Archive for October, 2012
After great feedback from the students this year both the first years and those returning I’ve taken their advice to take Avalanche to the students in an attempt to convince those that maybe never go to the shops these days that perhaps shops do have something to offer they can’t find online. Certainly the pleasure of looking through vinyl or rummaging through posters is an experience impossible to match.
We will of course only be taking along a small selection of what we have but enough hopefully to encourage folk to want to come and see more. There will be a good selection of all our posters and a couple of boxes of our best new vinyl along with some interesting second hand items covering everything from UK and US indie to soul, jazz, blues, soundtracks and classic dance titles.
We will be joined by our next door neighbours Red Dog and if all goes well expect to see us back with more of our Grassmarket friends. The shop will still be open and we will be at Teviot all day from 9am to 6pm.
I’ve been asked for a few quotes recently especially as the documentary Last Shop Standing is being shown in Edinburgh in December so I thought I had better ask for the latest figures as I was being asked about the resurgence of the independents and vinyl. Don’t shoot the messenger. The figures speak for themselves so I’ve made no more than a short comment
Specialists 119,394 units £1,919,894 value
Independents 115,171 units £1,852,000 value
Totals 234,565 £3,771,894
Specialists 151,324 units up 26.7% £2,417,342 value up 25.9%
Indies 107,350 units down 9.3% £1,714,866 value down 9.2%
Totals 258,674 (up 10.3%) £4,132,208 (up 9.6%)
Specialists are HMV, Amazon etc basically not supermarkets or download sites. In 2011 the indies (49.1%) and the specialists (50.9%) were neck and neck. So far in 2012 even with the massive RSD sales included the indies trail by 17% (58.5 v 41.5) to the point that they haven’t only lost market share but have in fact lost sales not gained them.
Queues had already started to form outside HMVs all over the country after their announcement that they intended to concentrate on delivering a successful Christmas.
An HMV spokesman said they intended to deliver all successful Christmases by the 23rd December and they would last a week giving customers the opportunity to also purchase a Happy New Year. He said the offer had proved particularly popular with those with young families.
A Rough Trade spokesman confirmed their Christmas offer would be considerably “cooler” with every customer receiving a Charlotte Church Christmas card with a special mix CD inside featuring all of Mumford & Sons favourite Christmas tunes and a New Year message from ex-employee Adele.
The totals vary slightly as the figures are boosted to allow for lost sales by a percentage and rounding up and down can lead to a small discrepancy (stats nerd). Online sales and downloads are allocated to a region and the DIG figure at the end are those that couldn’t be allocated. So 28 people in London went in a shop, had it delivered to their address or downloaded it. There were 43 sales in Scotland.
There were 121 DBs (download bundles) and 11 sales in indies. 74 CDs were sold and no vinyl as it missed the release date. SPEC includes everybody from HMV to Amazon.
These are the figures the music industry sees. These are the figures that are used to see if the current situation is sustainable. How many are sold at launches or on tour or not declared by the label has no relevance to them. As one senior industry person said to me “it is just a case of whether we are all fucked or just most of us”. I think we know the answer there when it comes to XL and the Beggars Group !
To put this in perspective the first Broken Records album sold 105 copies week one just in our Cockburn Street shop.
For artists wanting to operate outwith the system of labels and distribution and shops then that is completely up to them but those who choose to be a part of it should play the game or not play at all as other local/Scottish band figures bear out.
I very much suspect Godspeed have set the standard for future album releases. For bands the album launch before the official release date had already become the norm and for some even the first few dates of a tour but now the stakes have been raised. Godspeed will play a full two week US tour and the day after the tour finishes shops will be allowed to sell their album. Their label Constellation has sold so many it has run out of stock.
Many thousands of fans will not visit a record shop to buy the album that much is clear which makes the label’s statement even stranger. This is possibly the best worded statement of support for independent record shops I have ever read.
LP PRE-ORDERS IN OUR WEB STORE ARE NOW SUSPENDED.
Please check back on our site over the next couple of days for further developments.
We apologise for any inconvenience. We sincerely and strongly encourage you to support independent music retailers by buying the album when it is in stores or appears on other mail-order sites. Constellaton and GYBE care deeply about keeping indie record shops alive and viable – please support them by requesting/reserving the album, or if you do not live anywhere near a good indie store, check out the many stores that do also have online shops
If for instance Belle and Sebastian or Mogwai (our two biggest ever selling Scottish bands) adopted this strategy for their next album it would have a huge impact on Avalanche sales. Whatever it may say in the statement above what this strategy does do is make indie record shops less viable.
