Archive for April, 2014
As I’ve said previously I wanted any new site for Avalanche to be radically different from what we had done before. I had a couple of enquiries from folk seriously looking at creating a venue, cafe, bar and potentially a record shop from scratch but even if they went ahead it would be some time in the future. Rather than try to create something as we had done in the Grassmarket it made sense to move into a ready made environment.
It is not uncommon now for record shops to be given space in a larger building be that cafe or arts centre but the problem is understandably they are often stuck in the basement or at the back. What we have been offered by Cabaret Voltaire is the prime space at the front. The trade off of course is that the space will need to be flexible but it is perfect for our needs.
It has become obvious from doing the stalls that when we have three tables with seven racks/boxes on each that that is just about as much as people are happy to look through. It is still an awful lot of vinyl ! If I could just add in a couple of CD racks and find some space for posters then that would just about be my optimum space.
So with Cafe Voltaire I have just that with the ability to change things as I see fit. It is as central as I could have hoped for so Avalanche’s many overseas visitors will find us easily and if we want to have a big poster sale or put out a lot more vinyl we can just take over all the space on a suitable day. Instores of course not a problem ! It is just the base I was looking for and I will be able to pursue other projects I have been offered at the same time without the pressures of the rents and rates of the Grassmarket.
This is not a pop-up shop. We will be open by the middle of May to coincide with the cafe’s new opening hours and we are committed to October when we will all assess how things are working for both sides. I’ll continue to look at other ideas that we may also pursue but so long as this works I’ll be happy to stay.
So I can finally reveal that one of the other projects we have been working on is providing the new Platform 2 market with a very special music element the fourth Friday of every month starting on June 27th. Approximately a third of the entire market will be curated by Avalanche and we will be inviting all our fellow record and music shops to get involved. It is a fantastic location and of course fully covered so no worries about the weather. Logistics permitting there will also be an opportunity to have bands playing.
In August of course it will be Festival time and there will be more of a record fair feel to our curation but again we’ll be looking to make this an experience for all the family and not just serious vinyl junkies. Expect some very special guests ! While vinyl will play its part each month we won’t forget the many people who still prefer CDs and most of all there will also be the fantastic selection of posters that Avalanche is so famous for.
In keeping with the rest of the market with its unique crafts from local designers and Scottish produce and hot food all local and Scottish bands and labels will be welcome to have their wares on sale via one of the stalls involved. There is huge potential with this new market to reach new people both in those who commute locally and of course the many visitors that pass through the station. Obviously there were lots of ideas as to what could be done with the weekly curated space and I’m extremely pleased to have secured one of those slots for Avalanche and the wider music community. Much more to come !
More about Platform 2 Market here http://edinburgh.stv.tv/articles/269126-waverley-station-market-due-to-open-in-may-2014-on-platform-2/
While there may be no definite announcement just yet the thinking behind Avalanche’s future has at least become clear
There are two very different types of customers. Those who will always look to visit Avalanche/record shops if they are in Edinburgh and regulars who have supported the shop for many years. Then there are those who stumble across the shop or just recently our stall and have their interest in music rekindled. Now as more people are buying vinyl it is very noticeable that those buying from our stall are not the customers we got in the shop. Similarly some travel many miles to look through our posters while others have no thought to look for posters but once they see them are delighted to have done so.
For the first sort of customer Avalanche simply needs a relatively central base. People will find us. A small shop would do but I’d prefer to be part of something a little bigger. For the second type of customer we need high footfall which is expensive. I’ve been advised several times now that we should go for somewhere more high profile to reach the customers who will undoubtedly love what we do but would never normally venture into a record shop. This I’m told can be done short term relatively cheaply given the number of empty properties. It is why HMV can strike such good deals to not leave shops that it will be hard to find another business for.
The few things we have done outside the shop have only reinforced the thinking behind this. The day before Record Store Day is normally very quiet but our first day at the Ceilidh Culture Street Fair this year was very busy indeed with visitors keen to buy vinyl but with no thought for RSD.
