The timing is perfect as normally the couple of weeks before Record Store Day are very quiet whereas this year the week leading up to Easter is on course to be our busiest this year.
It’s good to have RSD releases from Frightened Rabbit, Cammera Obscura and The Associates but on the other hand much that was on offer was so poor I didn’t order anything from three record companies.
Financially the day has never been as important to Avalanche as it seems to be to others and truth be told I would much rather have a more level playing field all year round than this one day when labels aren’t doing their best to take business from shops.
I’ve documented in previous columns how one or two shops can be given hundreds and even thousands of copies of an album on a limited format while other long established shops are told they can have very low double figures.
Far worse is the huge number of sales taken out of the system by labels who are now regularly selling more copies than shops on limited formats. Just this week the Wet Leg album, which I can safely predict will top the charts, had a clear vinyl version with a free 7in only avaialable from the label/band that outsold the indies limited yellow vinyl.
Meanwhile Rough Trade’s version of the new Jack White album, also out this week, is showing as sold out despite them receiving a whopping 2,000 copies that again matches all the other UK shops and their limited format put together, though half those sales are outside the UK.
All that is happening is that sales are being moved around from shop to shop or shop to label. No new sales or indeed fans are being created.
In the same way record companies are keeping HMV alive because they fear an industry without one big chain, independent labels in particular should realise that if they continue to take so many sales for themselves then not withstanding the damage to shops their distributors will not have enough to distribute.
What is worse is that when a shop is given the information to place an order the competition they will face from the artist, label and maybe one or two favoured retailers is rarely ever mentioned.
Worst of all is when a new format is announced after the fans have already bought a limited format of their choice. This happened recently with online seller Blood Records pre-selling 3,000 copies of the new Fontaines DC album in their Zoetrope Edition in three hours.
These online people talk about “creating communities” but really they are just corralling fans together that already existed. Real communities are created in shops and at gigs over time and as footfall is taken away from shops so is the chance to promote new artists in a way that can never be replicated online.
Are labels really so scared of competing with shops on an equal footing that they feel the need to give themselves a massive advantage?
At this rate it will be labels that kill the music industry and the tombstone will read Pop Has Eaten Itself.