Whether artists should try to make as much as they can from a release for themselves and whether profitable labels should try to maximise those profits are discussions for a different time. Artists and labels’ situations vary dramatically but one thing is for sure. Many of those artists with established fan bases achieved them with the support of shops and many newer artists for all the wonders of social media would benefit even today from the support of shops. As Record Store Day has proved the support for shops much of the time could best be described as disingenuous.
Just before the Godspeed news I received an email from Interpol (the only band I have ever signed up to) to tell me that there would be a Tenth Anniversary Edition of Turn On the Bright Lights as they “wanted to do something special for the fans who have always supported us”. You could pre-order this from their website. Given the email says “We never could have imagined that the album would have reached so many people throughout the world” they would do well to remember that that was in no small part thanks to all the independent shops that supported their particular combination of Joy Division meets Echo & The Bunnymen meets The Cure as it was originally described to me. Their anniversary thanks is again to take sales from shops.
One thing is for sure. If all bands adopt the ethos of Godspeed and Interpol then it will be time for the remaining shops to turn the lights off not on !
FOR THE RECORD
So pleased were Interpol’s label with Avalanche’s support for the first album I was given a copy of “Antics” months before the release date to see what I thought. When the band signed to EMI for the third album I was asked for advice on the launch. My rather obvious suggestion was to have it in the natural history department of the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street. It didn’t go ahead but the same idea was used in LA.
When Godspeed You! Black Emperor played their second ever UK gig at the Stills Gallery in Edinburgh in November 1998 the promoters realised that even if they sold all the tickets they couldn’t afford to pay for the PA. It was indeed a sell out and Avalanche paid for the PA so the gig could go ahead.
“The car is on fire… and there’s no driver at the wheel… and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides… and a dark wind blows…”
One Up’s comments about closing after Christmas unless business improved if anything made me focus even more on Avalanche’s future. There were three obvious options :-
1. That we could survive as we were with enough customers for what we do.
2. That there was a demand for what we do but not enough as things stand to sustain us.
3. That there simply wasn’t the demand anymore for a record shop of our size in Edinburgh.
As other shops have commented before there is no point in continuing by regularly having money raising events and gigs if the demand for the shop really isn’t there. That we ended up with option 2 was not a surprise but thankfully suggestions as to how we supplemented our income were more useful than “selling online”.
In fact it was some of our newest customers from the new intake of students along with those who had returned who seemed most concerned they might lose the shop. We were already well down the line of sourcing even more posters and certainly this was a universally popular idea. However what was suggested, and I’ve mentioned recently, was that most students now were so unaware of what a good record shop could offer that we take what we do to them. Not only would it boost the coffers financially but encourage first time buyers to check out the shop.
When we very kindly had these posters put up for us I though I was advertising the new Cat Power and XX albums as well as a poster sale but many assumed I was advertising Cat Power and XX posters ! Not a daft assumption but not what I thought would first spring to mind.
I was well aware there were already poster sales at the universities but they now appear to be mainly film posters and they certainly don’t have the wide range of posters we have. Any possible doubts were removed when on Wednesday I had several Heriot-Watt students in all very enthusiastic about the posters and saying we should take vinyl out to their campus too.
So it would seem there is a demand for what we do but we may need to take it to our potential customers rather than wait for them to come to us. There has also been a noticeable increase in vinyl sales to our students so along with the posters it seems a winning combination.
I’ve been offered all the help I need in commissioning new posters and had nothing but support from the record labels and bands I have spoken to already who understandably see it as great promotion. The irony that they want to compete for my sales of music but not the posters has not been lost on me.
It also looks like I may have sourced more original posters going back almost a decade. I originally raised enough money to open my first shop by selling hand made block mounts of everybody from Duran Duran and Wham to David Bowie and of course that first shop was next to Edinburgh University so in a way it feels we have very much come full circle.
Selling posters online is expensive because of the postage and cost of the tubes but at least that gives a shop an advantage for once in costs. Interestingly I had a lady at the counter buying a CD observing the kids and students rummaging through the posters and she commented that I should make more of the posters as “the ones in HMV are shit”. You can’t beat good advice from customers !
