The answer is I think yes and definitely for a good while yet. However if those sales are too fragmented then the physical format becomes less viable. Shops of course have the highest overheads and therefore without a certain level of sales can not survive. While there may be enough physical sales in total if shops don’t get enough of those sales then they have to close. That in turn with have a detrimental affect on physical sales and I do of course include HMV in that equation.
Selling music and making music are two completely different skills and selling in a shop and selling online are two very different processes too. For a good album with the potential to reach a wider audience by far the best strategy is still to go though shops. As is happening this year with good comedy shows that are finding it hard to get that initial word of mouth if a band insists on an album launch and a bandcamp page they will kill their album in 3 months as all potential for word of mouth and a “buzz” for the release are lost.
Now if a band is just “alright” then a low key, low sales strategy makes perfect sense. For those with more ambition a band will roughly need to sell 100 CDs in a shop for every 60 they could sell themselves for the same financial return and that is before they factor in the benefit of 100 sales in then reaching even more people rather than 60 at a launch. A good band should fancy those odds.
We had 5 people come into the shop after a There Will Be Fireworks gig attended I was later told by 35 people and ask for the CD saying the band were amazing. By incompetence rather than design they had not had the album on sale. Because of that we got in touch and 300+ sales later the rest is history. When Dan’s peers were saying Withered Hand were very good indeed but would always be very niche I was saying from a shop persrective he could be as big as Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes. I may still be proved right. People now seem to forget what a shock it was when Kid Canaveral had our biggest selling album two years ago and that happened simply because I promised it was up there with the Wedding Present’s “George Best” and folk were not disappointed.
Edinburgh School for the Deaf are the Mary Chain meets Phil Spector. The Olympic Swimmers are the Cocteau Twins meet a Scottish Sigur Ros. Best of all The Savings and Loan are as good as Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave at their best. That is a double bluff as the customer will be sure that can’t be true and then be amazed by the quality of the album. Meursault have shades of Neutral Milk Hotel (there is no better recommendation in Avalanche than that) and the Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat album is simply one of the best albums you will hear this decade.
Star Wheel Press left nothing to chance with an amazing sleeve and album leading to the very valid point that since Ryan was a relatively well known artist the sleeve was worth a tenner in its own right ! Dan is Neil young meets Daniel Johnston and a customer was never disappointed with Avalanche’s “house band” Broken Records (Beirut meets Arcade Fire). This is how shops sell an artist’s music and some of us do it very well indeed. I get over in two sentences what many a blogger can’t say in several paragraphs. More importantly the customer is very, very pleased indeed to have discovered music to their liking. We sell customers the music they will like not our own personal favourites. It just so happens that often the two do coincide.
As for buying online that will never replace the experience of going in a shop. Yes you will get what you know you want. Yes you will get it cheaply and yes you will get it at your convenience. Where is the fun in that ? If I can continue to keep Avalanche’s head above water and that is a big ”if” I will as promised resurrect the Avalanche label and will put the money I don’t have where my mouth is.