Friday, August 12, 2011

Independent record labels fear ruinous stock loss in London riots fire

Sony warehouse fire 
Numerous independent record labels fear they have lost a catastrophic amount of stock in a fire at a distribution warehouse in north London during the riots in the capital on Monday night. A three-storey, 20,000 square-metre building in Enfield, owned by Sony DADC and holding stock to be distributed by the Pias Group, was burned to the ground.

The fire will potentially impact labels such as Domino, as well as film production companies with DVD stock. Pias is the UK's largest independent sales, marketing and distribution company.

Other labels that may be affected include 4AD, Warp and Beggars Banquet. Beggars Group chairman Martin Mills confirmed his group had stock at the site, but told Music Week that he and other larger labels would be less affected by the disaster than smaller counterparts because they carried stock in other locations. Nevertheless, Mills called the latest setback for the indie sector "horrible, horrible" and added that many labels would also now face manufacturing issues to replenish destroyed stock.

A statement on the Pias website read: "There was a fire last night at the SonyDADC warehouse which services the physical distribution for Pias in the UK and Ireland. Pias is working closely with SonyDADC who are implementing their emergency plans. Pias's UK offices in London and all other areas of our business are unaffected. More information will be communicated shortly to all our labels and partners."

Industry analyst Paul Scaife said: "Physical retail is still absolutely crucial to many in the independent sector and if – as seems quite likely – several smaller labels aren't covered by insurers, this could be the difference between survival and going out of business."

Label boss, festival promoter and DJ Rob Da Bank told the Guardian that all the stock for his company Sunday Best had burned in the blaze: "I'm furious that people are doing this, and I'm devastated for Pias and all the labels that have lost stock. But at the moment I'm more concerned with stopping this stupid behaviour from happening – at the end of the day it's just physical product that's gone, not lives or houses, so I'm trying not to get too hung up on it."
 Rob Da Bank said details of what exactly happened were still "scant" but Sony had called to confirm all their stock had gone. "We know Pias is insured so hopefully in terms of getting restocked we can all do that, although I can't say for definite right now if that will happen. It won't ruin us as a business, but it will be a problem for labels who need stock to sell to keep them going. For us we have a Kitty, Daisy and Lewis tour where a major source of our revenue is selling CDs and merchandise at the gigs. You look at the roll call of labels on Pias and they're some of the most important indie labels in the world. I just wish these people realised it was music they were destroying, and it's not helping anyone."

A spokesperson for Domino Records said the label had lost "a large quantity" of its CD and vinyl stock in the fire. "While relieved that no one was injured in the incident, we're upset about the loss and destruction of our stock, and thinking of our friends at other independent labels who were also affected by the fire. We are currently working hard with Sony DADC to maintain our release schedule and keep business going as usual."

The physical release of Arctic Monkeys' new single, The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, is one of the first records to be affected, with limited quantities of the 7in version now only available on its planned release date (15 August) via The label confirmed all stock going to retail outlets had been destroyed in the fire.

The release of Charlie Simpson's debut solo album, Young Pilgrim, was also severely delayed by the blaze, which destroyed all 30,000 units. Matthew Page, head of Simpson's label, said: "The album was due to be released this coming Monday. That, of course, will not happen now. It's a time issue. Our release campaign has been building for a long time, and it's like bringing the kettle to the boil, so that everything can come together at the same time. The fire has put the entire release in total jeopardy, and we feel very sorry for Charlie, who's been working on this album for a year. We're not clear what the way forward is now."

Simpson himself added: ""I'm very upset and frustrated to hear that the Sony distribution warehouse was burnt down last night. Nusic Sounds & PIAS are champions for independent artists and music, I'm proud to be part of that. We will support them in any way possible through this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people that have had their families, homes and businesses affected by this terrible situation."

Alex Kapranos of the band Franz Ferdinand, who are signed to Domino, tweeted: "Thoughts go out to all the labels who have lost their stock in Pias fire."

Kapranos also questioned where the prime minister was during the looting, asking: "Where the fuck are the Bullingdon boys?.... Would you only end your holidays if it were Fortnum & Mason being looted?"

Other musicians to express their views on the riots included poet and musician Scroobius Pip, who said: "This is Britain punching itself in the face. Repeatedly."


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