Kevin Buckle: Now HMV has gone will Avalanche return?

Back in 2014 Avalanche was still able to sell hundreds of copies of the second Withered Hand album, but by then fans could often buy new releases earlier, cheaper and with extra material directly from the label or band

Back in 2014 Avalanche was still able to sell hundreds of copies of the second Withered Hand album, but by then fans could often buy new releases earlier, cheaper and with extra material directly from the label or band

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Surprisingly I have been asked this a lot. While I was happy to help out at the Offbeat Gallery before Christmas especially as it meant folk could come in to discuss the History of Scottish Music Centre the centre really now has to be my focus. More importantly HMV was really only a small part of the problem. The HMV-owned FOPP is still able to carry stock without any need for payment until sold and while there was a time Avalanche was the only indie selling “indie” vinyl now everybody is at it so as I’ve said before that particular cake may have got bigger but now everybody wants a piece!

Selling local bands’ music really was our thing and that dropped off dramatically not long after we invested in moving to the Grassmarket, which was unfortunate. Given the opportunity we could still sell hundreds of a big local artist, as happened with the second Withered Hand album but too often you could buy a release earlier, cheaper and with extra stuff directly from the label or band. If selling local bands is simply a bonus then of course you don’t care and take any extra sales you can get. Similarly if it is more of a hobby and not your main source of income then it isn’t so important. For Avalanche, though, it was different.

The late, lamented Venue on Calton Road. Picture: Rob McDougall

The late, lamented Venue on Calton Road. Picture: Rob McDougall

The PledgeMusic model has now taken things one step further and while leaving shops with little or no sales it has also often deprived the artists of an outlet long after the pledge campaign has finished.

Many labels now, especially the bigger ones, sell more of an “indies only” release than all the 300-plus indie record shops put together. Similarly they are creaming off most of the sales abroad.

There really is no point getting into an argument about it now as it has all gone too far down the line to be reversed. Similarly to promote anything an artist does on social media is normally to direct people to a link saying “don’t buy from a shop buy this better thing from us”. Of course the problem for bands starting is that they need the shops to help reach people but there is no reason for the shop to do so now. All in all, I hope folk can see why I see no future for Avalanche as a straightforward shop.

In the long run things will change. Sales are ridiculously low as streaming now means people feel no need to buy new and local bands’ music at all. One Scottish artist whose album was released last month had great press coverage and is on an established label with distribution but has registered four sales. One LP, one CD and two downloads. Now the particular label doesn’t register its own sales so they will have sold some directly but that is an album featured in some end-of-year best-of charts that is available to all the HMVs, Amazon and the indie shops and sold four. Two oddly not in Scotland!

Believe me this is not that unusual an occurrence. One Scottish Album of the Year Awards nominee that was download-only and had had a few sales in the past sold NONE the week it was featured. The irony of setting up the History of Scottish Music Centre while saying we shouldn’t wallow in nostalgia is not lost on me but that is exactly what is needed. We need to celebrate the past but look to the future.

Kevin Buckle is the owner of Avalanche Records

The name’s a mouthful but we must get the ball rock ‘n’ rolling on music centre

The History of Scottish Contemporary Pop and Rock Music Centre. Don’t worry I’ll have a better name by the time it opens. Currently it has been shortened to the History of Scottish Music Centre but of course that opens a can of worms as to what genres will be included.

The idea to have something celebrating over 50 years of Scottish music and culture first arose over two years ago. When the idea was also mooted at the first Live Music Matters meeting it was clear it was an idea that had support. However it then also became clear where popular music stood in the pecking order of the arts.

Very quickly it was obvious that music was considered less worthy certainly of funding and possibly even as one of the arts. In particular the visual arts needed millions of pounds so galleries could be free and work could be properly displayed while popular music, what with it being popular, should pay its own way. Less popular music genres needed funding, if not on the scale of the visual arts, it turned out because, well, they weren’t popular !

Now of course we have reached the point that Edinburgh is losing venues at an alarming rate while art galleries are almost immune and when one is threatened with closure all hell lets loose.

I am sure the History of Scottish Music Centre will find a home and hope to have news very soon. A huge amount of work has been done already without any funding and the centre already has a good following on twitter and facebook 

So a Scottish Contemporary Pop Rock Music Centre (only with a far better name obviously) celebrating Scottish artists and labels both old and new as well as providing background on venues and clubs that have come and gone over the years. A place you will be able to buy the latest releases as well as older titles. Scottish music has had a worldwide influence that should be celebrated and this would seem the perfect way to do it.There might even be enough space to feature a few old record shops!

You can donate at http://www.avalancherecords.co.uk/2016/12/04/history-of-scottish-music-centre-funding. You can find us on Twitter @HistoryofSMC and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HistoryofSMC/. Alternatively, email kevinavalanche@hotmail.com.

Don’t believe the vinyl hype

It is a pity vinyl has got caught up in such hype. CDs sold almost as many copies in the week before Christmas as vinyl sold all year but that of course is not as good a story. In fact it is because CDs make such good presents that the format will last for many years to come.

The vinyl revival will undoubtedly come to a halt in the next year or two and it just has to be hoped that there is enough support after that happens for vinyl to remain a viable format for the foreseeable future.