticket prices going up. Where do they think this differential is going to come from? The magic money tree at the bottom of the garden?

The fact is that most musicians get virtually no money at all from Spotify and other streaming platforms which have now become the rule rather than the exception for most music consumers. The public get cheap music but the musicians get something like £00.003 pence per play. Pendragon still has 1 compilation licensed to Snapper Music, [Introducing Pendragon] which is available to stream on Spotify. For our 6 monthly royalty cheque we received a total of £5! So what are most bands going to do? They are going to add the loss to their concert ticket prices. Net result – the public get cheap music to listen to in their cars and houses but more expensive concert tickets.

People will pay £20 for a hotdog, a litre of Coke and a bucket of popcorn at the cinema, they will pay £66 for 1 adult ticket to go to Legoland for the day, they will pay £30 for a round of drinks, but put £3 on a Cd or £5 on a gig ticket and you get a riot! Hey the band are ripping us off!  Really?

What you are getting from Pendragon is something I’ve worked on for years –  99% of creativity is trial and error and darned hard work, to make the music that I think is the best it can be and that therefore takes time. You only hear the end result, you don’t hear the thousands of hours of rebuffed ideas, lyrics, sounds, soul searching, head scratching, recording takes and staring into oblivion that made it happen. Did you know James Dyson made over 5,000 prototypes before he arrived at the vacuum cleaner he was happy with?

Someone said corr you must be making a fortune from those Fallen Dreams And Angels Lps, selling them at £37.50 – I said uh no, we manufacture 1,000 copies, we sell about 500 initially which pays for the manufacturing, the artwork, re mastering, session musician fees – then the remaining 500 , we sell between 3-7 copies PER MONTH, so that’s a gross of £262.50 on 7 units, then after royalties, [to the other musicians by the way, not to me!]  and VAT we are left with £196.88 per month, that’s if we sell the full 7. [it’s lot less if we go through 3rd party distributors, then we end up with about two thirds of that. We have to sell to 3rd party distributors otherwise no one could buy it in the USA or Japan etc]

Out of all the bands that are out there [excluding the biggies from the 70’s] I can only think of 6 who actually make their living from music, that means 99% of the bands you read about in Prog Mag or have been buying albums from for years make their living from other sources of income – which include: they have full time jobs, they have wealthy parents, they have a girlfriend who pays the bills [a particularly common one!], they have inherited a huge amount of money, have a fat pension or they have a wealthy benefactor. I say it again 99% of them do not make a living from music. Period.

And this is why the overall picture is distorted because those who do not earn a living from music are happy to sell Cds at £9.99 and do concerts for virtually zero fee [even many times they make a loss] do so because they are trying to promote their band and get as much popularity as possible, they simply do not need to make money from their music.

So the argument of Hey, The Hobbit Princes sell Cds for £9.99 and their concert tickets are only £20 is, I guarantee you because they do not do it professionally, it’s a glorified hobby.

Please don’t patronise us with your ‘great ideas’ we’ve probably already done them or considered them – remember just because you like our music does not mean you know how we should run our business.

Just to give you an idea of these ‘great ideas’. One person said “why don’t you get rid of the Crew [who we pay], I’m sure the fans would do it for free”.

I said, ‘can you change a guitar string if I break one on stage?”

Fan – “er no”

Me – “it takes years to learn how to, not only change a string but to replace it quickly it the heat of battle without it going out of tune, it takes a lot of skill to do it properly”

Fan – “ ok I could do the mixing”

Me – “that takes even longer to learn, do you know how to fly a Harrier jump jet?”

Fan -“er no”

Me – “well, the control panel of a Harrier Jump jet is considerably less complex than a mixing desk. Next time you’re at a gig , go and look at the mixing desk and see if you know what just one of the knobs on that desk does. And all the time you spend learning [about 10 years]  you have no experience and the sound would be a disaster – it needs to be as good as it can humanly be, that is what people expect from a concert”

Another one is “you are really missing a trick not being on Spotify”

Really? The band receive something like £00.003 of a penny each time a song is streamed on Spotify etc, so that means to make an income of a round £21,000, you would have to have 7,000,000 hits, we struggle to get a few thousand hits on You Tube so 7 million is simply not attainable.

That £21,000 is not each member of the band by the way,  this figure is the total amount to the whole band. We took all our stuff off Spotify…..

Then there is “you should do more gigs”

For the figures I have pointed out above is why we should not do more gigs. Even though there is nothing I would want to do more, I love playing live and want to come and play to everyone, everywhere, but we can’t.

I have absolutely badgered, cajoled, threatened, shouted at, pushed and pushed and pushed promoters,  but for most of the last tours’ European shows I simply could not get more than €3,000 for a Pendragon performance – they just won’t pay it.

I know what you should do –   why don’t you promote it yourselves, then you can make all the money?

I’ll tell you why – for the reasons I have stated in the last paragraph below.

Well you’ll just have to make more albums

Yes I could, I could make a new album every year, just to make money – but I won’t! Why? Because I have done music for 45 years and wish to uphold the integrity of my craft, the concept of picking up an instrument when I was 7 and learning to play it because it opened up a whole world of unbelievable escapism, not just for me but [hopefully] people who could listen to the music created. To do something which is beyond ‘just making money’ and ‘being famous’ – making and playing music is the marrow of life! This is why we live.

This means I want to make the music the best it can possibly be, and that takes time. People don’t say to Dan Brown ‘well you’ll just have to write another Da Vinci Code then won’t you?” It takes years to come up with something like that.  It could possibly be the only ever massively well known ‘household name’ book he might have in his whole career. You don’t just sit down and write a classic book, play, album, film. You need to get inspired and believe me when you start with that blank sheet of paper and you’re expected to come up with something that will make the earth move from utterly nothing, it is like standing at the bottom of the North face of the Eiger and thinking how the hell am I going to get up there?

And then when all their arguments fail, they just say, you are just being negative!

I’ve been doing this for 45 years, most bands can’t last much more than 5, and for the last 36 have made my living from music, running the record label, booking the gigs, ordering the t.shirts, the whole nine yards! So, I’ve got a fairly good idea what our options are. We have constantly found new ways of surviving this industry and will probably keep going forever if we can keep coming up with new ideas but the Pendragon train has been mothballed in the shed for the last 3 years. It was a lot easier, for the most part, over the last 45 years when it was constantly a-rolling down the track.

We stand on the edge of a defining moment.

The shows we are doing in May are costing £45,000 to do – the maximum we can gross is £60,000 if, and I mean IF they sell out, which, with only a few weeks to go are at 75% sold out, which is just about breaking even. So for 1 years’ work, organising the music, rehearsals, checking backline, drum risers, lights, transport, accomodation, food, transport, carnets,  merchandise, getting sounds and lights right, organising crew and band,  working on my vocals and guitar parts and a million other things I will get paid a maximum of £15,000 [which would be mine and Rachel’s wages total] Out of that I need to pay back approx £10,000 in concert deposits from 2020 – and that is IF we sell out.

But will we keep doing this?

Of course we will. It’s in our DNA. We have to.

But please don’t grumble over paying a few more shekels for a CD or our gig tickets or us not playing in your backyard!

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