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Archive for February, 2013

A shop sale often isn’t just a shop sale

RecordStore11GTTowards the end of last year I had a guy come to the counter and ask if I could recommend an album as good as the Twilight Sad album I’d sold him a couple of years ago. It turned out he was from the States, just south of Washington DC, and had had his own record shop which was now closed. They had been big in supporting the “DC scene” but …………… you can guess how it goes. Anyway his final point was telling and he wasn’t somebody who reads my blog. 

“Because you sold me that Twilight Sad CD two of my friends also bought it” he said. “And because you sold me that Twilight Sad CD myself and three friends bought tickets for their gig in DC. Some bands get that he said but most don’t”. He bought half a dozen CDs I recommended and a stack of other stuff and wished me luck.

Just before Christmas two young lads came in and were chatting away asking about the new Godspeed album I was playing. “Last time I was in your shop I bought the album you were playing said one of the lads. In fact that is why we are here”. I didn’t catch on immediately but they were up for Christmas Baubles and of course the album I’d been playing was the Kid Canaveral album. We both love them he said. Seen them three times back home in Yorkshire (they were from Huddersfield). Bought everything they’ve done even the t-shirt !

Now there are dozens of stories like this involving There Will Be Fireworks or Withered Hand or Star Wheel Press or …………..  There was the girl from Lausanne who couldn’t believe Meursault were coming to town or the girls who flew from Germany especially to see the Last Battle in Aviemore after buying the CD in Avalanche.

I”ve also had dozens of emails or customers commenting in the shop saying they only know of a band or label because of the shop and they will always buy from the shop whatever incentives they are given to do otherwise. It is very good of people to say this but buying music shouldn’t involve having to take sides. Also I’m very uneasy about customers paying more for a release and missing out on “extras”.

Once the HMV/FOPP situation is clear Avalanche will definitely be “moving on” and I’ve had several very successful meetings recently so much is already in place. I’m told all must be resolved before HMV’s rents are due end of March so hopefully by Record Store Day in April I’ll have a firm idea of the way Avalanche will be moving forward. I have about three businesses worth of ideas and opportunities to consider so what I need to do is focus on those that pay the rent and I most enjoy.

I hope people appreciate there is an integrity to Avalanche that forms the basis of what the shop, website, blog and twitter comments are all about. Monetising that is not easy but hopefully others have seen a value in Avalanche’s outlook and attitude. 

Snapper – Buddy (Flying Nun 12″ released by Avalanche)

Peter Liversidge, Proposal for Low. Backdrop and Lights for Low at Royal Festival Hall, London 3rd April 2012

The Influence: Leonard Cohen Consoles Nick Cave

The-Influence.-Leonard-Cohen-consoles-Nick-Cave-300x331

 

 

Australian artist Ben Smith’s The Influence: Leonard Cohen Consoles Nick Cave is a fucking masterpiece.

I don’t usually have these sort of feelings for oil paintings bordering on kitsch, but it seduced me.

The double-portrait’s symbolic proportions, rendering Cave a melancholy child on the lap of sage Cohen, being served the blood of Jesus and the fruit of knowledge. 

Heavy handed it may be, but my, that’s good pop culture. By 

 

Nick Cave covers Leonard Cohen

And just to confuse a few folk Nick Cave – Hallelujah (Live 2001) Nick chats at the beginning about his lyrics

And the man himself

If Avalanche released a compilation album these songs would be on it

Babybird – Unloveable

“Here’s the official, uncut version of Babybird’s Unloveable video, directed by Johnny Depp. This particular version was just a bit too intense for the folks over at Yahoos Standards and Practices department. However, we believe that this version gives the viewer the true vision intended by both the artist and director.”

Damien Jurado – Love The Same

Bright Eyes – Messenger Bird’s Song

Record Store Day 2013 – What do you think ?

record-store-day-logo1Isn’t it about now that the second hand shops start tweeting about new stuff #RSD13

And of course the online sellers start inviting folk to “shop” in their lock ups, garages and offices #RSD13

After a couple of tweets about Record Store Day and a bit of banter with Ian Rankin I received quite a few comments. Mostly I would class them as constructive criticism. It reminded me that Kim Bayley, the Director General of ERA who administer RSD for the shops had said they were always keen to hear comments from shops and customers alike. Certainly a vocal minority are very keen for RSD to continue just as it is and in the absence of any other other comments that will on the whole be what will happen with a few tweaks.  

