When I said The History of Scottish Music Centre (The Scottish Contemporary Pop/Rock Music Centre when dealing with Creative Scotland or Edinburgh Council) would definitely open in March I realised it wouldn’t be the best fund raising thing to say. The trick with crowd funding in particular is to have a target and then drum up support on the basis nothing will happen unless the target is reached. A very reasonable premise in most cases. So just to be clear there are a lot of opportunities available to a well supported centre. As I’ve already said the extent, size and location will be determined by the initial support. I’m not holding my breath waiting for any arts funding and the council certainly want to help but if all else fails I will be able to get a basic model up and running myself.
However while some opportunities are not time sensitive others are and it would be a huge shame to lose them due to lack of funds. Many artists and bands have already offered their support which is greatly appreciated and in a way the centre will be very focused on bringing Scottish music new and old to visitors but what is needed now is help from those who are already well aware of the wealth of great Scottish music produced over the last five decades. Supporting local Scottish bands was never a financial decision. Selling lots of Bright Eyes albums meant we could support Withered Hand and Meursault for instance and when they started to do well that enabled us to support the next wave of new bands like There Will Be Fireworks. Of course now that idea is squeezed at both ends and at the expense of reaching new people.
Many of you have suggested crowd funding and I will have news on that later in the week. Again delays there have been caused by the amount of interest which is of course a positive thing. Lots of support from the media too which I’m always grateful for. For now from as little as £1 a month you can sign up for emails and information on your favourite band(s). Just a hundred people signing up for instance would make a big difference when discussing the interest there is. To be fair not many need persuading but it is often stats like this that help. You can sign up here
You can also support the Avalanche label by investing, getting all the releases for free as interest and then getting your money back if you wish after a year. More on the blog below or via the shop link
More later in the week and many thanks to all those who have already been in touch.
When the indies were a lot bigger the non-indie shops were more prevalent too. There was not just HMV but Virgin, Our Price and several other “chains”. Indies had their own section within major record companies and for one of the largest that department could be maintained so long as the indies’ share of the sales stayed above 12%. At that time indies sold a lot of indie stuff from indie labels so 12% seemed a lot. It transpired that half of these indie sales were not really sales at all but certain indies being sold CDs at a price they could then wholesale them on. It wasn’t too hard to spot as 1,000 CDs of the same title even then going to a fairly small shop clearly wasn’t right. In the end with the indies only really at 5% it wa decided the pretence could go on no longer and things were restructured.
When Virgin were clearly in trouble Branson wanted to distance himself from the shops closing and gave his management team a large financial incentive to take over and rebrand as Zavvi hoping that when the inevitable happened people might have forgotten they had all been Virgins. A year later when the inevitable was about to happen Zavvi blamed their supplier who also supplied the failed Woolworths rather than admit they were about to go under anyway. Nobody questioned why they weren’t being supplied directly from record companies to start with. This is how things have always been but it has never been more important. HMV’s model leads inevitably to continual downsizing and eventual closure while the vinyl revival is the smoke in the smoke and mirrors so often deployed.
The reason it matters so much is because by the time everybody has to hold their hands up it will be too late. This is not about shops this is about new music. The current model is so skewed towards artists with an established fan base that new music doesn’t stand a chance. Again the music industry can pretend otherwise but people aren’t buying new music and they aren’t going to the gigs either. Yes not all sales are registered and sales are lost but you add in all those things and sales are still dreadful. And no it is not because people are illegally downloading !
It is in just about everybody’s short term interest for things to continue this way so don’t expect any change soon. However do expect to see this blog piece in two or three years time !
Old Avalanche label stock still sells to this day and of course is known worldwide. I’ll be using the label to reissue some older Scottish bands’ albums, more recent best sellers and indeed some new artists too mostly but not exclusively on vinyl. There is a lot of love for both Avalanche and Scottish bands throughout the world and all the releases will be made available on every continent simultaneously along with some exciting promotions. The label will look to break even though that is not to say I won’t be trying to make money from releases. What it means is any money that is made will be put back into other releases that I suspect may do well but not quite break even.
I can afford to finance one release at a time but would like to do more. It is certainly more cost effective to have several releases at one time. To this end I’m looking for investors who will put in £500 for a share. In return investors will receive copies of all the releases, be credited on those releases and after 12 months can ask for the money to be returned. A fair rate of interest I think ! Certainly people can buy more than one share if they wish and of course all involved will receive regular updates. Very happy to receive investment from other labels many of whom have a soft spot for Scottish bands.
