You may be aware that not only has Avalanche Records in Edinburgh avoided closing, but that they are putting on gigs. A couple of weeks ago I went there to see Randolph’s Leap and Admiral Fallow, and very good it was too.
On Friday night, Olympic Swimmers and Admiral Fallow played. I wasn’t there – I was at Fat Goth’s album launch, review to come -but friends were, and I was directed to this from the gig. It’s the bands covering ‘Lovesong’ by The Cure, originally on Disintegration, their best album, and my favourite album of the last twenty-five years.
Over the last few years, with Independent Record Stores struggling to keep their heads above water, Record Store Day has been promoted as an initiative to try and get more people into record shops. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, this is only a success if it actually gets people into the shops more than on just one day a year. As Matthew at Song, By Toad pointed out ‘In a sense Record Store Day reminds me a little of Valentine’s Day or, to be a little more facetious, Don’t Beat Your Wife Day – yes the message is the right one, but what, only today? What about the other 364 days of the year?’ (There are some excellent posts on Song, By Toad about the pros and cons of Record Store Day – if you have not read them, I suggest you do so).
It is with sadness that I found out this morning that Avalanche Records in Edinburgh will be shutting on January 6 2013. Owner Kevin Buckle and I may have had some frank exchanges of views over the years, but I am a regular customer. It might be overegging the pudding to say that Avalanche (along with Fopp, in its’ pre-HMV incarnation) was one of the reasons I moved to Edinburgh, but it wasn’t something that put me off, shall we say. It has had a major impact on my music collection as somewhere to buy, sell and exchange music* and was one of the first places to stock physical releases that I put out through 17 Seconds Records.
There may be some glimmers of hope, but the prognosis is that things will have to change. As Kevin says in his statement: ‘ I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and that date is Sunday January 6th 2013. I hope that by then there will be a plan but at worst I will simply close the shop and concentrate on expanding our online presence and pursuing other opportunities. I’ll always be keen to support Scottish artists but maybe the focus on how that is done will need to change. I’m happy to listen to all ideas of course. Avalanche is a fantastic shop window quite literally for Scottish artists and their music but sadly it is often taken for granted.
Up to that date I will need to take as much money as possible to catch up on just about everything (rent, rates, tax, record company bills etc) and therefore will have the sale I vowed I wouldn’t have. We are not short of stock and hopefully a sale when added to some Christmas business and the visitors here for the festive period will enable us to catch up. With the announcement that the new Frightened Rabbit album will be released on February 4th in an ideal world a new revitalised Avalanche would be in place by then but … unless there is a noticeable and prolonged improvement in business we simply can’t survive where we are.’
Avalanche have supported many Scottish artists particularly over the years. Not only did various members of bands work there at various points (including Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, X-Lion Tamer, Broken Records and Usurper, and that’s just those I can think of off the top of my head) but it has given a platform for people to hear new stuff. And in the internet age that’s actually more important than ever. I helped out in the store last week -and yes, people do actually come in and ask for recommendations about scottish artists. Trust me, ‘customers also bought this’ on certain online and download stores really ISN’T the same thing.
The music industry is changing, and it’s far from only being the small indies who are struggling. But in a very real sense, the message is clear: ‘Use it -or you’ll lose it.’
Here’s a couple of bands who have benefited from exposure in Avalanche, but I could name many more labels and artists…
Those lovely chaps and chappesses, Kid Canaveral are in the middle of a busy time.
This week has seen them put out a new single ‘…And Another Thing!’ which comes complete with a remix from Found AND a cover version of King Creosote’s ‘Missionary.’ Last month saw The Last Battle EP launch (more about which very soon) where Kid Canaveral backed King Creosote as the support act for the Battle (and yours truly was DJING!)
Tomorrow is Record Store Day. This now seems to be a fairly worldwide thing (OK, North America and the UK) which is now starting to be a victim of its’ own success. To whit: There are now a huge amount of special releases, which is great that bands are encouraging fans to buy physical releases; but not so good if a bunch of ebay Pirates get therte early, snap them all up and flog them online before true fans (i.e. the ones who might want to, y’know, actually listen to them) get a chance. NME have listed fifty essential purchases. Great if you are rich enough and don’t have to go out to work, I guess.
However; rather like libraries (I’ve worked in both Record Shops and for the Library Service over the last ten years), Record Stores have their place. They are worth fighting for. As a punter, I still get more of a thrill browsing new and second-hand racks than gazing on eMusic or iTunes. I do use these services, but this is back-up, not as a replacement. It was far more thrilling to hold the physical releases that we have put out as 17 Seconds Records than to see them on digital services. There’s still something that is tangible, collectible. I remember the thrill of buying my early records – the first 7″ was ‘Caravan Of Love’ by the Housemartins back in late ’86, from WH Smiths.
Yes, there have been a lot of record stores that have gone, because they made mistakes. It is bizarre that HMV now seems to hardly sell any music (though we did get the Aberfeldy 7″ in the Edinburgh one!). However what the Megastores tended to do was to focus purely on a quick turnover. I don’t really mourn the loss of these, but I get sad when the small stores suffer. Small stores run by staff who are knowledgeable, who take an interest in being able to point out stuff you might like. Sorry, but there’s something more personal about this than ‘74% of people who bought this item also bought this.’
Avalanche in Edinburgh has continued to survive whilst others failed by focusing on supporting local acts, and I have seen many customers come in from abroad who will then buy stacks of CDs that they have been recommended. I never saw that in Woolworths. It also does a lot of second hand stuff, which is brilliant. Oh, and when I’m buying second hand vinyl I like to be able to check it. I’m not into sniffing vinyl (except to put the wind up people), but I do want to be able to chat with people about what I am buying.
Can you do so much of this stuff over the internet? Well, yes, you can. But then again, I’d rather go out for a coffee than sit in a chatroom online. Like David Byrne points out in his excellent book on Cycling, Bicycle Diaries, there’s something far more organic that comes together when people collide and come together naturally, rather than just gravitating to people or things they think they’ll like. I’ve bought stuff I have liked because I heard it playing by chance in a record shop. I tend to do less with links on digital record shops.
There’s excellent articles on RSD on Song, By Toad, some interesting points from the NME here, and The Scotsman’s Radar has contributions from both Bruce Findlay and Kevin Buckle.
We have done a limited CD-R as 17 Seconds Records, which is being given away in Avalanche.
This is the tracklisting:
Fiction Faction ‘Apparitions’
X-Lion Tamer ‘Neon Hearts’
Factory Kids ‘They Used To Call Me Baby’
Chris Bradley ‘Beggar to fall’ ‘
X-Lion Tamer ‘Hope’
Wildhouse ‘More Stars’
Factory Kids ‘One’
Chris Bradley ‘Hand Me Down’
Last Battle ‘Any Ocean’
The Last Battle are playing there tomorrow at 3, right next door in Red Dog Music. Remember, a record shop is for life, not just Record Store Day…
…quite cool that our very own Last Battle got to play the last instore at the Cockburn St store!
here they are playing ‘Whisky!!’
At one point on some of the photos I have seen, not only can you see all six members of the band – BUT you can also see very clearly the two 7″ singles that we have put out as a label for Aberfeldy and Dirty Cuts…