I remember last year when One Up announced that unless things got better by Christmas they would close in January. Nothing really happened. They announced they were closing and they were mobbed. It understandably baffled Raymond one of the owners. There have been I admit several attempts to persuade me to reassess my decision to leave at the end of January but if anything the last couple of weeks have only convinced me it is the right thing to do. The Avalanche regulars as ever can not be faulted for their support and the response from visitors is still fantastic. Saturday’s highlight was a young girl from Chile who was a big Mogwai fan. However that is it. There are simply no “shoppers” at all. I’m starting to get the usual requests for things people can’t find in HMV and FOPP but unless they are looking for Withered Hand or Meursault (those FOPP headers are always empty) they will be out of luck.
Just why the Grassmarket is so quiet and in turn why Avalanche is also quiet is not rocket science. All the retail shops will have customers who have searched them out but quite clearly nobody is coming to the Grassmarket just to shop. Edinburgh Council have done all they can to attract as many people as possible to Princes Street and St Andrew Square and it would be ludicrous to think that will not be at the expense of all the surrounding areas not just the Grassmarket. In the case of the Grassmarket it is particularly galling as the BID has been in place for some time and their main focus seems to be on a small Saturday market when the message needs to be to visit the Grassmarket every day for great individual shops and places to eat and drink. Sundays in particular are crying out for something to attract people up from Princes Street and there is nothing. If we feel stuck at the end of the Grassmarket (there is some evidence people walk to the bottom of Victoria Street and then turn back unless they want “the view” of the castle) then God help the West Port !
At the same time in what is a perfect storm the advantages given to HMV and FOPP over consignment stock mean that bar those looking for local bands customers have no need to visit Avalanche. Posters and second hand are fine but without new sales cash flow becomes impossible. Saturday wasn’t too bad a day but the sale so well “liked” on facebook and twitter made no difference at all. I have absolutely no intention of downsizing or “going online”. People will still be able to visit Avalanche and yes we will be online but Avalanche as you know it will end at the end of January. As such there is a mountain of stock to clear and the feeling is unless I put “closing down” in the window the situation is going to continue. There is as you would imagine a lot of cash tied up in all the stock we have and I need to realise that sooner rather than later.
As I suspected unless I keep pushing our online shop sales dry up very quickly. Again I have no intention of continuously bombarding people to buy stuff online. Of course I will in future be happy to tell people in a more organised way when something is released they might like.
Over the last three years Avalanche has become a worldwide brand without trying ! It stands for certain things and it is something people believe in. I have no intention of compromising that. If I was wary of working with others before that is true even more so now but I’m also well aware that the future is to find partners in the various areas Avalanche will move into. I promise all will be revealed in the New Year.
1. There Will Be Fireworks – There Will Be Fireworks
2. Pictish Trail – Secret Soundz Vol.1
3. Kid Canaveral – Shouting At Wildlife
4. The Savings and Loan – Today I Need Light
5. Star Wheel Press – Life Cycle Of A Falling Bird
6. King Creosote – Psalm Clerk
7. TV21 – Forever 22
8. Bwani Junction – Fully Cocked
9. There Will Be Fireworks – The Dark, Dark Bright
10. Quickbeam – Quickbeam
11. Olympic Swimmers – No Flags Will Fly
12. Randolph’s Leap – Introducing …..
13. Kevin MacNeil and Willie Campbell – Visible From Space
14. Scottish Enlightenment – St. Thomas
15. King Creosote – Disclaimer
16. King Creosote – Vintage Quays
17. Emily Scott – Longshore Drift
18. The Last Battle – Heart Of The Land, Soul Of The Sea
19. Rob St John – Weald
20. Emily Scott – abcdefg…etc…
21. Cancel The Astronauts – Animal Love Match
22. Endor – Endor
23. King Creosote – Red On Green
24. Conquering Animal Sound – Kammerspiel
25. Cold Seeds – Cold Seeds
26. Aberfeldy – Somewhere To Jump From
27. Trapped Mice – Winter Sun
28. Dead Flowers – Midnight At The Wheel Club
29. FareWell Poetry – Hoping For The Invisible To Ignite
30. Emily Scott – I Write Letters I Never Send
So big hitters like Ballboy, Saint Jude’s Infirmary, Meursault and Withered Hand aren’t included as they all had distributors I bought from. Others in the chart may have had distribution but I dealt directly for the vast majority of the stock. The Scars album would have been at two but I stuck to new releases and not reissues. I always say this but I’m sure this time I will have forgotten someone so it may well change.
1. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
3. There Will Be Fireworks – The Dark, Dark Bright
4. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
5. Quickbeam – Quickbeam
6. Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
7. Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain
8. Rick Redbeard – No Selfish Heart
9. Mogwai – Les Revenants
10. Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
11. Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
12. Low – The Invisible Way
13. Dead Flowers – Midnight At The Wheel Club
14. Biffy Clyro – Opposites
15. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
16. David Bowie – The Next Day
17. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
18. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
19. RM Hubbert – Breaks & Bone
20. L.Pierre – The Island Come True
21. Eels – Wonderful Glorious
22. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
23. Queens Of The Stone Age – Like Clockwork
24. King Creosote – This Might Well Be It, Darling
25. Conquering Animal Sound – On Floating Bodies
26. Edwyn Collins – Understated
27. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
28. Yo La Tengo – Fade
29. Atoms for Peace – Amok
30. Arctic Monkeys – AM
31. Strokes – Comedown Machine
32. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
33. Delta Mainline – Oh! Enlightened
34. Lloyd Cole – Standards
35. Pastels – Slow Summits
36. British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy
37. Bill Callahan – Dream River
38. Daughter – If You Leave
39. Savages – Silence Yourself
40. Franz Ferdinand – Right Words, Right Thoughts, Right Action
The release of “Tigermilk” was very much a watershed moment for Avalanche so here are the top 12 best selling Scottish albums since that historic day when originally it was only available from ourselves, Missing and FOPP. But can you guess the next 13 that make up the top 25 ?
As you can see it is a clean sweep at the top for Belle and Sebastian with “The Boy With The Arab Strap” pipping “Tigermilk” to the top. Mogwai, Biffy Clyro and Idlewild all break the Belle’s stranglehold before order is restored with “Dear Catastrophe Waitress” the first album not to appear on Jeepster.
To help guess the next baker’s dozen I can say there are 10 new bands featured. One point will be scored for getting one of the bands, another for getting the right title and 3 bonus points for getting the right placing. The albums were ranked using one shop’s sales figures to give a level playing field so West Nicolson Street figures are used up to the opening of Cockburn Street and then finally the Grassmarket figures.
Send your guesses numbered 13 to 25 using firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll make up an appropriate goody bag as a prize.
You will of course be able to buy the album on the day. This is one in-store you should not miss.
When one of your favourite indie bands signs to a major and one of your all time favourite artists releases an album it is always a worry that something might go horribly wrong. There was it turned out no need to worry and both Frightened Rabbit and Nick Cave produced albums of outstanding quality. We normally wait until the end of the year to announce our best selling album of the year but this year Nick isn’t going to catch the FRabbits and the chasing pack aren’t going to catch Nick so we can with some pleasure say that are album of the year is Frightened Rabbit’s “Pedestrian Verse”.
And the chasing pack of ten that make up the dozen clear of the rest ? Well in alphabetical order :-
Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
Low – The Invisible Way
Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
Mogwai – Les Revenants
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain
Quickbeam – Quickbeam
Rick Redbeard – No Selfish Heart
There Will Be Fireworks – The Dark, Dark Bright
After the media attention last time I’m very wary as to how I couch my words. Certainly the problem then was people didn’t read all the statement and in some cases just read the first paragraph. So what is happening ? My break in the lease for the Grassmarket shop was this November and I would have needed to decide in the summer. It was impossible to make any sensible decision then without knowing the future of HMV and FOPP.
February had been our busiest month for years. With HMV and FOPP going into administration and One Up in Aberdeen closing customers realised the enormity of the uphill battle faced. Add to that the release of our two biggest albums of the year from Frightened Rabbit and Nick Cave and it gave people a reason to come in. March on the other hand was a disaster. HMV bought all their stock at a fraction of its value and started a closing down sale. I never for one second believed they would close all their Edinburgh shops and as expected landlords caved and gave them much lower rents. With prices so low it affected even our second hand sales though at least we were left with increasing new vinyl sales. April continued to be poor and when the cash generator that is Record Store Day came along instead of providing us with a buffer for the future it just helped us recover from the previous poor month and a half.
