Archive for June, 2012
Had a lovely guy in today from Buenos Aires. He was so pleased to have found Avalanche as he had not known about us and was more than impressed to find all the Belle & Sebastian vinyl. He said there was such a shop in Buenos Aires called Abraxas http://argentinastravel.com/2452/classic-rock-record-store-abraxas-turns-25/ I asked how it was doing and he said the people were determined to help it survive. There were others such as Virgin but they realised that they had to support Abraxas if it was to keep going.
You can see from the first sentence in the link I have given why he saw the affinity with Avalanche. ”A Buenos Aires institution, Abraxas, opened 25 years ago and still retains its original role of musical guide, more than just music vendor.” Interestingly a lady from Tennessee had been in recently looking for recommendations for her husband and son after reading a similar testimony for Avalanche from a guide she had. For those not following on twitter she bought There Will Be Fireworks, Bwani Junction and Emily Scott.
He would have loved to have bought some of the Belle’s vinyl as he only had “Tigermilk” but he was travelling so it wasn’t practical. He did however buy a Jarvis Cocker CD he had been looking for as something to “remember the shop by”. He wished me luck and took our card and said he would be in touch with other recommendations of shops and people who could help. I have an extensive list of people and shops from all over the world who have actively offered to help promote Scottish artists like this. I have been amazed at what little support there has been for putting them to use.
On twitter I told the story of a young lad that on hearing the promo of the new Meursault album playing in the shop asked me what it was and as is common then how to spell it. An hour later he phoned to ask me how to spell it again as he wanted to listen online. Some people thought he was being cheeky which of course he wasn’t. Or at least he wasn’t intending to be. One follower said that at least he would be pleased with the great customer service and might return. I wasn’t so sure.
He did however return today with his parents (his dad did buy a poster) and to be honest I didn’t recognise him. As he was leaving he thanked me for helping him find “that French named band” who he had enjoyed so much he was going to the album launch at The Queen’s Hall. I’m sure he thought I’d be pleased as I’m sure another follwer also thought when he tweeted to say that after reading my comments he had bought both albums and a single though sadly not from me.
I don’t begrudge the lad at all and it is good to see him looking for new music but for Avalanche as a business I think the folk of twitter would rightly label it a #FAIL.
I’ve certainly talked it over with quite a few people but putting it all down will currently take time I don’t have. However in a nutshell I would want Scotland’s best bands on sale in 30 countries rather than limited releases of 30 copies and bands playing to 30 people. I would leave shops to sell the music both in their shops and online and I would let the bands and labels concentrate on all the other stuff they have to deal with. As I said before those shops don’t have to be record shops.
There are backers interested in funding a label taking this now novel approach. It won’t affect those currently employing different strategies. We would look to have albums on sale in the best record shops in the world as well as some other interesting places and they can continue to have sell out launches in small venues and sell on bandcamp etc.
While there are honourable exceptions that have already broken out from their rather restrictive “bubbles” many more are trapped in a system that simply limits them and quickly kills their releases dead. Simplified but short ! There is much more but at least some food for thought about how bands might finally get to meet their public.
Kaiho are a 7-piece Edinburgh girlband but I can only count five. Did rather expect two more to pop up at the end. I tried another video but that only had four of them. And how did I come across this (25 views). I saw they were following Chaffinch Records and was intrigued as I’d never heard of them.
They should support Emily Scott !
When I moved to the Grassmarket I had an initial three year plan. I was sure record shops wouldn’t last forever but I hoped to gradually morph Avalanche into something people would still consider a “record shop”. Involving other businesses was definitely the way forward and I made sure as part of the lease others could be accommodated. I didn’t expect the economy to still be in the state it is of course but generally the idea still holds and Armstrongs pop up shop is a good example. Rough Trade already have other businesses in RTE and it was interesting to see RT’s Stephen Godfroy’s tweet only a couple of days ago.
Avalanche too will need to be more proactive in finding other partners if we are to continue in our fantastic location. We are not short of space which is a huge bonus but businesses these days very much need to be destinations rather than rely on passing trade and on the high street at the moment that isn’t easy. Having said that if you are confident you could add to the Avalanche “experience” feel free to get in touch. We are looking for people prepared to invest time and money in success and not just cash in on the Festival or Christmas. I do get lots of offers but normally from people with even less money than me hoping I’ll try and sell something for them. Having said that the album cover notebooks we sold over Christmas did very well indeed. Interestingly after enquiries about in-stores the most common request I get is to be associated with the Avalanche “brand”. The social media stance of “everything isn’t great all the time” also seems to have struck a chord. It was never a strategy just an extension of what I say in the shop but it does mean people find it more credible if I do say something is good.
