Archive for January, 2013

Avalanche and Edinburgh Castle by Gordon Terris


‘GOODBYE HMV’ – A Tribute to HMV

Reminds me of the songs they used to have at the end of Not the Nine O’Clock News

Customer Choice – but not too much !

kids listening-to-recordsI clearly remember in the early days of the internet people telling me how this would give “the kids” the chance to listen to far more music and they would end up liking all sorts of “weird shit”. The reality however is it has more than ever resulted in them liking The Beatles and Michael Jackson.

Those now looking to discover new and interesting music are understandably overwhelmed by the amount of choice and want that choice narrowed down but not to the level of Spotify’s if you like that you’ll like this.

Of course a good record shop can make recommendations to customers from the basic if you like The Twilight Sad you will like There Will Be Fireworks a la Spotify to the more common genre based lists of artists somebody might like but I suddenly realised when chatting to one young lad that one other avenue of discovering bands was now lost to younger generations.

The young lad had bought an Aphex Twin 12″ from me and the next week the new album from Grizzly Bear so when Warp Records kindly offered to tag Avalanche in a poster campaign I mentioned it to him. He had no idea who Warp were ! I should have had an inkling this was possible as again when talking to another lad about Sub Pop and their 25th anniversary campaign this year I suddenly realised he had no idea who Sup Pop were despite him having said he liked several of their bands.

Now obviously not everything by a label will be good or indeed similar to label mates but it does give a manageable selection of bands somebody might want to investigate. Both those guys have now discovered bands on Sub Pop and Warp they do like. However, and I’m sure some of you will see where this is leading, there is a big difference now from those days of people buying everything on Creation or Sarah.    

saropolyImagine if come SARAH 008 (younger readers may now be getting confused but people did genuinely once talk from time to time in catalogue numbers) Sarah Records had decided to follow up the success of SARAH 001 (The Sea Urchins – “Pristine Christine”) by the releasing the new Sea Urchins single early to fans of the band and label or maybe offered an extra photocopied insert if bought directly. OK I know I’ve lost the many younger readers of this blog by now but please just go and ask your mum or dad.

The point is the support shown to the label over the best part of a decade by shops would not have been as forthcoming (especially when as inevitably happens not everything was as good as The Sea Urchins) if they had faced such competition from the very label they were supporting.

Now some might argue that Sarah were exactly the sort of label that would have benefited more financially from practices adopted by labels now and they might be right but I genuinely believe that the shops promotion and support for Sarah was an overall benefit to the label. Now of course there would be a Sarah app and not the Saropoly board game pictured above.

Sub Pop logo square

There will I’m sure be some kid out there buying the new Pissed Jeans album and not having heard of Mudhoney. Admittedly they may not find Still Corners to their taste but delving into the iconic catalogue that is Sub Pop they will find many other bands I’m sure and without the help of Spotify. Imagine if HMV hadn’t tried to sell the kids headphones and instead gone for what they know best and supported labels like Sup Pop.

Then it becomes not just about the music but all that goes with a label like Sub Pop, the t-shirts, record bags, posters, badges etc ie THINGS YOU CAN’T DOWNLOAD ! A Sub Pop sticker has to be better than the “I Fancy Your Mum” sticker I recently saw on twitter in HMV. Again I would back a concerted high street campaign for the label’s 25th anniversary against any online equivalent. It would certainly kick the shit out of Amazon.

Of course there are many other labels, bands and even record companies these ideas could be applied to. Even the HMV brand itself is a great brand and yet they went with those Christmas adverts which were shit.

Next why bands should sign to labels, labels use distributors and distributors sell their releases to shops. It’s a crazy idea but it just might work !                      

Customer service on the high street

Empire Records girlsI’ve been asked quite a lot about customer service recently and in particular whether it played any part in HMV’s downfall. As someone who clearly doesn’t shop in HMV I can only go by other customer’s comments and certainly it was perceived that customer service was not high on their list of priorities.  To be fair they clearly had some good people and some who were not and certainly both FOPP and HMV staff regularly pointed people in the right direction when they were looking for titles only stocked by Avalanche.  

I think the more relevant question is when did good customer service start going unrewarded. Certainly when we moved to the Grassmarket the core of what we stood for was good, knowledgeable customer service and putting on interesting events. We looked to expand that in the new shop probably at just about the time some customers, used to information being free on the internet, started to see us more as an extension of google and saw little point in going to an in-store if it was going to be on YouTube later.

At the same time online sellers idea of good customer service was simply to deal with missing deliveries. There was no thought to actually promoting the music they were selling, an often time consuming but also rewarding part of selling music. They would leave that to others. The “rewarding” part not being financial it held little interest to them and the slippery slope of customers using shops as a showroom but buying online had begun.  

Surely though the record companies and labels would spot the difference in support they were getting from shops to online sellers. Well yes they did but then they started seeing the numbers the big marketplace sellers were doing and thought no more about how those numbers were being achieved. Reps would start to miss calls having to stay at home processing online orders and so shops too then started to miss out on the benefits a good rep can bring with regular visits. As has been well documented before the whole idea that high street shops would be rewarded with better deals to help with the massive overheads they faced compared to online sellers was quickly forgotten also.

I always bought any camera or video equipment from Jessops because I found their advice invaluable. I wasn’t concerned what price it was online because I was buying whatever it was because Jessops told me to and I trusted their judgement. It would have simply felt wrong to take all their advice and then see if I could save £20 buying elsewhere. I’m sure if enough people felt like that HMV would consider, should they survive, having a far stronger customer service ethic. And yes I know they were overpriced sometimes but Amazon were underpriced by an equal amount and we all now know why.

