As Marillion tours the United States (stopping at my home town this coming Sunday night! SQUEEEEE!!!), I’ve found the mechanics of marketing this band in a country where they’re at best a cult act fascinating. How do you sell albums beyond your core fanbase, especially at retail, when your last album came out 16 months ago? And, what else might that core fanbase want, or have missed? As Marillion manager Lucy Jordache commented in the group’s North American Fan Page on Facebook, “Many retailers wanted something ‘new’ to sell and therefore advertise the tour and also press didn’t really want to cover any tour dates unless they had a ‘new product.'” So Marillion and their retail distributors earMusic (the rock division of Germany’s Edel Group) have responded with a twofold strategy.
For the core fans, there’s a “strictly limited and numbered CD reissue series” of ten live albums that will be available through physical and online retail stores — but mostly not through the band’s Racket Records webstore, where they first appeared. Thanks to Lucy Jordache for the updated photo (which gives a better impression of the overall look than the insert included with last year’s Living in FEAR EP). The series consists of:
- Live In Glasgow (1993): one of the band’s first Racket releases; out of print on CD since 1999.
- Tumbling Down the Years (2010): from the 2009 Marillion Weekend in Holland. The setlist features at least one song from every album in reverse chronological order, starting with “This Train Is My Life” and ending with “Garden Party.” [Note: this concert took place six years before Rush embarked on a similar strategy for their R40 tour. Hmmm … ]
- Happiness is Cologne (2009): from the band’s 2008 Happiness Is the Road tour. Currently out of print on CD.
- Unplugged at the Walls (1999): an acoustic set, performed at a restaurant in Oswestry near Wales, where Marillion mixed the Radiation album in 1998. The band got their studio catering free as payment for this concert!
- Mirrors (2006): the last night of the 2005 Marillion Weekend, with a setlist of “slower, more atmospheric songs.” Currently out of print on CD.
- Popular Music (2005): from the second Marillion Weekend; the setlist was “the 10 songs [Weekend guests would] most like to hear us play” plus ancillary tracks. Currently out of print on CD.
- Holidays in Eden (Live 2011): from that year’s Marillion Weekend in Holland, with non-album encores.
- Brave Live (2013): from that year’s Marillion Weekend in Holland, with non-album encores.
- Smoke (2006): the second night of the 2005 Marillion Weekend, with a setlist of “[the band’s] favourite ‘up-tempo’ songs to create a high-energy party vibe for the night.” Currently out of print on CD.
- Size Matters (2010): from the 2009 Marillion Weekend in Holland. A set of long-form epics, including rare performances of songs like “Interior Lulu” and “Ocean Cloud.”
Holidays in Eden Live and Size Matters are already out, limited to 5000 copies of each available worldwide. I’ve found them available not only at Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites, but also through chain retailers like FYE and indie record stores like Michigan’s mighty Dearborn Music. Unplugged at the Walls and Tumbling Down the Years are scheduled for release on March 23, with the other 6 following during the rest of 2018.
On a smaller scale, earMusic has released a new “U.S. Tour Edition” of F.E.A.R. that includes a bonus disc of 10 live tracks, one from each of the live reissues. This is also available at physical and online retail, as well as at the band’s US shows. Completist sucker that I am, I’m sure I’ll pick this up on Sunday night. (As a bonus, this works around one of the USA’s limitations on touring bands from other nations, who have to pay high import fees on merch that’s not sourced in this country.)
Tracks on the bonus disc are:
- Popular Music: “Berlin”
- Happiness is Cologne: “Afraid Of Sunlight”
- Tumbling Down The Years: “Drilling Holes”
- Size Matters: “Kayleigh/ Lavender/ Heart Of Lothian”
- Holidays In Eden Live: “Splintering Heart”
- Brave Live 2013: “Seasons End”
- Smoke: “Holidays in Eden”
- Mirrors: “Estonia”
- Unplugged At The Walls: “King” (mistakenly called “The King of Sunset Town” on the CD back cover)
- Live In Glasgow: “The Space”
On one level, the strategy seems to be paying off, with solid feature articles like this one by long-time music journalist Gary Graff appearing in local news outlets as Marillion travels the roads of the USA. On the other hand, information on these reissues have been thin on the ground until now.
by Rick Krueger