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Friday, 9 November 2012

The clock is ticking.

Well it looks entirely possible that Sandy, the proprietor of Love Music in Glasgow, could edge closer to literally being the last man standing when it comes to independent record stores in Scotland, as this morning I was saddened to read a statement from Avalanche in Edinburgh covering what may be their demise.

News like this always throws up more questions than answers.
The decline of physical sales of music has been ongoing for a number of years now, and the rise of the legal and illegal downloading of digital media has no regard for the survival of the record store owner.
That's a fact.
The writing has been on the wall for those who chose to read it, and the only option that the future will allow will be that once the majority of shops have closed then the ones who remain will possibly be viable due to their speciality status.
It's not a thought that fills me with joy, but it does seem to be the only realistic end game result that will be available.

Now I could open up the can and let the worms make their break for freedom, and then draw attention to each and every one as a symbolic reason for the downfall of the record store, but I'll not.
The reason being that most of them have been beaten with a stick for so long that we are all well aware of every detail of the consensus of opinion on the matter.

However one issue that I do want to highlight is how the public perceive artists.

I'll quote the Avalanche statement here.

'However the biggest loss has been in selling local and Scottish bands. While our reputation has grown our sales have plummeted. As many will have heard me say more than once selling an album to fans is the easy bit. Selling it to those who don’t know the album or artist is far harder and often time consuming. If that is all that is left to a shop it simply isn’t economical. Even the latest Meursault album which is at No. 2 in our chart achieved that with just a quarter of the sales of the first album. Seventy per cent of those sales were on my recommendation.' 

….and there's the rub.
How do you sell a bands album, ep or single to an audience that will not purchase anything at all unless it's on heavy rotation on their televisions, has featured in a reality 'find the star' (sic) competition, or the artist already has a stadium tour tucked under their belt?
There's even a microcosm of this with music fans.
'Oh Folk Music Weekly haven't reviewed it so I'll not bother.'
How do you do it?

Obviously it's not everyone, but the majority do appear to equate fame with quality.
They have success ergo they are good.
The truth of the matter is that having not heard of an artist has no relevance to the quality of the music at all.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

Many moons ago I took my daughter to a show in the cavernous SECC and accepted a lift from the mother of one of her school friends.
On the journey to Glasgow she was making some light conversation and mentioned the last few gigs that she had attended.
All the artists that she had seen could be described as mega stars.
There was no real thread of a musical genre weaving its way through the acts she ticked off.
Rock bands, RnB acts, big events like the MOBOs (of which she commented that she had never seen so many black people in the one place before. Imagine that. At the MOBO's. My flabber was gasted.) and indie acts were all mentioned.
When she stopped for breath I was asked who I had seen and I mentioned a few.
Some I would consider quite famous, but she hadn't heard of any of them.
Her follow on question was interesting though.
She asked why I went to see bands no one had heard of.
I didn't correct her by pointing out that just because she hadn't heard of them that no one had, but instead said that someone has to support them so that their potential can be realized, and people like you can see them late in the day when they play the SECC.
My catty remark wasn't really picked up on, but neither was the logic to it.
I genuinely suspect that she could possible think that bands and artists just appear fully formed lording over platinum sales and tripping down red carpets at premiers.

I'm drawing attention to this as my experience wasn't an anomaly.
This is pretty much the norm, but it was a conversation that was memorable because it very blatantly covered the issue.
There was nothing vague about it, and she did in fact say 'I only go to see famous bands' at one point.

I could pull in a few threads here and draw comparisons to how some will go to see a band, but have no interest in seeing the supports.
It's sort of the same deal, but I'll not insult anyone readings intelligence by going into it.

Anyway, back to the question. How do you sell music that people haven't heard to them?
The answer is that probably with a few exceptions you can't.
No matter how altruistic the reasoning is behind the business, and regardless of how much passion the individual has for what he does, the bottom line is that punters need to be keying into what they have to sell, and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be enough of us any more to do that.

It's a very sad day.

...and now with a heavy heart I think I will go and listen to my Murderburgers/DeeCracks split vinyl album that I bought from Love Music and try and cheer myself up.

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