Finding the ScotPop Centre a home – a brief history

While Avalanche was still in the Grassmarket Edinburgh Council decided to support music in the city centre “like New York and Sydney”. Plans to use empty council buildings were quickly dismissed by their property department but it was suggested space in council buildings might be found and it was soon established that council owned museums and galleries were by far the best possible locations.

Consequently a little later when looking for a home for the exhibition centre artists who were also musicians said that ignoring any arguments about the validity of the art there were large rooms that would be all we needed dedicated to maybe a couple of paintings or a sparse installation. Soon after that several people associated with the City Art Centre got in touch to say the ground floor of the CAC would be perfect and just what was needed to attract more folk in. 

It is well documented elsewhere that despite a very successful pop-up at the Fruitmarket Gallery two drawn out attempts to get space in the CAC have failed. It is still the case that huge rooms exist within the council’s galleries including the CAC but despite assurances it is not the case a pop music exhibition doing its best to break even is not seen in the same light as an art installation or exhibition that needs several grants just to exist and 99% of people have no interest in. 

You see there is a clue in the grant system. If a gallery needs half a million, or a million or two million pounds every three years on top of any other funding received just to cover its costs then it’s because the vast majority of people really don’t care and in fact it will only get worse. In a recent YouGov survey the younger folk were, the more likely they were to consider the arts, be that classical music or art galleries, as “posh” and of no interest to them. 

That the powers that be consider a Mexican artist with his field recordings of whales and dolphins to be art worthy of waiving any fees but an exhibition about Scottish musicians to be unworthy of support says it all. 

I really did think that the National Museum of Scotland’s Rip It Up exhibition this year would have established that a permanent Scottish music exhibition should be taken seriously but that is very clearly not the case. Sadly I don’t see things changing.   

How the ScotPop Exhibition Centre idea came about

I often get asked how the ScotPop Exhibition Centre idea came about this so I thought if I made a post about this I could also then refer to it when I have to email people rather than get involved in a long explanation never sure how much is known already.

Avalanche used to sell a lot of music by local bands. By a lot I mean hundreds of copies by an artist like Withered Hand and a box of 25 CDs by a band that maybe wasn’t that well known even locally. We gave everything a chance but there were still many releases that sold very little simply because they weren’t very good.

We could easily sell a hundred copies or more when we had an in-store from a band like Idlewild or Twilight Sad for a new album. An album featuring high up in our end of year chart, itself based on sales, could sell an extra 50 to 100 copies because of that. We could add an extra 20 people to a local gig’s attendance just by recommendation to the groups of visitors who would come to the shop normally on the day.

Orange Juice at Regent’s Canal, Near Camden (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

At the same time there was a lot of interest in older Scottish bands from Orange Juice and Josef K to The Shop Assistants and Pastels. Visitors to Avalanche would be looking for current bands that they might like given their taste in other music and as bands like Belle and Sebastian became more established we would get folk looking for similar artists to more current bands too.

There are no recommendations online that work quite as well as would come from a good shop. We wouldn’t just suggest something we would play it so the customer wasn’t relying on our say-so. These bands were not our friends so we played no favourites and we gave people music we thought they would like not what we thought they should like.

Online there is nearly always some agenda and then of course it is easy to listen and decide something isn’t worth your money anyway. One thing that was very relevant, especially in the old days of actually being very busy, particularly on a Saturday, was that playing all this stuff to people was quite time consuming. On the other hand this was balanced by fans who needed no persuasion.

Obviously things gradually changed but so this post doesn’t go on too long let’s fast forward five years or so. Avalanche had moved to the Grassmarket and was gradually building up an influential online and social media presence to add to the shop’s reputation and never been more influential but sales had plummeted. Shops were now competing for sales that were already dropping with the very bands and labels they had supported and customers/fans no longer needed to buy music anyway.

I would still get asked for recommendations as much as ever and even play them but now people would tap the names into their phones saying they would go away and listen more. If lucky they might buy one or two things when before they would have bought many more. In-stores went the same way with sales only a quarter of what might have been expected. With online sales and social media one thing became very clear and that was given a fair chance with a limited gold vinyl Withered Hand album or a Frightened Rabbit album with a bonus 7″ our online reach meant we could sell 100+ but most times we were at a disadvantage and selling  a fraction of what we would have expected just a few years before.

