Archive for November, 2013
The release of “Tigermilk” was very much a watershed moment for Avalanche so here are the top 12 best selling Scottish albums since that historic day when originally it was only available from ourselves, Missing and FOPP.
As you can see it is a clean sweep at the top for Belle and Sebastian with “The Boy With The Arab Strap” pipping “Tigermilk” to the top. Mogwai have the first entry of many at four and missed out in the last count The Reindeer Section take places five and six. Biffy Clyro’s first entry is at seven and after their vinyl Record Store Day release Frightened Rabbit shoots up to eight. Idlewild are at nine and order is restored with “Dear Catastrophe Waitress” the first album not to appear on Jeepster at ten.
The albums were ranked using one shop’s sales figures to give a level playing field so West Nicolson Street figures are used up to the opening of Cockburn Street and then finally the Grassmarket figures. I’ll expand this top 30 to a top 50 for New Year.
You will of course be able to buy the album on the day. This is one in-store you should not miss.
When one of your favourite indie bands signs to a major and one of your all time favourite artists releases an album it is always a worry that something might go horribly wrong. There was it turned out no need to worry and both Frightened Rabbit and Nick Cave produced albums of outstanding quality. We normally wait until the end of the year to announce our best selling album of the year but this year Nick isn’t going to catch the FRabbits and the chasing pack aren’t going to catch Nick so we can with some pleasure say that are album of the year is Frightened Rabbit’s “Pedestrian Verse”.
And the chasing pack of ten that make up the dozen clear of the rest ? Well in alphabetical order :-
Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
Low – The Invisible Way
Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
Mogwai – Les Revenants
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain
Quickbeam – Quickbeam
Rick Redbeard – No Selfish Heart
There Will Be Fireworks – The Dark, Dark Bright
After the media attention last time I’m very wary as to how I couch my words. Certainly the problem then was people didn’t read all the statement and in some cases just read the first paragraph. So what is happening ? My break in the lease for the Grassmarket shop was this November and I would have needed to decide in the summer. It was impossible to make any sensible decision then without knowing the future of HMV and FOPP.
February had been our busiest month for years. With HMV and FOPP going into administration and One Up in Aberdeen closing customers realised the enormity of the uphill battle faced. Add to that the release of our two biggest albums of the year from Frightened Rabbit and Nick Cave and it gave people a reason to come in. March on the other hand was a disaster. HMV bought all their stock at a fraction of its value and started a closing down sale. I never for one second believed they would close all their Edinburgh shops and as expected landlords caved and gave them much lower rents. With prices so low it affected even our second hand sales though at least we were left with increasing new vinyl sales. April continued to be poor and when the cash generator that is Record Store Day came along instead of providing us with a buffer for the future it just helped us recover from the previous poor month and a half.
Anyway fast forward to now and the worst case scenario that was always also the most likely. With no bidders for HMV Hilco who had bought the secured debt at a knock down price bought HMV and FOPP also at a knock down price. Record companies and labels also caved to their demands and stock is now supplied on a consignment basis so nothing is paid for until sold. I fully understand this as it is impossible to gauge new release sales and almost no catalogue sells within the period of normal payment terms. However these unviable payment terms are still those applied to indies and it leaves me unable to compete especially on vinyl.
It is clear from speaking to others that things aren’t going to get better. Very kindly my landlord has offered a break at the end of January and I can see no reason not to take it. It seems an ideal time to beef up our online presence, utilise our incredibly successful social media platforms and dedicate some time to the things that work so well for us such as posters. It would also give me the time to concentrate on promoting worldwide our best selling albums from Scottish bands, an idea that has seen a huge amount of interest expressed in it but has failed so far to raise any financial support.
There’s a lot more from resurrecting the label to finding new outlets for music but more of that later. It seems more than appropriate that exactly 30 years after I started raising money for the first Avalanche shop that I should do the same again putting things in place for a new physical presence. I’m very proud of what has been achieved here in the Grassmarket and the frankly overwhelming response it has received but it was always an ideal never a business model.
It also means that with our 30th celebrations coming up I’ll be able to make sure I have more time to dedicate to all the things I have planned many of which will dovetail nicely into Avalanche’s future model. How well the online sales go will help determine what other things we can do in the future.
I’ll also speak to record companies and labels to see what level of support there is. Several have already pledged support and see the merit in what we do while others can’t see past keeping HMV afloat as long as possible.
I’m sure this will raise more questions than it answers and there is far more to say but for now I think this will do ! In the meantime please buy stuff !
Today kind of summed up the days I have these days. First customer was a young girl at university in Lancaster but from near Portland, Oregon whose friend had been in the shop last year and insisted she should come up. She bought posters and vinyl and we chatted about Portland’s support for independent shops. “This is just like home” she said. A couple of Irish girls bought a poster wishing they could fit more in their luggage. I had a chat with a guy from Aberdeen about the sad demise of One Up and he bought Quickbeam and Cancel The Astronauts CDs.
