The Scottish Contemporary Pop/Rock Music Centre

Scars Associates Josef K Fire EnginesLots to come of what is wrong and what could be put right to help those established businesses that trade all year and don’t just pop up in the good times but what is the most positive idea to come from all those meetings I had ? For context firstly I discovered I inhabit the world of pop/rock if I’m talking to Edinburgh Council and contemporary music when speaking to Creative Scotland. Not a great start as it became immediately apparent that they don’t differentiate between Ed Sheeran and Withered Hand. Secondly it also became clear early on that commercial pop rock being so “popular” meant it was deemed not to need the help other less popular genres and arts needed. This seemed counter intuitive to me meaning the less popular something was the more chance it had of being supported but those already involved in this world confirmed this was exactly the case. Similarly music in general being more popular than other areas of the arts meant it again often received the short end of the stick.

shop assistants - here it comesA little further investigation and the level of imbalance became clear. Rooms the size of a decent shop dedicated to a couple of paintings or a video installation. Buildings the size of an old Virgin Megastore sparsely filled with what some call art and others in one particular case would call “a pile of old records lying on the floor”. Anyway the argument here is not about what is or isn’t art but the support and space given to all the various branches of the arts. I quickly understood what musicians, often artists themselves, saw as a disparity in support for their work. What support there is for music is very focused on the making of music while how that music reaches the public seems to be given little thought at all beyond the fact that it can be put online and then the whole world can listen !

Ballboy_-_Club_Anthems_2001Much of this resonated with my own search as to how the council, given their new found understanding of the problems facing music related businesses, could help. It also became clear that the feeling expressed at the Live Music Matters meeting in the Usher Hall that “pop/rock” lacked a voice compared to others was a very accurate assessment of the situation.

I also came to realise that there was scope for something more than simply a shop that stocked Scottish bands old and new. Many customers were as keen to talk about Josef K, Simple Minds and The Shop Assistants as they were new bands they should be If You're Feeling Sinisterlistening to and yet there was nowhere they could visit to find out more. There was no need for fancy laser shows people were interested in artwork and badges and old posters along with the history of the bands and also Scotland’s many famous labels. Olaf Furniss’ ideas about music tourism are not misplaced and as you might imagine I’ve received nothing but enthusiasm for the idea.

All those meetings and chats haven’t been wasted and both Ian Smith head of music at Creative Scotland and Stewart Henderson of Chemikal Underground and chair of the SMIA have been very supportive. Various members of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and witheredhandnewgodscoverSport department have also been very helpful and last week I met with the head of museums and galleries about the City Art Centre who promised to consider the idea while understandably having some reservations. I can think of no better location than the ground floor of the City Art Centre. It has all the space needed without disrupting the shop it already has there and the cafe next door is perfect. One reservation was that it was an art gallery and whether that would be compromised but as several people have said already it is an art centre and much of what would be on display would be the artwork used in conjunction with the music.

city-art-centre-exteriorAnother plus is all the new visitors it would attract to the centre as well as providing a visually interesting frontage. What is more I would envisage it as a gateway to all that Edinburgh has to offer in the arts with visitors being offered information on the many other places they might want to visit. I’m well aware these things are not always as simple as they may seem but I’m also aware that they are not always as complicated either ! I’m sure the idea will be given fair consideration.



So a Scottish Contemporary Pop Rock Music Centre (only with a far better name obviously) celebrating Scottish artists and labels both old and new as well as providing background on venues and clubs that have come and gone over the years. Scottish music has had a worldwide influence that should be celebrated and this would seem the perfect way to do it.

There might even be enough space to feature a few old record shops ! 


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