Among all the sorry carnage and sad tales left by London’s moronic looting fraternity over the last humiliating three days, perhaps the most devastating for music lovers was the huge fire that destroyed a Sony warehouse primarily used by distribution company PIAS.
A three-storey, 20,000 square metre storage home for music from XL Recordings, Beggars, Domino, Wall Of Sound, Warp Defected, Sunday Best and Big Brother among others, the warehouse was a temporary home for releases from all manner of indie labels and offshoots, and the extent of its destruction is starting to become tragically apparent.
While the full impact of last night’s events is still emerging, numerous indies have confirmed massive losses, including Rough Trade, Angular Records, Chemikal Underground and Rock Action. Drownedinsound has a full list of labels that use the space here. Beggars Chairman Martin Mills called it a “horrible” setback for the indie sector while support poured in from labels, musicians and music fans across Twitter.
Here’s just the beginnings of how this pigheaded chaos affects various aspects of the fragile – and vital – end of the music industry.
NME writer and record label boss Nathaniel Cramp, of Sonic Cathedral, reckons he’s lost “anything up to 5,000 copies” of CDs and vinyls in the blaze. Overseeing a small label run on a shoestring and an admirable passion, Nat keeps a few hundred copies of his latest releases at home and the rest in the warehouse through a deal between PIAS and Full Time Hobby.
“Any albums, vinyls, EPs and CDs for artists including Sarabeth Tucek, Sad Day For Puppets, Yeti Lane and more are stored there” he told us. “I keep remembering others than are there”.
And the financial implications are serious. While the stock is insured – for cost price, not sale price – the loss puts a virtual stop to Sonic Cathedral’s release schedule and any associated profits.
“Nothing’s going to be sold for months, and I don’t know what will happen. There’s no way of distributing records. My back catalogues are all gone. I can’t afford to get another run done for older releases. Everyone’s going to have to think about the next few months. It’s a reminder of how on a knife edge these things are – some labels and shops are going to be really affected by it. It just shows how precarious the indie thing is.”
Joel Sumerling from Transmission told us “we’ve lost titles by The King Blues, Rhythms Del Mundo, Sam Gray to name a few” while Adam Greenup from So Recordings said “all our stock is gone, several thousand CDs and vinyl” and added, “our friends at Loose Music have also lost everything and they have EVERYTHING with PIAS. It’s labels like Loose that will be most affected. Everything with PIAS, everything gone, with releases scheduled for the coming months now shelved. Cash flow will be severely impacted.”
These were just a few of the indies that spoke out to us through Twitter.
Charlie Simpson‘s debut solo album was due for release on August 15, but has now had to be postponed. Tristan Lillingston, his co-manager, spoke to us this morning.
“First and foremost, I’m totally devastated for PIAS. They represent independent music – that’s why we’re putting Charlie’s album out with them. We want to support them in any way we can.
The fire will affect labels in different ways. In terms of Charlie’s album, we were totally reliant on PIAS, and we’ll be postponing the album release indefinitely until we have a plan. The whole stock has been destroyed. Every single CD.
So many people have worked tirelessly on this album for six months. Charlie himself has poured blood, sweat and tears into it for a year. And it was fan-funded, via Pledgemusic – so the fans have lost out too.
What’s so awful is that it’s affecting all the little people, all the independent people. The major labels are not affected so much. It’s just so sad that something like this could happen, and affect so many people.”
Charlie Simpson himself commented: “I’m very upset and frustrated to hear that the PIAS distribution warehouse was burnt down last night. PIAS are a champion for independent artists and music, I’m proud to be part of them. We will support them in any way possible through this difficult time. We will issue a full statement with further details regarding PIAS and delayed release date of my album, ‘Young Pilgrim’ as soon as possible. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people that have had their families, homes and businesses affected by this terrible situation.”
The record stores
Spencer Hickman of Rough Trade East was waiting for a call from PIAS when we spoke.
“It’s really depressing and really shocking” he told us. “There’s maybe a hundred labels affected. We’ve got no idea how much stock they’ve got elsewhere. I’m convinvced that some labels will go under.
It’s pretty devastating for us. PIAS are a huge amount of our business and most of those labels are friends. It’s more innocent people being affected. They might be insured, but will insurance policies pay out on civil disobedience? I don’t know.”
The Horrors, whose CD stock was kept at the warehouse.
Spencer seems positive about Rough Trade’s own future over the next few months, though. “We’re pretty well stocked, we’ve just done some orders which just came in” he says. “If we have to we’ll get in a cab and go visit the offices. People do this for love and there’ll be a way through it.”
And he insists music fans and record shops will rally round the cause. “These are people that support us day in day out. We have to help them out in return. People are tweeting me about benefits already; Spillers have some form of benefit gig planned and we’re looking at doing something big too. The independent sector will get together and figure it out.”
We’ll update on benefit events on NME.COM as the week progresses.
Visit riotcleanup.co.uk for info on how to help London and local businesses get back to business.
Wednesday Update – a campaign entitled Label Love has been established to raise money for independent labels affected. More details here.