All posts tagged Domino

Indie Dispatches: Independent Labels Face Uncertain Future Following PIAS Fire

The dominating chatter this week in the indie sector is the gut-wrenching news from the UK about the fire at the Sony DADC warehouse set during the London rioting, that destroyed most, if not all of the stock held there by PIAS distribution. The list of the labels affected, who lost massive quantities of LP’s and CD’s in the fire, is a veritable who’s who of the UK & US indie sector – 4AD, Sub Pop, Domino, XL, FatCat, Matador, Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar, Warp, Memphis Industries, Chemikal Underground, Ninja Tune, Rough Trade, Setanta, Soul Jazz, Wall of Sound, DriveThru and SideOneDummy just to name a few. In fact, it may be easier to compile a list of indies that didn’t suffer losses. And some of the figures coming through are staggering – Beggars Group head Martin Mills stated they lost over 750,000 units of stock, and labels like Memphis Industries claim all they are left with was the meagre remaining stock they had on hand in their offices.

There is no argument that this could deal a crippling blow to many companies, who are already finding it hard to keep the doors open due to the overall slump in the record business, and could even signal the death knell for a number of indie labels. There is reportedly insurance coverage, though with possible questions as to whether the underwriters will enforce the typical force majeure clauses in their policies to escape from their obligations, with back up legislation in place for government agencies to foot the bill as a last-resort, but such payments would only extend to actual cost of product (of a dollar or two), and excludes the additional margins a label would make. So chances are that won’t guarantee survival of some labels, who are suddenly faced with a lengthy period with minimal cashflow coming in from physical sales, compounded by the need to spend cash to replace the stock, with any funds from insurance estimated to take a minimum of six months. In the meantime there are artist payments, overhead, salaries, marketing costs to cover, and often the smaller indies get by on a month-by-month basis. Labels could also have paid significant sums for marketing programs that now are worthless due to a lack of stock to ship to retail, and bands won’t be able to purchase stock to sell on the road, not to mention the sheer length of time and difficulties in getting vinyl pressed… The list of ramifications are extensive. Larger companies like 4AD, Domino and their ilk will be able to weather the storm, and some US labels could benefit by having stock they could ship from this side of the Atlantic, but there is no disguising that everyone will be impacted to some degree, and it may well become the proverbial ‘straw’ for any companies already teetering on the edge. And for a lot of the labels this week has constituted a double hit, after many, such as Sub Pop, lost money when Pinnacle Distribution went bankrupt two years ago. At that time, PIAS stepped in to partner with many indies that were caught up in the liquidation, the same indies who were just struck a body blow this week with the warehouse fire. Mind you, the elephant in the room is that for some companies it could be a blessing in disguise, as a warehouse full of dead stock (that they pay monthly storage on), which maybe was worthless and destined for the crusher, could suddenly be eligible for an insurance payout, recouping costs of manufacture – far more return than the label would otherwise receive. And of course an upside, if there is one, of the decline in the market for physical product over the last few years, is that at least the expansion of digital distribution has led to a viable alternative to the CD and LP, now accounting for a healthy percentage of sales, and the week’s disaster has not left labels with zero income opportunities. Ten years ago, that would not have been the case, and a tragic event such as this would more than likely have resulted in many more indie labels biting the dust.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: All The News That’s Fit to…

UK's Yuck, among bright spots of 2011 so far

Surprise!! After been closeted away down the rabbit hole, toiling away turning the wheels of industry, figures it was time to pop up again into the world and find out just what we have missed. And what better day to choose, than April 1st? So just what has been going on these past few months?

