Dear fans of Abney Park, dear fans of vinyl and the people who supported us! These days we received a lot of criticism, accusations, spits and personal hate because of the post of Robert Brown, the leader of Abney Park and our contact person in terms of publishing “Retro-Future Vagabond” album on vinyl. First of all, we want to bring sincere apologies that you became the part of the conflict, that you are being used as the tool of solving the problem, and that you even participate in this. We mean it: whoever is righteous, it’s still us, who didn’t solve everything in time.
It happens that often we take someone’s words blindly, simply because we believe in the person and start to blame and judge other people, simply because we think it is right thing to do. That happened a lot of times in history, especially from the politicians. And that happened with us personally when we absolutely took artist’s side after hearing his version of events.
Apart from the excuses, we would like to offer you the explanation of what has happened with this project and why.
Before we start, let’s get familiar with how the publishing process is working between any label and the artist. To keep it simpler, a music label buys a permission from an artist to publish the record(s) he owns in the agreed quantity and pays artist the fee for that permission. That fee can be calculated in direct money transfer, percentage from each sound carrier sale or produced sound carriers. For example, for 500 copies of LPs pressed, you can agree on 500 USD one-time transfer, plus 100 LPs provided for free. The agreement might be exclusive (non-transferable to other labels or people during the entire period of agreement) or inclusive (transferable to other producers). If not stated in the agreement, the label is free from any obligations to artist besides agreed royalty: which means that no bonuses, direct or indirect payments, percentage from sales, sound carries or discounts are own. You don’t go to the bank claiming to lower the interest rate after you agreed on terms and signed the contract, right? From now on, the obligation of the artist is to provide the materials which include the artwork and music, the obligation of the label to provide the royalty. The contract can include other points like confidentiality, force-majeure agreements, time periods, quality of materials, etc, etc.
The story began than a year ago when we proposed to Robert to publish one of his records paying fixed royalty 1000 USD and giving 50 LPs for free. Robert did agreed on that, providing couple of tweaks on that, changing the free LPs quantity to 75 and changing record to “The Best” instead of End Of Days, which is now known as “Retro-Future Vagabond”. These tweaks were accepted by us. Here are screenshots of letters (click to zoom).
After the agreement has been made, the preparation for the LP started. It was incredibly creative times: we insisted on giving us unmastered audio to get the dynamic mastering from scratch, there were plenty of ideas (including the awesome 3D-popup), we worked together with Robert on the artwork which he wanted to draw specially for this project, and from our side we created an awesome old-fashioned postcard in hopes people will just want to send it to each other! The new mastering, the card – all was approved by Robert and the process seemed to go on smooth and fantastic. Meanwhile the initial royalty has been sent to Robert and he confirmed that he did receive that. See the Paypal Transaction and the confirmation from Robert below (click to zoom).
Time flew, and we decided it’s time to open the preorders. We wanted to do that in sync with Robert, so we negotiated on prices. Robert did ask us about the retail price of the LP and received the answer that it will cost 20 EUR for pre-order and 25 EUR on release (including taxes). The important question was for reorder of more vinyls in case all 75 will be gone. We strictly answered that it would cost us 18 EUR and that didn’t bring any more questions from Robert’s side, he agreed – because the sales were unknown to him and to us at this timepoint. By the lucky chance the release was so huge that Robert has sold out the 75 copies of the LP by 30 USD in 8 minutes and started to sell the signed copies by 50 USD, putting such a higher price concerning the 18 EUR reorder price. At the same time Robert promises to give us the money for the reoders. We were all happy that the release is a huge success and allowed Robert not to proceed with the payments to us until release. Here are the letters (click to zoom).
We truly are not fans of counting money is someone’s pocket, but it seems that Robert Brown has earned a good amount of money on this project:
- 1000 USD – royalty from us
- 2250 USD – by selling all 75 copies by 30 USD
- ~4000 USD – by selling at least 80 signed copies, probably more (that would give him a 2400 USD of pure income if he did buy these additional copies from us by 18 EUR, but he didn’t)
The project is a big challenge for us: not counting the graphic files preparation for printing, which sometimes needed to be almost redrawn, we did a lot of technical work with source graphics; sleepless nights when we reviewed the new construction of the cover to pass the materials into print; creating and reviewing every single byte for the new mastering, which has been changed 3 times before passed to Robert.
