by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Trojan Horse & r & & r & In their simple black-on-black-on-black-leather style, mussed longish hair and unshaven scruff, Marillion look like a ton of other British bands. If not for the jowls and double chins, you wouldn't guess their heyday was 1983.
Named after J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion (which hints at their musical sensibilities), the rock veterans' musical style has evolved away from the prog of their youth in the course of 15 albums, but they once again find themselves among the world's most progressive bands -- in terms of album distribution, anyway.
The band is actively uploading its new album, Happiness Is the Road, directly to file-sharing sites like Limewire and torrent trackers like the Pirate Bay and Mininova. The band owns the copyright to their music, so it's totally legal. They're catching hell, as expected, for promoting sites that defraud others.
That's sour grapes, though, and the band's rationale is interesting. In a story in The Times of London, band members say they're looking to reach out to file sharers. To invite them to buy merch and limited-edition albums and to attend shows and whatnot. It's nothing new for an uploader to embed his or her own link or a video or whatever into a download. Marillion uploading their own album means they get to control the bundled content. These officially leaked copies of Happiness Is the Road will contain, according to the Times, "a video message from the band" that will ask fans to visit the band's Website.
The idea is brilliant. The album will find its way onto file-sharing sites anyway. This is a good way for any band to try to get music traders to do a little band-shirt shopping. I could even see bands forcing the issue.
Files downloaded from Limewire or bittorrent can be and often are locked, requiring downloaders to go to a Web page and download porn or a virus or whatever before being given the password. Bands could easily do something like this as a way of driving traffic to their Websites. Offer the file, lock it, but make the only criteria for unlocking it a quick trip to [insert band name].com. From there, bands could be creative with other revenue streams. Direct downloaders to a page with the band's hottest merch. Load the thing down with Google AdWords ads. Or charge Absolut an absurd amount of money to sponsor a splash page hundreds of thousands of people will see. I dunno. Be creative.