And so the idea for a centre promoting Scottish music but not on a commercial basis was born. At its heart it would still support and promote current bands but it would also celebrate the music from previous years that visitors seemed so keen to talk about with posters, badges and other memorabilia. At that point the idea was as simple a that. Only later would I discover that documenting the last six decades of Scottish artists and their music had been woefully neglected and how much work there was to be done. 

Trinity Apse and the ScotPop Centre

Another option that had been mentioned by Frank Little the Museums and Galleries manager was Trinity Apse which is an old church just off the high street on Chalmer’s Close, some may remember it as the Brass Rubbing Centre.

I did look at it before Christmas with Frank but was given no indication of availability or price. It had I was told been rented out just recently for the day to some architects for £500 (actually £600 + VAT) but otherwise details were sketchy. There had been a big effort to have it used during the Festival but with no other details except that for some time now no council building could be given out for free.

Clearly I was looking for the arts price rather than the commercial price. Again if I knew what the building had made financially in a year I could maybe offer a little more and we would have a temporary home and the council would have increased income. I included Trinity Apse when I asked for details of the income for council buildings under FOI so I would know what to offer.

Frank felt the CAC was a better option so Trinity Apse was put on the back-burner even after I saw the figures for its usage. However when it was decided the CAC top floor would go through due process and not be treated as a trial I looked into the idea again. With the Tron market traders soon to be homeless I could possibly include an arts element, give a few of the artists a home and bring in a little more income to help with whatever rent I was quoted.

By now I had seen the figures which were astonishing. That architects’ rent I had been quoted was the only commercial rent in the three years I was given figures for and despite being told no arts related project for some time had been considered for a free let all the other lets had been free. It would be hard work getting people to visit given the location but it was still an exciting prospect with plenty of potential. 

Unable to contact Frank I found a contact who was actually the commercial manager, a new post created 8 months ago that I was unaware of as surprisingly it had never been mentioned despite being relevant. I enquired about using the building until the end of the year depending on availability. Apart from a wedding in October there were no other firm bookings though it was on hold in July and August for the Edinburgh Art Festival part of the CAC and those architects were considering coming back at the end of June.

Given the EAF use 30+ venues and the council make no income I hoped they would give Trinity Apse up and we could work around the rest. However the commercial manager came back to me yesterday with no firm offer and asking me to make a proposal bearing in mind their commercial rates of up to £750 a day.

It is clear that despite constant reassurances the ScotPop exhibition is not being given anything like the same treatment as other arts projects and now the council has employed somebody to deal with these matters albeit with little success so far my original discussion with Paul Lawrence, the council’s Chief Executive of Place, of basing offers on previous performance is no longer relevant. This probably explains the insistence on due process over the CAC’s top floor.


The Dragon of Profit and Private Ownership on display for all of the Festival last year is clearly art attracting no charge while the ScotPop Centre appears to lie at the heart of capitalism.

In all my discussions it was agreed that pop music deserved the same support as the visual arts but it was stressed that no art form could now be supported as before with free or even heavily discounted venues. All evidence shows this not to be true and to be honest it is clear that rather than argue the case people are just saying one thing and doing another.

I have a sponsor flying in from Germany in a week’s time and after that I will make a decision but without a building ……………………

Questions raised on twitter about the ScotPop Centre latest news

Many thanks to Brian for raising these questions 

Brian Ferguson – arts journalist for the Edinburgh Evening News and Scotsman

An interesting read, but just couldn’t see any sense in agreeing to set up a rival history of Scottish pop & rock exhibition in the City Art Centre at the same time as the one.


ScotPop Centre has a completely different focus + complements the museum. I’ve been in contact with museum since April 2016 at their request forwarding exhibits they could use + working on areas they are not covering. They finish November + some exhibits will be available to me

Frank Little (museums and galleries manager) told me he asked if CAC could work with the museum on the exhibition but got knocked back. I already had that agreement though I believe their comms people are wary. They asked me not to stress differences as that was pointing out what they weren’t doing.

The council aren’t setting anything up and the centre won’t be a rival but it will be able to continue the work done by museum long after they have moved on to their next exhibition. The museum is understandably out of their comfort zone whereas I have 30 years worth of contacts.

Brian Ferguson

The only other thing I would add is that it took the trust around a decade to get access to a building which was going to rack and ruin.


