Archive for December, 2011

We are open January 1st from 1pm until everybody is gone

Avalanche Album Club News

While people are very complimentary about the album club choices it has made it harder and harder to keep up the hopefully high standard. As the end of year chart shows the last 6 months have been a lot quieter than the first half of the year and after the delayed David Thomas Broughton album the Farewell Poetry album at least also hit the spot. Since then events have conspired to stop any further choices being made. I considered the Martin John Henry album but then that too was delayed. Rob St John was a shoo-in but then didn’t come on CD.  Last year’s end of year package (4 months worth covering our move) was incredibly popular and regulars asked if I’d be doing the same again so it wasn’t a tough decision to get Christmas over with and do a similar package for the end of January.

I intend to make this a very special collection with some of those elusive “not on CD” releases on CD and some unique extras covering both music and artwork. There will also be an Avalanche compilation CD included. And that believe it or not is not everything but merely a taster. There will also for the first time be an option to choose vinyl when available and pay the difference.    

I’ve been asked a lot by customers what they can do to help and by joining the album club it will give us the increase in numbers that will help with the economies of scale some of our ideas will need. So if you regularly look to the blog for new music to listen to this is a good way to support both the shop and new music. It would only take 50 to 100 more people to subscribe to make a real difference. I’m well prepared to admit if we only get 5 more people so I will honestly update on how the numbers are going.

Here is the shop link and scroll to the bottom for all the album club options. We send our album club packages worldwide.

Plan Z and beyond

It was with some relief that I reached Plan Z. Not called so because it was the 26th plan but because it was the last plan. Avalanche would stand or fall by returning to exactly how it started – deriving most of its income from selling second hand vinyl. Our main counter would be the old coffee shop counter and the current counter space would be used for more vinyl. CDs, DVDs and posters would be stocked as demand dictated. We would continue to support local bands and Scottish bands in general but there would need to be a rethink as to how that was done. Line drawn in the sand ? Well maybe !

Two other sensible possibilities have since arisen after many conversations in the shop with customers. One stemmed from the idea adopted by others already from HMV to Rough Trade to embrace technology and move away from being considered a “record shop” at all. I had several customers in who bought things who had happened in for one reason or another and admitted that they would never have thought to come in a record shop anymore but once in had been surprised at what they found. Certainly “the record shop” will become more niche as time goes on and possibly too niche in its own right. Avalanche moved to the Grassmarket because of the vintage shops and I always saw this as how we would present ourselves as a group in trying to attract visitors. The back of the shop could be racked out with the vinyl still leaving plenty of room for posters and bands to play while freeing up the front of the shop to be dedicated to other vintage items. It would be unlikely to put off record shop goers but would present a different face to the public. It would be very important to work with those already in the Grassmarket rather than compete.

The third plan is less well formed. Again it stemmed from another idea that a record shop as part of a cafe or coffee shop would work better than a record shop with a cafe. Several record shops have also opened (or in the case of Plugd in Cork reopened) in arts centres. Again the record shop is seen as an important part of a bigger picture. The cafe idea would logistically be too much of a problem but I’ve had other ideas put to me that to some extent fit in with the shop being more of a centre for bands (something mentioned in the manifesto) and in fact do not rule out being incorporated into the vintage idea too.

As for our online presence that is as much a minefield as the shop. Selling rare LPs on eBay is fine. However as many will know “being quiet” in a shop doesn’t translate into getting things done. EBay needs to be done behind closed doors or at the moment when I get home. More importantly the website/blog/online shop and social media sites present many opportunities but it is hard to monetize them. I’m still getting used to the idea that thousands of people from all over the world visit the website and read my blog every month. If Avalanche supports something then it makes a big difference as Star Wheel Press have found out. Of course people can now listen first so if it wasn’t an excellent album our support would mean little and that is part of the problem. Most people use the Avalanche site to find out what to listen to but not to buy. Quite a few people came into the shop to buy the SWP album for instance as a present and told me they loved listening to the album but hadn’t bought it. Several on seeing the beautiful hand crafted sleeve then bought another for themselves. Bwani Junction has also benefited from being so high in our end of year chart. Many visitors tell me they visit the site all the time and they will buy their favourites when they come to the shop but otherwise are happy just to listen online. The whole thing is further compounded when those who do want to buy then decide they will “support” the band or the label and buy directly from them. With virtually all bands using bandcamp we may only in future list bands we recommend which is really what people are looking for anyway.

