“The Figures Just Don’t Add Up”. So said Phil Barton on the closure of Rounder in Brighton as their lease came to an end. To be honest I’d be amazed if anybody’s figures added up these days but it is difficult to tell. The few who claim to do well talk of increased turnover or footfall but I’m yet to see any shop say they have made a healthy profit. Of the bigger indies I can only imagine most survive because of ticket sales, online sales or second hand. I used to see totals for the Coalition chart and they were worryingly low. Now I hear the figures for the expanded Record Store Day chart are even more worrying.
The causes can be addressed another time but if despite their best efforts shop sales figures for new releases regularly struggle to hit three figures between 100 shops then something has to be said and something has to be done. We can’t keep talking of a resurgence when the figures are showing a terminal decline just to suit the latest documentary or film. With “big” albums out soon by Animal Collective, Cat Power and The XX it will be interesting to see how they fair in the independents. When I say our orders were in double figures that might seem obvious but these days 3 vinyl and 3 CD is a regular order for us and they quite simply are not the sort of figures on which we can survive.
What is more startling than these sales is the decline in the number of what might generally be called “big” indie releases for a shop like Avalanche. After the disastrous winter that greeted us following our move I was very happy with the way things were going and we had a successful first 6 months in the year. There were 17 big releases from PJ Harvey in February to Bon Iver in June. the following 6 months yielded only 5 a figure repeated in the first 6 months of 2012.
Albums from The Fleet Foxes, Explosions In The Sky, Bright Eyes, Radiohead etc as well as strong Scottish releases from Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Mogwai and surprise hits Conquering Animal Sound and Star Wheel Press brought a continuous flow of people into the shop. Add in continued strong sales from our album of the year by Kid Canaveral and the Savings and Loan released very late the previous year and that now seems like a halcyon time ! Why releases had dried up is not clear.
With back catalogue sales except for Scottish bands pretty well at an end too and the sales of new vinyl grossly exaggerated (0.24% up to 0.39%) the figures for stocking new product simply don’t add up and yet a constant stream of new releases is what will bring folk in. Certainly there are releases every week in September that should get people into shops and the students return in Edinburgh mid September so we have to live in hope that a run of good releases kick starts some genuine revival. Of course one good month isn’t going to change anything but the hope has to be that it is just the start.