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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 07:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yeah, we all know record company executives are dehumanised assemblages of hominid faecal matter who deserve nothing less than being poured salt and sulphuric acid on their retinae and whose mums are but vicious female canines with a remarkably high erogenous drive. And they’re also fat. Because there’s nothing fairer and more mature than fat-shaming: all those execs and their mums are fat, fat, fat, with double-, triple- and quadruple-chins and whose bellies look like war tanks and that obviously makes them worthy of all of our insults.

Well, no, not really: they’re people, just like us, who have the particularity of actually being good at their job, and their job is to make profitable investments. It’s very rock and roll to moan about the powers that be and claim only the artists know good from bad and right from wrong. After all, it’s the celebrities who have achieved that semi-god status and who are blindly revered by a sizeable portion of their fans, so it’s natural that whoever holds any sort of authority over them is instantly deemed a sick evil enemy.

Truth is, just as it happens to football managers, every time they make a mistake they become a joke, but every time they get it right almost nobody notices. Those people are far better known for having rejected The Beatles than for all the endless times they signed a good artist (whom we would’ve never known about otherwise), vetoed a bad song or successfully coached a client towards making a successful project. It’s just far easier to see things in black and white even though they’re not, and they’re not a greyscale either: there are millions of colours, and not being able to see the infrared or the ultraviolet doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Welsh musician Pete Ham hung himself on the 24th of April 1975 and blamed his former manager on his suicide note. A few months afterwards, Freddie wrote a very vicious lyric presumably dedicated to Norman Sheffield from Neptune Productions. Let’s see, with some admittedly ballpark figures (as I’ve got no access to some of the actual ones), what was going on in terms of money and why Freddie felt he was being ripped-off.

So, Queen sign with Trident and they get new instruments and amps, new clothes, a weekly wage and the possibility of recording and, eventually, shooting some videos. How thoughtful of Trident, right? Well, yes and no. All those things are meant to be paid for by the band, down to the engineers’ and producers’ fees and the use of sixteen-track equipment, which in 1972 was £ 35 per hour if they used the main studio and £ 25 per hour if they used the auxiliary one. Same for concerts: Trident gave them an advance to cover for transport, equipment, logistics, etc., but that is all meant to be reimbursed once the band start making money. Fair? Perhaps not, but that’s what they signed for and that’s the way it works. It’s not altruistic by any means, it’s an investment, one that they can use wisely or not.

Trident begin investing on Queen long before they actually sign the contracts, and in those months whatever amount they’re actually generating as an income for them is close to nought (just a few concert tickets in very small venues and that’s it). The first chance for Queen’s debt to be paid for is when their début album is released in July 1973. By then, according to Norman Sheffield’s financial records, the record company had invested £ 33,000 on Queen. How much did they get back? Not much, since that début album and single sold really poorly. Then it’s time to record the second album, and by the time they’re touring with Mott (and recovering a tiny fraction of that money) Trident’s investment has grown to £ 62,976.26. EMI had given Trident advances of £ 4,000 and £ 7,000 for those two albums, but that covers almost nothing.

‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ hit the top ten, but it failed to earn silver certificate so we know it sold less than 250,000 copies. For a single that was No 10 one week and was in the charts for two and a half months, a conservative but still realistic estimate of 100,000 shipments wouldn’t be too far off. A hundred thousand discs sold at approximately half a quid each and by summer 1974 money would start coming in… now, would it? Let’s do the maths: 100,000 * 0.5 = £ 50,000. Add to that a few thousand more which could’ve been sold elsewhere (‘Seven Seas’ wasn’t a hit anywhere but in Britain, but still, someone in Japan, America, Canada, Belgium, etc., must have bought it), and perhaps about 50,000 album copies sold by then (it peaked at No 5 but albums used to sell far less than singles back then, although they were four times more expensive) and Queen would’ve, theoretically, paid up their debt, right? Wrong! By then they’d been flown to America and then back.

Nowadays, touring is extremely profitable. Back then, it would rarely generate any revenue in terms of tickets and merchandise and it would mostly be an investment to encourage people to buy the records. So, out of the money spent on flight tickets, transport, hotels (even if they were cheap ones), guitar strings, drum sticks, etc., a very small fraction would be covered by concert tickets sold (and those were Mott’s concerts anyway, Queen were there as a support act).

