The Scottish Contemporary Pop/Rock Music Centre

Scars Associates Josef K Fire EnginesLots to come of what is wrong and what could be put right to help those established businesses that trade all year and don’t just pop up in the good times but what is the most positive idea to come from all those meetings I had ? For context firstly I discovered I inhabit the world of pop/rock if I’m talking to Edinburgh Council and contemporary music when speaking to Creative Scotland. Not a great start as it became immediately apparent that they don’t differentiate between Ed Sheeran and Withered Hand. Secondly it also became clear early on that commercial pop rock being so “popular” meant it was deemed not to need the help other less popular genres and arts needed. This seemed counter intuitive to me meaning the less popular something was the more chance it had of being supported but those already involved in this world confirmed this was exactly the case. Similarly music in general being more popular than other areas of the arts meant it again often received the short end of the stick.

shop assistants - here it comesA little further investigation and the level of imbalance became clear. Rooms the size of a decent shop dedicated to a couple of paintings or a video installation. Buildings the size of an old Virgin Megastore sparsely filled with what some call art and others in one particular case would call “a pile of old records lying on the floor”. Anyway the argument here is not about what is or isn’t art but the support and space given to all the various branches of the arts. I quickly understood what musicians, often artists themselves, saw as a disparity in support for their work. What support there is for music is very focused on the making of music while how that music reaches the public seems to be given little thought at all beyond the fact that it can be put online and then the whole world can listen !

Ballboy_-_Club_Anthems_2001Much of this resonated with my own search as to how the council, given their new found understanding of the problems facing music related businesses, could help. It also became clear that the feeling expressed at the Live Music Matters meeting in the Usher Hall that “pop/rock” lacked a voice compared to others was a very accurate assessment of the situation.

I also came to realise that there was scope for something more than simply a shop that stocked Scottish bands old and new. Many customers were as keen to talk about Josef K, Simple Minds and The Shop Assistants as they were new bands they should be If You're Feeling Sinisterlistening to and yet there was nowhere they could visit to find out more. There was no need for fancy laser shows people were interested in artwork and badges and old posters along with the history of the bands and also Scotland’s many famous labels. Olaf Furniss’ ideas about music tourism are not misplaced and as you might imagine I’ve received nothing but enthusiasm for the idea.

All those meetings and chats haven’t been wasted and both Ian Smith head of music at Creative Scotland and Stewart Henderson of Chemikal Underground and chair of the SMIA have been very supportive. Various members of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and witheredhandnewgodscoverSport department have also been very helpful and last week I met with the head of museums and galleries about the City Art Centre who promised to consider the idea while understandably having some reservations. I can think of no better location than the ground floor of the City Art Centre. It has all the space needed without disrupting the shop it already has there and the cafe next door is perfect. One reservation was that it was an art gallery and whether that would be compromised but as several people have said already it is an art centre and much of what would be on display would be the artwork used in conjunction with the music.

city-art-centre-exteriorAnother plus is all the new visitors it would attract to the centre as well as providing a visually interesting frontage. What is more I would envisage it as a gateway to all that Edinburgh has to offer in the arts with visitors being offered information on the many other places they might want to visit. I’m well aware these things are not always as simple as they may seem but I’m also aware that they are not always as complicated either ! I’m sure the idea will be given fair consideration.

Schoolkidsbrucesforsite

 

So a Scottish Contemporary Pop Rock Music Centre (only with a far better name obviously) celebrating Scottish artists and labels both old and new as well as providing background on venues and clubs that have come and gone over the years. Scottish music has had a worldwide influence that should be celebrated and this would seem the perfect way to do it.

There might even be enough space to feature a few old record shops ! 

 

Saturday in the Grassmarket

grassmarket old picAvalanche will be back with a stall in the Grassmarket for the next two Saturdays with a full selection of new and used vinyl as well as CDs and posters. 

Lots of great vinyl now £3 or 4 for £10 and a couple of boxes just in covering most genres. Some great stuff at a fiver too.

I’ll bring the Doctor Who DVDs !

Best Sellers of 2014 to end of November

witheredhandnewgodscover1.  Withered Hand – New Gods 

2.  Mogwai – Rave Tapes

3.  King Creosote – From Scotland With Love

4.  Owl John – Owl John

5.  PAWS – Youth Culture Forever

6.  James Yorkston – Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society

7.  The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

HJH8.   We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling

9.   Hamish James Hawk – Aznavour

10. Broken Records – Weights and Pulleys

11. Jack White – Lazaretto

12. The Phantom Band – Strange Friend

13. Young Fathers – Dead

14. The Last Battle – Lay Your Burden Down

15. Remember Remember – Forgetting The Present  

swans to be kind 216. Swans – To Be Kind

17. Bwani Junction – Tongue Of Bombie

18. Pixies – Indie Cindy

19. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

20. Aphex Twin – Syro

21. Temples – Sun Structures

22. Warpaint – Warpaint

23. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

Columbia Records Leonard Cohen Popular Problems cover24. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