To be fair to they have made that point about and also the Calton Hill Observatory. It was said I had achieved in three years what would normally take a team of people seven given what I have ready to go. Things though don’t have to take this long.

Brian Ferguson

It’s 15 years since the party was cancelled when the stage started getting torn apart. Not a brick laid. Easier said than done when reality kicks in!


Of course when building is involved things take a lot longer but the original idea from the council was that they have too many buildings so finding one for should be possible. If a cafe/bar/venue included even better as that helped with the issue over venues.

The Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre – search for a home

As regular followers will know the City Art Centre at the back of the Waverley Station has often cropped up as a possible home temporarily or otherwise for some time now. That interest seemed to have ended when they refused even a short pop-up despite being virtually empty. The Fruitmarket Gallery however did step in and we had a hugely successful exhibition in June with over 1,500 people visiting over the three days.

Following that it was suggested I speak to Paul Lawrence the council’s Chief Executive for Place. Paul, a no nonsense northerner from Hull with a soft southern job title, was very supportive and interested not just in the centre but also on the current state of Edinburgh’s venues.

I had previously spoken to Frank Little the museums and galleries manager who wasn’t keen on the idea but Paul said he would speak with him again and with news that Frank was now a convert we met up. The day before I had met with Donald Wilson the Culture Convener who had pledged his support saying the exhibition centre was just what Edinburgh needed and just what the City Art Centre needed !

One suggestion from Frank was that I was given the top floor of the City Art Centre which though hired out was done so infrequently. With a small presence on the ground floor and a lift as you come in straight to the top floor it wasn’t perfect but a great space with great views.

I gave Frank a proposal of what was intended so we could then discuss things further. When I say “give” me the top floor I would have been expected to make sure the CAC wasn’t out of pocket by offering a payment a little greater than their previous income.

However I soon received an email saying the CAC was fully booked with exhibitions for the next three years and there was no space for me. This was very odd in that it made the meetings we had had pointless but more importantly the top floor is not an exhibition space, part of the reason it had been considered. 

Back to square one Paul Lawrence’s desire to help meant he agreed to meet just before New Year. Unable to come up with any other options Paul agreed to put the CAC top floor plan to Frank Little again. We agreed I would offer a little more than the average of the last three year’s income and I made an FOI request to find out what that offer should be.

I had a second meeting with Councillor Wilson mid-January when he reiterated there was nothing more needed said to convince him of the worth of the project. Paul had flagged up the council would need to agree that there was no need to follow due process given this was a temporary project, possibly for a year, and the council would be financially better off than previous years.

Councillor Wilson said he wasn’t even sure it needed to go to committee but would check and if it did it was a Culture not a Finance matter and agreed to liaise with Paul. Given the time constraints in trying to be ready in time to coincide with the National Museum’s exhibition I was concerned about how long all this would take and I then received an email from Paul Lawrence saying my best outcome would be to have it put before the Culture Committee on the 20th March. 

This was tight for being ready indeed but doable and gave me time to assemble a small team of helpers for a presentation. I would need to show quality within the exhibition and the Fruitmarket Gallery offered to give a recommendation. With the museum having also taken several of the exhibits from the pop-up the quality was not going to be an issue. 

Financially I spoke to potential sponsors who would look to cover the proposed rent of around £10K – £12K. I had offers of free food and drink for launches and free advertising both from established advertising companies and record shops all over the world.

By coincidence an old customer and friend who now lives in LA and was a photographer in the 80s was over visiting and not only offered me many unseen band photos but also a professional trailer for the exhibition as his job in LA was to produce film trailers and adverts. 

I agreed with the council not to say anything publicly which of course would have helped with the fundraising but the response privately was tremendous.

However I still had no confirmation until Tuesday when an email from Paul Lawrence told me that a speedy outcome was unlikely as the idea would need to go through due process. Basically this would mean 

  • The Council would need to agree that the space in the CAC is to be used for alternate purposes and therefore is available to ‘the market’;
  • They would need to run a marketing/bidding process;
  • They would need to evaluate all bids including an assessment of detailed business plans;
  • The Council would then determine a successful bidder based on a range of criteria.

The first point alone baffled me. There was no change of use as it was a hire space that could be hired for just what I had planned. In fact if the exhibition was not to be treated as a trial, which it obviously was, then it could be treated as a lengthy hire which of course was also true. Neither involved due process something I had taken (free) professional advice on.

