business current affairs film

Don’t let the rioters destroy the independent music industry

One of  the unintended consequences of the recent rioting in London is a crisis in Britain’s independent music and film industries. Hooligans burned down a warehouse earlier this week, the contents of which were the CD and DVD stockpiles for dozens of small independent record labels and film distributors.

The loss of stock is expensive enough, but can be covered by insurance. The bigger issue is lost sales. Until stock can be replaced and a new distribution system established, those labels will be facing a serious cash flow shortage. Bigger labels will be better equipped to ride out the rough patch, especially if they have stock held elsewhere. Small labels face a more serious challenge.

The list of labels affected included 4AD, Ninja Tune, Domino, Sub Pop, Rough Trade, anyone who’s anyone in the independent music scene. Film companies are also affected. Among those who have lost their stock are Dogwoof films, who specialise in films and documentaries on social issues. Half the films I mention here end up as Dogwoof releases, such as End of the Line, No Impact Man or the Age of Stupid. “Although our stock has been lost we are working closely with everyone involved and their assistance has been invaluable” they say on their website. “We hope to be fully operational again in the coming weeks, if not sooner.”

If you appreciate independent music and film, here are a few ways you can help:

  • If there’s an album or movie you’ve been meaning to buy, now would be a good time. Buy directly from the label’s own site, rather than that large multinational website that begins with A.
  • Support your local record shop if you’re lucky enough to have one.
  • Downloads are still available. Again, check the label site to see where you’d like them to download from, rather than go straight to iTunes.
  • If you’ve got a favourite label, check in on their website and see what they’re recommending. Visit your favourite bands sites too. If they distribute their own records, they may have lost stock and will appreciate your support.
  • Look out for fundraising gigs to support artists and labels that have been affected.
  • Consider pre-ordering any music or films you’re looking forward to, and bringing forward that expenditure.
  • Any independent singles and albums due for release in the next couple of weeks will miss the physical sales contribution in their chart placing. If you’re not normally a singles buyer, consider making an exception right now and supporting any emerging independent artists you’ve heard on the radio.

PS – why am I writing about this here, on a generally anti-consumerist website? Because we live in a winner-take-all society, and smaller producers need protecting and supporting, whether that’s farmers, craftsmen, artists or musicians. We all know which way the balance tilts between profit and artistry in popular culture, and this random act of violence only makes matters worse. So here’s to the independents, the talented amateurs, and the people doing it for themselves. Go buy a record.

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