25. Shellac – Dude Incredible

26. Morrissey – World Peace Is none Of Your Business

27Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

28. Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems

29. Beck – Morning Phase

30. Goat – Commune

Edinburgh Arts Quarter – King’s Stables Road update

king's stables road outlineApologies for the lengthy silence but there really has been nothing to report. The council given the large number of bids took longer than expected to announce a short list and to be honest given this is a multi million pound deal I was concerned given that bids are confidential what I could and couldn’t say. I will always try to be as open as possible but without compromising the bidding process. I have to say the council have been very understanding and helpful given obviously I have an interest in what is happening while not actually being one of the bidders.

Having said that as I said before the hope was that the ideas in the Evening News opinion piece would be adopted by some of the developers and hopefully would still be in play once the short list was announced. As it transpired one developer in particular embraced the idea of the arts quarter wholeheartedly and has been extremely helpful. Others admitted they would tag on the idea to help win the bid but clearly their heart wasn’t in it. At the same time I brought in Tom Watton who has a lengthy CV when dealing with arts projects. Some of you may know him from Beltane Fire but his latest project was the recently finished St Margaret’s House near Meadowbank now home to 200 studios and 9,000 square feet of gallery space. Tom’s addition meant I was confident we had all bases covered when it came to being a credible part of any bid especially given deliverability is an important part of the process.

I’m now able to report that with the short list announced we are still in the running and an announcement will be made to a preferred bidder early in the new year. I doubt there will be much more to add until a final decision is made. Obviously if the bidder we are aligned with is successful then we will be in a position to consult with everybody as to the specifics of what can be done. Otherwise there will still be a public consultation process as it goes through planning and people will be able to have their say then.

With support from local residents and charities and various arts organisations amongst others and with many of our ideas shared by the Grassmarket BID we can just keep our fingers crossed and hope the bid is successful. I certainly don’t think we could have done any more. 

Best sellers of 2014 to mid-November

witheredhandnewgodscover

1.  Withered Hand – New Gods 

2.  Mogwai – Rave Tapes

3.  King Creosote – From Scotland With Love

4.  Owl John – Owl John

5.  PAWS – Youth Culture Forever

6.  James Yorkston – Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society

7.  Jack White – Lazaretto

8.  We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling

WWPJ unravelling9.  The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

10. Hamish James Hawk – Aznavour

11. Broken Records – Weights and Pulleys

12. The Phantom Band – Strange Friend

13. Young Fathers – Dead

14. Bwani Junction – Tongue Of Bombie

15. Remember Remember – Forgetting The Present 

City Art Centre

city-art-centre-exterior

Some of you will remember that at the same time I took the break in the lease in our Grassmarket shop Edinburgh Council declared their support for keeping music industry related businesses in the city centre given that these days promoting music be that in shops or through gigs was not sustainable given the costs of the city centre. They looked to similar projects in New York and Sydney that had been very successful supporting shops, gigs and other music related projects. I was interviewed for the Evening News and of course was later asked to write an opinion piece about a new arts quarter in King’s Stables Road. 

Promoting music in a shop is now very different from selling music in a shop. Without a doubt with so much music now available people are still looking to shops for advice but these days the most likely outcome is they will go away and stream or possibly if they like what they hear enough buy from the band. Very few indeed will return to the shop or buy from their website. Contrary to what some now seem to think the reluctance of shops these days to spend time promoting new music has nothing to do with “punishing” bands for selling themselves and all to do with it simply not being financially viable given a shop’s overheads.

Of course without the pressing need to cover overheads it would be a different story. Creative Scotland long ago ruled out giving grants to shops to help them support new music considering that was “our job” but again I recently received a phone call from their head of music suggesting a meeting and requesting an agenda as they rethink their whole approach. So much money is spent helping musicians make music and almost nothing on getting that music to the public. Promoting music isn’t about selling Pink Floyd albums or indeed Nick Cave vinyl reissues but about making people aware of music they otherwise would not have come across. That takes time and even in the day when people bought the music the time spent was often more costly than the money made. In these days of social media shops potentially have an even more influential role to play. 

Anyway Edinburgh Council were unlikely to have entire buildings to just give over especially as a city centre location was important but they might have space in one of their many buildings already in use. I asked around for ideas and the City Art Centre cropped up again and again. The ground floor already had a gift shop if not that exciting and of course the cafe was next door. There was talk of a revamp as the wall currently blocking the view of the gift shop wasn’t popular. There was potential to make the ground floor something quite exciting promoting both artists work for sale and Scottish music. I wasn’t sure what the position would be about playing music but otherwise the location and space was perfect.