I was asked if I still wanted to continue. Given that there was no guarantee of success, no idea of cost and it was impossible to reach agreement in time this was an offer designed to be unacceptable.

My initial reaction was just to give up but then I realised that as I had been working to March 20th I should at least consider options until then now the plans could go public. What has caused this turnaround ? I genuinely don’t know. Donald Wilson and Paul Lawrence could not have been more helpful and generous with their time. Both hold very senior positions one as a councillor and one as a council official. It’s important to have both sides on board I’m told. Yes Minister is certainly good grounding for understanding the relationship.

I’m not sure who else would have the authority to insist that due process was followed even when it was unnecessary and why they would do that. Apart from that there has been a feeling for some time that the CAC is to be sold. This was pure conjecture from staff and those close to the CAC on the basis that it was so badly run there had to be an ulterior motive.

It has been acknowledged now by most involved with the CAC that there have been issues for some time in every department though they don’t thank people for pointing that out. The recent report that footfall and income were both down over 30% was blamed on being closed on their two quietest days which clearly was a flawed argument.

Maybe there are plans, be it a sale or some other major overhaul, and they would rather I wasn’t in the way. Maybe the CAC understandably annoyed at being shown to be struggling instigated the decision to enforce due process. I have to say I was initially invited to look at using the CAC by staff and that it has so demonstrably been underutilised, as the council prefers to say, is not my doing.

All of this is conjecture and possibly wide of the mark on every count. I’m still of course in touch with the National Museum and Waterstones are on board to support Scottish music. There are many exclusives I could source if  I want to. Avalanche is a worldwide brand which never ceases to amaze me and I have an offer to consider at the beginning of March based on Avalanche but with interest in the centre too.

I have interest from Glasgow for the centre which needs to be followed up but for now I will give things until the middle of March and if no home can be found by then I will need to reconsider. I’m already getting regular enquiries about when the centre might open with some people looking to book holidays and it is hard to believe such a popular idea would be blocked by the council after being so supportive originally.

I have sunk every penny I have into this or we wouldn’t have reached the stage we have now. I simply can’t afford to do that any more and until the centre finds a home it will be impossible to bring on board sponsors and the other revenue streams needed.

Apologies for not having something more positive. Believe me I never expected this outcome from the council after so much support. I suspect there may still be more twists in the tale.

Still to come – Trinity Apse, the City Art Centre’s cafe and what I’d do given all of the CAC !

Exhibition Centre needs £50 man to return + £50 woman too !

Fifteen years ago the phrase “£50 man” first came into use coined by the former NME journalist and founder of WORD magazine David Hepworth. This was a man who thought nothing of wandering into a record shop and spending £50 on whatever took his fancy. £50 man now of course is in his fifties and let us not forget there were indeed £50 women too.

When the idea of fundraising was first mooted £50 man again surfaced as the sort of person who would love to see a centre dedicated to the music he had grown up with and still loved. One hundred of these individuals and the initial £5K was assured.Add in others making smaller but no less valuable contributions and the seed money needed to get the centre off the ground seemed attainable. 

Given it was 15 years ago some even joked there would now be a “£100” man ready to get involved. I was sceptical but we had a £100 donation almost straight away and I must say thank you to that gentleman. Since then however things have been slow and I very much appreciate it would be easier if I could name a home and opening date. That announcement however is not far away.

The GoFundMe page was set up more in anticipation of a future push than expecting an immediate response but now the time has come to get things over the line and donations are crucial. The page has actually been a huge success in that it has attracted both offers of help and potential sponsors so much so that I’m completely confident that when we get the green light I will have both the expertise and finance in place.

The blog below has more details on where we are at and I really do hope to say more by the end of the week. Every little helps and I appreciate £50 is far too much for most but hopefully £50 man will do his bit. It doesn’t even need to be a donation as a voucher purchase helps with cash flow too. I’m certain that once open the support will be there as it was with the Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition but this last bit is proving tricky. 

I shall be back looking through cupboards tonight seeing what records I can cull from an already diminished collection but needs must. In terms of time and real cash I have put in myself I am indeed £50K man and I don’t begrudge a penny.

I do have an idea going forward of how to fund both my time and others but for now getting the exhibition centre over the line is the priority. Now back to the cupboard !