While Robert was selling his copies getting the money, we were dealing with more and more troubles pouring on our shoulders concerning this project: the breakdown of the vinyl factory machine, bad production of the cover by the printshop; additional and unexplained delay and last but not least wrong inner picture positioning about which we were writing on our facebook page. At some point we were so desperate about this project which didn’t bring us the money, that we wanted to abort it, bring the apologies to everybody and return all the money to all our 30 buyers. But then we thought, hey, we are half way there, we simply can’t stop, the fans are waiting and we can’t break our promise.
At the same time, realizing that the project is a huge success, Robert calculated his profits and started to look for the way to get more copies of vinyl for the less price. He thought that he will change the rules now, print his own bunch of copies and leaves us to sell all those ~400 unsold copies in Europe – which is a big deal without any help of the band. In pursue of the goal to get all the juices from us, the tone of his letters fluctuated from proposing to commanding, stating that we are ripping off his money and deceiving him. We tried to explain that we have troubles once we can’t even cover the expenses by the sales, and we already invested a huge amount of money, but Robert simply wanted to change the rules of the game – and this was a surprise to us, because we believed in his word. We were unable to agree on the new re-sale price, and the logical step here would be to help us sell the remains of the product and then forget about each other. Robert would be able to create new copies of vinyl – which would be good for him and for the fans, since new albums come to vinyl from Abney Park and the entire profit comes to Robert. Tired of fighting, we agreed to the Robert’s option of simply buying the half of the copies, thinking that he will pay the half of our total, but again Robert didn’t want to help us in a little bit, telling that he will give us only the half, and the other half after he receive all the copies. We never formally agreed on that, but at some point Robert decided to speed up thing and just transferred the half of his half to our paypal.
All in all, the long awaited release has been finished, so we got to ship the copies to Robert, so since he has a deposit, we proposed to subtract the shipping costs for 75 LPs, and then calculate how much of the LPs will fit in the remaining deposit according to the initial price of 18 EUR and send them along. The other option was not to lose the time on reshipping the LPs back and there and ship them all for Robert right from Germany to all the fans. A single shipping costs 10 EUR to us, so first 75 LPs are being sent by 10 EUR, and others are sent by initial 18 EUR plus 10 EUR shipping. Instead of it, Robert rejected our proposals and started to threaten us – to reveal that we stolen his music, his artwork and ripping him off. He also claimed that it is his bonus to have the free shipping, though we never agreed to that. Click to zoom.
In the end, we want to repeat: guys, we are sorry that you are now part of this fight; we are sorry for the awful delay; and we are sorry that you simply cannot get the product you paid for. We did everything that we could in order you guys receive the product. One thought is painful to us: the artist actually doesn’t care about his fans getting what has been paid for, but cares about filling his pockets – because instead of delivering the product with less profit to him, Robert started this fight. You simply cannot believe how much disappointing is to embed such amount of efforts into nearly perfect release and not only get lost a good amount of money, but also get a crowd of fans who are ready to put you on the pike and then burn in the fire.
In front of all the fans we say: Mr. Robert Brown, we are not keeping anyone’s money even despite a lot of bad words and lies were told about us. We still propose to send 75 LPs with subtracting the shipping cost from the deposit and return the remains. We can still ship all other LPs based on the initial fare of 18 EUR. We still propose to ship all the LPs to the fans directly from us based on 10 EUR (shipping) for first 75 copies, and 18 EUR + 10 EUR shipping for each next one. But we are NOT ready to accept your blackmailing to provide you the copies on 11 EUR. You can answer us in public or in the private letter. Accroding to the German laws in order to make the agreement, the email would be enough.
Now guys, it’s your turn to believe in us or not, judge us or not, but we won’t stop believe in you. Because if there are no fans, there is no music. We also encourage everyone who ordered from us simply get the record and ensure one more outstanding product have been born.
Love and Peace,