Sheer Heart Attack and its lead single sold way, way more, but expenses were also way higher (how much do you think it cost Trident to fly the band to Japan, with all their equipment, and keep them there for two weeks of food, hotels, transport and equipment?). Recording the album had been a massive investment considering they had to go to Wales, stay there for about a month, then use three studios in London simultaneously, pay for staff, etc. And even if the album and single sales had been large enough to cover all of that (which they probably were), it’s not like the album’s released on the 1st of November and on the 2nd they’ve already paid their debt: it takes a few weeks for it to climb the charts, money to go from the shops to the label and then to the managers.

By that point, executives aren’t really suffering: they’ve recovered (most of) what they’d invested, paid off bank loans, and soon enough whatever money’s coming in will be net, so they can start thinking about buying rollers and improving their flats. For the band, on the other hand, times are quite hard. The only one who’s probably got a bit of money’s Freddie, since both ‘Killer Queen’ and ‘Flick of the Wrist’ had been solely written by him. Even if he’d only made a penny (ballpark figure) for each copy sold, he’d still be entitled to about five grand by the time they’d returned from their spring holidays in Hawaii (1975), but if you consider he’d also spent a fortune on Japanese art and memorabilia (and, according to many people close to him, he was far from being an expert on how much things cost and all of that), it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he’d actually spent all of that (and then some) and then felt utterly robbed when he faced his soon-to-be-former managers having upgraded their cars and was told he wouldn’t get an advance to buy a piano.


John hated Hot Space. Fred's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 07:03 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Now, let’s talk about John Deacon… out of all the four band members, he was by far the one who earned the least amount of money for publishing royalties (0% of Queen, 0% of Queen II, 9.61% of Sheer Heart Attack) and airplay (how often do you think ‘Misfire’ was broadcast on the radio?). Let’s say that they were entitled to, again, a penny per album sold. That’d be divided by thirteen (the amount of tracks), and out of those thirteen, John would only get one and a half (‘Misfire’ and a quarter of ‘Stone Cold Crazy’). That meant John Deacon made five pence for every fifty-two copies of the album which were shipped (I admit I’m using ‘sold’ and ‘shipped’ interchangeably even though they’re not, to be corrected on the next edition of this article), and that would mean one pound (no more, no less) each time there were 2,600 sales of the album. Let’s assume Sheer Heart Attack sold about half a million worldwide, that’d be ca. £ 193.31 paid to John as a songwriter (Freddie would get £ 2,403.85). Of course, there’s also the money Queen would get as co-producers and as performers, but that, besides being also a small percentage, would be used to pay off their debt with the record label. Considering John was having a baby, his frustration over still being allegedly underpaid was understandable.

The next step was precisely that: John asked Trident for an advance so he could make a deposit for a house, Freddie wanted a piano and Roger wanted a car, and they were all said ‘no.’ Those are the instances where there’s no right or wrong from a financial perspective: in retrospect, it seems like a very poor decision because keeping their clients happy would’ve meant keeping their clients, full stop, and it’s not a secret (now!) that Opera, Races, News and their singles vastly outsold the band’s first three records. However, nobody knew that at the time and it could also be quibbled that the ensuing frustration and split from their record company might have played a role in them coming up with such successful albums and singles to begin with.

All in all, Freddie’s patience ran out and he wrote that song, which meant both sides lost a fortune and lawyers on both sides probably never had to work again after that. Trident received a lot in compensation and a percentage of some of the band’s upcoming releases but that was a pittance compared to what they’d have made had they managed to keep Queen with them; Queen had to pay a lot in contract severance and Freddie was sued for libel. Of course, ‘Bo Rhap’ made a fortune but it took just over two years for it to start generating some real income, by the time all debts had been cleared, all middlemen had taken their piece and sales overseas had gone through the necessary channels. That’s why, in January 1978, Freddie finally bought his Rolls Royce. Roger, who’d written the B-Side of the single, was earning just as much on songwriting royalties, which is why he got his mill in Surrey around the same time.

Those were the days of high income, since album and single sales were more than enough to cover all the expenses and even if the band only got a fraction compared to the record company, they still earned a lot. They were wealthy. Vastly wealthy. So much that they entered a new category of income for British tax purposes and, like George Harrison said on his 1966 song ‘Taxman’, for every twenty earned, there was one for them nineteen for the government. So they became tax exiles, which is why Jazz was done in Switzerland and France, and then The Game in West Germany and so on. It’s all connected, sort of.


