Avalanche best selling albums of 2014

witheredhandnewgodscover1.  Withered Hand – New Gods 

2.  Mogwai – Rave Tapes

3.  King Creosote – From Scotland With Love

4.  Owl John – Owl John

5.  PAWS – Youth Culture Forever

6.  James Yorkston – Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society

7.  The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

HJH8.   We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling

9.   Hamish James Hawk – Aznavour

10. Broken Records – Weights and Pulleys

11. Jack White – Lazaretto

12. The Phantom Band – Strange Friend

13. The Last Battle – Lay Your Burden Down

14. Young Fathers – Dead

15. Swans – To Be Kind

last battle lay your burden down16. Remember Remember – Forgetting The Present 

17. Bwani Junction – Tongue Of Bombie

18. Pixies – Indie Cindy

19. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

20. Aphex Twin – Syro

21. Temples – Sun Structures

22. Warpaint – Warpaint

23. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

Columbia Records Leonard Cohen Popular Problems cover24. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

25. Shellac – Dude Incredible

26. Morrissey – World Peace Is none Of Your Business

27Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

28. Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems

29. Beck – Morning Phase

30. Goat – Commune

Congratulations to Dan and good to see Avalanche customers weren’t the only people to rate “New Gods” so highly. A top ten entirely made up of Scottish bands was not solely a result of a Scottish shop selling Scottish bands. Just as important in the equation was whether there was an indies only version available and how much effort the bands and their labels put into selling directly to their fans. We sold 100+ of the “New Gods” gold vinyl with Dan’s support but even that did not go completely smoothly. For a short time Dan’s label Fortuna POP! decided to sell the gold vinyl at a stupidly low price and a week later were complaining they couldn’t cope with their mail order and were handing it over to their distributor Cargo. Exactly the same situation occurred with the Owl John vinyl. Great support from Scott but when his label put it on sale at what was cost price to a shop several customers asked for a refund.

The Mogwai album was  an even odder situation. As also happened with Nick Cave independents were given a bonus 7″ with their vinyl not available from the artists’ own website. After selling all their own box sets Mogwai’s label Rock Action tweeted the Avalanche link to buy which again was a great help. King Creosote had an indies only double vinyl albeit also available from Kenny’s label Domino and PAWS had a limited green vinyl available to everybody but  sold mostly by indies. James Yorkston’s vinyl had an indies only die cut sleeve and James is always very good at promoting Avalanche’s buying links. There was talk of an indies only or Scottish only Twilight Sad vinyl but in the end neither materialised and sales consequently suffered. Virtually every day fans were encouraged on social media to buy directly from their label Fat Cat. Another Fat Cat band We Were Promised Jetpacks did benefit from having an indies only limited yellow vinyl which undoubtedly helped them make the Top 10. Hamish James Hawk was the one self distributed local artist making the Top 10 with his debut album. 

The Avalanche philosophy is simple. We want to give the customer the best deal we can. We don’t want them to pay more or receive less than they can elsewhere. We don’t want them missing out because they want to support Avalanche and we don’t want to to sell to customers because they don’t realise there is a far better deal elsewhere.  If bands and labels want to go head to head with shops who have supported them sometimes for decades and take away their business so be it but make it a level playing field.

This has been going on for some time now and Avalanche’s sales aren’t always what they seem. When the previous Twilight Sad album was our best seller of the year people would rightfully point to the album launch they held in the shop week of release as certainly helping. Actually we sold 35 copies while 155 people attended. Many customers had either already bought online or at the Dunfermline gig the previous Friday. Initial sales were disappointing but we would recommend the album regularly and it was a great album so slowly the sales built up until it topped our chart at the end of the year.

As documented before when HMV and FOPP were in trouble and didn’t stock either Rick Redbeard or Conquering Animal Sound it showed how things might be. Avalanche has always been central just not as central as HMV or FOPP for the many “indie” office workers. Most also bought other things they would never find elsewhere and vowed to return but of course didn’t once things returned to normal. The situation is now exasperated as before HMV/FOPP would often run out of stock but now they are consigned the releases they can sit on as much stock as they want. In a final twist vinyl already on the way up was deemed not important enough by HMV to be stocked at all when in administration and Avalanche sold loads of copies of releases by Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro etc. Now their racks are full of vinyl they don’t have to pay for until sold.

What the chart does show is that despite all of the problems above we still sell a decent amount of Scottish artists based on our reputation. Avalanche sold as much James Yorkston and Owl John vinyl as all the Scottish HMVs and FOPPs put together in the first week. We sold 110 of the 500 copies of Frightened Rabbit’s “Pedestrian Verse” with the free 7″ and could have sold more thanks to support from Scott and the guys. Warners offered a free print with the Owl John album and registered 111 sales ! As for our market share for both PAWS albums you would be very surprised indeed !  

So what does this all mean in 2015 ? Well to a large extent sales are now completely out of our hands. Broken Records who made it to number ten in our chart went down the PledgeMusic route and as you can imagine we would have sold many more if that hadn’t been the case. The guys were very supportive and we benefited from it not being in HMV or FOPP but mostly their fans had already bought it directly. Idle wild are one of Avalanche’s top ten Scottish bands over the last thirty years but again have used PledgeMusic for the new album out in February. For comparison we had Idlewild play in the Cockburn street shop day of release for an album and sold 110 copies to the 100 people there !

What I do find odd is that bands now have no problem charging fans for simple “extras”. As a shop we would maybe get 50 signed copies of an album but would never dream of charging more. Now a £10 CD is often £12 signed but that also includes an access pass so that’s OK. With other platforms from Bandcamp to Spotify all set to encourage bands to sell directly to their hardcore fans it will be an interesting year. What nobody talks about are all the other fans. The ones who enjoy a band’s music but don’t hang on their every word. And then there are the fans just keen to hear new music. These are often the people shops deal with but what incentive is left to support bands when most of the business has been taken away ? And the situation for new bands is even worse than for shops. With a small fan base at best they struggle to ever reach a wider audience.

I’m a big fan of CMU and this is well worth reading  “Trends: The real revolution is direct-to-fan”   http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/trends-the-real-revolution-is-direct-to-fan/?utm_content=buffered848&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

I also know Benji Rogers founder of PledgeMusic from his time in an indie band that played in Avalanche and we keep in touch. I know his intentions with the site are good and he wishes shops no harm. However in the same way streaming is not a viable way for bands to be paid for their music picking up the crumbs that are left after bands sell to their fans is not a viable model for a shop supporting current artists. Of course that isn’t to say shops can’t manage in other ways be that selling genres not affected by D2F, selling reissued vinyl, selling second hand or tickets or the many other ways shops are surviving. The shame is that anybody can sell a reissued Led Zeppelin album but what good indies were great at was supporting new music and looking after the fans of bands and labels they had helped get established. I fear that may be lost forever and while shops may have other options the majority of new bands starting out do not.      

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