Anyway fast forward to now and the worst case scenario that was always also the most likely. With no bidders for HMV Hilco who had bought the secured debt at a knock down price bought HMV and FOPP also at a knock down price. Record companies and labels also caved to their demands and stock is now supplied on a consignment basis so nothing is paid for until sold. I fully understand this as it is impossible to gauge new release sales and almost no catalogue sells within the period of normal payment terms. However these unviable payment terms are still those applied to indies and it leaves me unable to compete especially on vinyl.
It is clear from speaking to others that things aren’t going to get better. Very kindly my landlord has offered a break at the end of January and I can see no reason not to take it. It seems an ideal time to beef up our online presence, utilise our incredibly successful social media platforms and dedicate some time to the things that work so well for us such as posters. It would also give me the time to concentrate on promoting worldwide our best selling albums from Scottish bands, an idea that has seen a huge amount of interest expressed in it but has failed so far to raise any financial support.
There’s a lot more from resurrecting the label to finding new outlets for music but more of that later. It seems more than appropriate that exactly 30 years after I started raising money for the first Avalanche shop that I should do the same again putting things in place for a new physical presence. I’m very proud of what has been achieved here in the Grassmarket and the frankly overwhelming response it has received but it was always an ideal never a business model.
It also means that with our 30th celebrations coming up I’ll be able to make sure I have more time to dedicate to all the things I have planned many of which will dovetail nicely into Avalanche’s future model. How well the online sales go will help determine what other things we can do in the future.
I’ll also speak to record companies and labels to see what level of support there is. Several have already pledged support and see the merit in what we do while others can’t see past keeping HMV afloat as long as possible.
I’m sure this will raise more questions than it answers and there is far more to say but for now I think this will do ! In the meantime please buy stuff !
Today kind of summed up the days I have these days. First customer was a young girl at university in Lancaster but from near Portland, Oregon whose friend had been in the shop last year and insisted she should come up. She bought posters and vinyl and we chatted about Portland’s support for independent shops. “This is just like home” she said. A couple of Irish girls bought a poster wishing they could fit more in their luggage. I had a chat with a guy from Aberdeen about the sad demise of One Up and he bought Quickbeam and Cancel The Astronauts CDs.
Gideon Conn an artist/musician from Manchester but now living in London popped in with his single and split LP with Donna Maciocia ahead of their gig at the Wee Red Bar on Saturday. I promised to plug the records and gig on twitter. A Norwegian lady asked for recommendations and bought Withered Hand, Star Wheel Press and The Last Battle. She took an Avalanche card so she could order There Will Be Fireworks’ new album when it comes out.
An Italian guy was in the shop for ages with his friends and in the end stuck for choice chose to keep warm and bought a sheepskin jacket. At the end of the day I had an interesting chat with a guy whose son had just opened a record shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn the neighbourhood next to Williamsburg. His wife spotted a couple of second hand LPs they bought. I found a couple of pieces about the shop opening so I put them on twitter and then messaged him on facebook to wish him good luck with the new shop.
I finished the day with an interview with two girls from near Munich who came in just before 6pm having been told I was the person to speak to about indie folk. I gave them a quick run down on everything from Withered Hand to how Marcus Mumford had actually lived in Edinburgh for a year. There was a regular customer bought Arcade Fire and the Arctic Monkeys and a couple of students bought some posters but you get the general idea.
The day before I had a good customer from Canberra, Australia in to see me (a writer he travels to Edinburgh University from time to time) at the same time another good customer from Virginia in the US was in. Extremely knowledgeable on Scottish music he bought amongst other things the Gillyflowers CD and went next door to get it signed.
A few days before half my takings had been in two sales with a guy from Denver producing a long list of vinyl his sister-in-law wanted (she had been in the shop last year and knew the sort of things we had) and the last sale of the day being a guy from Berkeley, California in for the new RM Hubbert album and some recommendations. Again his friend had been in last year and kept texting him from California with requests. A lot of these customers bought Avalanche t-shirts and /or bags too.
I’ll regularly recommend Scottish bands to customers half a dozen times a day often more. Not all of course buy. Some go away to listen more. Of course I regularly get groups in visiting wanting a local band’s CD to take home and I can easily deal with 30 folk in a day especially at weekends. Dealing with an average of only 10 people a day which obviously isn’t going to pay the rent it does mean I’ve recommended Scottish bands to over 10,000 people in our three years in the Grassmarket.
I greatly enjoy dealing with customers and helping them find new music and when I can helping to publicise releases and gigs. I’m certainly not complaining but it is not a viable business model and without the back up of regularly selling new releases and back catalogue that sell themselves it is hard to find a way forward. It feels time to try something new.