Randonesia: Be carefully. -
When I was a little boy, just learning to talk and still figuring out the intricacies of the English language, I would caution others to “be carefully”. Little kids say the funniest things, and they say these things with the sincerity and urgency of those whose possess an extremely limited…
well. it’s been quite a week. i’m a bit battered and quite tired from today’s exerts but i really wanted to write something about this last week if only for me when i do the end of year review, if i forget or if i retire.
The week started with the release of the Scholars album - that’s on our label and is a big deal for us, especially Jane. it’s sold pretty well, and sounds awesome. The release show at the barfly in Camden was by all accounts awesome. Im gutted not to have been there, sounds like it mighta been one of their best received gigs, but partly from that gig they picked up a well decent agent who’s taken them on, and im sure they’ll get to play bigger and better gigs. I didn’t get to the gig cos i was feeling a little bit sniffly / Lemsip-y and wanted to be well for the following night. The following night being the Music Week Awards.
Music Week is like a kinda industry insiders weekly journal. There’s a lot of interesting facts and figures, and chat with people behind the people that are the music biz. It’s pretty high brow, very ‘industry’. We were nominated for “best independent retailer”, as we were last year. But this year we were very strongly encouraged to attend the ceremony, so we thought, might as well. See how the other half live!
You probably know, but since Dave House left us in a day to day capacity, there’s three people that ‘run’ Banquet now… me, Mike and Jane. Jane said she wanted to go to the ceremony but, even tho we were gonna find the money somehow, couldnt allow us to justify the expense of the ticket (they were £300 each!) She said we should spend the money on fixing the sink. A sink held together by gaffa tape since Piers “broken it whilst cleaning it”. Such an unbelievable story… as if he was ever cleaning that sink. But anyway, point is, in this “award” its funny cos we still aren’t making any real money. We’re just busier. I wish we were making more, i wish we could pay all our staff what they’re worth.
With the strong encouragement to go to the awards, we thought we might have been in with a good chance. Maybe the 8 and a half years, and personally, 12 or so years, of working here had come good, that people saw what we were trying to do; selling CDs and records. putting on instores, gigs, clubs, and helping customers. But i can’t help but think it was our accepting HMV vouchers thing, which got us on people’s radar a lot more.
Either way we were on our way. It’s quite nice to just hang with Mike anyway. We rarely get to do that, always running around in the shop and very rarely getting a chance to talk about stuff and the world. I bought some kinda smart-ish clothes and my look came across half like the front cover of Thee Gaslight Anthem ‘59 Sound 7” and some kinda overgrown schoolboy at home time.
We thought it prudent to prepare some words in case we did win. The speech we had in mind was to represent a few things we thoght important. The ceremony was as swanky as we were lead to believe it would be. Loads of the music industry’s key players, or representatives of, on the main area of the rather pricey looking Brewery. We were plonked on a table with “best venue” nominees. On that table was Matty from White Heat, who works at The Lexington. That was nice cos i havent chatted to him in probably years. I don’t really go to White Heat now, I’m older, have less friends and less time than i used to, but White Heat was certainly influential in the creation of New Slang, so it always has a place in my heart.
The awards got going and i stuck my vid-cam on the gorilla grip tripod thingy. It’s a weird thing this awards ceremony, and any in general. I find it difficult to get on with opinion stated as fact. The best album, the best venue etc. Like The Lexington isnt trying to be the 02. So to say one is “better” than the other is, well, odd. And similarly to be described as “best independent retailer” is strange. The point i wanted to make on the night, and now is this:
With the recent HMV troubles, and with Record Store Day just a week away, we passionately believe that the sustainability of our record shop, lies in the strength and diversity of all record shops across the UK. And as such, we don’t view ourself as ‘best’, instead we view ourself as one of many. So we’d like to dedicate this award to each and every bricks and mortar independent record shop across the country, all actively contributing to their local music communities.
Here’s a vid of the speech!