* Domino blasted out of the annual SXSW fiesta on a definite high with everyone raving about their new signing, Austra. The band’s debut album Feel it Break drops May 17. The label also has a schedule of highly rated new releases from Cass McCombs, Anna Calvi and of course the long awaited re-issue of the Queens of the Stone Age classic debut album. Oh yeah, there’s also a new album, Blood Pressure, from our favorite rock duo, The Kills about to drop any day. Bets on ‘best of 2011 list’ anyone?
* A band on an indie won a Grammy for best album or something. More exciting was that their label, Merge Records, released the stunning new album, Civilian from Baltimore’s Wye Oak.
* A new UK combo with inauspicous beginnings (formed from the ashes of Cajun Dance Party) and a terrible name – Yuck – put on some shows and released an album that was far from terrible or inauspicious. Combining a dose of classic 90′s Sonic Youth & Dinosaur Jr the UK group stands as a definite bright spark in early 2011.
* After 20 years in business, our favorite Bay Area operation, Slumberland Records, suddenly became a ‘label to watch’ with new records from Pains of Being Pure at Heart and new noise group, Weekend.
* Sub Pop signed a new band. Or two. Or ten it seems. But seriously though, can they have any more? Still Corners, Memory House, Niki & the Dove… the list of newbies goes on. How many is too many? When you factor in their sub-label Hardly Art, the Seattle indie seems to have an active roster the size of a major label.
* Sharon Van Etten toured. And made even more fans. Swooooooooon.
* Radiohead suddenly dropped a new record on the world to much fanfare. An album which even their fans weren’t sure they really liked.
* The 2 piece is still in vogue despite the demise of the White Stripes in the guise of Hanni El Khatib.
* It became clearly evident that just because the bloggers love you and the press file is big and thick, it doesn’t mean you sell a massive number of records in 2011. Looking at you Dum Dum Girls. And Deerhoof.
* Bright Eyes released an excellent new album, ‘The People’s Key’, which may have been the most lavishly packaged release to hit the top echelons of the charts.
* Sebadoh toured to support the release of a t-shirt because the US label organizing the reissue of their classic Bakesale, release didn’t come close to getting the album out on time.
* The Radio Dept finally toured North America and released a double CD of singles and oddities. Peter Bjorn and John released a new record. Yay Sweden!
* Portishead sent a welcome message that they are happy to buck the system. And you know they will still have fans. And will still sell records.
* Sasquatch Festival once again looked like more fun than spending 3 days in the desert
* Wilco became an indie band. Rah!
* The neo-soul movement became even stronger, with the continuing charge of Fitz and the Tantrums, as they took over SXSW, and seemingly now, the world. Then there is that old dude (62!) Charles Bradley showing a) its never too late to start your recording career (ageism be damned!) and b) THIS is how you make a great soul record. He may not be Otis Redding but he is a fine substitute!

My, this has been fun. But wait – there’s more we’re sure! Maybe we’ll just have to be back next week too fill in some holes that have undoubtedly been missed…

- Cool Hand Luke

Wednesday Bits & Pieces: eMusic Loses Big Indies, Warner Re-Ups with Spotify & UMG Looking to Get Lean

Indies On the Way Out

Last month digital music retailer eMusic announced that they would be adding a quarter-million more songs to its service in a new partnership with Universal Music Group, this following previous deals with Warner Music and Sony over the last year, a move which had some questioning whether the service was getting away from its ‘independent’ roots. While too early to tell the larger effects the new major label partnerships will have on customers, some big indie labels have decided they will no longer make their music available, including Domino Records, Merge and the Beggars Group of labels, which includes 4AD and Matador among others. No small exit, as those handful of labels are home to some of the most popular current and past independent acts including Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Spoon, Bon Iver and many many others. A statement from Beggars Group made it clear that the split, at least for them, is directly in response to the arrival of the major labels to the service and new terms that they “have found impossible to accept, in our own interests, those of our artists, and ultimately those of their fans”… In the latest Warner Music earnings call, it was revealed that the company has renewed their existing deal with Spotify, which currently covers European markets. And while no update on a agreement covering the U.S., many still suspect that deals with multiple majors for the startup to launch its service in America are in motion.  In reference to the continued gap between physical and digital music sales, CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. made it clear that he (and presumably all the labels) are hopeful for digital increases with the launch of Google‘s impending music service among others, like Spotify?… More talk of looming cutbacks at UMG persist after the CFO of parent company Vivendi made recent ominous comments about cost saving needs, including “A lot of fat can be taken out without hurting muscle and bones” – onlookers continue to keep an eye on Island Def Jam as one of Lucian Grainge‘s prime targets for restructuring… Elsewhere, is getting into the movie business by launching Amazon StudiosCheck Your Pulse songwriter Bonnie McKee talks to Billboard about launching her own recording project after a string of credits on some of 2010′s biggest songs… And inquiring minds want to know, which former major label head has been spotted moonlighting on lead guitar in a Neil Young cover band?