Archive for January, 2017

History of Scottish Music Centre – crowdfunding and sponsors

First of all many thanks to those who have made a donation it has believe me been greatly appreciated and you will be hearing more soon. So far the attempts to fund the centre have been very low key and with good reason. People are swamped with donation buttons, gofundme pages and PledgeMusic offers and there are many good causes out there. It seems only right that people should get something for their money and I do intend to reward those who have donated already in the future.

scars author! author!Moving forward though a lot of the time artists rely on the superfan. I was amazed that signed white labels at £50+ are one of the most popular things on PledgeMusic. An artist writing out the lyrics to a favourite song are another. I could of course try to replicate this with the help of Scottish artists but it would be a time consuming exercise. A gig or gigs of some sort has been suggested several times and that might be a way forward. Again though it would need to be something special. There is a precedent in that the Scars gig they did for us helped pay the entire costs of our move to the Grassmarket. 

What the centre could also do with is a sponsor or indeed sponsors. There is a mountain of publicity waiting to go for when the centre opens and it would be a great opportunity for a business especially one that could benefit from worldwide publicity though the opportunities in Scotland alone would suit many types of business. If I could ask people to do one thing just now it is to think if they know and have contacts with a business that would be a good fit.

I was confident I could have something showcasing the centre ready by March but such has been the positivity about just how good this idea could be with a good location and support I’m happy to delay that a little to get it right. Having said that financially it is a drain on my limited resources every week so the sooner the better ! Always glad to hear any ideas so feel free to contact me on

HMV – ducking and diving as a business model

When Hilco bought HMV in 2013 it wasn’t a viable business as things stood, a position reinforced by the fact that none of the 30+ other interested parties made an offer. Hilco already owned the debt so sought a way to turn things around. Regular readers will know what transpired so keeping it short for those who aren’t aware they decided they couldn’t afford to pay market rent or pay for stock before sold. A few landlords and suppliers refused these terms and HMV lost maybe a dozen shops this way but generally it was very successful. Many shopping centres became rent free for a year and other places like Princes Street where it would be hard to find a new tenant for were taken on at greatly a reduced rent. After a year of course all those “saved” shopping centre sites in Edinburgh closed as soon as rent became due.

HMV nipper-the-dog classic logoIn a final cost cutting measure Hilco negotiated to be absolved from paying for stolen stock and immediately got rid of most of their security ! Now this is a perfectly good medium term model but is not good for the long term future of the music industry. If HMV had been allowed to go to the wall something would have taken its place which hopefully would have had more of a long term future. Some thought I was being pessimistic but then of course Hilco closed down their entire HMV Ireland operation in one go doing exactly what I had predicted albeit elsewhere and even quicker than I had expected.

So the ducking and diving continues. The unexpected happened and Sports Direct bought the building HMV was in. The sale was no doubt partly a result of the fact the owners couldn’t get the full rent. Of course if HMV had committed to a long lease as is normal for Princes Street the building being sold would not have affected them. In Brighton they have closed their remaining shop having lost their other shop because of their rental policy. Their view is simple if a shop isn’t making a profit they close it and generally it is the rent that will cause that though of course sales are gradually dwindling too. Now their Preston shop is closing with plans to move elsewhere but no date. It is rare for a month to go by without something happening.

I’d been asked a lot whether HMV being banished to Ocean Terminal would make any difference to my thoughts on Avalanche’s future and  the answer is no, something I explained in my Edinburgh Evening News column (link below). FOPP of course is owned by HMV and enjoys all the advantages that involves so HMV leaving would have little affect on Avalanche. As HMV has to give up more of its best shops as time goes on and album sales drop year by year there is an inevitability to their demise. The only question is how they will put that one last positive spin on it all !

Damage and Joy for shops and fans

A bargain at £100

                       A bargain at £100

How much damage artists selling directly to their fans causes shops very much depends on the artist in question but in some cases and not just with small bands the artist and label will snaffle up the majority of the sales these days. Nobody is denying the joy fans get from the exclusive bundles though some people will never understand why anybody would pay £60 for a signed test pressing. When these were genuine promo items there was some interest especially if they came with information sheets and/or test sleeves but these are test pressings simply made to sell. All these promo customers will, you can be sure, buy a regular pressing as well probably as part of another bundle. For the superfans it is an automatic response to look for that “super bundle”.