I think ERA have got the message customers think releases are too expensive and sometimes too limited and of course everybody gets pissed off with eBay but I hear far more comments than just those. Anyway I’ve summarised below all the points made to me but I would suggest that both customers and shops contact ERA with their thoughts praising any positive aspects that should be encouraged as well as pointing out any pitfalls or faults. Kim assures me there is still time for comments to be taken into consideration before releases are announced later in March.

I’ll keep the points simple and brief though obviously many could be expanded on. 

Releases not exclusive to RSD and no quality control (Both of these points have hopefully been addressed in a code of conduct drawn up this year for labels to sign). However if labels make plenty of something shops won’t sell them all and labels and bands will then be free to sell RSD releases too.

Too many “old bands” and not enough current stuff. 

CD shops selling vinyl once a year (Certainly CD shops complained of the same thing wanting CDs to sell but I’m not sure if that would work now)

Pitchfork/Hipster shops (I’m quoting from a customer there) selling many releases they wouldn’t be seen dead selling the rest of the year

Second hand shops that don’t support new product all year but stock up for RSD

Online sellers in offices, lock ups, garages and living rooms reminding customers they are very welcome to visit and publishing “shop opening” hours that often strangely for a shop don’t include a Saturday

Shops being quoted as selling massive amounts of RSD product online as soon as it is allowed

The lack of any RSD related things the rest of the year. Black Friday is maybe not transferable to the UK but other events during the year would be welcomed to keep high street shops in the public eye. 

Both shops and labels not caring whether they receive much stock or sell much stock as they are included in all the publicity  

Unwillingness of shops to hold in-stores as they will get in the way of taking money and unwillingness of bigger “name” bands to play on RSD (Obviously both these points don’t apply to Avalanche)

Focus on vinyl rather than high street record shops giving many people the idea the day was a celebration of vinyl rather than shops (I deal with the media a fair bit and the problem is that they look for a new spin each year when boring as they may find it the core message is the same every year)

HMV jumping on the RSD “vinyl message” bandwagon (May not be an issue this year!) 

There have been lots of other points made by individuals but those above are the most common

Personally as an original member of RSD it is clear that RSD now is not fit for its original purpose which was to get folk into shops and hopefully get them to come back. Too much that is sold is either by shops who wouldn’t have anything similar in normally or is online. Other customers are clearly in after an email from the artist and that same artist will very likely be emailing next with an offer of something not available in shops. Some shops clearly make an effort to “make a day of it” but they are too few.

It saddens me when most people talk of the success of RSD as taking more money than last year. It is not the measure I would use and with the number of releases increasing every year taking more money is almost inevitable. However if the purpose of RSD is simply to give a much needed cash injection to small and big shops alike then of course it fulfills its purpose admirably though as one customer pointed out “that didn’t do Rounder or One Up much good”.

ERA’s advertised contact email address is admin@eraltd.org and you can if you wish copy me in on avalancherecords@hotmail.co.uk  

If ERA don’t hear the thoughts of customers and shops then they can only only go on what little they do hear. A mixture of praise and constructive criticism would be good !

Avalanche update – Still Doing It For The Kids + more

School kids outside Bruce's, Princes Street.

School kids outside Bruce’s, Princes Street.

The only thing I am sure of is that I want Avalanche to continue to attract younger customers. Whether they are buying Arctic Monkeys posters, Bright Eyes badges, Biffy Clyro and Smiths vinyl  or Frightened Rabbit CDs what is great is that they feel the shop is somewhere they feel comfortable spending time. My main issue with much of the publicity for record shops is that it reinforces stereotypes that they are for older men and hipsters. We get plenty of the former and not so many of the latter but also a lot of kids and students who are still feeling their way and not only feel comfortable asking questions but hopefully have no fear of being mocked for liking “the wrong music”. As with the many visitors we get I recommend music I think they will like not music they should like.

