Archive for January, 2011

Kevin Cummins @ Avalanche this Friday 4th February 1pm

With a rather large Joy Division poster behind the coffee counter we could not have a better guest in the shop than Kevin Cummins famous not only for his photos of Joy Division but a host of other bands including The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Oasis. Kevin will be happy to answer questions about his new book and I’m sure the many bands he has met as well as his beloved Manchester City. Older customers will of course remember Kevin’s many contributions to the NME over a 25 year period. For our younger readers that was the NME when it was essential reading every week and not the rather pale imitation it is now.

Do please come along for a chat and a coffee on Friday lunchtime. The more support these kind of events get the more we will be offered. As a special thank you Kevin’s publishers have made the book available at the special low price of £15 instead of the recommended price of £25. To match the gesture we will be offering coffee and a piece of cake for £2.

Vinyl Fever and Eastside Records close

Our friends over the pond are still closing down when it looked like all those that were likely to go had gone already.Vinyl Fever in Tampa, Florida (open almost 30 years) closed this weekend despite being voted one of America’s best record stores in Rolling Stone and Eastside Records a 25 year institution in Phoenix, Arizona closed a few weeks ago.

As you may remember in an alternative universe “According to the Entertainment Retailers Association, 15 new indie shops opened for business in 2010 – a figure offset only by the disappearance of a further four, leaving a net gain of 11.” These are UK figures of course. I have asked for a recount and will publish the results as soon as I get them.

Vibes in Bury closed

Bury Times 14/01/11

BURY’S best-known independent record retailer has closed its doors after trading for 33 years.

A statement urged buyers to use other independent record stores and warned: “If you don’t, you will lose them all. It’s been a great journey, we only wish it could have continued. Thank you for all your support.”

Since opening in Bury in 1977, Vibes had carved out an enviable reputation among the record-buying public and the serious music-minded thanks to its expertise in sourcing and selling a broad and eclectic catalogue.

Valhalla Records in Kilmarnock to close

From the Kilmarnock Standard 28/01/11

Valhalla Records in Titchfield Street closes its doors for the final time on Saturday after an 18-year link with the town.

A combination of internet sales, supermarket cut-pricing, and record labels’ indifference to independent stores is being blamed by owner Dave Ross, a living legend on the local music scene.

However it’s not all bad news.

“I’m going back to the Forum in Irvine, where it started all those years ago,” said Dave.

Zhivago in Galway to close

It’s just getting silly now!  From the Irish Times 17/01/11

The Zhivago chain of music stores in Galway confirmed today it has gone into voluntary liquidation. Up to 15 jobs are to be lost as a result of the move. Sound City Galway Limited, the company behind Zhivago, said the popularity of online music sales had impacted on business.

High street music shops have found it increasingly difficult to compete with online stores and last year, the much-loved Road Records in Dublin closed its doors for good after struggling to keep trading. Zhivago’s Shop Street store closed last week but the firm’s outlet in the Galway Shopping Centre is to continue, albeit under a new name.

City Discs in Dublin to close

After the closure of the much loved Road Records in Dublin it is sad to see another shop City Discs also now closing. Ireland suffers even more than the UK over pricing and I do feel guilty every time a customer from Dublin buys a lot of CDs because they are so much cheaper over here. I did have a senior HMV employee in from Dublin buying the Pearly Gate Music album last week but that was more to do with availability than price. Believe me there is more to all this than too many people downloading.

Bonus CDs and Exclusives

We recently had a collection come in including several albums that had come from Rough Trade with bonus CDs. Now we are often asked how they manage this and of course there is no simple answer. Much as record companies and labels love independent shops in theory they don’t want to piss off HMV or Amazon or or iTunes  ……….. so shops tend to get offered the crumbs the rest don’t want. These days labels generally keep the best stuff for themselves to sell on their own websites eventually offering shops the box set, live album etc long after they have sold as many copies as they can to the artist’s fan base.

