First of all many thanks to those who have made a donation it has believe me been greatly appreciated and you will be hearing more soon. So far the attempts to fund the centre have been very low key and with good reason. People are swamped with donation buttons, gofundme pages and PledgeMusic offers and there are many good causes out there. It seems only right that people should get something for their money and I do intend to reward those who have donated already in the future.
Moving forward though a lot of the time artists rely on the superfan. I was amazed that signed white labels at £50+ are one of the most popular things on PledgeMusic. An artist writing out the lyrics to a favourite song are another. I could of course try to replicate this with the help of Scottish artists but it would be a time consuming exercise. A gig or gigs of some sort has been suggested several times and that might be a way forward. Again though it would need to be something special. There is a precedent in that the Scars gig they did for us helped pay the entire costs of our move to the Grassmarket.
What the centre could also do with is a sponsor or indeed sponsors. There is a mountain of publicity waiting to go for when the centre opens and it would be a great opportunity for a business especially one that could benefit from worldwide publicity though the opportunities in Scotland alone would suit many types of business. If I could ask people to do one thing just now it is to think if they know and have contacts with a business that would be a good fit.
I was confident I could have something showcasing the centre ready by March but such has been the positivity about just how good this idea could be with a good location and support I’m happy to delay that a little to get it right. Having said that financially it is a drain on my limited resources every week so the sooner the better ! Always glad to hear any ideas so feel free to contact me on email@example.com
When Hilco bought HMV in 2013 it wasn’t a viable business as things stood, a position reinforced by the fact that none of the 30+ other interested parties made an offer. Hilco already owned the debt so sought a way to turn things around. Regular readers will know what transpired so keeping it short for those who aren’t aware they decided they couldn’t afford to pay market rent or pay for stock before sold. A few landlords and suppliers refused these terms and HMV lost maybe a dozen shops this way but generally it was very successful. Many shopping centres became rent free for a year and other places like Princes Street where it would be hard to find a new tenant for were taken on at greatly a reduced rent. After a year of course all those “saved” shopping centre sites in Edinburgh closed as soon as rent became due.
In a final cost cutting measure Hilco negotiated to be absolved from paying for stolen stock and immediately got rid of most of their security ! Now this is a perfectly good medium term model but is not good for the long term future of the music industry. If HMV had been allowed to go to the wall something would have taken its place which hopefully would have had more of a long term future. Some thought I was being pessimistic but then of course Hilco closed down their entire HMV Ireland operation in one go doing exactly what I had predicted albeit elsewhere and even quicker than I had expected.
So the ducking and diving continues. The unexpected happened and Sports Direct bought the building HMV was in. The sale was no doubt partly a result of the fact the owners couldn’t get the full rent. Of course if HMV had committed to a long lease as is normal for Princes Street the building being sold would not have affected them. In Brighton they have closed their remaining shop having lost their other shop because of their rental policy. Their view is simple if a shop isn’t making a profit they close it and generally it is the rent that will cause that though of course sales are gradually dwindling too. Now their Preston shop is closing with plans to move elsewhere but no date. It is rare for a month to go by without something happening.
I’d been asked a lot whether HMV being banished to Ocean Terminal would make any difference to my thoughts on Avalanche’s future and the answer is no, something I explained in my Edinburgh Evening News column (link below). FOPP of course is owned by HMV and enjoys all the advantages that involves so HMV leaving would have little affect on Avalanche. As HMV has to give up more of its best shops as time goes on and album sales drop year by year there is an inevitability to their demise. The only question is how they will put that one last positive spin on it all !
How much damage artists selling directly to their fans causes shops very much depends on the artist in question but in some cases and not just with small bands the artist and label will snaffle up the majority of the sales these days. Nobody is denying the joy fans get from the exclusive bundles though some people will never understand why anybody would pay £60 for a signed test pressing. When these were genuine promo items there was some interest especially if they came with information sheets and/or test sleeves but these are test pressings simply made to sell. All these promo customers will, you can be sure, buy a regular pressing as well probably as part of another bundle. For the superfans it is an automatic response to look for that “super bundle”.
For a band like the Jesus and Mary Chain a new album would bring in customers who were less frequent visitors to Avalanche and the majority would also ask what else we would recommend since they had been in last and of course a lot of those sales were local bands. I remember one customer from Israel wanting something he would enjoy given he liked the Mary Chain and I recommended Edinburgh School for The Deaf. It turned out Monorail had done the same the day before.
Now for a shop things have been turned upside down. A good shop would know how many regulars they had for each artist but now they have to gauge how many will buy directly and sometimes that can be everybody ! It’s a real rollercoaster ride trying to get the order numbers right and shops can get it so wrong sometimes they are cracking up at the amount of unsold stock. There was a time a while ago these issues should have been met head on but often artists were treated with such reverence that shops dared not say anything.