I know that sounds rehearsed (it was) and maybe even wanky / cheesy, but i think it’s important. Banquet doesnt exist unless a good number of other decent indies exist. Hell, we even want HMVs to exist - as explained here. We want to be the best we can, but we’re not in competition with all the other bricks and mortar (ie. real) record shops accross the country. We want, and need, others to do their thing well. So we have strength in numbers, so we can argue for better deals for us, and so collectively we can look after music fans better. This is especially obvious with Record Store Day just a week away.
Having said that, the exposure we’ve got and will get from this award is awesome. And will hopefully enable us to get more good things going on in Banquet and in Kingston. I literally spent over 2 hours replying to tweets and congrats texts / mails on Friday morning. And it was nice to meet some people in person i’d only ever emailed before.
But the flyer kinda shows the importance of everything we’ve been saying. We’re stoked people voted for us, and we’re stoked people who weren’t yet exposed to us are now… We hope we’ll get some more stuff happening which might not have happened otherwise, but LOOK AT ALL THE STUFF THAT’S GOING ON THIS WEEK ANYWAY.
Loads of great new records and CDs out next week. We’ve got FOUR instores, there’s a couple of awesome exclusive-to-Banquet pre-orders and of, course, Saturday is Record Store Day!
The week finished with some of us playing in a 5-a-side footie match. Ollie’s our captain and his weird inverted Y formation thing saw us become like some special Sub Pop vinyl Losers Edition as we came runners up in the losers’ pool of the tournament. I think this was my last day off for many weeks now.
There’s plans for me to be on Xfm on Monday night with the hero that is John Kennedy. And don’t forget we do these weekly podcasts on the Banquet soundcloud.
Cheers for reading. Im gonna watch Match Of The Day and cry a little cos my hands hurt.
Real Friends will be releasing a limited pressing of Everyone That Dragged You Here via Banquet Records in the UK. Pre-order it here and check out details below by clicking “Read More.”
Real Friends Launch ‘Everyone That Dragged You Here’ 12”
well, its not even one week since we heard of HMV’s woe, and it already seems like such a long time ago. I wanted to make sure i wrote something about it, but more specifically Banquet’s HMV cards offer. If you missed it, we wanted to find a way of making the money on the cards worth something again. With no way of knowing how much was on the cards, after two days we decided the only way we could do this was to offer a blanket 50% off music to anyone that came in with an HMV voucher.
The idea was to not have the HMV customer screwed. And also to introduce them to Banquet. Or to have the Banquet customer with HMV vouchers (it hasnt been a “them and us” situation with HMV for many years) re-affirm why they buy their music from us. It was a business minded deal to give an ethically minded solution. Whilst also having some fun with it. And thats what we as Banquet try to do quite often. Its why we do this job and not another
The news was greatly received. Better than we ever thought it would be. Altho not by our accountant. 700+ retweets and pushing 900 facebook shares is an indication of the spread of the news. But the reaction further afield was the most suprising We’d already been interviewd on our thoughts on the demise of HMV from everyone from Heart FM and The River Newspaper to Kerrang and ITV News, but now word of our HMV offer was on money-saving websites and online publications, (the bleakly named Insolvency News was probably the most extreme.)
And with this spreading of the word far outside our normal reach of music fan came a little cynicism. Not sure if people are just always so distrusting of indie stores or us in general, but there were calls of it being a scam so we could get the HMV cards ourselves because we had taken advice that they were going to be redeemable from this week, that we were acting like vultures or, this is the best one, we only did it because we knew it was gonna be snowing and people wouldnt get into the store. But the small percentage of people who were negi about it, was just that, a small percentage. I was more worried about what the existing Banquet customer would make of it. My main worry was that it would be seen that we were somehow “rewarding” the HMV customer more than the regular Banquet customer.