Exhibition Centre finance

I had thought that with the announcement of the museum’s Rip It Up exhibition this year I would find the centre a home in good time but instead we are cutting it very fine indeed. Don’t get me wrong I’m very grateful to those who have helped and supported the centre and got me to this point and do I appreciate these things take time but even so ………..

I have concentrated on being sure I could put on an exhibition of quality and in that respect the Fruitmarket Gallery pop-up was a huge success. You will find several of the exhibits appearing in the museum’s exhibition and I have equally exciting things to replace them until they are returned. I’ve left bringing on celebrity supporters a la the Leith Theatre or King’s Theatre until there was a home to support though that isn’t to say there hasn’t been help in the background already.

Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition The Only Fun In Town

I set up the funding page in readiness for an announcement not really expecting contributions until then though there have already been a few generous donations mainly but certainly not all from regulars. A major outlet on Princes Street has agreed to support Scottish artists both old and new given that the exhibitions that will be on this year will no doubt raise the profile of Scottish music. I am very grateful for their interest. I’m tempted to say more now but would really like to sort out the centre’s home first. 

Paul Haig’s blue Fender Coronado Mk2

I started off looking for space that the council might give the exhibition for free or at least subsidised but those days it seems are now gone. Frustrating when I see what has been given freely even quite recently. Realistically therefore I have offered to hire space from Edinburgh Council at a rate that will not see them out of pocket from what they would have expected to make and have had very positive feedback. You won’t be disappointed ! I also have sponsors interested in helping cover those costs.

I actually have a sponsor wanting to work with Avalanche but as I have done for over three years now any money I get will go towards giving me time to work on the centre.  The funding page gives a little more detail on how I have self-funded things so far.

The nub of all this is I need to raise an extra £2K to £3K immediately to get things over the line hopefully by the end of the week. If anybody feels able to make a substantial donation I’m very happy to give more detail on both locations to reassure them where their money is going. If any business would like to contribute I’m also very happy to publicly thank them for their help. My email address is and the link is below.



The Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre funding

All along the consensus of opinion has been that those of us that were around in the late seventies and early eighties now of course in our fifties and sixties would be very keen to see a centre documenting that time. Of course I then had a great response at the Fruitmatket pop-up  from those who remember the sixties a time that had largely been forgotten bar the occasional Beatles story. 

Certainly social media confirmed the love felt not just for the bands but also the clubs, venues and even shops and pubs of the time. Other areas of the arts have their wealthy patrons and supporters and it didn’t seem unreasonable to expect that from this pool of people with fond memories some would fill these roles. 

Make no mistake the reason this has not been done before is because those who had similar ideas could not get funding and it is only because I have sunk a large amount of  time and money into a project I believed was important that we are so close to achieving something. 

In virtually every area the response to the idea has been fantastic and people have been so helpful. The one difficulty has been financial support. If things had moved more quickly I might just have managed myself but again by the standards set by others the three years this has taken is quick. One senior arts figure tried to console me by saying what I had done in three years would normally take seven. I didn’t feel better !

Edinburgh sixties beat group The Athenians

I reckon I have about three years worth of  things to look into and of course what this means is that the exhibition centre will be ever changing. I certainly hope that anybody visiting once a year will see enough different things every time to be happy. What it also means is that there is no reason there can’t be exhibitions elsewhere possibly in other Edinburgh venues but also in other cities. 

I understand not everybody was impressed with Midge Ure’s coat at the launch of the museum’s exhibition this year but there is much more to be revealed there I’m sure. In the big picture it is a temporary showcase but it should certainly help with getting a permanent centre with a wider remit off the ground.

Josef K backstage at Glasgow City Halls in 1980 by Simon Clegg

Time is now against me and what that means is that I will have to go with what plans I have whether finalised or not very soon which is a risk. It is hard enough getting things done but I did think with the museum exhibition coming up and the need to have everything in place three months earlier it would produce results but it hasn’t. 

This next week is a huge week and it is possible everything will just fall into place. As always I would like to thank everybody who has given their time and effort and hopefully the wealthy patrons will follow !


The funding link is here

The Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre

The Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre
Please take time to read this
I have self-funded this project for over three years using money from my shop Avalanche Records and then when I gave that up in April 2016 to concentrate on this fully from online shop sales and selling much of my own personal record collection.his project for over 

Don’t worry I didn’t need 11 copies of The Only Ones “Another Girl, Another Planet” and I still have a UK, US and promo copy ! Many other things I had on CD and vinyl so didn’t need both and then other stuff I just felt able to part with.

