Archive for December, 2012
I’ve been asked a lot from various sides of the music industry recently why the Avalanche chart features so many local bands and/or why other shop charts don’t. Other charts are of course based on staff picks and less often sales. First of all I haven’t had the time or the inclination to extensively check how true this is but certainly from what I have seen local bands rarely feature if at all inbetween Grimes and Tame Impala in a top 10. Certainly Scotland maybe has the lion’s share of new talent and has had for several years but not to the complete exclusion of all others.
I admit that to some extent there is a certain amount of politics goes into some charts as labels are rewarded for offering shops extras for their end of year charts but still there is plenty of room to slip in the odd curveball. I can’t really speculate as to why the charts are as they are but what does disappoint me is the lack of Scottish bands in other shop charts. I would certainly have expected our two biggest sellers the Twilight Sad and Meursault to feature regularly.
As far as Avalanche is concerned I’m happy that we have The XX and Jack White rubbing shoulders with Olympic Swimmers and Randolph’s Leap and there is no doubt that gives credibility to a band. Our chart has a worldwide influence and is always one of our most read posts of the year. Only today a customer from Paris bought the Meursault album on vinyl after listening simply on the basis he had seen it so high in our chart. Yesterday a US customer bought all the titles in the top 10 he didn’t already own. An exiled Scot in Barcelona bought the entire top 30 except Meursault which I had sold him already. Many more simply go away and listen to the bands but that as we now well know is the way of things.
I’ve had many lovely comments from customers who only visit one a year around this time saying how much they enjoy the blog and how it helps them keep in touch with Scottish music. Some are Scots now living further afield and others are those who have come to love Scottish indie music. This may be the last chart with any real meaning as sales figures continue to drop for a variety of reasons. Of course this may also be the last completely shop based chart depending on what future lies ahead for Avalanche. I’ll publish the final top 40 on New Year’s Day. I think it represents Avalanche very well.
A few months ago I had a visit from an interesting guy. He was from Israel and had a way of talking as sometimes people from that country do that was quite intense. He talked about issues affecting the music industry in a very knowledgeable way and told me things as if they were certain truths rather than opinions. He spoke about the future as if he had seen it rather than predicting it and suddenly I realised he rather reminded me of a character from “Lost”.
He was in for some time and it turned out he had given up a well paid job in computing 10 years ago to become a travel correspondent for National Geographic. He would spend 10 months roaming the world’s most interesting places and then in his spare time he visited record shops. He would then return home for two months writing up all his visits while playing music bought on his visits on a radio show. He would then start all over again.
He had a lot to say but his opening line was a bit of a stunner. He just walked up to the counter and said “I’ve visited 78 countries and been to hundreds of record shops and yours is the best shop in the best location I have ever seen”. I should add he then qualified it by mentioning a lot of great shops that just didn’t happen to have a nearby castle and a such a great location. He had been in the shop for a while and heard me talking to customers and went on to say how important shops like Avalanche were, that for now customer service wasn’t always appreciated but there would be a time when people tired of the internet and realised just what they had been missing. I had to bide my time, maybe for two years, and stay open.
Don’t worry I certainly didn’t get carried away. I’m sure the castle as with others was the biggest factor in his opening statement but certainly his views on the future matched my own thoughts. He was a very interesting man and spoke at length about other things always as if he was telling me certain truths. As he prepared to leave I tried to remember exactly who it was from “Lost” he reminded me of. He shook my hand and repeated that I should hang on in there and that better times would return. “I’ll be mentioning your shop he said, who should people ask for ?”. “Kevin” I said “and what is your name ?” “My name” he said. “My name is Jacob”.
A slight change to now include the excellent Neu! Reekie! single
1. Frightened Rabbit – State Hospital
2. Withered Hand – Inbetweens
3. There Will Be Fireworks – Because, Because
4. Jesus Baby / Kevin Williamson – The Caterpillar Tango / In A Darkened Room
5. Rachel Sermanni – Black Currents
With 5 days of sales to go here is the top 30
1. The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
2. Meursault – Something for The Weakened
3. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah Don’t Bend Ascend
5. Admiral Fallow – Tree Bursts In Snow
6. Olympic Swimmers – No Flags Will Fly
7. Randolph’s Leap – Introducing …..
8. Kevin MacNeil & Willie Campbell – Visible From Space
9. Paul Buchanan – Mid Air
10. Rob St John – Weald
11. The XX – Coexist
12. Jack White – Blunderbus
13. Django Django – Django Django
14. Unwinding Hours – Afterlives
15. Human Don’t Be Angry – Human Don’t Be Angry
16. Grizzly Bear – Shields
17. Cancel The Astronauts – Animal Love Match
18. Trapped Mice – Winter Sun
19. RM Hubbert – Thirteen Lost & Found
20. James Yorkston – I Was A Cat From A Book
21. Cat Power – Sun
22. Errors – Have Some Faith In Magic
23. Tango In The Attic – Sellotape
24. Vaccines – Come Of Age
25. Jo Mango – Murmuration
26. Errors – New Relics
27. Mogwai – A Wrenched Virile Lore
28. Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky
29. PAWS – Cokefloat!
30. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
So the Twilight Sad are holding off Meursault just ! Godspeed are on the verge of overtaking Mr Cohen. Olympic Swimmers were snapping at the heels of their more experienced tour mates only for Admiral Fallow to pull away again in the last couple of days. Into the Top 20 are Grizzly Bear possibly following the posters Warp very kindly put up around Edinburgh and label mates Flying lotus have also made the top 30.
