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.      

One Response to “Plan Z and beyond”

  • Hmm…where to begin. For one thing, on my only visit (so far) to the Grassmarket shop in summertime I was delighted to find a coffee bar serving excellent coffee. I know it’s gone and there’s an economic reason for that but it’s a shame. The two go so well together and it reminded me very much of the coffee bit in John Smith’s in Byres Road, Glasgow back in the 90s – independent bookshop, wee coffee bar, top floor ace obscure record shop staffed by the Pastels. Such a great vibe then Waterstone’s took the shop and latterly Starbucks have the whole place and it’s crap.

    Anyroad, as former Edinburgh residents my good lady and I were regulars in the various branches of Avalanche and indeed in pretty much every other record shop in the capital. It’s always been better to go into a shop and have a browse rather than buy online. Now, alas, we live a long long way from such civilisation out here on the Ardnamurchan peninsula and online shopping is often the only way. I’ve just this minute (literally moments ago) bought (or “pledged” to buy) the 2nd Tom Williams & The Boat album via their website so that the band have the cash to make it – did this with Post Electric Blues by Idlewild a couple of years back too. I’ve also just subscribed to Fence’s Chart Ruse EP series which will allow them to do the same. I know that doesn’t help you as a shop at all but it does feel like I’m supporting (a) the artist/s at source and (b)getting some “proper” (non digital) music which is always a concern (as Nick Hornby noted in High Fidelity there are those bloke who simply cannot leave a record shop without a square shaped carrier bag bulging with a purchase of some sort!)

    As to the mighty Star Wheel Press, I bought my copy direct from Ryan at a bike festival (!) in Aberfeldy and will probably order subsequent copies (I’m going to spread the word at each family birthday present buying opportunity!) straight from him in order that the band get the benefit. Again, I know this isn’t helping you.

    Not sure what the answer is. I’d always prefer to buy instore rather than online but, as I say, with the the likes of Fence & SWP it does feel good to be helping them directly…

    Good luck with it all. Will pop in soon.

    Cheers.

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