Visitors look not only for recommendations of music and gigs but places to eat and pubs to drink in. Only today I had a French travel journalist in for a photoshoot saying his magazine says customers should ask for recommendations. Again we would be happy to accept sponsorship but we really could only endorse things we believed in. We have built up a great relationship with James-Morrow the home entertainment specialists for instance who kindly installed our new system and that relationship may progress to other projects in the future. Red Dog next door of course make all those in-stores we do possible by loaning the equipment we need.
I had hoped to grow things more organically and to a certain extent that has worked but now is the time as I say to be more proactive in looking for business partners. I have been asked if I have ruled out the cafe idea and the answer is no I haven’t but most of our business is later in the day so it would be a long haul building up a regular morning and early afternoon trade as we found out ourselves.
We also have a large office space at the back of the shop that I don’t use that would give any business the potential to also have an office or it could also provide extra storage. There are already potentially a few ideas in the melting pot but I would be very happy to listen to more.
The double A side single will be played live and and be available for the first time. Featuring,
· Davy Henderson (The Fire Engines, Win, Necatrine No.9, The Sexual Objects)
· Roy Moller (The Store Keys, Wow Cafe)
· Marco Rea (The Wellgreen, The Store Keys)
· Carla Easton (TeenCanteen)
· Kevin Williamson (Founder of Rebel Inc/Neu! Reekie! co-founder),
· Michael Pedersen (Poet, Neu! Reekie! co-founder)
· Live mixing by Graham McInnes/Producer Bob
These are difficult times and credibility and cult status are no shield against economics. New York’s The Cake Shop has gone down the band route of trying to raise money using PledgeMusic. I was a big fan of Louisville’s ear X-tacy’s stance that raising money via gigs (they had had many generous offers) was very kind but didn’t solve the problem that not enough people were using the shop. They are two very different shops and Avalanche is different again. I have never been more proud of what has been achieved than I am at the moment. We have more new and second hand vinyl than ever. Armstrongs vintage clothing looks great and we currently host the Record Store exhibition that has been very well received. Only last Saturday we had Conquering Animal Sound playing in the shop.
I spent a sizable five figure sum creating the space and was quite prepared to fund things for the first year to show what could be done but we are now half way through the second year and while I receive emails from all over the world saying what a great experience was had visiting the shop and compliments aplenty from visitors in the shop (today a couple from Montreal and a young girl from Ireland) that doesn’t sadly pay the rent or the rates or the record company bills.
Without a doubt things would be a lot different without the presence of an HMV sponsored FOPP. HMV themselves are now of course supported and part owned by the record companies and have terms I could only dream of. Our USP (unique selling point) of supporting Scottish music has been eroded by the bands themselves to a point that makes such a position untenable. You only have to follow other shops on twitter to see how important ticket sales are but despite some support it became clear that in Edinburgh at least most sales were online and if not through the established outlets.
What we do have is a selection of posters unavailable anywhere else and a fantastic choice of second hand vinyl. It still amazes me to see customers walk in with FOPP bags having bought new vinyl more expensively. Oddest was folk paying £19.99 for the latest PJ Harvey when we had it for £16.99 with a print. More recently several customers admitted they had just paid a pound more for the new Twilight Sad LP. I could easily concentrate more on online sales for vinyl and posters and that is what I will have to do. Both annoyingly have seen the costs of posting go up recently but at least what we have is either unique or hard to find.
There are many more possibilities for the shop and the Grassmarket as an arts hub but really there is just me and without some sort of financial support or sponsorship what I do most of the time simply does not make economic sense. The shop generates offers from all over the world to support Scottish music but sadly both bands and Creative Scotland are going in other directions. The irony is never lost on me that visitors often comment that Edinburgh is so lucky to still support a shop like Avalanche when actually it is the visitors that are the mainstay.
From next week I will change the opening hours and maybe even shut some days. It is not uncommon for second hand shops to close on a Monday and Tuesday for instance. Now nobody rushes in for new releases that is a possibility. Generally on Saturdays everything we do in the shop works very well indeed and of late the tradition of shopping on a Friday after work seems to have returned but otherwise unfortunately while we may be quiet it is never so quiet that I can get on with selling online. At best I get to read and answer a few emails and update twitter.
Quite simply I need to make more money and quickly. As many of you will know we are not short on stock. First plan is to make it to the end of August. Make no mistake Avalanche has many supporters and I can only thank them. The Avalanche brand has never been stronger or more influential but turning that into hard cash is proving problematic. We have a fantastic space in a great location and our record for supporting the arts speaks for itself. Maybe somebody out there will see some value in that !