Something else that has become very clear is that customers don’t want too much choice. Also, and this I did find odd, they preferred to look through the seven racks we had of unpriced, recently arrived LPs to the priced records all in their correct sections. There certainly was an element of couples/families looking through the records and reminiscing about their youth ! The amount we had at the street fair seemed about right and most found many more than they could afford or wanted to spend and went through the pile they had amassed putting ones back that weren’t “essential”.
The posters need more space which is partly why we moved to the Grassmarket and they will need to be accommodated in a smaller area while still giving the enjoyment of browsing rather than looking through regimented racks.
Visitors still love to ask about local bands but as has been well documented already the time spent with them makes it uneconomical. We do get people in who read the blog and follow on twitter and know what they want which of course is great and then it is no problem to recommend a couple more albums. Again a base these people can visit for Withered Hand, Quickbeam, Star Wheel Press, There Will Be Fireworks etc just needs to be central. Many prefer to wait and buy in the shop when they are visiting rather than buy online.
Sales of new releases have plummeted as we are very much caught between a rock and a hard place as most bands/labels sell directly and HMV/FOPP have all stock consigned. This is an area we may well just have to concede.
London is doing very well with 25% of all music sales and 40% of all vinyl sales. Surviving outside of this haven will become more and more difficult for those without other strings to their bow be that tickets, second hand sales etc. It is now better to be the only shop in a small town with only online for competition. Some big important shops have closed over the years and as with the US they are often replaced but with much smaller often second hand shops.
The increase in new vinyl now a whopping 1.2% of sales has led to a disproportionate response from others all looking for a slice of what is only a slightly bigger cake and now of course everybody is a bit “indie” too. Reports this year of second hand shops spending more on RSD product than they spend on new releases all year and other shops last year having thousands of items for sale online only show that the original aims of RSD have been lost. Don’t get me wrong better it is sold online than sitting unsold in racks but maybe it shows that too many titles are accepted with no chance of selling through in shops.
So those are the thoughts and background to any decision that will be made. With the resurgence of the Avalanche label and all being well worldwide distribution for some of Avalanche’s best selling bands as well as more posters being commissioned there is much to be positive about. With the different needs of the shop I hope it is clear why I haven’t jumped at moving somewhere immediately. Establishing a base camp may very well be the most sensible way forward at least initially. I didn’t have a closing down sale because we weren’t closing down despite the efforts of the Evening News headline writers to say otherwise (the actual article was fine) but I do now have a lot of stock to clear so if anybody has a big empty shop they want to lend me for a few weeks please get in touch !
One more thing has also become very clear and that is despite the fact that many people come especially to visit the shop and speak to me with the other interests, and I’m regularly being offered new projects, I can no longer base myself in the shop all the time and any new shop will need to be able to cover having others involved. I already have one young lad helping me and he has coped very well given how incredibly useless young people can be and how grumpy I can be about it.
In these days of brands Avalanche has a history you simply can’t buy and is recognised in different parts of the world for different things. For some it is our support of current local bands but for others it is the early support we showed for bands like Bright Eyes and Neutral Milk Hotel and again for others it is the Scottish bands from the 80s and 90s we had on our label. Add in financially backing some of the seminal bands and labels to come out of New Zealand at the same time and there is a legacy even I to be honest had failed to recognise until recently. Finally for some, and to bring us up to date, it is Avalanche’s social media presence. I’m continually amazed at how many people read this blog and engage on twitter.
As with many shops Avalanche only survives at all by me working long hours every day and that will need to stop. I’m not short on other businesses wanting to be associated with Avalanche but few offer financial support or sponsorship which is what is needed. I did say at the time that how we moved forward crucially depended on how takings were in the weeks before we left. Unfortunately without the mayhem of a closing down sale little changed and we still have far too much great stock and not enough of the cash we need. Many have suggested a kickstarter campaign – I haven’t ruled it out !