Gideon Conn an artist/musician from Manchester but now living in London popped in with his single and split LP with Donna Maciocia ahead of their gig at the Wee Red Bar on Saturday. I promised to plug the records and gig on twitter. A Norwegian lady asked for recommendations and bought Withered Hand, Star Wheel Press and The Last Battle. She took an Avalanche card so she could order There Will Be Fireworks’ new album when it comes out.
An Italian guy was in the shop for ages with his friends and in the end stuck for choice chose to keep warm and bought a sheepskin jacket. At the end of the day I had an interesting chat with a guy whose son had just opened a record shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn the neighbourhood next to Williamsburg. His wife spotted a couple of second hand LPs they bought. I found a couple of pieces about the shop opening so I put them on twitter and then messaged him on facebook to wish him good luck with the new shop.
I finished the day with an interview with two girls from near Munich who came in just before 6pm having been told I was the person to speak to about indie folk. I gave them a quick run down on everything from Withered Hand to how Marcus Mumford had actually lived in Edinburgh for a year. There was a regular customer bought Arcade Fire and the Arctic Monkeys and a couple of students bought some posters but you get the general idea.
The day before I had a good customer from Canberra, Australia in to see me (a writer he travels to Edinburgh University from time to time) at the same time another good customer from Virginia in the US was in. Extremely knowledgeable on Scottish music he bought amongst other things the Gillyflowers CD and went next door to get it signed.
A few days before half my takings had been in two sales with a guy from Denver producing a long list of vinyl his sister-in-law wanted (she had been in the shop last year and knew the sort of things we had) and the last sale of the day being a guy from Berkeley, California in for the new RM Hubbert album and some recommendations. Again his friend had been in last year and kept texting him from California with requests. A lot of these customers bought Avalanche t-shirts and /or bags too.
I’ll regularly recommend Scottish bands to customers half a dozen times a day often more. Not all of course buy. Some go away to listen more. Of course I regularly get groups in visiting wanting a local band’s CD to take home and I can easily deal with 30 folk in a day especially at weekends. Dealing with an average of only 10 people a day which obviously isn’t going to pay the rent it does mean I’ve recommended Scottish bands to over 10,000 people in our three years in the Grassmarket.
I greatly enjoy dealing with customers and helping them find new music and when I can helping to publicise releases and gigs. I’m certainly not complaining but it is not a viable business model and without the back up of regularly selling new releases and back catalogue that sell themselves it is hard to find a way forward. It feels time to try something new.
I’ve always had a problem in that a customer would buy The Savings and Loan album and come back wanting “something as good”. I would give them the Star Wheel Press album and they would come back again. Sometimes it would be the other way round but always at that point I had nothing in a similar vein “as good”. Lots of great albums but I knew what they meant.
Finally I have a third album. Lyrically as strong as its two predecessors and if there is a flaw it is that the vocals are pretty much an exact cross between Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. No bad thing but it does seem to be getting picked up by the press.
Musically it ileans more towards Americana and Star Wheel Press but lyrically it evokes a feeling very much like The Savings and Loan do so well. There is a back story a la Bon Iver with songwriter and vocalist Ian Williams starting writing in the winter of 2011 underneath Coney Island’s Wonderwheel, an ancient ferris wheel which still spins to this day, and working his way up the east coast eventually reaching Montreal where he spent long nights at The Wheel Club “until the spring came and the snow melted”.
I came to this via a tip from Ed Jupp of 17 seconds and you can listen to the album here http://17seconds.co.uk/blog/
So finally it’s here and what everybody will want to know is is it as good as the first album and was it worth the wait. The first answer is easy. It could never “feel” as good as the first album as no second album ever can if it follows a genuinely stunning debut. This is because the gap between expectation and reality is part of the experience and having no expectation for an album that turns out to be a classic is a rare feeling. The follow up will always have an air of expectation, almost worry that it isn’t a disappointment. I don’t want to give too much away but I can assure you thee are no worries there.
This is written really for those who have heard the first album. If you haven’t there are currently no physical copies but you can listen to it here http://therewillbefireworks.bandcamp.com/album/there-will-be-fireworks
Initial comparisons were with the Twilight Sad and for those who remembered them the Whipping Boy but this second album sounds like There Will Be Fireworks. No other comparison is necessary.
Nothing else need be said. I don’t want to spoil it for you. I’ve raised your expectations enough. You should buy it and then buy a copy for a friend. Was it worth the wait ? Time will tell.
Released on Monday 25th November you can preorder here
Classic Avalanche shirt with logo and avalanche records scotland underneath but with “Well I stepped into an avalanche” on the back
Limited to 30 of each size online and quoting from the first line of the Leonard Cohen song via Nick Cave the shop was named after. These shirts will ship as soon as possible after 30th November in time for Christmas !
Available in black, purple, red and bottle green
So there will be celebrations from November 30th through to next summer when the first shop opened. We will be highlighting some of our favourite albums over the last 30 years and there will lots of stuff limited to 30. There will of course be t-shirts, the first of which is the Avalanche logo shirt with “Well I stepped into an avalanche” on the back.
I’ll be revealing our 30 best selling Scottish albums since “Tigermilk”. Expect a lot of Belle and Sebastian, Biffy Clyro and Mogwai ! And there will be gigs and more than a few surprises. And there will be good news and there will be bad news.