John hated Hot Space. Fred's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 08:18 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Write a book. Would be a very interesting read and your stuff is definitely good enough.

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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 08:37 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I would definitely read a book by Sebastian. I am not particularly interested about finances and numbers in general but this was an interesting read. And that says something.


Don't Try So Hard [video montage] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_cyFO26spE

The March Of The Black Queen [video montage] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxt66bJibX8
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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 08:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Chief Mouse wrote:

I am not particularly interested about finances and numbers in general but this was an interesting read. And that says something.


Thank you.

Lately, I've been trying to use maths in a way that they can support a bigger picture instead of just boring people to death. I still need far more practice, but I'm slowly getting there.


John hated Hot Space. Fred's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 09:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sebastian you've written an in depth and interesting article without having any first hand factual figures too hand.

You mentioned the money put up by Trident to cover touring costs but haven't mentioned the amount promoters paid to have the band on their books, and the amount that was paid by those promoters to either the band or Trident (depending how the contracts were drawn up) for each show played.

You also haven't explained that when Queen production was formed each band member was payed a directors fee. For example the year 78 to 79 they earned between 600 and 750 thousand each as complany directors. The highest paid company directors in the UK at the time.

It would appear that once they ditched Trident a lot more money came their way. Their personel income increased while paying Trident off and paying John Read a percentage.

Also It should be remembered that while the Band were turning up at The Rainbow in a Daimler and wearing Zandra Rhodes outfits Trident were willing to pay the bills because they were making money while the band at the time were on weekly wages. The Sheffield Brothers were shrewd business men who would not spend money for the sake of it, and certainly not waste it on something that wasn't giving them a return.

Years later Norman Sheffied admitted they didnt want to lose Queen andthey could have handled the situation
differently

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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 11:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

A very good read. Well done. As insightful as one can be without having every single piece of legal paper at their disposal....of the early days.

That's why it ends where it did. I swear, you just can't please everybody.........




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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 11:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Very Good Job ! I think there`s a John Deacon quote somewhere,,," We`re so poor - I can`t even afford a marriage"
( from the top of my head)
What about merchandise profits in the early days ? Any appraisals about that subject ?
And they also did calculations about where to stay for how long before they get back to the UK. When they recorded CLTCL in Munich it was a six week gap to fill for them.


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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 12:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Very helpful writing, Sebastian.
I remember when I read the article from (the point of view of) Norman Sheffield, I wished to see some actual numbers instead of back and forth insultings from both sides. Here you are, numbers and reasonings and all. Couldn't be better.

Let's admit that a financial mystery cannot be cleared with one page, or dozen pages, of writing. There's a whole domain of jobs (accountants, then auditors) dedicated to that and they're not simple jobs. Unless we have access to all of their invoices and accounts and do our own (tiresome) calculations, we'll never know the truth. Having said that, posts like yours do help us to get closer to the truth.

And accountant or not, a penny per album sold is downright robbery.

Sebastian wrote:
Lately, I've been trying to use maths in a way that they can support a bigger picture instead of just boring people to death. I still need far more practice, but I'm slowly getting there.


How sad to hear that :D
Using maths is never boring.
When you do Google Search, there's maths involved.
When you compress images or sounds, there's much maths involved.
It's not the use of maths itself that is boring, but rather the teachers who don't know how to teach maths and the students who think "I am bad at it so it must have been boring" are guilty of spreading this false notion.



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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 14:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Enjoyable speculation. Interesting things i hadn't read before as well.

Yet another reason the world would benefit from a book by John Deacon.

Might also clear up whether IWTBF is about band life (Brian/Freddie) or family life.... whether his balls did/did not pop out at the Wembley gig, where his solo album is, and background singing.

Thanks Sebastian.


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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 14:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Obviously there are plenty of mistakes and I'm largely limited by the scarcity of sources I've got access to, not to mention that, as has been said, the whole thing is quite complicated and there are way too many factors involved. Just try picturing someone trying to explain it to a very impatient and frustrated Freddie and it's not too far off to think he felt robbed or cheated on. It seems that, as it happens in many companies (including the one I resigned from last week), the biggest problem is communication.

And yeah, I agree maths aren't boring at all. It's a shame they've become so widely demonised by so many people, and I agree teachers are largely (though not entirely) to blame for that.