Of course if shops all just declined to stock an album they were massively disadvantaged with then artists would have second thoughts. Sure the album might be online but if it wasn’t on the high street at all that would be a big blow for some artists and even HMV talked about picking the “right” album to make a stand on. Now for an artist unless they are Adele or Coldplay their album will have a far shorter shelf life. Other artists as I’ve said also lose sales and of course the shop is never told what the presell plans for the artist is so is completely in the dark unless they search out the details themselves.
Some people say I’m only happy when it rains and the power of negative thinking will only end up in the darklands. I love rock ‘n’ roll as much as anybody but come on I think it is is time that artists and labels tried to get the balance right.
Surprisingly I have been asked this a lot. While I was happy to help out at the Offbeat Gallery before Christmas especially as it meant folk could come in to discuss the History of Scottish Music Centre the centre really now has to be my focus. More importantly HMV was really only a small part of the problem. The HMV owned FOPP is still able to carry stock without any need for payment until sold and while there was a time Avalanche was the only indie selling indie vinyl now everybody is at it so as I’ve said before that particular cake may have got bigger but now everybody wants a piece !
Selling local bands’ music really was our thing and that dropped off dramatically not long after we invested in moving to the Grassmarket which was unfortunate. Given the opportunity we could still sell hundreds of a big local artist as happened with the second Withered Hand album but too often you could buy a release earlier, cheaper and with extra stuff directly from the label or band. If selling local bands is simply a bonus then of course you don’t care and take any extra sales you can get. Similarly if it is more of a hobby and not your main source of income then it isn’t so important. For Avalanche it was different. The Pledge model has now taken things one step further and while leaving shops with little or no sales it has also often deprived the artists of an outlet long after the campaign has finished.
Many labels now, especially the bigger ones, sell more of an “indies only” release than all the 300+ indie record shops put together. Similarly they are creaming off most of the sales abroad. There really is no point getting into an argument about it now as it has all gone too far down the line to be reversed. Similarly to promote anything an artist does on social media is normally to direct people to a link saying “don’t buy from a shop buy this better thing from us”. Of course the problem for bands starting is that they need the shops help reaching people but there is no reason for the shop to do so now. All in all I hope you can see why I feel better out of it.
In the long run things will change. Sales are ridiculously low as streaming now means people feel no need to buy new and local bands music at all. One Scottish artist whose album was released last month had great press coverage and is on an established label with distribution but has registered 4 sales. One LP, one CD and two downloads. Now the particular label doesn’t register its sales so they will have sold some directly but that is an album featured in some end of year best of charts that is available to all the HMVs, Amazon and the 300+ indie shops and sold four. Two oddly not in Scotland ! Believe me this is not that unusual an occurrence. One SAY awards album that was download only and had had a few sales in the past sold NONE the week it was featured.
The irony of setting up the History of Scottish Music Centre while saying we shouldn’t wallow in nostalgia is not lost on me but that is exactly what is needed. We need to celebrate the past but look to the future but unfortunately too many people at the moment have a vested interest in pretending all is well.
While I was in the Grassmarket I opened the door one day to find a small package that had been put through the letter box. That wasn’t too unusual so I put it on the counter and went about opening up. Fifteen minutes later I got round to opening it only to find £1,500 in £50 notes and a short note saying they had read the blog manifesto and wanted to help. Not only was it indeed a great help but psychologically it was a huge boost that somebody had made such a gesture. I was of course unable to thank them and at the time didn’t want to make a thing of it online but always hoped somehow I’d find out who it was but never did.
It was an incredibly generous gesture and I’m not expecting anything like that again. However if I’m to continue I am going to need to cover basic costs and as I’ve said before in terms of future official funding showing people have made a contribution no matter how small is a great help. As the cliche goes just the price of a cup of coffee would help a lot. I will of course keep everybody informed of what is being achieved thanks to the donations. I can also provide bank details and I’m very happy to discuss sponsorship.
Those not familiar with the idea behind the centre will find lots more on the blog just scroll down. http://www.avalancherecords.co.uk/
A few things have become clearer and I’ll cover them briefly here. I knew I would have the wherewithal to have the centre up and running in some way by March but I’m thinking it would be best to hold out and get the best location possible. The centre will undoubtedly be a destination but I really want to have people who pass by to be enticed in too and for that there needs to be people passing by ! I have a preferred location and will persevere with that for now. I am still working to a March deadline and that with support is possible.
My intention had been to use Avalanche’s reputation and contacts to help establish the centre but then let the centre stand on its own two feet. However all the people I have spoken to have said that the Avalanche name should not be lost as that is an asset to the project and I have no problem with that at all so long as it is clear it will be a different type of Avalanche.
