Times they are a-changin’ in music marketing - Kevin Buckle

The Fratellis Album Cover re-imagined.With Avalanche Records Waverley Mall Edinburgh.The Fratellis Album Cover re-imagined.With Avalanche Records Waverley Mall Edinburgh.
The Fratellis Album Cover re-imagined.With Avalanche Records Waverley Mall Edinburgh.
Doug Putman couldn’t stay out of the news this week, as first HMV announced that they would be moving back into their shop on Oxford Street and then more bizarrely that he would be starting a new homeware brand called Rooms + Spaces, taking over shops left vacant in Canada by the closure of the US chain Bed Bath & Beyond.

As happened with HMV Doug’s modus operandi is to look at all the stores available and then just cherry pick those that he thinks can still be profitable. What he aims to take advantage of is the landlords that on the whole know they will struggle to find a new tenant for a large empty shop and suppliers who will lose a big chunk of sales.

In terms of HMV what this involved was record companies being told that they would only get paid once items were sold and they wouldn’t get paid at all for anything stolen. This gives them a huge advantage over their competitors which in the absence of any other record shop chain in the UK is mostly just all the independent shops.

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Part of the reason that this has not had a more disastrous effect on the independents is that many of the bigger shops now concentrate very heavily on selling albums even before they are out on presell and it is not unusual for well over seventy percent of an album’s physical sales to be sold this way.

These presells though are virtually all online so do not generate high street footfall and they are very geared up to panic buying with virtually all releases being described as “limited” when there will be, on nearly all occasions, no problem buying in a shop on the week of release.

Unfortunately for the independents releases that used to be independent shop releases, normally a different colour of vinyl, are now high street releases so HMV/Fopp get the best of both worlds with limited titles and better terms.

Meanwhile the independents now compete with each other trying to get something to make the release they have more exclusive than other shops.

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Avalanche bowed out of this rat race a long time ago and customers know they will be able to buy in the shop any of the limited editions they see are available to shops though of course now with many artists and labels keeping the best versions of an album to sell exclusively themselves there is nothing we can do when a customer understandably wants a version not available to us.

One advantage we do have is that people find our prices very reasonable though ironically this is not because we are trying to undercut the opposition which was a tactic shops used in the eighties and nineties but more that other shops now seem to be looking to be making a higher margin than the industry standard we have worked with for decades.

I could see how Doug whose family own a toy company might move into music sales and HMV in fact does now have a selection of toys but I’m not entirely sure what has brought him to move into the homeware market.

If I hear HMV is selling Taylor Swift pillows and bed covers it may all start to make sense.

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