Tango In The Attic bigger than the Vaccines isn’t a headline you will see anywhere else and Dinosaur Jr are holding off whippersnappers PAWS. If Errors care at all about dropping out of the Top 20 (and I’m sure they don’t) they should be consoled by pipping label mates Mogwai with their second album of the year. Olive Grove’s Jo Mango enters at a very respectable 25.
However probably the biggest surprise is the Trapped Mice album Winter Sun going straight into the Top 20 at 18. Still selling well it probably just doesn’t have enough time to catch Cancel The Astronauts especially as that too is still selling strongly.
The final top 40 will be posted in a week’s time.
A lot of people have suggested the shop could be used more as a venue given its size and the lack of small venues in Edinburgh. I’m not sure whether that will work long term but while we are closed it seems like a good idea. I always intended to ask this year’s best selling bands if they fancied doing something and I’ve already had a very positive response from those I’ve spoken to. We do of course have the huge advantage that we can borrow anything we need from Red Dog.
As you will all know I have refused to charge for in-stores or even insisted on a purchase but customers have said they would be happy to pay to see bands especially if it helped with the shop’s overheads which are of course considerable. Others have suggested regular nights in a venue maybe once a month but that would rely on the gigs actually making money which is not always easy these days !
Anyway putting all this together with hopefully Avalanche’s new focus on merchandise a plan has evolved though by no means a definite one. We will put on a series of gigs featuring our best selling bands but not what you might normally expect. We will offer the possibility of a matching t-shirt and/or poster. Possibly if a band can’t make it in January we will have some exclusive merchandise instead. They will be fundraisers in the same way the Scars reformed to play for us in the HMV Picture House and raised enough money to pay for our move to the Grassmarket.
I’ve also had a few enquiries from abroad and the UK as to whether it would be possible to watch in-stores live as we once did with a Pearl and the Puppets gig. These things can now be set up on a pay what you want basis and that will certainly be a possibility we will look into.
If all goes well we will be producing prints/posters commemorating Avalanche’s best selling albums over the years (the Neutral Milk Hotel poster and print has already been designed) and there will be a best 50 Sottish albums since the original vinyl release of “Tigermilk” which itself stands at No. 2 in the chart. This will tie in with hopefully exclusives from out top ten Scottish bands over the same time period.
With Biffy fans being offered an exclusive box set, Nick Cave signing fans’ exclusive box sets if they are quick enough and Roddy Woomble’s daily trip to the post office to send fans an album not out in shops until March we simply can not rely on selling music at all which is a shame as selling great music to people who don’t know about it what we do best.
Much as I did with the Withered Hand t-shirts, postcards and badges which Avalanche paid for the prints etc will always be available to bands. As I said in our much quoted manifesto we will always be keen to work with and help bands (Scottish or not) and that will still very much be the case even in these difficult times. How we do that may need to evolve from what has been the case for the last couple of years.
How all this works out will depend on a band by band basis as to what they feel comfortable with. Several of you have spotted Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit have our best selling album and top EP and have put 2+2 together to get 4. Both bands are of course great supporters of Avalanche but also very busy. For now you will need to keep your fingers crossed !
I’ll continue to be positive in working towards a new model that will work which is not always easy believe me given sales.
And yes Idlewild easily made our top 10 Scottish bands list.
A side effect of the blog becoming more and more popular was that it suddenly seemed to face far more attacks (of a cyber nature) that the blog wasn’t really geared up for. We also managed to exceed our bandwidth but that was sorted very quickly thanks to United Hosting. Anyway thanks also to Steve from Supermarionation and the mysterious Grant the blog is now clean and hopefully will remain so. As plugins were the main problem they have all been removed but should return once declared safe including the shop. An all new shop will with luck be ready before Christmas.
I was going to take a time out anyway and let the dust settle as hopefully things became clearer. I can’t honestly say things are much clearer yet and HMV/FOPP’s troubles only complicate matters but the plan is to work towards a positive outcome as I first said in my statement. Customer support has been fantastic but I have to say most heartening has been the young kids hoping we don’t close mainly because of the posters but also because of the vinyl. Who would have thought kids would care whether a record shop stayed open or not ?
There have been messages of support from all over the world which has genuinely surprised me and I think there is a real understanding of the challenges facing all high street shops at the moment especially when competing with online sellers who in the case of music don’t only fail to promote the artists they sell but in the case of Amazon pay any tax !
I will post regular updates from now on.
Many thanks again for all the kind words and sorry to all the people I have been unable to reply to. Please feel free to send again an email, tweet or facebook message that I may have missed the first time and may need an answer.
To celebrate the short film released this weekend highlighting the Grassmarket as the arts hub of Edinburgh with independent traders to match, Avalanche has at great personal expense secured a visit from Santa’s ponies to the Grassmarket. With Edinburgh’s premier children’s gift shop Helios Fountain next door we find that between ourselves and our other neighbours Red Dog, Edinburgh’s biggest and best musical instrument shop, children of all ages can find something of interest as well as their parents.
Once the obligatory photo has been taken in front of the castle visitors to the Grassmarket will also be able to visit the world famous vintage clothing emporium Armstrongs, discover a fantastic range of books you are unlikely to see elsewhere in Analogue at the foot of Candlemaker Row and find all the refreshments you might need at the Hula Juice Bar and Gallery. It goes without saying there are many more other fantastic independent retailers and eateries to be visited too.