Best sellers of 2014 to mid-November


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


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.

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

CD  A to Z

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 !

Weezer’s New Album – Why Everything Won’t Be Alright In The End

The High Street – Why nobody wants to be there and nobody wants to leave

Why New Release Sales In Independent Record Shops Are Unravelling

We Were Promised A Level Playing Field

Edinburgh Arts Quarter update

king's stables road outline

I was shown round the King’s Stables Road site on Tuesday by the council’s surveyor. There are various buildings some of which will need demolished and others that could stay.  A fairly small part of the land has most of the value to a developer so there is undoubtedly room for discussion on some, possibly even much of the land being used to help develop an arts quarter. The council are looking for something more interesting than simply a hotel, flats and a couple of shops if the area and its footfall are to be improved as they wish. While there has been a lot of interest in the site from developers there has also been a lot of interest in The Evening News article and the plan will be that when the council announces its short list at the end of October some of those short listed will be people we have had discussions with.

The council then want to have a preferred bidder by the end of the year and hopefully the arts quarter idea will be a part of that. Obviously I know the area very well and have some expertise in the retail side of things but I’ve been very lucky to enlist the help of Tom Watton who recently finished working on the St Margaret’s House project at Meadowbank

Much of the chances of success will be based on “credibility and deliverability” so hopefully we now have all bases covered. If we are successful then there can be more detailed discussions about how we best use the space secured. I can only thank everybody for their good wishes and interest. This will of course only be a small part of a larger plan and I’m told there will still be a public meeting in The Usher Hall in November to discuss in particular live music.


Dear Kevin Buckle,

Your Evening News report is exciting, but may I ask, if you did not know that there is already a new culture quarter, now over 2 years old, Summerhall at east end of The Meadows, open free to the public every day of the year?

We have 150,000 square feet of various buildings around 3 courtyards, and where we co-produce and host 900 music, dance, theatre and art shows, far more than any other arts centre, a cultural village etc. annually, with over 400,000 visitors, a top-20 arts/culture visitor attraction in Scotland, where 300 people work, and with a new sound recording studio among workshops, studios, 8 theatres, many gallery space, libraries and pub, restaurant and cafe. It is the biggest multi-arts centre after The Barbican, and biggest private arts centre in Europe.

Edinburgh may need more. We have expansion plans too. But may I express a small disappointment you do not know or recognise us.

yours sincerely,
Robert McDowell
director & founder of Summerhall