In the latest edition of Music Week we investigate the unfolding impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the music industry, from the live sector through to independent and major labels.
Another key area that has been effected is the retail world. One of the high street retailers to offer insight is Kingston’s Banquet Records. Before Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that all non-essential shops will have to close for at least the next three weeks, the store pre-emptively closed its doors to the public on March 16 in order to focus on its online operation.
“Banquet is stable and has a good online presence, so I appreciate it’s an easier decision for us than it is for some others,” said Banquet co-owner Jon Tolley. “It’s at some cost to us, but the health and community issues take priority at this time. We are now entirely focused on the online side of what we do, and that will run better than ever."
Tolley added: "I think, at this point, I speak for all record shops when we’re saying we’re more worried about the healthcare system first. Then we’ll provide the soundtrack to your isolation afterwards!”
Speaking last week, Tolley noted that while the challenges are substantial – at one point Banquet tweeted that their takings were “94.5% lower” than the same time the week prior – he believes indie record stores will suffer comparatively less than restaurants and cafés. He did, however, point towards what customers can do during this challenging time.
“Support doesn’t necessarily need to be financial,” Tolley explained. “It could be sharing posts and signposting people to them.”
One of the biggest corona virus-related disruptions to indie retail so far has been the postponement of Record Store Day. While Tolley mirrored fellow indie retailer Natasha Youngs over at Brighton’s Resident Music in suggesting that the move of the biggest day of trading in independent retail won’t effect stores too much, he did express concern about independent labels.
“I don’t think it will cause a problem for the shops because instead of ordering in March and being invoiced in April, we’ll order it in May and get invoices in June,” explained Tolley. “For the shops it’s going to be fine. I do have a worry about the independent record labels who are pressing up front and aren’t going to get any money – they’re already on a two-month lead time at best to get their money from the distributors, but now it might be a five-month lead time for distributors. Does that mean they can’t put out another record for seven months? The Universals and Warners of the world will survive, it’s the independent labels I’ll be more concerned for, who’ve taken the punt, who’ve put out a record just to supply independent record shops – which is an amazing thing – and they’re the ones who’re going to suffer the most out of this, I would suggest.”
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