We can never go back to the way things were – but we could go back a little

I have already received dozens of phone calls and emails this year from labels and bands asking me why shops don’t stock their releases or don’t sell many if they do. Often they are from fairly big labels and bands who understandably think they should be doing better. While bands, labels and indeed distributors are not always happy with what I say they do appreciate that I at least give them an honest opinion. Sometimes the topic is actually how can retail be helped and other times it is labels looking for help in advance with a release.

After a recent phone call from XL (home to Adele and Radiohead and many others) I began to realise the obvious really needed to be stated. Of course we can never go back to a time when artists made music, labels released that music, distributors sent it to shops and shops sold it to customers/fans. We can however go back some of the way. Many people don’t have a nearby record shop any more so will need to buy online. These are the people labels and bands originally said they were serving. Some shops do have very comprehensive websites (not Avalanche!) and would argue they could supply these people while some labels would say they need the income.

However if fans are offered incentives to buy online then that has to be at the expense of shops. Whether there is added value (something long associated with independent shops), limited versions or the promise of receiving the release before the official release date this clearly has to be at the detriment of bricks and mortar shops. A level playing field (a phrase that you may see again) in what is on offer to fans would be great but realistically is never now going to happen.    

What shops do deserve though is a level playing field on when a release becomes available. It is bad enough that online sellers send out new releases so customers receive them the weekend before the release date with impunity but when labels advertise that fans will receive a release a week or so before the shops then this is a blatant attempt to take business away from high street shops. When bands have an album/single launch or play gigs and sell their release before the release date then this is not only done at the expense of shops but I’m reliably informed this is for those bands and labels with distribution contrary to their distribution agreement. Clearly we could go back to a time when everybody observed release dates.

Unfortunately fans are so used to the way things are now that even when bands and labels do their best to support shops it is not always successful. However if this was the norm things would change. Certainly there have been some big successes at Avalanche that have benefited both the bands and the shop be that Star Wheel Press or Bwani Junction. I don’t for one minute think anything is going to change but in future when I receive a phone call or email wondering why a release isn’t really selling in shops after it has been sent out early by the label, the band has had a launch and offered a bundle I shall simply refer them to this post.

One Response to “We can never go back to the way things were – but we could go back a little”

  • ceri smith:

    why dont you open your own online store, music lovers will be happy knowing they are also helping to keep their local record shop open.

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