All single figures but more than a couple
Life Without Buildings LP
The Fall LP
Both Stones 7″s
Steve Mason 12″
Luke Haines 7″
One or two
Wedding Present 10″
Shonen Knife LP
Roddy Frame – Western Skies LP
Oneohtrix Point Never
Parquet Courts 7″
Pete Molinari 7″
Filth soundtrack LP
The Perfume Of The Lady In Black soundtrack on Death Waltz
The Degradation Of Emanuelle soundtrack on Death Waltz
Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters 12″
Stanley Odd 12″
Pussy Galore LP
The Notwist 12″
Melt Yourself Down LP
The Field LP
The Jeffrey Lee Pierce sessions Project 7″
OK quickly as I still have a shitload of stuff to do. We open late at 11am. If you want to queue then queue towards Victoria Street from where the RSD banner is. Cash only this year which will help with serving as quickly as possible. Just wait your turn and ask for titles you are looking for. One per person for all releases. We took lots of things we normally sell like Twilight Sad, Life without Buildings, The Fall etc but most of the list was really unappealing and I’m amazed that shops have ordered so much. There was one major fuck up when a large order we placed was deemed “trade restricted” (normally something available in Europe but not the UK). By the time this was spotted there was no stock left. Big things this affected were titles like Bowie and Joy Division.
Also order numbers are based on regular sales something I heartily agree with but we order next to nothing now particularly from the majors since FOPP and HMV got all their stock on consignment. Consequently we were getting little of big titles anyway. I’m extremely dubious this year about the 600+ releases and so were many of my regular customers so I have gone carefully given I have so much regular stock already so I don’t need to be stuck with overpriced RSD stock. I expect a lot will be available to reorder if customers require. Star Wheel Press will be on at 4.30pm and there are free 7″s for anybody who asks from a variety of labels.
We have loads of other good stuff so do please feel free to stay and browse all the other vinyl we have.
Twilight Sad LP
Life Without Buildings LP
The Fall LP
Dead Kennedys box
Both Stones 7″s
Pet Shop Boys 12″
Tame Impala LP
Twin Atlantic 7″
Steve Mason 12″
Camera Obscura 12″
Luke Haines 7″
Twin Atlantic 7″
Plus of course loads more
The most common comment from new customers when visiting the shop was that we had “so much amazing stuff”. Often followed by “it would take me at least two days to look through everything”. Only now though having been through everything myself do I actually realise how much “stuff” there was.
Of course we have new vinyl and CDs but then there is all the second hand vinyl and CDs as well as a small but interesting collection of DVDs. A wall of local band’s releases meant customers understandably looked for guidance to find the albums that they might like. We’ve never had too many t-shirts but customers normally found something they wanted and of course the Avalanche t-shirts were a must have for many. Magazines and books may have just been in piles on the floor but many a customer found an article on a band they had been looking for or a book they didn’t even know existed.
The revelation though has been the posters. Posters were always going to be a bigger part of the plan after we moved to the Grassmarket but I never imagined how popular they would be. The badges we have are always popular but customers and in particular younger customers love the posters. They are amazing posters but there is more to it than that. In these days of searching online there is no equivalent to carefully looking through a huge pile of posters one by one never knowing what the next one will be but with the anticipation that it might be something special.
We once had two families in from New York and the parents bought a selection of CDs. Their kids five in all were still looking through the posters so they went for a coffee. They returned an hour later but still the kids wanted to stay and look through more. If you don’t mind they said we’ll go and do some shopping. They returned 90 minutes later just as the kids had finally been through every poster and amassed a fair pile which their parents gladly bought explaining that the shop could double as a teenage creche as they’d had a great time wandering around “kids free” while at the same time returning to some very happy children. This scenario was repeated regularly.
English parents in Edinburgh on business would go home with presents for their kids from the shop and stories of posters “you can’t find in London” and fantastic Scottish bands unheard of elsewhere. They would tell me what their children liked and I would recommend a Scottish equivalent. This was an even more common occurrence with American customers. On many occasions we actually had these customers bring their children with them while in Edinburgh on business so they could visit for themselves. Mostly it was for the posters and local bands but more and more recently for the vinyl too. You can’t find a selection like this in ……………….
There is however a problem with all this. While people were buying things they didn’t even know existed or had never seen they weren’t buying the things they knew they wanted. Whether they were buying from Amazon, the bands/labels directly or the now fully stocked HMV/FOPP they definitely were no longer buying them from Avalanche. Big releases started only selling ten copies. We would cover a release with three copies and sell one or none. We might get asked for something we would like to have stocked but could easily have sold none at all so didn’t have.
