When will staying in stop being the new going out? – Kevin Buckle

Interesting times with news on HMV’s owners now not expected until next week. The longer it goes on the more it feels like the administrators KPMG are just putting off the awful day they have to announce Mike Ashley as the buyer. Either that or they are still desperately hoping for a good reason to sell to somebody else.

Saturday, 26th January 2019, 5:00 am
Could  Amazon warehouses like the one in Dunfermline end up supplying stock to a revived HMV? (Picture: Jon Savage)
Could Amazon warehouses like the one in Dunfermline end up supplying stock to a revived HMV? (Picture: Jon Savage)

What of course would be ironic is if a bid from Amazon did materialise and they were welcomed with open arms for not being Mr Ashley, whose working practices are certainly not the best but are often similar to those of Amazon. In fact on the tax dodging front Amazon leads the way.

At one end of the scale there are good arguments for supporting independents and at the other end is the case for not supporting certain businesses based on their owners and how they are run. However, what happens in real life is folk pick and choose their principles. Sometimes the whole thing gets silly as happened when people would shop at FOPP because it felt “more indie” than HMV while both of them were of course owned by a vulture fund bleeding them dry with their charges.

Of all independent shops I honestly think record shops get the worst of it as they are squeezed from all sides. Most customers who do consider who to buy from prefer to buy directly from the artist these days. In terms of long term support for an artist this is a mistake in many cases but that is a discussion for another time.

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A model in which artists and labels spend months enticing fans to buy directly only come day of release to suggest they support their local record shop is one that leaves independent shops relying on an endless stream of reissues while supporting new music becomes harder and harder.

Last time when HMV went under it felt like there might be a genuine change in how all sides approached selling music but actually very quickly things just went back to normal. Even if Mike Ashley does ending up owning HMV I suspect that much the same will happen again.

Of course it isn’t just the choices made in people’s shopping habits that are cause for discussion. Nobody will dispute that having a healthy lifestyle is a good thing but to what extent governments and local councils should dictate how people behave and some might say punish them for imperfect choices is something that will I suspect become more and more of an issue in the next few years.

Also in the news this week was the effect of social media on young people, with one comment that it might one day be seen to have been silently detrimental like smoking had been. This of course is not strictly true as smoking was definitely bad for you while using social media responsibly can be a good thing but I can see what they meant in that I am sure in ten years’ time we will look back and wonder what we were thinking.

What links much of all this is the internet and it is hard to imagine something else coming along this century that will change life the way the internet has. In a sense it is not the internet that causes some of the problems but the fact that people lead more solitary lives and socialise less because of it.

While it is hard to see some of the more positive aspects of quite recent times returning I do still cling to the hope that “going out with your friends” may still make a comeback.

I’m still keen to promote the best new bands

I’ve been asked several times whether HMV/FOPP’s troubles would make me think about bringing back Avalanche as a straightforward record shop but the answer is a firm no.

I’ve no doubt HMV will be rescued and whether they continue to pretend that vinyl will be their saviour really doesn’t matter.

CD sales have collapsed far greater outwith the world of HMV and Amazon but the new vinyl cake is also in too many pieces. Having said that I still enjoy giving new bands a chance when I can and the history of Scottish music is something I’m still very keen to promote along with an exhibition.

I also enjoy pricing up used and collectable vinyl so while HMV’s circumstances may have no effect on my plans that isn’t to say there aren’t plans for something soon and by soon I mean hopefully I’ll have news next week!

It is important that while each time I do something it has to be a new and interesting experience for me that also those who visit Avalanche with certain expectations are not disappointed.

At the same time, reaching new people is still the priority as catering for fans is not just a crowded arena but also not as rewarding as helping somebody discover their new favourite band.

Athenians’ album is worth a spin

I’ve mentioned The Athenians a few times as being one of Edinburgh’s most famous groups from the sixties so I was delighted to hear that a compilation of their tracks had just been released on vinyl by Spanlsh label Wah Wah Records.

The Wah Wah release compiles the band’s 45s plus previously unreleased recordings from surviving acetates and also comes with a lovely booklet. I have emailed the label and hope to have stock soon.

I got to know about the band of course because of the Scottish music exhibition we did at the Fruitmarket Gallery in June 2017 and from that they appeared on a British Beat Explosion CD box set released by Cherry Red.

It was from that Cherry Red connection that the album came about and singer Ian Orr is taking me out for lunch next week by way of a thank you, which is very nice of him.

Younger bands are not so grateful!