How huge would you say Reverend and The Makers are? Big enough for their poster to hover in the background of some scenes of Corrie; had the Melody Maker still been going, they'd have been in with a shout of a Christmas double issue cover shoot (some sort of pun on Reverend/Nativity, we'd guess). But they're hardly a global-straddling brand, like Prince or Radiohead. They're not even as big as Bush when Bush turned their back on traditional labels.
Which makes the band's decision to release an album for free, without bothering to get their label involved, or to charge for it, all the more interesting. Big labels are getting used to established acts telling them the balance of power has changed; now smaller labels are getting the same treatment from smaller bands. And, naturally, they're not happy.
Mark Jones, boss of R&TM's label, Wall Of Sound, is upset:
“I’ve come so far with this [working with McClure] that I feel like it’s been taken away from me. I’m passionate about his music.
“An artist like Jon McClure needs the right platform to deliver what he needs to do to the public and I think we ddi that really well. He’s got to be one of the most important artists in the country, but I feel hugely let down. I had no idea he wanted to do this.”
It's perhaps bad form on McClure's part to not have talked it through first, but it's probable that Jones is being overly pessimistic. As soon as McClure played those songs as works-in-progress live, they'd have been bootlegged and digitally packaged and passed amongst the interested in an instant - this is just a smarter way of making your fans feel valued (and, importantly, trusted) while keeping some degree of control. It's unlikely to have an impact on sales of the finished product, and certainly not a negative effect.
Still, there is much else for Jones to feel worried about. Clearly, the days of seven or eight album contracts are vanishing, and the terms of the deal between label and band are shifting: effectively, if a label believes that they're making an investment in a band's career rather than simply putting up the cash for an album, they're going to be in for a bit of a shock.