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Future plans (part one) – streaming and vinyl box sets not the answer

I was in Edinburgh several times this week and wherever I went seemed to bump into people wondering what I was up to. Most followed on social media and quite correctly felt there might be news soon. Truth is I had expected at least one big announcement this month but that will now be in November. With partners and support in place it is now not just in my hands deciding what can be said and when.

I’ve known for over 18 months that 2018 is going to be a big year for Scottish music both old and new. That was never in doubt. It is fair to say it is what I have been working to but I did expect to have much more in place by now. Having said that I’m constantly reminded by others that when dealing with councils and arts bodies taking three years to achieve something is positively speeding along. 

In terms of a vision there was little room for compromise but also I felt the aims were realistic. At the heart of the premise was that Avalanche’s reputation for supporting Scottish artists was no longer viable given artists own sales strategies. Having said that that is where our heart lay and I saw no future in selling vinyl reissues of Led Zeppelin albums and 5xLP vinyl box sets of “The Queen Is Dead” or more accurately if there was a future it wasn’t one I wanted to be a part of.  

Don’t get me wrong I’m more than happy selling old collectable vinyl and selling older releases but the current situation has gone way beyond that. It also became clear that even when trying to sell new releases by new bands it was rarely possible to offer the collectable versions fans wanted. Even an indies only vinyl would also be available from the label or band with a signed print I wouldn’t have.

However the one area everybody avoids in this direct to fan era is trying to sell new music to people who have never heard of a band. This is by no means easy but very rewarding especially when people get back to you to thank you for their discovery. It isn’t however impossible and with Avalanche’s reputation and the interest there is in Scottish music the Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre seemed a fantastic opportunity to promote new music within the context of what has gone before.

Those asking for recommendations would often be looking for a new band like Belle and Sebastian or Orange Juice or Mogwai or Frightened Rabbit and that is a good start in judging what other music they might like. 

This of course relies on people wanting to but physical product and certainly some people will go away and just listen to recommendations online. This was certain;y a major issue at Avalanche where a customer would buy maybe one album but type into their phone the names of many more I had suggested so they could listen more. However even this would not be a disaster for the centre if its main purpose was to promote Scottish music and not to sell it.

Streaming works for Taylor Swift and Kanye West but for small bands, as with downloads before, it provides neither income nor decent exposure. With the centre as a focus I still believed the aim had to be to put good music, well promoted in front of good footfall in other places too. Do that especially in front of people who may have an interest in discovering new music and I think a lot can be achieved.

Ambitious admittedly but I always felt it was achievable. A centre that focused on the artists, labels, venues, clubs and even shops that had helped Scotland achieve the worldwide reputation it has today for its music and exposure for Scottish artists old and new in key places with high footfall.

I’m not quite there yet but close enough and with enough commitment from others to confidently say it will only be a matter of time. 2018 will be the year Scottish music reaches a worldwide audience and the Scottish Pop Music exhibition Centre will be at the heart of it. 

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