Archive for March, 2011
For Record Store Day (or week and a bit in our case) we will be accepting CDs from bands who want to get their music heard by those who work for radio, magazines, blogs etc. I’m just putting together a list now of those who will be given the CDs. Often artists feel that when they send off their CD or email a link that many don’t even reach their intended target never mind get listened to. Whether this is the case or not I will personally hand over the CDs to those concerned so that bands will at least know they have been received. Most I’m sure will never hear anything again because most bands aren’t very good but if you are sure your band will be famous if only you could be heard this is your opportunity. More information about what to do soon.
Let the moaning cease ! I’m more than a little pleased to announce that there will be a music festival in the Grassmarket from Friday 29th April to Sunday 1st May. There will also be a market similar to that held at Christmas the year before last. The event is being funded by GATA (Grassmarket traders) with the music festival being curated by Avalanche and with our good friends at Red Dog providing the equipment hence the catchy name in the title. It does of course coincide with both the royal wedding and the Beltane Fire Festival and not thankfully with Homegame which is the following week. It is a fantastic space and a great opportunity for bands to reach that wider audience I’ve been talking about. I’ll be announcing a line-up as bands agree to play.
The troubled music retailer HMV is in talks to sell a batch of its stores to pound shops and a sports retailer to reduce its mountain of debt.
Poundland and Pound World are negotiating to take five shops each, while JD Sports is interested in at least six. HMV, which owns the Waterstone’s book chain and music retailer Fopp, is under pressure to sell parts of its business to reduce its debt, which stood at £151m
This is from the Independent but the news is the same everywhere. I’m really torn on this one as I do believe there is room in the market for a scaled down HMV while realising that that will always mean a presence in Edinburgh. I’ve had record distributors this week ask me to stock quite big artists because HMV are either unwilling or not able to do so and who knows what their stocking policy will be after the current hiatus is over.
What does annoy me is that I have had several people in the shop having bought the PJ Harvey album for £20 on vinyl from FOPP when we have it for £15.99 with a free print. I’m about to invest in getting more new vinyl in and while we will do well I’m sure selling to those visiting Edinburgh I’m at a loss what to do to attract those locals who would rather pay considerably more than they have to especially as on CD people seem to be so price conscious.
The CMU daily a news letter sent out to most in the music industry described the chancellor’s plans to reduce the threshold for those avoiding VAT by being based in the Channel Islands to £15 from £18 as “slightly less than fuck all. But only just”. Over the last three years new release sales for bigger artists in shops have dwindled to next to nothing. Albums are often available cheaper to the public than shops can buy them from the record company based on the avoidance of the VAT. People are also understandably fed up with prices dropping so quickly that they wait for the album to be reduced to £5 or £6 sometimes within a matter of weeks online.
There are enough people out there who would still prefer to buy their music from independent shops and probably enough to support a scaled down HMV if they could just be sure that they weren’t paying more than they need to and that the price would not change at least for the first few months. That does not seem an unreasonable expectation to have. The £15 limit changes nothing for CDs and little even for DVDs. Some customers will always prefer the convenience of buying online and some will prefer the personal approach of a shop. All the shops are asking for is a level playing field and as soon as possible.
Available from Dom Mart since before Christmas Domino have finally condescended to allow mere shops to sell it too. I assumed any of my customers who wanted it would have bought it already but several have said that since they own some of the recordings already £50 (+£3 postage) was a bit steep. If it helps any customers I can get them a box set for £40 if they preorder it next week. The release date is April 11th.
I’ve been playing the new Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells album a lot in the shop since I bought a copy from a journalist (shops are rarely sent promos though strangely in the last month that has improved) and it has amazed me how many people when they ask who it is have not heard of Aidan or indeed Arab Strap. Several bought other albums instead so taken were they with Aidan’s vocal and delivery. Obviously many of my customers knew exactly who it was but it shows that even with an established artist on an established label there is always the potential to reach a far wider audience. Edinburgh and Scotland has some great bands and some very good bands that could be great but there needs to be a concerted effort to reach more people.
At the moment the average bands with good management always ready to jump on the next bandwagon are wiping the floor with the more talented less savvy/well connected bands. There are success stories of course with Broken Records signing to 4AD (admittedly with management in place) and Dan/Withered Hand surely soon to conquer the world now that he has been established as an artist of exceptional talent after South By South West. Of course record shops are a great way for a band to have their music heard but sadly there are very few left in Scotland and HMV and FOPP ‘s policy means that despite there being a lot of good people working there it doesn’t filter through to what is stocked and played.
The answer could well lie in well placed listening posts, other shops selling music and pubs, restaurants and shops being encouraged more to support local artists. We have sold everything from Beirut to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers because people have heard them played in other shops as background music. Now the annual pilgrimage to Austin Texas to break a few Scottish artists in America has finished arts bodies can maybe now go back to breaking Scottish bands in Scotland and then working outwards to the UK and Europe.
One response to the manifesto from bands is that for those lower down the pecking order a showcase of emerging Scottish bands in London supported with a fraction of the effort that goes into SXSW would be welcomed. I don’t think anything like that happens already but I will find out. I was shown the forms for Creative Scotland and I must admit I can see why artists are put off applying. I have compiled a list of suggestions (in response to the manifesto) of ways the various arts bodies could help which I will publish soon. Some of course they may already do as again there is a problem that people do not know what is available. I do on reflection find it very odd that Avalanche has never been given a poster for any arts body advertising what funds and help are available but they think twitter is a suitable medium to do this.
Whenever an album comes out with a “limited” version including a DVD of the making of the album or a tour diary absolutely nobody cares. Sadly this message hasn’t reached the bands so twitter is full of news that a band has just played in Bournemouth and unsurprisingly it was a great gig or that it is day 6 in the recording studio. If something of actual interest happens at a gig then I’m sure some fans would be interested and similarly the occasional update about a new album being recorded would be welcome but if “in the old days” a band had publicised a fan letter saying how much they had enjoyed a gig it would have been seen as pretty desperate when now every such tweet is retweeted proudly by the band.
Reviews and radio plays have always been important in support to an artist’s music so those sorts of tweets are understandable though even then your mate who has a blog thinking your new album is stunning isn’t too convincing even if still it is clear that many average bands still rely on their mate who has a radio show (a proper one that people actually listen to) or their mate who writes for a newspaper/magazine to do the same thing.
There is a fair argument that for the vast majority of bands their followers are mainly their peers (rather than fans) who may be interested in the minutiae of their lives but that then only highlights the growing problem that bands are too inward looking in their approach and then wonder why people don’t go to gigs / buy their music. Bands have always supported other bands as you would expect but for most small gigs the audience will be made up almost entirely of other bands/bloggers etc. Obviously this is a useful starting point but I am constantly asked by those who recognise this is not ideal how to reach a wider public.
I’ve a VAT return to do but more later.
I’ve not started actively looking for new members for the album club yet to bring the numbers up to 100 from the current 50 but feel free to join up now. If we can reach 100 members it will give us extra buying power and at the same time boost the Avalanche coffers.
I’ve made a display of new vinyl in one window which has generated a lot of interest and hopefully we can get in enough second hand collections to double the space we currently give vinyl. Today was busy with the weather not as bad as forecast so with half decent weather and definitely more visitors about it will hopeully be a decent weekend.