So there we are. Certainly not as clear cut as I hoped things would be by now. HMV/FOPP may indeed close though I suspect not just yet and that would certainly change things again. Maybe not as much as some people think but then again when FOPP didn’t have the Tom Waits vinyl we did sell a lot because of it. CD sales are dropping all the time and yet are still at the moment the most popular format. Sales could settle down or just continue to plummet. I was incredulous when I heard of a five year plan for Scottish music when personally I wouldn’t bet on where we will all be in five weeks time. Thanks to everybody who has already given their opinions and I’m very happy to listen to more.      

Tip No.2 – Release your album on CD

That’s it really.

Avalanche offers for those of you not on twitter !

No trains for me tomorrow but the bus should still get me in for a 10.30am opening. Lots of bargains to be had.Large posters from £1 

First @broken_records 7″ for £1 Silver Columns CD for £3. Great selection of CDs @ £2.99 (4 for £10) + £3.99 (3 for £10) LPs + 12’s 3 for £5

We also still have loads of rare vinyl from My Bloody Valentine Stereolab Husker Du Smashing Pumpkins Radiohead PJ Harvey Wedding Present

Lots of classic 80s + 90s UK + US indie vinyl along with some hard to find dance + hip hop Plus some interesting soundtracks, jazz + blues

Only one @FRabbits hoodie left but still a good selection of the new t-shirts as well as badges + tote bags.

Opening hours from the 27th December onwards

We will be open from 10.30am to 6pm (or when everybody leaves) from the 27th to the 30th. We will probably close around 5pm on the 31st but we will be open on the 1st in the afternoon given the Grassmarket is an important part of the Edinburgh street games

As for January I am seriously considering closing for at least some of the time. There is very little new out until the end of the month and I can simply make more money staying at home and selling online. No matter how quiet we are in the shop there will always be sufficient interruptions to not make this viable while working from the shop. We have a great selection of vinyl in particular and while customers will be few and far between during the week in the shop (going by how the last few months have been) customers in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe are desperate for me to list more of what we have. I get international enquiries every day and while Avalanche’s profile has never been higher worldwide (more about that to follow) at home customers seem to prefer to buy CDs for £3 from FOPP while many of our regular customers for local bands now seem to buy directly from the bands and labels who often leave them with no option by not supplying shops with stock.

A second reason for closing would be for a refit and there are two options there for me to consider. Again I’ll say more in a few days time. Certainly as they say “the customer is always right” and more and more people, even those in Edinburgh, seem to prefer to buy online. This is of course generally a problem now with city centres and while visitors marvel at what is on offer in Edinburgh it seems that even such a beautiful city struggles to compete with shopping centres and websites for local custom. I’m sure we will be busy with visitors over the next few days but if that is all we get then it has to be an indicator for the future. We have many wonderful customers and fantastic support from some bands and labels. I just have to work out how best to supplement that.              

Avalanche Top 20 Albums 2011 on Christmas Day

More movement than I expected. Bwani Junction up to 4 overtaking Bon Iver and even more surprisingly PJ Harvey given the CD is now only £4.99. Found are also up to 12 and Farewell Poetry have gained from album club members coming back to buy another copy as a Christmas present. Tom Waits also now makes the Top 10. I expect there may be a few changes yet as the visitors we always get between Christmas and New Year tend to buy mostly Scottish bands.