A huge amount has been achieved and there was a successful pop-up at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh in June for three days that saw over 1,500 people visit.

We had original copies of sixties beat band The Athenians 7″, backstage passes from Scars gigs, handwritten postcards from Postcard Records supremo Alan Horne and the original paintings for the Arab Strap album “Philophobia” along with more recent items and many other things not seen for decades or in some cases never seen before.

Hanging on the wall as you entered was the guitar Paul Haig of Josef K bought from Edwyn Collins when he was in Orange Juice.

I have been aware since April 2016 that the National Museum of Scotland would be holding an exhibition in 2017 from June to November called Rip It up – The Story of Scottish Pop and indeed such was the quality of the pop-up that some of the exhibits will be loaned temporarily to the museum’s exhibition.

The centre now has the backing of Edinburgh Council and has attracted the interest of several potential sponsors both from Scotland and further afield. Covering six decades of music the exhibition will also include labels, artwork, posters, badges, venues, clubs, photographs, memorabilia and even a few shops and the odd pub !

Never intended to just look back at the fantastic history of Scottish pop music the centre will also actively support current artists and recover much of its overheads from shop sales of related music and merchandise. Depending on the space we choose there will be at least a performance space and possibly a cafe/bar/venue.

In order to be up and running in time for May so the centre is ready to complement the museum exhibition I need to dedicate the next two months to getting the project over the line. A £15K research grant fell through a while ago and while £5K will keep things going that higher figure would make a huge difference to what can be done in the time.

For future funding any support shown now will be immensely useful and I’m already incredibly grateful to all those who have helped reach this point where there is no doubt of the quality of the exhibition or the benefits there will be to both musicians old and new and as an attraction for Edinburgh.

There is already a range of exclusive vinyl releases and merchandise planned to coincide with the centre opening as well as gigs throughout the year and some surprises I can’t reveal just yet. We intend to work closely with the Queen’s Hall as well as smaller and indeed larger venues.

2018 will be a fantastic year for Scottish music and there are other partners I’m in talks with that will give Scottish music and in particular new music a very high profile indeed. Expect some exciting updates !

All the hard work has been done making sure there will be enough interesting exhibits though there are still many more people I need to contact to secure even more for the future. It is intended that there will be new things to see on a regular basis.

A simple donation can be made or can be in return for a voucher that wil be able to be exchanged against any of the releases, memorabilia or gigs. While income is needed even helping with cash flow until the centre is up and running will be a great help.

Once everything is in place a not-for-profit organisation with a board will be set up to oversee the centre. This will then make it eligible for grants and other types of support in the future. All vouchers will be my personal responsibility.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this.

Fruitmarket exhibition pic by Chris Scott
Guitar pic by Graham Purnell

Please use the link below

The music industry – customers not fans (part two)

Knowing how many fans a band had among your customers was key to success in the eighties and nineties when coming up with a base figure to order for smaller indie bands. However for most releases you then added a figure on top which was often far greater than the fan base figure allowing for what you thought other customers would buy. 

Another factor would be how good the album was which may seem a daft thing to say but playing a good album at lunchtime or after 4pm when workers and students were finishing for the day could lead to many sales as we proved all those years ago with the Whipping Boy “Heartworm” album.

It is still considered a classic today but didn’t sell as well as expected. Sony asked me to meet the band and their rep to explain why we had sold hundreds when elsewhere sales were slow. The answer was quite simply that we knew it would appeal to our customers and we could sell four or five a day just by playing it at the right time to people who had never heard of the band.

Shops have different types of customers and fans were just one type but as more people shopped online they became a bigger part of the equation and at that very time labels and artists themselves decided to target those fans directly. The online shoppers who knew they wanted, the new Bjork album for instance, would if they had gone to  a shop often have seen other things they wanted or may well have asked what else was new. Buying online, normally from Amazon, meant the album arrived through their letterbox on the Monday but all those potential other album sales were lost. You also have to remember this was at the height of Amazon not paying VAT sold a £10 Bjork CD was £8 from Amazon. 

Buying online is fine for buying what you know you want but what became clear was that it was costing lesser known band sales. When bigger local bands started selling directly, often to fans who had first discovered their music in a shop, then the writing really was on the wall for newer, smaller artists. 