So it was with a bit of nerves and interest that we saw how the scheme would go down. And it went to plan i guess. There was a real mix of people. From pensioners to kiddies. Fans of all different types music. And a few people asking if JD Sports were gonna accept HMV vouchers too (!??!). The thing that struck, and its weird cos im not even surprised at this, but the thing that struck was that people were not taking the piss, people were just grateful and appreciative of what we were trying to do, and also why we were trying to do it. The offer was only done in store and not online. I make no apologies for this. The whole deal is that we’re trying to show that bricks and mortar stores still can, and do, work. (also i don’t know if Jane can handle any more mail order hassles right now - we’re at capacity up there!!) And the vibe was great. its clear that people DO still want to have a look in a real record shop, and do still have a love for physical releases. Of course there’s doom and gloom in what has been a terrible week for the High Street, but don’t let the news stories make you think everything’s bad. Cos its not.
We gave away £2000+ of discount over the four days. It probably would have been more if it wasnt so snowy. We’ll never know. I wasnt there for all of it, but i’d guess there were about 50 people getting involved who’d never been in the store before, and a gret many who hadnt been in for quite a while. We saw a significantly higher amount of mail order in this time too. Of course some of this may be due to it being too nasty weather to go out, but there were a lot of comments with the online orders saying people were impressed with the HMV offer. And that was nice.
My biggest fear that regular Banquet customers would be thinking “why are they doing this?” was replaced with a glow that Banquet customers KNEW why we were doing this!
And so we move on. Not even a week since we heard the HMV news, but for now its business as usual. And we continue that with new releases from Blood Red Shoes, The Blackout, Joy Forimdable and Mallory Knox, instores from Micall Parknsun and Stig Of The Dump, we’re about to announce a couple of Malloy Knox release shows, the Survival Tour goes on as planned,
New Old Slang has The Smyths playing and there’s some exciting (for us anyway) website improvements which should go live this week.
But for now, its putting the kettle on, waiting for Mike, and placing a lot of orders without being able to use the HMV site to copy and paste catalogue numbers!
BANQUET RECORDS -
more than still your local record shop
Well, its been a long time coming. We were talking about this for a little while. Even as long as five years ago when people were talking about how indie stores were folding left right and centre, we were very vocal to point out that our indie has a longer future than HMVs and the like cos we can adapt to changing demands.
More recently there’s been a lot of doom stories about HMV’s demise. This facebook status and conversation was only a few days ago!! Talk of administration carried a ‘when’ tag rather than an ‘if’ pre-fix. This morning, we received a letter from the Banquet label’s distributor that they werent supplying HMV anymore until they paid their October bills. That’s when this situation became imminent to us. But even then, we never saw it as being this quick. I’ve had a few gripes with HMV over the years. Some of the favourable terms they get from suppliers are unfair. Some of their market dominance is unhelpful to the indie. And there’s indies smaller than us who must feel this even more. I don’t really know how HMV got to where they are. I dont know if they opened up in towns that already had indie stores, or whether as downloading was more commonplace they were able to sell DVDs and games in a way an independent record shop couldnt. But i do know that when i started shopping at (Beggars) Banquet there were about a lot more record shops in Kingston (two Our Prices, The Record Shop, the two dance shops i never went into, does Woolworths count? Borders?), and in time we saw and then lost Tower Records, Virgin Megastore (altho the advent of Uniqlo has done wonders for me) and i do know that, apart from Tesco and Asda, HMV is the only high street chain that sells significant numbers of decent CDs and records… I mean, a decent number of significant records. I mean, ah, you know what i mean.
So there’s many negative impacts of any HMV closure. If indeed it does happen - maybe it won’t. In the immediate short term, my thoughts are with the staff. HMV staff are certainly not the enemy. Max use to work there, and Jane used to work at Our Prices. Music fans are music fans and people are people. Losing your job - if this happens - is not a good thing for anyone. Im also gutted for any labels that suffer in this. We saw a lot of labels screwed when Virgin went under, also when the SonyDADC fire happened. We are also a label ourselves, altho its a tiny part of what we do, but if we dont receive money for CDs and records that have been sold, well thats not helping anyone. If this is to happen to such an extent that bigger labels get no cashflow at all, then some labels run the risk of going bust themselves. Obviously that’s disastrous.