While we were selling hundreds of Bright Eyes albums we could afford time to promote less well known bands. While we were selling large amounts of the big selling local bands we could spend time promoting the smaller ones. However these are changed times and only the occasional release still does very well. Frightened Rabbit, Nick Cave, The National, Boards of Canada, Mogwai and of course Withered Hand all come to mind. Dead Flowers, There Will Be Fireworks and Quickbeam led the way for releases without distribution. These albums all showed how things might be they were few are often far between.
So what will the new Avalanche look like ? Great as all this was it was clearly unsustainable and the break in the lease helped me make that decision. The truth is while I know the things I would like to keep nothing yet is set in stone. It will to some extent depend on where we move and also how the shop fits into the bigger jigsaw that now involves a revitalised label and the commissioning of posters and prints among other things. It is also clear that for a shop of Avalanche’s stature and reputation to continue it needs revenue outwith that of a stand alone retail shop and that simply selling online is not the answer.
One of the few things I don’t enjoy when chatting to customers is when they tell me that their local record shop closed or maybe even worse that it is still open but “a shadow of what it used to be”. Another comment more recent is that a new shop has opened but “it is nearly all second hand and a bit disappointing”. Whenever there is change not everybody will be happy but I’m confident that whatever we do next will not disappoint.
A bumper weekend for Avalanche as we say goodbye to no.5 in style with a four day bonanza as part of the Ceilidh Culture Street Fair. We’ll be joined by a host of stalls celebrating all that is best in Scottish craft and food.
The organisers are looking to support local artists and have several slots each day for acoustic sets. Cheerful upbeat music preferred so nobody I know ! Just get in touch if you are interested using the shop email or twitter.
On the Saturday for Record Store Day we will have Star Wheel Press with their new EP and the first Scottish appearance of Avalanche favourites The Dead Flowers.
More news to come of what you can expect and who will be there but I know many will be glad to see that the good folks of Thistly Cross Cider will be in attendance. Castle Street’s loss is the Grassmarket’s gain and it will be a fantastic weekend for music fans and families alike.
- This is the most valuable record in our store. Ultra rare cult classic UK The Nails AGAP 007T pressing in almost collectors condition, never played, stored from 1984. No other copy for sale worldwide as far as we know.
|Condition||Seller Information||Price||Buy It|
||€1,999.00 (about £1,652.63) + shipping|
Sometimes I despair of the media. Last time I announced we would be closing in January but reopening in February but nobody in the media seemed to have read the whole blog or in some cases any of it ! This time I thought I’d got it right but we seem now to be getting the sensational closing down headlines again despite what I’ve said. I’ve just had it explained to me that the headlines are written by different people hence the positive piece in the Evening News and the negative headline.
I chose to take the break we had in our lease and I’ll choose again where we move to and when the time is right. Due to a variety of circumstances picking a permanent location just now would not be a wise decision but I’m certainly considering testing out locations. Whatever there will be an Avalanche for people to visit very soon indeed. I hear too many shops described as “a bit sad” or “not what they used to be” and I’ve no intention of letting that happen to Avalanche.
There is only so much I can do and with so many strings now to the Avalanche bow I need to clearly prioritise. With a label, posters and prints, an online shop and the offer of various pop-ups and regular events all to be taken into account exactly how the shop fits in needs careful consideration. Then again given the competition where that shop is and what we stock needs to be got right and not rushed into as well. The Saturday market has been a useful tester for future pop-ups and I have to say I’ve enjoyed it and look forward to doing more.
I didn’t have a closing down sale because we weren’t closing down. People always said the shop had a lot of stuff and only now it has become apparent to me just how much good stuff we have. With so much stock I will need to clear some of it and there is a plan.
When I first started in this business I soon realised that nearly everybody I came into contact with was 10+ years older than me and knew so much more. I quickly decided then that I knew far too little about the business to have a sensible opinion about most things and learned to “shut the fuck up”. Maybe now it is their turn to realise the same thing.
As ever thanks to everybody for all the support and I’ll update things as and when I can.