There were many people we just saw a few times a year buying the big local releases they couldn’t get in HMV or FOPP but they very rarely just bought just one album and often bought many other local releases asking for recommendations since they were last in. Once we started to lose those customers to direct sales the other bands lost out too.

Eventually I insisted that to stock a release I needed to have it on sale at the same time as the band for the same price and have the same thing. Quite a few took exception to this claiming it was their album to do with as they wished. This of course is true but it was my job to give customers best value and making them wait a week or so to buy an album with no extras for a higher price was clearly daft.

Given a chance we could still do a great job as we showed with the Withered Hand album “New Gods”. We sold 120 of the gold vinyl which was limited to 500 and 150 CDs. Most of those customers, even the online ones, also bought something else. If you look at our online shop you will see a section with “customers also bought” and it will have lots of other similar releases when often those online shops that do use this feature have very little. 

What this has brought us back to again is the customer. My policy on stocking was completely based around the customer, not making demands from the bands or worrying about lost sales. Don’t get me wrong it was clear that if shops lost too many sales then the feasibilty of supporting local bands became questionable but the key thing was happy customers and I simply could not match what they could get directly.

Of course when I was selling an album to a visitor asking for recommendations none of the above mattered but that is far more time consuming. We went from selling to fans and then maybe half again on recommendation to selling most on recommendation. At the same time a small local album that we might have sold an extra ten or twenty of on the back of bigger artists started to suffer badly too.

As I say online shop customers would make up for this a little as our reputation for recommending good albums moved to social media. Probably the last album to benefit that way was Laurie Cameron’s album “The Girl Who Cried For The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. Great title, great artwork and a great album ! Now Avalanche’s influence has never been greater but folk will simply go and stream any album we support. 

Which brings us up to where we are today. I had a large number of lovely messages from people when they bought things online this Christmas. Mostly they were people who had been in Edinburgh as students and very much enjoyed shopping at Avalanche and discovering bands they still loved but had since moved away. Many clearly now kept informed on social media and wished me luck with the new plans.

They may be big now but many people discovered bands like Belle and Sebastian and Mogwai through Avalanche and still remember first hearing them in the shop. Others recollected long chats sometimes just as visitors and having come away with a bag full of albums they still played today. To be honest as a shop I just don’t think that sort of thing is possible any more. 

I remember well somebody buying the There Will Be Fireworks albums online when they came back in stock. With his order was a note saying I probably wouldn’t remember but I had been playing the EP that was in stock in St Mary’s Street and he had asked what it was and bought it. He had waited ever since to see the albums on sale and thanked me for introducing him to the band. He was based in Germany and I did remember. 

If I still had the shop I don’t believe any of this would still be possible except on rare occasions. Students would hang around Avalanche in West Nicolson Street when we opened at 9.30am waiting for a 10am lecture whereas now they would sit drinking coffee and looking at their phone. Many customers became friends and I still see a few people from those days in the eighties and early nineties today. I even went to the Potterrow reunion !

On the other hand while there are a few people in bands I hope I can call friends my interest is simply in promoting good music. Meanwhile to a large extent now the Scottish music industry is just friends helping each other out. While this is not always a bad thing when it becomes the norm and at the expense of other bands progressing it is not a healthy situation. That this is actually encouraged officially under the title of “networking” says a lot about the state things are in.

I am hoping that if I can get the new exhibition centre off the ground then the shop element of it can bring back some of that experience that people had discovering new Scottish bands. There was a really nice vibe at the Fruitmarket exhibition with lots of old faces popping in to say hello and even more people I’d never met particularly wanting to chat about the sixties which have largely been forgotten but were a great time for Scottish bands. I learnt a lot !

Most people only buy two or three albums a year believe it or not and those albums are normally by Ed Sheeran, Adele and a handful of others. Keen fans buy directly and casual fans mainly buy from HMV and Amazon and now quite scarily supermarkets. Direct to fan sales are just that and can not replicate larger more varied customer sales in a shop.

Not even labels and record companies with new artists to promote look at the bigger picture and consider that their strategy with their established bands is holding back newer bands. So this blog isn’t a futile attempt to change anything, it is just to explain what I hope will be the new centre’s philosophy of looking beyond fans and taking new and older Scottish music to new people and giving all musicians a chance.