For a band like the Jesus and Mary Chain  a new album would bring in customers who were less frequent visitors to Avalanche and the majority would also ask what else we would recommend since they had been in last and of course a lot of those sales were local bands. I remember one customer from Israel wanting something he would enjoy given he liked the Mary Chain and I recommended Edinburgh School for The Deaf. It turned out Monorail had done the same the day before.

Now for a shop things have been turned upside down. A good shop would know how many regulars they had for each artist but now they have to gauge how many will buy directly and sometimes that can be everybody ! It’s a real rollercoaster ride trying to get the order numbers right and shops can get it so wrong sometimes they are cracking up at the amount of unsold stock. There was a time a while ago these issues should have been met head on but often artists were treated with such reverence that shops dared not say anything.

Of course if shops all just declined to stock an album they were massively disadvantaged with then artists would have second thoughts. Sure the album might be online but if it wasn’t on the high street at all that would be a big blow for some artists and even HMV talked about picking the “right” album to make a stand on. Now for an artist unless they are Adele or Coldplay their album will have a far shorter shelf life. Other artists as I’ve said also lose sales and of course the shop is never told what the presell plans for the artist is so is completely in the dark unless they search out the details themselves.

Some people say I’m only happy when it rains and the power of negative thinking will only end up in the darklands. I love rock ‘n’ roll as much as anybody but come on I think it is is time that artists and labels tried to get the balance right.  

Now HMV has gone from Princes Street will Avalanche return ?

Surprisingly I have been asked this a lot. While I was happy to help out at the Offbeat Gallery before Christmas especially as it meant folk could come in to discuss the History of Scottish Music Centre the centre really now has to be my focus. More importantly HMV was really only a small part of the problem. The HMV owned FOPP is still able to carry stock without any need for payment until sold and while there was a time Avalanche was the only indie selling indie vinyl now everybody is at it so as I’ve said before that particular cake may have got bigger but now everybody wants a piece !

witheredhandnewgodscoverSelling local bands’ music really was our thing and that dropped off dramatically not long after we invested in moving to the Grassmarket which was unfortunate. Given the opportunity we could still sell hundreds of a big local artist as happened with the second Withered Hand album but too often you could buy a release earlier, cheaper and with extra stuff directly from the label or band. If selling local bands is simply a bonus then of course you don’t care and take any extra sales you can get. Similarly if it is more of a hobby and not your main source of income then it isn’t so important. For Avalanche it was different. The Pledge model has now taken things one step further and while leaving shops with little or no sales it has also often deprived the artists of an outlet long after the campaign has finished.

Many labels now, especially the bigger ones, sell more of an “indies only” release than all the 300+ indie record shops put together. Similarly they are creaming off most of the sales abroad. There really is no point getting into an argument about it now as it has all gone too far down the line to be reversed. Similarly to promote anything an artist does on social media is normally to direct people to a link saying “don’t buy from a shop buy this better thing from us”. Of course the problem for bands starting is that they need the shops help reaching people but there is no reason for the shop to do so now. All in all I hope you can see why I feel better out of it.

In the long run things will change. Sales are ridiculously low as streaming now means people feel no need to buy new and local bands music at all. One Scottish artist whose album was released last month had great press coverage and is on an established label with distribution but has registered 4 sales. One LP, one CD and two downloads. Now the particular label doesn’t register its sales so they will have sold some directly but that is an album featured in some end of year best of charts that is available to all the HMVs, Amazon and the 300+ indie shops and sold four. Two oddly not in Scotland ! Believe me this is not that unusual an occurrence. One SAY awards album that was download only and had had a few sales in the past sold NONE the week it was featured.  

The irony of setting up the History of Scottish Music Centre while saying we shouldn’t wallow in nostalgia is not lost on me but that is exactly what is needed. We need to celebrate the past but look to the future but unfortunately too many people at the moment have a vested interest in pretending all is well.