Avalanche Top 20 Albums 2011 on Christmas Day

1.  Star Wheel Press – Life Cycle Of A Falling Bird

2.  Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

3.  King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

4.  Bwani Junction – Fully Cocked

5.  PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

6.  Bon Iver – Bon Iver

7.  Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

8.  Conquering Animal Sound – Kammerspiel

9.  Tom Waits – Bad As Me

10. Edinburgh School for the Deaf – New Youth Bible

11. Explosions In The Sky – Take Care Take Care Take Care

12. Found – Factorycraft

13. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

14. Second Hand Marching Band – Compendium

15. Farewell Poetry – Hoping For The Invisible To Ignite 

16. Beirut – The Rip Tide 

17. We Were Promised Jetpacks – In The Pit Of The Stomach

18. The Moth & The Mirror – Honestly, This World

19. David Thomas Broughton – Outbreeding

20. The Son(s) – The Son(s)

Avalanche and HMV

A lot could be said but today the best use of my time is to do my accounts. In “the old days” HMV would sell lots of Amy Winehouse and Adele and Coldplay and Rihanna etc, Avalanche would sell lots of the smaller indie stuff and local bands and we would compete on the big indie releases. Bands we had supported would be become bigger and we would lose them to HMV and we’d look for the next band to replace them. It is a system that worked well for a very long time. Then along came the internet and online selling. If the comparison had simply been between the more personal experience of going into a shop and buying online then we would have all had to take our chances. However all the biggest online players were based offshore and didn’t pay VAT giving them a very clear and unfair advantage. The ending of that advantage in April has clearly come too late.

Latterly most bands. labels and record companies have set themselves up in direct competition with shops while still looking for support for their releases. This runs from the Universal shop selling exclusive vinyl to the smallest band on bandcamp offering an exclusive bundle. There is no right and wrong here clearly just the obvious statement that from a shop’s viewpoint this is an unsustainable position to be put in. Especially for smaller bands who exist in quite a small enclosed world what shops offer is a gateway to a far bigger audience. That gateway of course has a huge cost in rent, rates etc. While HMV continues to move in one direction Avalanche will start to move in another. I wish them luck as we go our different ways. As for devaluing music by selling CDs for £3 that is a different discussion for a different day.

My Morning Jacket’s Tom Blankenship on Record Stores: “We Need That Sense of Community”

Speaking of the music scene in Louisville, the legendary record store, Ear X-tacy recently closed down. Surely you have some fond memories of spending time there and browsing the aisles or catching a great in-store.
Oh, absolutely. I grew up outside of the city, which was all farmland and all we had was a Wal-Mart. So, before I was old enough to drive, or even knew that there was such a thing as a record store, I got all of my music from Wal-Mart, because I had no other option. So when I was 14 or 15, I found Ear X-tacy. There was no one else in town that supported local music. I have so many good memories of things like going in and buying [Louisville math-rock band] Rodan’s Rusty from Kevin Coulton, who played drums for them, because the store sold local bands’ albums and all the musicians worked there. It was a great opportunity to interact with those guys. Plus, John [Timmons, owner of Ear X-tacy] has done so much for our band over the years, right from the beginning. I personally owe him so much for introducing so much music into my life, but also a sense of community. We need places like that and to keep them alive. We need that sense of community, whether it’s a bookstore, a coffee shop or a record store. Place that are owned by locals and where people congregate and talk. We really need to keep those places around.

Today was a good day

From the minute I arrived at the shop to find my electrician waiting to fix the side lighting I had a good feeling about today. First customer came in to pick up his Tom Waits vinyl and then the wonderful Ed Jupp of 17 seconds continued his personal crusade to keep the shop afloat by buying more second hand vinyl from his stash of records put by for him and the triple Ben Folds Five CD for his celebrity brother.

And so the day continued with a succession of regular customers and visitors in to buy a few things and a chat until Eugene from the Rezillos turned up with more t-shirts and some carrier bags that will be a perfect basis for new Avalanche LP bags something I’ve been looking for for a while. The day finished with Craig from Star Wheel Press popping in and chatting to a couple of customers in for their album that we had contrived to just sell out of. A nice end to a good day. Thanks to all concerned for reminding me why I still do this.   

PS Don’t worry the Star Wheel Press CD should be back in for Saturday.