Comments along the lines that we have “something for everybody” I’m more than pleased with. Families come to the counter all with things to buy. At the same time serious collectors and record shop enthusiasts often say that one visit is simply not enough to work through all that we have. When somebody said “if only HMV was like this maybe things would have turned out differently” I took it as a big compliment. You can read The Herald article here  

http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/music/the-needle-and-the-damage-done.20080758

Great they noted we get as many men as women and there are loads of good quotes but I’ll settle for these

Meet 19-year-old Flo Berten. She’s from Durban in South Africa, recently started a law degree at Napier University and has become something of a regular. “I came in here and fell in love with it,” she says. “I love the posters and the T-shirts. I just love the feeling of it, the vibe, all the old records. I like going to HMV but it’s very commercial whereas this is about a love of music.”

There is still life here. More than that, there’s hope too – and perhaps the best evidence comes from the mouths of our two young friends, the ones for whom even Britpop was an obscure, pre-natal event.

“I like it,” laughs James Byron, the digital native, taking in the atmosphere and looking around at the clutter of posters and albums. “It’s what my bedroom’s like.”

To have a shop serious record shop enthusiasts think is a “proper” record shop but at the same time not put off youngsters is no mean achievement that I’m very proud of. The other directions we take are to some extent currently out of my control. How much we concentrate on new releases will depend on the HMV/FOPP situation. I hope that those who have visited the shop because of the dearth of vinyl in FOPP and have been impressed continue to return.

The website has been very well received and I aim to do more with that later in the month. Again marvellous support from customers. The gigs we have had in the shop so far have been a huge success showing what a difference the support of bands can make. Frightened Rabbit continued that theme with the release of their new album. Other bands and labels may take another route but so long as we can offer our customers the same releases at the same time and at the same price we will continue to do all we can to promote Scottish music.

There is of course much more and once things are clearer with regards to HMV and FOPP I’ll be able to say more. As ever I can not thank customers, labels and bands enough for their support. Believe me it is what makes the difference.

Announcement of HMV closures from one independent’s perspective

HMV nipper-the-dog classic logoIt is my understanding that the first list of closures were as much about exiting long expensive leases as about loss making shops. No shop is “safe” even in the short term as another list will follow. As a separate company wholly owned by HMV the FOPP stores were never going to appear on the list so nothing can be read into their absence. The administrators are currently trying to make HMV look as attractive as possible to a buyer and there is no reason that once all the Edinburgh stores are closed another couldn’t be reopened by the new owners in a more suitable location and of a more appropriate size.

What is clear is that for at least the last two years (coinciding with Avalanche’s move to the Grassmarket) independent shops have been asked to compete with a large business not operating in any way in a business like manner and propped up by not just major record companies but independent distributors and labels too. Many indies have closed in that period, the much loved One Up in Aberdeen only being the latest, as they were not only expected to compete with unfair competition online but also unfair competition on the high street.

The delusion that FOPP is profit making is not borne out by their publicly available accounts which are engineered to show a tiny profit but with many overheads and costs paid by the parent company HMV. Sales dropped by 3 million alone from 2011 to 2012. 

It does look likely that the profit making flagship store in Oxford Street  will be sold and that generally what remains may not be the best 60/80/100 shops as some or possibly many of those may be sold as part of bids by Game, the supermarkets and other interested parties. There is the possibility that what is left is not a viable chain. The HMV brand of course will always have a value in its own right.

Obviously things are changing all the time and what is thought to be the position this week may not be so next week. This is simply the position as I currently see it given the information publicly available and from others in the music industry.  My personal opinion remains that a slimmed down and well run HMV is necessary if the music industry is to avoid the unhealthy dominance of online sellers and supermarkets who do nothing to promote music but cream off most of the sales.

I understand why HMV were supported for so long but this crisis should have been faced two years ago rather than blindly hoping things would get better. Independents can no longer be the collateral damage in an attempt to keep HMV trading.          

Olympic Swimmers & Admiral Fallow – Love Song (The Cure) @ Avalanche 01/02/13