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Thursday, August 11

Why the London PIAS/Sony Warehouse Fire Is a Big Deal

Transcript of a late night Twitter essay in response to good questions from @poptartsd about the London arson that burned down the UK Sony/PIAS warehouse that housed much, if not all, of the physical inventory for many, many independent labels and their artists from around the world. While this horrific fire is only a small piece of the puzzle that is the English riots of 2011, its effects will be felt by many for years to come, both in England & the rest of Europe, but here in the USA, and especially here in Chicago.

The transcript (slightly cleaned up for clarity, new format,
& lightly edited for punctuation & grammar):

@poptartsd Chicago, instead of worrying about music biz inventory, let's look at London's lessons on race, inequities, and police behavior for us...

@pkmonaghan: @poptartsd Can we only do one?

@poptartsd: @pkmonaghan well, local media seems to think so...also: insurance? Or no?

My long response edited into one piece:

@pkmonaghan: @poptartsd is the stock insured? Yes, most likely. But you can't just order music like sliders. Minimum orders & spare printed parts are a huge problem. If you have 300 of something and are selling 10-75 a year & all 300 go up, you face a decision to repress 500 or even 1000!

Is it worth that huge outlay for a slow selling catalog piece that you are already paying taxes as an asset just to sit on? And if that was also the last of your printing, jackets, you have to print 1100+. But you MAY only sell 50-150 in next 2 yrs!

Now is it worth it? No. Multiply x the number of titles in a label's catalog! Think of the big indies!

My little catalog is only in the 50s for # of titles, but multiply that problem x TJ, T+G, SC, or DC and it feels insurmountable, at least to me from a great distance.

Most of those guys [US labels] had only a part of their stock there. The super screwed are Euro labels who used PIAS as primary warehouse. Likely every piece of their inventory was melted down except for tiny amounts kept on hand just to fill mailorders & whatever was in transit or perhaps on hand at another distributor, but this would be probably less than 5% of their stock, ESPECIALLY on older titles.

More then you wanted to know, but it is an indie musical disaster of epic proportions! Thankfully no humans were hurt, but this will be felt for quite a long time. I suspect more than a few labels will just fold up & bands will be left screwed.

Thanks for listening!


  1. People will slowly realise what a complete disaster for the independent music industry this warehouse fire is. All you need to do is look at the list of label that had their stock housed there:

    [PIAS] Recordings, [PIAS] Recordings Belgium, 4AD, A Camp, Absynthe Minded, Accidental, AEI Music, Air Recordings, ALC Music, Alsation, Ambush Reality, Ancient & Modern, Angular Recording Corporation, Arcady Records, Ark Recordings, Asthmatic Kitty Records, Atlantic Jaxx Recordings, Bad Magic, Balling The Jack, Banquet Records, Battered Ornaments Records, Beggars Banquet, Best Before, Big Brother, Big Dada, Bird Records, Blackmaps, Bloody Chamber, Blowout Music, Blue Chopsticks, Border Community, Borstal Beats, Boysnoize Records, BPM, Brainfeeder, Brassland, Bright Star Recordings, Brille, Broken Sound Music, Bronzerat, Brothers and Sisters, Brownswood Recordings, Buzzin’ Fly, Cache Cache, Cadenza Records, Celluloid Records, Chalkmark / IE, Chemikal Underground Records, Cocoon, Control Tower, Counter Records, Dance To The Radio, Dead Oceans, Deceptive, Defenders, Ent UK, DESOLAT, Dessous, Different, Dirtee Stank, Divine Comedy Records, Domino Records, Double Six Records, Drag City, Dreambrother, Drive Thru Records, Drowned In Sound, Dummy Records, Duophonic, Eat Sleep Records, Fabric Worldwide, Fake Diamonds, FantasyTrashcan, Fatcat Records, Fence, Feraltone, Finders Keepers Records, Flock Music, Flying Circus, Freerange Records, Friends Vs Records, Full Pupp, Full Time Hobby, Gang Of Four Recordings, Geographic, Ghost Ship, Glaze Recordings, Groenland Records, G-Unit, Hardly Art, Hassle Records, Helpless, Hem Hem Records, HFN Music, Immune, Independiente, Infant, Infectious, Jagjaguwar, Kartel, Kitchenware, Kitsune, KMS Records / Fabric, Laughing Stock, Lex Records, Lipservice, Little Sister Recordings, LO-MAX Records, Loose Music, Lovepump United, Low Life Records, Lucky Number Music, Lucky Seven Records, Mantra, Matador, Memphis Industries, Merok, Metric Music International, Metroline Limited, Model Citizen, Moikai, Motion Audio, MyMajorLabel Ltd, Nation, Ninja Tune, No Quarter, NovaMute, Nusic Sounds, One Four Seven Records Ltd, One Little Indian, Organs, Outcaste, OVNI, P.I.L., Peartree, Records, PeMa, People In The Sky, People Tree, Pirates Blend Records Inc, Planet Function, Play It Again Sam, Playlouder, Poker Flat, Polyvinyl, Records, Poseidon Records, Post Present, Pschent, Raw Canvas, Red Cord Records, REK’D, Rekids, Rekords Rekords, Renaissance, Reveal Records, Riverman Records, Rock Action Records, Roots Records, Rough Trade Records, Rubyworks, Sea Note, Search and Destroy, Secretly Canadian, Setanta, Shape, SideOneDummy Records, Silva Screen, Slam Dunk Records, Smekkleysa, Soma, Sonic Cathedral, Soul Jazz Records, South Paw, Southern Fried Records, Stereo Bang Media, Stolen Recordings, Stranger Records, Streamline, Sub Pop, Suicide Squeeze, Sunday Best, Thrill Jockey, Tirk, Too Pure, Torque Records, Touch & Go Records, Transmission Recordings, Tri Tone, Trouble Records, True Panther, Try Harder, Turnstile, Twisted Nerve Recordings, Universal Sound, Victory Records, Wagram, Wall of Sound, Warp, Watergate, We Love You, Wiiija, Willkommen Records Ltd, Wonderfulsound, XL, Xtra Mile Recordings, Yaala Yaala, Young Turks.

    I GUARANTEE if you collect records you own something on one of these labels, and they are now all left with ashes for catalog. As Patrick rightly points out, the weighing up of the cost to repress catalog is a real tough issue, and one most labels will not be able to deal with, thus leaving to take massive losses, and ultimately forcing many into possible closure. I have SO many friends these arseholes have hurt by torching the warehouse; just cos it had Sony's name on it doesn't mean it was a big multi national company that will suffer.
    Please support these folks as much as you can.

  2. Patrick, could you expand on this: Is it worth that huge outlay for a slow selling catalog piece that you are already paying taxes as an asset just to sit on?

    Where in the world is inventory taxed, even if it hasn't been sold?

  3. Yeah, but all of the big labels (TG, DC, TJ, etc) will get paid for the catalog titles (granted, it will take a long time) by insurance. Look at it like this - back catalog titles that do not sell at a rapid rate by any means sit on the Pias shelves, awaiting the lone 2 or 3 orders per year. Pias has to have stock on these titles in order to solicit full label catalogs to their stores. Every year, Pias would ask said labels to make a decision to keep the stock there or destroy it (at a cost to the label). Most labels, not wanting to incur the per-piece destruction cost, usually choose to leave their stock alone, pay the taxes on it, etc.. Now....they will be paid for it - though it will take a long time. So, techincally, the fire MADE them money on some titles that they only would've paid Pias to warehouse or destroy. But sure, if you're a small label, you're fucked.


Be nice!