Bank details can be provided if preferred. All questions to email@example.com
Purchase your label share with this link
One concern Creative Scotland seemed to have was that all genres wouldn’t be covered by the centre. I had thought this had been addressed in the blog and in conversations we had had. In particular it was made clear that traditional folk music would need its own custodian. Indie folk of course was a different matter ! As for other genres such as pop or dance or jazz they will of course have a place but the greatest body of work in terms of history undeniably belongs to the punk / post punk / indie world and in fact part of my research I made clear would have been to make sure earlier 60s and early 70s bands were fairly represented. From the mid 80s of course Avalanche was open and the shop had covered all Scottish artists so I was well versed in all genres after that.
This from the first blog “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.”
Of course it is still my intention to provide a balanced view over the decades. My first blog ended with the comment “So a Scottish Contemporary Pop Rock Music Centre (only with a far better name obviously)”. May still need to work on the name !
The original blog can be read here
Many people asked if there might be any grants to help with setting up if not maybe supporting the History of Scottish Music Centre. Against my better judgement I did apply for a grant from Creative Scotland to help over the next six months but despite being very encouraging and indeed supportive I was told last week they were unable to help. The main thrust seemed to be that the money they had available had been applied for more than six times over. I had been told the research and development grants were under the least financial pressure so that was a surprise.
The other comments were to be honest fairly spurious but will be helpful in confirming over the weeks the direction the centre will take. I could of course reapply but to be honest the points raised were actually already covered in the application, covered in links provided for further information or covered in the meetings we had had and more importantly it would be too great a delay. Things are still on course for next March despite the delay that the waiting to hear has caused and funds were always going to be needed beyond any grant anyway so it just means I’ll need to work even harder on that front.
Fundraising will take the form of sales, subscriptions and donations and there will be far more detail over the coming week or so. As ever thanks to everybody so far for the interest, support and encouragement. Cheers !
A lot of people involved in the US music industry one way or another would come and see me in the shop. Just under 10% of twitter followers are from the States as are 15%+ of people who read the blog. Certainly with vinyl the US was a year or two ahead of the UK at least in the beginning. They were complaining about $25 albums you could buy for a dollar long before the phenomenon hit the UK and going by the imminent reissuing of 13 Genesis albums on vinyl it hasn’t stopped yet.
Anyway earlier this year while the shop was still open I had one such person in from the US who said he read the blog and was interested to hear how long I thought the rise in vinyl sales would last. I answered that some blindly seemed to think it would go on forever while others privately would say they would be glad if they got one more good Christmas out of it. What I asked was his take on things ? Some are predicting Armageddon he said but most just think there will be carnage.
The problem to anybody prepared to admit it was obvious. A lot of the “vinyl revival” was media led. No doubt the public had embraced it often on a wave of nostalgia but it couldn’t be denied half the vinyl at least wasn’t even being played either going to collectors who put it in a cupboard or younger folk who put it on display. Even more importantly the increased vinyl sales were in no way making up for lost CD sales and that applied to new and second hand. More high profile stores with overheads that were only ever going to rise and revenue that could only fall were preparing for the worst. From east to west you will see stores deciding to close rather than wait for the inevitable he said and you will be surprised. Those selling new product were most vulnerable but even for large used stores there was a problem. Once the downturn started and people started selling their vinyl all these reissues would have little value and the number of people who would consider buying vinyl, already not a huge figure, would drop considerably. Small used stores with relatively low overheads and maybe dabbling in new stuff would have most chance of survival. This is of course exactly the kind of shop that has sprung up in the UK.
Not long after his visit I had an Australian record shop owner in saying much the same. With 60 stores in both Melbourne and Sydney the situation was already untenable. Soon Origami Vinyl in LA announced they were closing citing the difficulties of selling new releases despite being next to a great venue and having had recent poor Record Store Days. Others followed but when Other Music in New york announced they were closing all that had been said came back to me. They had seen off so many others including a large Tower Records opposite that you kind of felt they were immune. Again they blamed takings that had halved and a change in how people looked to discover new music. However never did I expect to hear the news that Amoeba would leave its iconic Hollywood store. Yes it won’t be for a while but the sense of preparing for the end is still there.