Aware it was important I speak to the right person they were indeed identified and a meeting  was agreed. This in itself I was assured was promising. Waiting three weeks wasn’t great but I had a flood of positive feedback for the idea so decided it was worth it. Unfortunately at the meeting there was little discussion about the possibilities. I was asked if I wanted to sell stuff because if so that would clash with the shop they already had. Despite all the details being in the email they’d received they admitted they had no idea who I was ! This to put it mildly was more than disappointing. 

To be honest I can’t think of a better idea and it makes me just want to go to Plan B which was to simply set up a base people could visit. A sort of HQ more than a small shop but with a decent selection of things on sale. A while ago Analogue Books told me they were closing which is very sad news indeed and a another great loss to the Grassmarket area. Only now they have gone public can I say that I did consider it for an HQ and indeed they have said they will put in a good word for me if needed when they leave. I can imagine there will be a lot of interest in a small place like that so certainly there is no guarantees there. The key thing with any relatively small place is that no rates are due and that in these times makes all the difference.

I have a wide range of other projects I could pursue all music related in some way but without facing direct competition from HMV and FOPP. Competing with the terms they are given is one battle I certainly can’t win. I’ve no idea as yet what involvement I’ll have in the King’s Stables Road site but that should become a lot clearer very soon. Again given the arts quarter idea it is a pity the City Arts Centre couldn’t be used to support more of the arts. Also given how central it is it could also be used to direct people to all the other fantastic arts related locations in the city. After only a little investigation I do find Edinburgh’s approach to the arts bemusing. Even the  social media side of things given all the buildings they own could be improved dramatically with little effort and at no cost at all barring maybe some man hours.

So again a case of what might have been. It is a shame given the incredible enthusiasm there was from so many different people some directly involved with the City Arts Centre and I was after all reacting to a council initiative but clearly that was not enough. 

http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/opinion/kevin-buckle-edinburgh-needs-its-own-arts-quarter-1-3557357

Avalanche pop up @ G-TEC in the Grassmarket Saturday 8th November

avalanche-logo-use NMEAvalanche will be guests of G-TEC in the Grassmarket from 10am to 4pm with a great selection of new and used vinyl and CDs. We’ll also have a few new posters ! 
We will have all the latest reissues from Belle & Sebastian, Nick Cave. Modest Mouse etc at great prices as well as new releases from We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Twilight Sad and Half Man Half Biscuit along with others.

I’ve also a great collection of used vinyl from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Beefheart, Dylan, Zappa, Stones, Neil Young + Van Morrison ready for tomorrow.

On top of that there is a fantastic box of new vinyl all at £10 from Bright Eyes. Owl John, Nirvana, Edwyn Collins, Silver Jews, Spacemen 3 plus many more.

A big thank you to Simon at G-TEC for the space and of course if you have any mobile phones or laptops that need fixing look no further !

New shop update

victoria streetSo a few people have asked if we are opening in Victoria Street and there was a plan but sadly it’s not happening . It had been suggested to me that the shop next to and belonging to Espionage would be free at least for a while and it was to be honest perfect as I could have cleared off a lot of the great stock I’ve sorted out and then had time to plan further. We might even have stayed ! It falls within the Grassmarket BID and they had kindly been looking into it for me while I was busy with the King’s Stables Road site. I have been let down a lot over the last year or so but in this case I have to stress this was just an idea that looked like it might work perfectly for both parties but unfortunately the timing simply wasn’t right in the end for Espionage and it wasn’t possible. I really am gutted simply because it was such a perfect fit. 

As seems to happen these days I had another amazing suggestion the day before I found out and I’ll investigate that further tomorrow and then discuss more the following week but time is marching on and I was sure I would be open by now. I could do a few pop ups but I’d really like to do more than that and also it simply isn’t feasible to do anything outside where stock might get wet/damaged. I need a secure space and reasonable footfall so not asking much ! Any ideas do get in touch. Everything else of course is going very well indeed and hopefully in two years time we will have a lovely indoor market in King’s Stables Road and no worry about the weather.

I had stocked up with vinyl ready for opening this month so I’m now having  a mini sale with great stuff at great prices just to keep some money coming in. Please buy stuff !

Vinyl A to Z

http://www.discogs.com/seller/AvalancheGrassmarket/profile?sort=artist%2Casc&limit=250&format=Vinyl

CD  A to Z

http://www.discogs.com/seller/AvalancheGrassmarket/profile?sort=artist%2Casc&limit=250&format=CD

Many thanks for all the kind comments. It never ceases to amaze me when people based abroad buy something on Discogs and say they were in the shop many years ago and want to keep supporting now. Very kind !

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