Buster Stonham assesses the damage after the fire at the Sony distribution warehouse in London and suggests a few ways to help the independent record labels it has affected.
Britain’s independent music industry could potentially emerge as one of the biggest losers from the recent riots across English cities after a Sony owned CD distribution centre in Enfield, North London, was ravaged by fire on Wednesday night. The facility is believed to have housed approximately 1.5 million CDs at the time of the fire, a significant proportion of which were being stored there by PIAS, a distribution company that represents over 150 of the UK’s independent record companies who used the building as their distribution headquarters. Three teenage men have been arrested in connection with the fire, but this will be little consolation to those who now face a difficult financial period due to the disruption caused to their trading.
This news deals a blow to the indie record industry at a time when it could ill afford it. With falling CD sales, the decline in numbers of independent record shops and the prevalence of online piracy, many independent record companies have been moving dangerously close to the edge of survival. The fear now is that the loss of such a significant proportion of their material assets, with a number of companies having lost their entire stock of CDs, may provide the final push that forces some record labels to fold. Insurance claims are currently being reviewed, but immediate loss of turnover may prove too much for some to survive the protracted negotiation period, and if for any reason insurance is not forthcoming, this could prove fatal for indie music in this country.
Thankfully, PIAS has promised to help aid struggling companies through this difficult period by setting up a fund in partnership with the Association of Independent Music (AIM). The fund will give immediate financial aid to those companies which are struggling, with concerned individuals and companies able to lend their support through donations. The CEO of PIA, Kenny Gates, stated on the company’s website that “the fund that is being put together in a matter of hours by [PIAS] and AIM demonstrates once again the strength and solidarity in the independent music community.” Details of this fund as well as a list of labels that have been affected can be found on the PIAS website.
At the grassroots level people are also coming together to show their support for independent music during this rocky period and there are now multiple ways in which you can get involved and help out. Label Love is a new website that has been set up in response to the destruction, which aims to try and “rally the music industry… and see if we can raise some money to see those affected through the tough times ahead.” With a number of fundraising gigs in the pipeline, the Label Love website is probably the best place to keep up with any developments, as well as providing opportunities to volunteer and donate if you wish to help. The first benefit gig, organised by London based promoters Paint it Black, featuring Ghosting Season, Cloud Boat and Plants Plants took place on Saturday the 13th of August at The Old Blue Last in Shorditch.
The best way for anyone out there help, perhaps, is to just go out and buy an album from one of the affected labels. In terms of financial help it may only be a gesture, but symbolically the act of buying a record shows solidarity and support to the independent music industry. So here at Music Factory Number 1 we urge you to go out and show your support however you can and maybe even discover more of what the independent music scene has to offer.