But my real concern is for the continuation of the physical format. If you’re reading this you probably understand that physical formats are important to many people, probably you but not necessarily you. If its not important to you, then it will be to people whose music you buy. So it should matter. The immediate fear is that some labels just don’t bother to put out physical releases anymore, thinking that people no longer want them. Or they do so and completely cut out the record shop. Im not talking so much about punk bands and punk labels… For as far as i can see we’ll do well with Run For Cover, No Sleep, Alcopop and BSM… Im talking more the bigger UK indie labels… We NEED record labels like Wichita, XL, Sub Pop, Matador, Bella Union, and Rough Trade Records (the label) to not only want to put out physical music, but to find it also financially worthwhile to do so. God knows how the majors will react to this. We’re already seeing loads of direct-to-customer only releases from Universal and EMI. If this stuff continues, then we’re in some real trouble. And without this indie selling 100+ copies of a Haim record for example, there’s no indie to sell the indie label’s releases. I’m also wary that there’ll be some horriffic “cool” nu-HMV come in its place. “Hey guys, vinyl’s real cool right now, and look at these places with decent record shops. Lets go into those towns and undercut them all.” This would be a disaster.
However, I refuse to join in with the thought that music retail can’t exist without HMV or a similar replacement. The thing about Record Store Day and the celebration of indie record stores is that they’re all different. We’re not in competition with Rough Trade, Piccadilly, All Ages, Punker Bunker or Phonica. We’re all indies and we all need each other to do well to “keep fighting the good fight”. And now it seems increasingly more so. Music retail is about to change more radically than (m)any of us have ever seen.
Yes, there’s so many bad things about HMV going under (IF they do) but IF they do, then its an exciting new time to be creative. To re-embrace physical releases and the experience of buying them. To help customers get exactly what they want and to turn them onto things they might not yet know. If we can create a market environment in which the market leader is no longer given an unfair advantage to remain there, in which the customer is a friend more than a revenue stream, in which the struggling indie becomes slightly less so, and in which the bigger indies are able to contribute to the structure of future market growth, then this silver lining might even shine past this mass of dark clouds over music retail right now.
This is huge. A massive change in how people buy physical formats of music. But lets embrace the change and make music and local music communities all the better from it.
Hundred Reasons: IAOS Year Ten 3LP | Year Ten Merch | Year Ten Live at The Forum 2CD -
Our final days together aren’t far away. As one might expect, there are some items to help you get through this and to commemorate these momentous occasions.
Ideas Above Our Station - Year Ten Triple LP
Back in 2002, we released our first album. Ten years later we’ve been humbled to find that…
Mid set marriage proposal last night in Brighton. That makes 2 this year!
i was gonna write a big thing about New Slang tonight. It’s our sixth birthday we’ve got some of our fave bands playing (literally took Salty’s and Claire’s fave bands for the main room…) Had this idea that i wanted to write this thing talking about how its been ups and downs. There’s been so many good times, so many disasters, especially financially. But overall its been great, and we want tonight to be not just a nod towards that, but also just a fun night out. And all that is true and of course still valid. And if you’ve ever liked New Slang I, and we, hope you can make it tonight…
….But, then the first thing i see online when i wake up is that someone was stabbed to death inside a Kingston nightclub last night. So sad. It can all go so quickly. Luckily we’ve not had that kinda shit at New Slang or any of the bacchus nights, but these horrific things can and do happen. New Slang was at the then The Works when Mikey Brown was stabbed and died in 2007. This is a terrible time not only for the families and friends but also everyone who has to deal with it. I’ll never forget halting a I Was A Cub Scout soundcheck so the family of the lad could be taken round The Works, to see where it all happened. Their faces… Pure grief. The stabbing’s not something to make a joke of, or for other clubs to seek to profit off. Not ever. Take a moment to reflect, and next time you’re being searched on the door at New Slang, this is exactly why.
New Slang is 6: http://www.banquetrecords.com/ns6
Stabbing in Kingston: http://www.surreycomet.co.uk/news/