Record companies, labels and film companies (see link below) recognise even a shit HMV is far better at promoting their releases than Amazon (let’s leave Tesco for another time) and all reports are they will give them even more favourable terms in future. Moreover all those big marketplace sellers (mostly failed shops in another life) do absolutely fuck all to promote music of any kind never mind new music and yet are treated equally by many to independent high street shops. And then there are all those little marketplace sellers with record company accounts too not just on Amazon but also eBay. 

All concerned need to take a long look and decide if their continued support for those who contribute nothing to the promotion of music is worth the end of high street shops as we know them. Give all high street shops be they HMV or independents the right terms and the right tools and record companies, labels and bands might be surprised just what could be achieved.

Randolph’s Leap @ Avalanche Sunday 20th January 7pm for 7.30pm start

randolph's leap - introducingWe are open tomorrow from 2pm to 6pm for anybody wanting to book places etc. As this is our first gig (as opposed to an in-store) I’ll see how things pan out with regards to what is a reasonable number of people to have in the shop. At the moment unless we have a mad rush tomorrow people will be able to turn up and pay at the door though those places may be limited.

We will have a pop up shop in the future with refreshments but in the spirit of taking things slowly I will have a few drinks and snacks available but people are welcome to bring their own. Jo Mango will be on first at 7.30pm.

Admiral Fallow / Olympic Swimmers gig @ Avalanche Friday 1st February – Now 7.00pm start


Doors now open at 7pm to give people chance to browse in the shop and grab a snack from the Hula Juice Bar that will have a pop up shop in Avalanche for the night. Of course for hungrier folk Mamma’s Pizza is just over the road. The gig is all ages which has pleased quite a few folk. 

To encourage people to arrive early and make a night of it it seemed only fair to provide some extra entertainment and not just any band we grabbed off the street. We will have Ryan and Craig from Star Wheel Press (who had our biggest selling album of 2011) playing a short acoustic set to keep the crowd happy until 8.30pm and the band some call The Admiral Swimmers, some call Olympic Fallow but I like to call Olympic Admiral. 

Next in our series of gigs from bands featured amongst our best sellers of 2012 features not one but two bands from our top 10 playing not just together but at the same time ! That’s right a revolving line up of members from both bands will play songs from both albums and throw in a few surprises. olympic swimmers - no flags will fly

Entry is £5. Entry plus a print is £10.  

Entry plus a print and t-shirt is £20.

Entry plus a t-shirt is £15. The t-shirts and prints will be made to order with the shirts S, M, L + XL.

Print and t-shirt design will be of a souvenir gig poster. Currently leaning towards Olympic Admiral !

Places and packages can be booked in advance online using our PayPal account ( stating when you pay which package(s) you want. I’m sure my customers can do the maths ! You can of course book places in the shop too. Any questions just ask ! 

A big thank you to both bands for putting this together but especially Susie who coordinated it all. 

Avalanche open Friday 18th January @ 11am

Avalanche logo - use


We managed to complete clearing the old counter and the new counter is now fully functional ie we have the credit card machine. Still some tidying up to do (more than usual) and while we decide what to do exactly with the space it has CD racks there. Plan is to introduce more vintage clothing and then eventually I think we will remove the old counter. As a temporary solution it actually works quite well I think. 

Avalanche Opening Times

We will be closed until Friday 18th as we finish our reboot/refit.

We open again on Friday @ 11am closing as usual @ 6pm

Saturday   11am to 6pm

Sunday 2pm to 6pm and then @7pm Randolph’s Leap and Jo Mango

Randolph’s Leap @ Avalanche Sunday 20th January 7pm for 7.30pm start – Tickets, t-shirts and prints etc

randolph's leap - introducingWe will be operating a list rather than handing out/sending physical tickets andl be open from Friday so places can be booked in the shop then assuming  there are places left.

Places and packages can be booked in advance online using our PayPal account ( stating when you pay which package(s) you want. I’m sure my customers can do the maths ! Any questions just ask !

Entry is £5. Entry plus a print is £10.

Entry plus a print and t-shirt is £20

Entry plus a t-shirt is £15.

The t-shirts and prints will be made to order with the shirts S, M, L + XL.

I’ve reprinted the original details below.

Very pleased to announce our first gig in the shop with artists from our best selling albums of 2012. From time to time we will also pay tribute to our best selling artists of all time and we have a cracker to start. Randolph’s Leap will be playing songs from their top selling album but also covering songs from Avalanche’s best selling band of all time Belle and Sebastian.

Surely enough to whet anybody’s appetite but there is more. Not one but two artists from our top 30 as Jo Mango will be along to not only play a few songs from her album but also pay tribute to the band that has taken the top three places in our all time Scottish album chart.

All these gigs will be ticketed and of course tickets will be limited. Tickets will be a bargain at £5 but there is more. There will be an opportunity to buy a t-shirt and print featuring the Randolph’s Leap album cover made to order and to be collected (or sent out if necessary) a week after the gig. A very limited number will be available for those who can not make the gig but would like what will be a great souvenir.

Places can be ordered tomorrow in the shop and will be available online from Sunday. A ticket and t-shirt will be £15 and with a print too £20. A ticket and a print will be £10. I hope this will be a great way for customers to have a unique experience while helping to support the shop. It goes without saying we couldn’t do any of this without the support of the artists involved.

Opening hours next week and future opening times

Avalanche logo - useDon’t forget we are closed Sunday to Thursday and reopen again on Friday @ 11am. Saturday we will be open as normal and then on Sunday we have Randolph’s Leap with Jo Mango starting at 7pm. Plan I think will be to revert to last year’s opening time for a Sunday in January/February of 2pm. 

Assuming we have managed to get all we need done it will then be a case of finding a balance between making sure we keep on top of online sales and emails while opening the shop.