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Archive for November, 2017

Postscript from an old man

Late January 1991 and Avalanche receives a call from Sounds the music paper. Andrew Tully Avalanche’s manager and front man, comedian and raconteur of Edinburgh’s second best jangly guitar band Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes answers. They would like to know what we think of the new pop sensations the Manic Street Preachers. Andrew shouts over to me and busy with customers (this was the early 90s remember) I gave the simple reply “a little too fond of The Clash”. I’d just seen them on an Oxford Road Show repeat that I’d turned over to while trying to stay awake during the recent Super Bowl and that seemed a fair assessment. 

Clearly disappointed they asked if Andrew had anything  more humorous or controversial to add. “Well apart from them being Welsh and wearing too much make-up, not really” Andrew replied jokingly. Would we stock the new single they asked. Probably not we said. Next issue of the paper went with Avalanche has banned the Manic Street Preachers for being Welsh and wearing make-up. Manics fans started coming in hassling us and we would politely explain it had just been a joke but they were not to be placated.

There was even a cartoon about the affair with the punchline revealing Mike Peters from Welsh band The Alarm but as it was about to go to press Sounds folded. The curse of the Manics had begun !

Anyway we forgot about it but come May the Manics embarked on their ironically titled You Love Us tour with Edinburgh the first stop. Not having yet reached their stadium rock status they were playing at The Venue and the next morning Robert, Avalanche’s Sub Pop expert and joiner extraordinaire opened up the shop. To quote Robert soon after “a wee guy came in, put a CD on the counter, said this is for you and ran out”. Said CD was Motown Junk and each band member had signed it with a message. They were not wishing us well !

So began a rather one-sided feud with the Manics still mentioning Avalanche from time to time in interviews, commenting at gigs that we had closed down when we hadn’t and generally not letting it go. I believe we still got a mention only a few years ago. By the mid-nineties the shop was split with Andrew not only enjoying the Manics brand of corporate stadium rock but even going to their Glasgow gig as a guest of Sony and shaking James’ hand.

And so all good things must end and to help raise funds for the new Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre I’m selling the famous signed CD. It seems only fair that I’l donate some of the money to a charity of the Manics choosing. Let us see what we are offered. Unsigned the CD has sold for £50 to £90 so a CD signed by all four members will be worth considerably more and with the story attached ……………… I’ll see what offers are received and if there is nothing suitable I’ll put it on Discogs. All offers to Would I buy them a pint if I met them now. Of course I would !

The Cure – Wish award for 100,000 sales

The Cure – Wish award for 100,000 sales

I’m selling a few things to help finance the Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre including this award. Any offers to

Future plans (part two) – social media

Cold Turkey at Summerhall

It never ceases to amaze me that most people don’t understand social media and how it works. Now if you just want to post a picture of a nice cake you are about to eat that doesn’t really matter but if you want to reach people with information or even sell them something then blindly tweeting or posting is pointless. For some I understand they aren’t that keen anyway so they just half-heartedly use social media so they can say they are using it. However most frustrating are those who claim to be experts and in particular measure their success.

Truth is you can’t accurately measure reaching people with social media but there is now an entire industry based on doing so. At the core of all this is clickbait. All those “you won’t believe …..” stories at the bottom of news pages. All those 30 best whatever where you have to keep clicking to the next page. Don’t get me wrong you can measure reaching people to a certain extent but then you certainly can’t measure what they then do with that information beyond the immediate click-through. 

When I occasionally help people with a gig or album I have to explain that yes the Avalanche social media accounts reach a lot of people but all that means is that folk will know about the gig but not go or know about the album and not buy it as opposed to not knowing about it at all. Of course that isn’t to say the odd person doesn’t go to the gig or buy the album but it will be a very small percentage indeed. 

On the other hand just because you don’t have a lot of retweets or likes doesn’t mean folk aren’t paying attention it is just that most folk don’t feel a need to interact and that of course is absolutely fine. Now being a sad statistician I know how to measure things that don’t as such exist to be measured in a way that is never very accurate but is far better than counting clicks. You can also compare basic available data so for instance I know Avalanche has a far greater reach and engagement than some accounts ten times our size.

Another way you can gauge your reach is because people tell you. It always amazed me to have somebody in the shop ask something and when I’d start giving the standard answer they’d say that that knew that as they followed on twitter, read the blog, checked on Facebook and were looking for more information. It always felt especially strange when they were from South America or a small town in places like Russia or Australia.

There is however loads of basic stuff that has a sound statistical basis. Tweets with a picture are four times more likely to be viewed. Music related things will have several times the click-through rate of the average link. Plus plenty more. There are different approaches. I prefer to make something as interesting as possible so people will click the link while others will make you click to find out anything. The latter is more a clickbait attitude – “you won’t believe what 80s heartthrob looks like now”.

If you can tie up a strong social media presence with the regular media then it becomes even more powerful and of course I have a regular column in The Edinburgh Evening News but that really is a bonus. Properly managed, interesting social media accounts with original comment are always popular and is part of the reason I was offered the column. 

Pic @AHMcKay

I often get asked why shops don’t use social media more and the answer quite simply is that for the time it takes to do it properly the payback isn’t worth it. Avalanche does better than most but the vast majority of people “like” that we sell stuff rather than actually buy anything. The Avalanche account is of course far more than a record shop account and many would say unique. There are lots of different strands to it so people need to filter the things they are interested in but I like it to be that way. When I set up the Scottish Music Centre account it was to promote all Scottish music without regard for any Avalanche preferences and again that has been successful.

I am asked why there is no other account that promotes Scottish music the way we do and the answer is simply nobody is being paid to do it and the official bodies don’t do anything without being paid for their time. It is irritating to see those claiming they support Scottish music doing very little but there is often a gap between what people say and what people do in the music industry.

So moving forward the good news is that for the Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre the media and social media could not be in better shape and if sponsors and financial backers recognise that then there is a lot the centre can offer. I’ll continue to try and help artists and make followers aware of gigs and other events but people still need to help themselves and a lot of the work I do is not taken advantage of and there is nothing I can do about that. 

What both accounts hopefully do is encourage discussion beyond the obvious nostalgia that will always have a place but can easily take over especially when dealing with the past as much as the centre’s account does even though of course I’ve always been keen to look to the future too.

The bottom line is people seem to enjoy the twitter feed, Facebook posts and reading the blog/column and you can’t ask for more than that. Anything else is a bonus. The last few days have included a pic of a Paris record store in 1963, a Borussia Dortmund CD and toaster, The Fall at Buster Browns, Edinburgh in 1983, news of a new Smackvan album and gig, a pic of a Grundig Majestic music centre and a plug foe Cold Turkey a music and poetry night at Summerhall that also featured in my paper column. Add in a couple of William Crozier paintings of the castle and the Mound, a quote from Peter Capaldi about his old band Dreamboys, an old pic of the Pastels playing with Strawberry Switchblade and an imagined poster for Trainspotting directed by Godard and there is  something for everybody ! 

Pic @Birmingham_81