The UK is a little different to the US and London and Brighton live in a bubble with access to all the record companies and most of the bands and labels. There are a few fantastic shops left in the bigger cities and the rest are very much starting to fit that category of second hand shops who need little income to survive and dabble in new vinyl. Shops like Origami did mention the “big box” stores all jumping on the vinyl bandwagon but they have no HMV or an equivalent in the States. As they have shown in Ireland Hilco will pull the plug on HMV/FOPP when it suits them which will be an added factor in who survives. In the end it may not be competition from other retailers on the high street or online that closes down independents in the UK. It will probably be caused by the very bands and labels they are trying to support. This Armageddon may not be a battle between good and evil but if shops are to survive then they have to be given more than tokenist indie exclusives and the once a year bounty of Record Store Day.
There is I think a misconception all be it an understandable one that our twitter account generates a lot of sales. Don’t get me wrong if we are first to mention a reissued Biffy Clyro album on vinyl as happened recently then yes we can sell 40 LPs in 24 hours. If The Twilight Sad or Frightened Rabbit retweet something we have that is hard to find then yes again we will sell what we have but these are the exceptions. Far more likely is we highlight some great stuff and sell nothing at all.
Nothing sums this up better than the time Bob Mortimer retweeted my recommendation of two Babybird albums as two of the best albums you would ever hear and both under a fiver. Bob has more than half a million followers. He then followed it up with a second tweet himself saying just how good the albums were. Even I expected a few orders. One person bought both albums !
There was a time when publicising you had the “indies only” version of an album would work but now those times are for the large part gone and were long gone before I closed the shop. “Indies only” is just the starting point. Is it signed ? Does it have a print ? Does it have a signed print ? All these things may be available from the band or their label or a favoured shop and it is what the keen fans are looking for. There may be t-shirt bundles, ticket bundles and then there is the box set invariably now only available from the band or label. For some of the bigger indie labels the “indies only” tag is a convenient way of having a special format they can sell themselves but deny to HMV and Amazon. Fans will receive notice of this “limited” format with no mention it will be in shops and are stampeded towards buying to make sure they secure a copy. Some labels may limit their sales but often add an extra not available in shops. Regularly though labels now sell more than all the shops combined. This is simply an arena I am happy to exit from to hopefully take on the much harder but more rewarding task of creating new listeners who may in time become fans.
Should I have needed reassuring at all then the new Teenage Fanclub album has convinced me of my decision. Avalanche has sold thousands of Teenage Fanclub albums over the years. More than a thousand of “Bandwagonesque” alone. With all the excitement surrounding the new album we were often tagged with news and our tweet with the Uncut guide to all their albums reached many thousands of people along with our album pre-sell. The previously unseen footage from Other Music in New York was incredibly popular. So how many of that indies only clear vinyl were ordered ? NONE ! Don’t get me wrong here I’m not complaining just making it very clear that there is no guaranteed connection between social media and sales. Postings were popular on facebook too. Teenage Fanclub are deservedly held in great affection by those of us of a certain age and those fans would often understandably like a signed copy.
For Teenage Fanclub you could read King Creosote (over 10,000 albums sold) and don’t even get me started on The Wedding Present or I’ll tell you the story of how I put them on the Friday before “George Best” came out after they were double booked with The Triffids and got bumped. Luckily I had offered to curate a gig at Potterrow and they played for £300.
Divine Comedy sold 399 copies of their new album in independents one twelfth of the copies sold by HMV, Amazon and most importantly the band themselves. This is not just an Avalanche problem. I do have a Divine Comedy / Belle and Sebastian story for another time !
I’m sure many of those same middle-aged Fanclub fans will head the queue to support the History of Scottish Music Centre so karma will be restored and all will be well.
A lot of people have said there must be grants available to help towards getting the centre off the ground and indeed after speaking to Creative Scotland I applied for a small research and development grant which I will find out about later this month. Creative Scotland make announcements about grants so you will hear from them first. I had to check just to make sure I could say I had applied ! If successful it will help cover my time and will certainly be very useful. I do also want to be very clear about the focus of the centre which will be to help Scottish bands old and new reach new people. Having “special editions” of albums are great but all they are doing are encouraging established fans to buy from one place rather than another.