So it may be that to stay in the Grassmarket we need to leave it from time to time. We undoubtedly need to do more than just posters and I’ve looked at other areas from new releases to local bands releases and will post my thoughts soon but in these days of fierce competition from all quarters it is certainly very true that you can’t download a poster.
Just to clarify we aren’t “not stocking” the new PAWS album we just didn’t get any consigned to us as neither the label or the band got in touch. These days when a band have their album launch before the release date and the label is actively selling online it is simply impossible for us to guess how many if any we will sell. For instance we stocked the Sucioperro album in 2011 and sold none of the 10 we ordered for quite a while. After a year we had sold 5 and were still out of pocket. Consequently we had no choice but to take none of their new album. Prior to this we had always done well with the band’s releases.
Distributors I should add never offer consignment unless instructed by the label. I’m not sure why I’ve been told it was hard to find in Glasgow except that as the launch was in Glasgow all shops but HMV and FOPP who get different payment terms to independents would be extra cautious in stocking it. It would appear it has just been taken for granted that shops will blindly support the album despite being put at a major disadvantage.
Next. Why we don’t have the Rod Jones album – we were never offered it.
All this time I’ve been waiting for something to come along for the album club and this snuck out in July without me knowing. Some of you will recognise Kevin’s vocal from the intro to the There Will Be Fireworks album. Others will remember Willie from his band Astrid.
Poet, novelist and playwright Kevin MacNeil won the Tivoli Europa Giovani International Poetry Prize for the best collection published in Europe by a writer under 35.
Ex-Astrid vocalist Willie Campbell tours as a solo artist and as a member of The Open Day Rotation, a band formed in Lewis which has a ‘rotating’ line up.
Local Man Ruins Everything, (MacNeil and Campbell’s first collaboration) was Single Of The Week in The Guardian and The List as well as being a big seller for Avalanche on 7″.
It passed with flying colours the all important album club test. I’ve now played it 8 times and sold 10 copies while doing so. It has been worth the wait !
I must average a couple of offers a day from bands/managers with an idea to help promote the cause of independent shops. It always of course involves promoting the band as well and I’m sure the offers range from being very genuine to quite cynical. I also get other offers of help some of which are as I type hopefully coming to fruition. The poster campaign donated by City Centre posters is a great example of businesses and individuals making a big difference to the Avalanche cause and their support looks like it might be extended nationwide. Other plans lie very much in the balance.
However by far the most important thing most people can do for any shop is to come in and buy things. You should never underestimate how much that helps ! We have some great days especially on a Saturday but currently we simply don’t take enough money enough of the time to survive. I’m already working all the hours there are so adding any more profitable ideas has to be at the expense of something else.
I wanted to wait until the students returned and the batch of “big” new releases appeared before making any decisions. On the down side “big” new releases from Animal Collective to Mumford and Sons have sold next to nothing but on the plus side not only are the posters we sell extremely popular with students and others alike but we also have more students than ever buying vinyl both new and second hand.
Quite a few students have suggested we take a stall at the university to publicise even more what we do and I think that will go ahead. There are ideas that we have been investigating ever since we moved that only now are looking like they might go ahead and there are other opportunities that have presented themselves quite recently. What is absolutely clear is we have to do things that “pay the rent” above things that are worthy and credible. Not only do artists need to embrace 360 as the way forward in music but shops too and probably with an added something extra.
I really feel we have something for everybody in the shop and the feedback is phenomenal. Again I know we get a lot of visitors who aren’t used to such good prices but even so whether it is new releases, vinyl, second hand CDs or posters all the comments we get are how cheap things are. To have a sale would be daft !
So instead of a sale I’m just hoping October will be the month people will take the time to pop in and see if they can be tempted to part with their hard earned cash. I think we all know how hard things are so I do appreciate every sale. I often see folk who haven’t been in for a while say they have got out of the habit of shopping never mind coming to record shops but it really would only take an extra dozen or so sales a day every day to start making a real difference.
So pop in. Persuade your friends to pop in and with the right tweeks and time management I’m hopeful of a way forward. With young people travelling by train from as far afield as Newcastle and Aberdeen to buy posters they may not be buying music anymore but it is still heartening to see. I’ve been asked several times about what I think about One Up but from what I can tell all that was said was that they would be getting through to Christmas and then seeing how things were. I think that applies to most of us !
One customer did suggest I should get in more staff like those from Empire Records. I wasn’t entirely sure what was meant but when I googled for a pic and got this I may see now where he was coming from. For now at least I’m afraid you are stuck with me !