The intention will remain to be even-handed among all the genres we intend to cover but as has already been well documented contemporary rock and pop as I have to call it is an area that has little to no representation among lobbying groups so it may be necessary to fight that corner sometimes just to make the playing field level. You only have to look at this year’s BBC Sound of 2017 to see what happens both in terms of geography and genre when lobbyists get their way.
I met with the Scottish Music Centre (“a member development organisation with classical members and two youth music projects” according to their press officer) in Glasgow who were concerned that folk might think the centre was dedicated to them and suggested a name change. Considering “The Only Fun In Town”.
The response has been fantastic and the centre has been offered many items and in particular photos that haven’t been seen for decades but I now need to get the finances in order as it simply isn’t possible to dedicate this much time to a project of this size without some assistance. Moving forward when dealing with bodies like Creative Scotland and Edinburgh Council they look for evidence of support from the public.
To be fair everybody thinks it is a great idea but these days there are such limited funds out there that being able to show public involvement and engagement helps a lot. To this end I will set up a simple donation button and will see what the response is. Even a small donation will help with the “engagement” numbers and that old cliche about donating the price of a cup of coffee will hold true. I’ll prepare a mission statement much as I did when we moved to the Grassmarket and take it from there.
1.= Conor Oberst – Ruminations
1.= Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
4. Mogwai – Atomic
5. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack
6. Emma Pollock – In Search Of Harperfield
7. The Filthy Tongues – Jacob’s Ladder
8. Teenage Fanclub – Here
9. PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
10. Steve Mason – Meet The Humans
11. David Bowie – ★ (blackstar)
12. Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
13. King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman
14. Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis
15. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
16. Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To
17. Modern Studies – Swell To Great
18. DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall
19. Savages – Adore Life
20. Minor Victories – Minor Victories
Simply couldn’t decide between the top two and what fantastic albums they are. Leonard Cohen knowing he is dying produces one of the best albums of his career and Conor Oberst returns to form just when it looked like he might never produce another truly great album again. Another year Nick Cave could easily have been at the top !
Thanks to everybody who came along yesterday (Saturday 19th) to St Mary’s Street, Avalanche really couldn’t ask for better regulars. If I have a worry it is that there was no passing trade even on a Saturday something that wasn’t a total surprise after our time there last year. It did of course coincide with the festivities starting around Princes Street and as I’ve said for many years now the harm this causes to businesses outwith that enclave should not be underestimated. It will be interesting to see how The Arches fare this year.
I also had people in to chat about the History of Scottish Music Centre which was good to see. As the Tron proved it isn’t just about footfall but the right footfall and the vast majority of Edinburgh’s visitors definitely seem to fall into the “tourist” category. Edinburgh should really consider following what every other major city does and actively aim to attract those who want to see beyond the tartan tat shops and the castle. Again a big thanks for all the interest and support.
Some of you may remember I did originally intend to have a small selection of stock in Gerry Gapinski’s new gallery shop in St Mary’s Street but in the end I settled for simply using it for our click and collect as there really wasn’t the space. However after a pop-up shop I had hoped to get from the council in time for Christmas fell through he’s kindly offered me enough space to offer a decent selection of vinyl, CDs, DVDs and one or two other things more of which later. We’ll struggle to find space for posters but we will reassess that once everything else is in.
The shop will also act as a point of contact for the History of Scottish Music Centre and I will be about Thursday to Saturday. More on the HofSMC also very soon. This really is just a brief cameo to help me clear stock but I’ll bring in all the Discogs stuff which is a 1,000 plus interesting items straight away. There will be a large rack of Scottish band CDs and of course Avalanche t-shirts. I saw Gerry today to provisionally work out some space and we’ll have something in place for this Thursday.
Those who don’t know the shop you won’t be able to miss it ! There is a large bull’s head above the door going back to when it was a tannery. If anybody has any memorabilia that they think might be of use to HofSMC do pop in for a chat.
Nothing I think sums up how hard it is to actually get people to buy stuff these days than my recent Aztec Camera tweet for “High Land, Hard Rain” . If we have something exclusively then social media is a great way to let people know and for us twitter works better than facebook. If the artist involved lets their followers know then we will sell even more. However with something like the recent tweet posted a couple of times for this seminal Aztec Camera album on vinyl for a mere £11.95 we drew a blank and that is by far the most likely outcome. A fair few told their followers and I’m always grateful that people do that. A lot of people “liked” we were selling it but sadly as of yet there has been no sale.
To some extent this is to be expected as you are “preaching to the converted” but the hope is always that only one person needs to be tempted. My hope though for the History of Scottish Music Centre (or whatever we end up calling it) is that we can introduce new folk to the wonders of Orange Juice and the Shop Assistants but most of all that we can bring them right up to date with the new releases of current bands. With such illustrious predecessors today’s artists might want to think about upping their game !