There is a lot that could be done (and currently isn’t being done) to give new bands in particular a better chance while never underestimating how hard things can be these days. Again there are some great bands established in Scotland but little known even in the UK never mind worldwide. This is something I very much have the ability to address through Avalanches’s reputation, 30+ years of contacts, our social media platforms and the interest I know is out there in Scottish music.
As I’ve said before I’ve had discussions with Edinburgh art galleries and museums as there may be some crossover in the future and one specialist fund raiser with ties to the Scottish music scene has expressed an interest in helping in the future but we do need to start moving forward immediately if the target of having the centre established by the end of March 2017 is to be achieved.
Thanks to everybody who has responded so far about supporting the centre but I will now need to start being more proactive in raising funds. There are several options open to us and I suspect to some extent we will use them all. More on that very soon. In terms of material for exhibitions there has been a lot of progress and I think I can safely say that won’t be an issue.
Ideally it would be great to have a central space in Edinburgh I could use to promote the History of Scottish Music Centre from now until Christmas but I’ve drawn a blank so far. Edinburgh Council in theory does of course support such ventures so it remains to be seen if they can be of any help. I’m always looking for ideas so do feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
The centre will primarily be an exhibition and information space and while there will be an accompanying retail space it would unrealistic to try to support the centre simply from sales especially as any stock would not be held on a commercial basis ie what can be sold within a reasonable time. There have been several suggestions about finance and I have looked at them all. I’m certainly exploring the possibility of grants but they would be unlikely to be sufficient and best not relied on. Again crowdfunding has been suggested and there are some very interesting options there. There is clearly a lot of interest but it would be good to have that interest registered for when we start the ball rolling which should be by the end of next month.
The options are
I would be interested in a small monthly subscription in return for a monthly newsletter and alerts when the centre has news of and items by artists I am interested in
I would be interested in making a donation
I have a business that would be interested in making a donation or offering sponsorship
I would be interested in buying a discounted voucher to spend at the centre eg a £50 voucher for £40. There will be an online sales facility.
I have a music collection I would like to donate with the proceeds going to the centre
With regards to the bands themselves current or not we will be looking for things along the lines of an exclusive song or image that they are prepared to let the centre use and are happy to promote to their fans. This will obviously help with financing the centre and feed into the options above. Very happy for artists and labels to make contact now but we will be contacting those we think can help soon.
Please send an email to email@example.com listing one or more of the options above to register an interest and be told when we have something in place. The subscription will start at a pound or two so hopefully anybody wanting to help can. The interest now will help with the decision on what crowdfunding platforms might be useful in the future. Any other thoughts or comments are welcome. We are of course still looking for interesting memorabilia and thanks is due to all those who have already been in touch.
In terms of a plan and knowing what I’m going to be working towards I think things have gone well. There has been a great response though it is quite skewed to the punk and post-punk eras which is understandable as it really was a very vibrant time for music in Scotland. Everything since then I can cover from my own experience especially the 80s and 90s indie scene which coincides with the start of Avalanche and I’ll just need to search out more of the old Potterrow crowd and the bands of the time many of whom still keep in touch so it won’t be too much of an effort. Mike who runs the Scottish post-punk sites has been helping out and has some valuable contacts to help with the pre-punk times.
Finance is going to be the next thing and I’m trying to at least find the resources to give me six months or so before hopefully a launch around March. I should have a far better idea in the next month but the centre’s focus will always be skewed towards information and exhibition rather than sales so funding is essential. There has been a very limited response with offers of sponsorship and other financial help which is not a great surprise as these are things that really have to be chased up and a big thank you to those who have been in touch. I haven’t drawn a complete blank and potentially could have some good news. A lot of people talk about “reach” when it comes to funding and there obviously Avalanche’s worldwide reach is a help along with the undoubted interest in Scottish music but it would probably be a help if a lot of people signed up to donate a small amount of money each month for instance. Sometimes the number of people is as important as the funds raised. This is all new to me but I’m getting there slowly. Having said all this surely there must be a few older folk out there who have a few bob and could help make this happen.
There have been a lot of suggestions as to how we could raise funds especially to get things off the ground from putting on some high profile gigs to asking bands and labels for interesting items that could be auctioned. Bands could also possibly donate unreleased songs or exclusive images but for now I will attempt to get the basics in place and then maybe we will do all those things !