It does help though to have friends in high places so if for instance you would like a 5 track bonus disc for the XX album on Young Turks/XL Recordings (part of the Beggars Group) then it helps if the owner of Beggars is a director and XL are shareholders. Now Martin Mills the founder/owner/chairman of Beggars is a legend having saved many important labels when they have been in financial trouble and brought them into the Beggars Group. Similarly his input with Rough Trade helped them open Rough Trade East. However it is one thing helping an iconic record shop like Rough Trade to thrive and it is another to do so at the expense of other independent shops. It should be pointed out of course that there are many other labels that also provide exclusives to RT and as a business RT are entitled to take every business advantage they can get. Given the unfair competition high street shops face from all sides I would of course have the biased view that shops collectively should be given “extras” to help counterbalance this and that maybe having a “thriving” Rough Trade while many of their counterparts struggle is not a good thing.

Just as big a problem is labels providing cheap stock to HMV/FOPP and online sellers so they can sell to the public cheaper than independent shops can buy it from the distributor. I’m also promised that sometimes the online sellers sell stock for less than they have paid and not because the stock is not selling. While the labels can not dictate price to Amazon for instance a very brave label could not supply them at all if they thought their product was going to be devalued. On several occasions now the XX album on CD has been £3.99 on Amazon when its published dealer price is £6.00 and even with the maximum discounts available it would cost more than that for a shop to buy from the distributor. Is that really the message Beggars want sent out that the XX are only worth £3.99 ? You certainly could not accuse Beggars/XL of always favouring Rough Trade. RT were very supportive of the first Adele album and I see their reward is for Amazon to be given an exclusive for the new album. Similarly the new Fall Omnibus edition has a buy link from the Beggars website. Again the lucky winner is Amazon.

Already this year independent shops have been given the British Sea Power album (on Rough Trade the label and also part of the Beggars Group) with a bonus CD and offered links and that has to be applauded. However not one single Avalanche customer knew there was a bonus CD until they came in the shop and I couldn’t find any mention of it on the band’s website though there were links to iTunes, HMV, Play and Amazon at the top of the page. Again you would have to suspect that even when the indies do get something decent nobody wants to rock the boat too much by making it too obvious and it is left to the shops to publicise it themselves.

So essentially the answer to those who ask about all these extra discs and exclusives is that the “indie world” is unfortunately a rather dog eat dog, every man for himself place these days. Yes there are still shops that are in friendly competition and would have it no other way and even now in these competitive times work together sometimes. There are labels that still do their best to look after shops. Sadly though there are others that will strive to gain an advantage whenever they can and at the expense of friend and foe alike. It isn’t a foregone conclusion which strategy if any will lead to survival for shops but many record companies and labels have certainly placed their bets.

Shop! Mary Portas at HMV

Mary Portas has some advice for HMV in Sunday’s Telegraph based on her visit to their shop in Gatwick airport. Not an obvious choice I would have thought. Simon Fox won’t be too perturbed with her comments I’m sure but his visual merchandising director and independent shops may not be too happy.

Oh, and I’d fire the visual merchandising director. If you feel as passionately as I do about record shops and think they should stay on our high streets, please give His Master’s Voice a chance and buy your next album from HMV.

Thanks Mary

Spectorbullets and The Sexual Objects – 21 to 30 chart 2010

Not very exciting with lots of the big indie bands you might expect but tied at no.30 are a couple of Fire Engines. Russell Burn’s Spectorbullets and Davy Henderson’s Sexual Objects. The latter is quite an achievement given it is only available in the shop on vinyl. Pipping them both at 29 is a certain Mr Edwyn Collins.

21. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me

22. Bonnie Prince Billy – The Wonder Show of the World

23. Mogwai – Special Moves : Live

24. Vampire Weekend – Contra

25. Black Keys – Brothers

26. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Hawk

27. Midlake – The Courage of Others

28. Eels – Tomorrow Morning

29. Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep

=30. Sexual Objects – Cucumber

=30. Spectorbullets – Spectorbullets

And at No.20 it is …………….

Admiral Fallow – Boots Met My Face

It was very close but the new stock arrived just in time to pip the big boys like Vampire Weekend and Bonnie Prince Billy.

Interestingly we have a joint No.30 with two old friends tying for the coveted spot ! More tomorrow.