Sony's seven-year relationship with The Manic Street Preachers is a textbook example of long-term artist development building to 1996's triumph - the triple-platinum and multi-award winning album Everything Must Go.
But as the nation greets the release today (Monday) of the Manics' If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next - the most eagerly-anticipated single of the year - both band and company are painfully aware that they still have a mountain to climb.
To put it bluntly, outside the UK the Manics mean virtually nothing.
Despite selling more than 1m units in the UK, Everything Must Go barely hit the 300,000 mark in the rest of the world put together.
The result is that for the release of the Manics' fifth album This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours (out September 14), Sony's Epic label is putting unprecedented time, money and thought into ensuring that this time the band make the international breakthrough they deserve.
The most dramatic change is in the US where the Manics are coming off Epic altogether and the race is on to secure them a new label. As UK managing director Rob Stringer says bluntly, "Epic in the US didn't sell any records and there's only so many records you can put out with any project. And I feel strongly about it."
Manager Martin Hall adds, "We can do as well in the UK as last time, but we need to move internationally. It's been funny in the States because Sony's quite hot, but it just didn't happen and they are a band who could do well over there. It's time for a new team and a shot of enthusiasm."
Whichever that new label is - and the betting is on either Virgin or Atlantic - they may have their work cut out, however. Asked about the split with Epic US, Manic bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire says, "We don't give a shit - we've only done 20 gigs in the States - the psyche between us and them doesn't exist."
However, what the act do have now is a track record, thus the set up for this album, both in the UK and internationally, is radically different from that for Everything Must Go. Back in 1996 that record was released on the back of Gold Against The Soul, which had shifted just 75,000 units. And although Epic was aware its successor had a more commercial sound, it had no idea it would deliver the band the comeback of the decade following the mysterious disappearance of guitarist Richey Edwards.
Almost overnight the Manics became a story of triumph over adversity. Wire says, "With Everything Must Go we were just so pleased to carry on as a band and as three friends. It was more a case of 'put the record out and see how it'll do.' Now it's totally different."
The most striking difference, says Epic marketing director Catherine Davies, is just how broad their fanbase has become. "Their fans now range from people who slashed their arms, to people who saw them on the Brits or who heard them on Atlantic 252," she says.
Having been caught on the hop with Everything Must Go, Sony affiliates from Scandinavia to New Zealand are now gearing up to make the most of the new album. Davies says, "We have to break them internationally on this - the record's too good not to. This time the whole plan for the launch has been decided for months."
Stringer adds, "The expectation is far greater. They got caught out last time by nobody expecting them to be successful. They are doing so much upfront promotion for radio and press abroad - more than in the UK, and deliberately so."
Indeed, there is so much promotion this time around that Wire says the band are itching to get on with the "proper business", which begins with the Slane Castle gig in Ireland this weekend and heralds the start of touring likely to continue until late 1999.
Songwriting began four months after the Everything Must Go project finished and to their advantage, the band - still comprising Wire and songwriters James Dean Bradfield (vocals, guitar) and Sean Moore (drums) - have spent longer recording this album. It took some nine months, spread in batches of three-week stints with plenty of breaks.
Moreover, with the experience that comes from having penned 150 tracks in seven years, this time they recorded more tracks (eventually choosing 13 from 19) and have taken their sound in a radically different direction. And few will doubt, after repeated plays, that the Manics have come up with their best album yet - the kind of record which will have people in quandaries over their favourite track. It is not just their most commercial effort to date but also far more melancholic, melodic and thought-provoking than their previous albums.
Many will note the album's epic sound that begins with the opening track (and likely single) The Everlasting. And there will be plenty of criticism of its political stance culminating in the closing number S.Y.M.M., penned about the Hillsborough Tragedy.
But Stringer is anxious to counter suggestions that this is the Manics serving up Eighties-style stadium rock. "I don't think it's epic sounding," he says. "It sounds much more melancholic and closer to The Verve or Radiohead than a stadium record; more subtle and not as bombastic."
The band's increasing confidence showed itself in a growing independence in the recording studio. Wire says, "We respect Rob and Martin's opinions but at the end of the day they trust us and we're in charge." Stringer, who signed them in 1991, says, "They've always known what they wanted. The only way they have changed is by becoming a bit more thoughtful and considered about recording."
They returned to two producers who knew them well: Dave Eringa, who performed the duties on Gold Against The Soul and who Wire describes as a "young Butch Vig in the making", and Mike Hedges, who struck the right chord with them on Everything Must Go and again here, particularly with the strings.
With all the right elements in place, it's no surprise that If You Tolerate... has gained single of the week status in most magazines and is already getting more than 900 radio plays a week throughout the UK. But as Davies says, Epic is being careful not to be over-confident. "It's not done and dusted," she says. "It all has to start and grow - people can too easily presume it will sell half a million copies without trying."
A massive campaign is therefore inevitable, including a poster campaign, ads on Channel Four, press advertising - particularly in the Welsh regional press - and a heavy retail presence. BBC2 will broadcast a 50-minute documentary on the rise of the Manics on September 23.
Put this UK campaign together with the activity overseas and it is clear this is an important worldwide project.
And listening to the record is enough to convince the most die-hard Manics sceptic that this is a release which deserves to go all the way. Stephen Jones
Artist: Manic Street Preachers Label: Epic Project: single/album Songwriters: Manic Street Preachers Producers: Eringa/Hedges Studios: Abbey Road, Air, Rockfield in the UK, Chateau Rouge Motte in southern France Released: August 24/September 14