John hated Hot Space. Fred's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 14:54 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Queen expected instant riches, the riches were on their way but as you say, they (he) ran out of patience. But you can understand too why being signed to a publishers created an unnecessary middle man.

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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 17:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Couple of points - wouldn't Queen (ie Trident) have been more likely to have to pay to get on the Mott tours, as was common practice at the time? Similarly, Nutz & Hustler would have paid something for their support slots.

Also, doesn't Flick Of The Wrist explore similar lyrical themes, suggesting that Freddie's feelings may have been festering for longer than just a couple of months.

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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 18:31 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Great read, thank you. I don't think Queen expected instant riches, they were too smart to get carried away like that. But they'd had a UK top 5 album and a top ten single in early 1974, then a UK top 2 album in late 1974 which went top 10 in several European countries and got to number 12 in the USA but the band were still earning tuppence. Even allowing for Trident's early investments you'd think the band would have enough money to buy themselves a piano or a new car. Throw in all the adulation from audiences and interest in the band from around the world you can start to understand why they'd be a bit pissed off by 1975, however interesting maths were made for them! :)

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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 19:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

matt z wrote:

Enjoyable speculation. Interesting things i hadn't read before as well.

Yet another reason the world would benefit from a book by John Deacon.

Might also clear up whether IWTBF is about band life (Brian/Freddie) or family life.... whether his balls did/did not pop out at the Wembley gig, where his solo album is, and background singing.

Thanks Sebastian.


You forgot to mention donating his bass to you...



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Posted: 22 Jul 15, 22:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well done for tackling this. I have a friend who was the Tape-Op on a couple of Queen ll tracks and who'd been working at Trident a while. He replied to a remark I made about the financial situation between the band and Trident c.'74/'75 by defending Trident saying they invested considerable sums in the band. Certainly they were investing big money in them at a time when no one else was but obviously knew the band were special.
Then I recently got told by someone close to the band for many years that the deal they signed was unfavourable to the band. Hence another source of resentment toward Trident when money began to trickle in.
Yes, they would have had to have been bought onto the Mott tour too. More money. Maybe in mid '75, the money wasn't coming in fast enough even for Trident when faced with the daunting thought of the cost of the next album, which undoubtably would have been a huge cost. Queen were always in a hurry as someone once said. And maybe other industry people of the time were saying to the band that Queen needed bigger handling from a more experienced organisation.
When they got sued over DOTL, I bet there was a row in the band over that - a great song but it cost them dear at a time when they already couldn't afford it. I'm sure Fred named them in an interview from the time which was pretty reckless but perhaps shows desperation on his part.
On a separate note and related to the financial relationship between Trident and band, I would love to know why / who was behind the notorious (at the time) 'Queen Hype' double page spread in the middle of Melody Maker, written at the time of the release of SSOR and having an obvious side swipe at Trident. The band were incandescent with fury at the time in other interviews reported a few days later and of course at the time you just couldn't get hold of the physical source of this fury because it was published a week before. So it took YEARS for me to finally get hold of this article: what an eye-opener! I even sent a copy to the archive because they didn't have it either. They sent it over to Brian and I bet it gave him a chuckle. But it made a serious attempt to discredit Trident and band at the time.


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Posted: 23 Jul 15, 01:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Planetgurl wrote:

So it took YEARS for me to finally get hold of this article: what an eye-opener! I even sent a copy to the archive because they didn't have it either. They sent it over to Brian and I bet it gave him a chuckle. But it made a serious attempt to discredit Trident and band at the time.


Thanks for your Reply. I know people who are claiming that they have the complete 70`s Melody Maker Lineup in their attic.
But I`am afraid we will have to wait until their heirs will get a scanner running or put them on sale :(
The same goes for the DISC Magazine...:(




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Posted: 23 Jul 15, 03:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yes, especially DISC. These are incredibly scarce. As I lot of my collection was "borrowed" and not given back, I lost a lot of UK music press articles. I would love to be able to collect back the Japan tour coverage by Rosie Horide from 1975 - that was a great feature on their first tour there...

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Posted: 23 Jul 15, 08:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

What is the exact story regarding Freddie being sued because of the lyrical content of Death On Two Legs.

It seems strange that having been hauled through court they than featured the song in the live set for many years and featured it on live recordings. Also Freddie's intro to the song at many shows left no one uncertain as to the nature of the song.

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Posted: 23 Jul 15, 11:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

One of the best topics on here for ages. Great read guys. Kudos to all.