Tag Archives: Rough Trade

A simple fix for the declining physical music sales?

I am willing to admit it here and now; I have illegally downloaded music in the past, and I will probably continue to. Any sneering is welcome, but please look in the mirror pre-sneering. People illegally download for a number of reasons: a) they want to listen to the album before committing their hard-earned money b) it’s free and c) it is much easier to just download it from your own home. And I don’t blame these people. Here’s why…

I went into my local HMV yesterday and purchased two CDs. They were pretty easy to find as both were new releases. Once I picked the two CDs up, I scanned the aisles that led to the till for any bargains and then went up to pay for my CDs (there were no bargains). I was greeted by a sales assistant in his mid-20’s who was nice enough, but then simply took the CDs off of me, scanned them and then I paid. Let’s compare it to something else, shall we? I went into Rough Trade East in London last Monday and bought three CDs. I picked up the one CD I wanted to buy, but then was drawn to the vast array of great music that was displayed. No gimmicks, no big pink stickers with ‘SALE – £6’ on it, just great music that is approved from the record store and then sold to consumers. I found two more CDs I wanted to buy, had another two or three good looks around the CDs on offer and then went to the till. Similarly, I was greeted by a sales assistant in his mid-20’s, who was also nice enough, but upon handing him the CDs he made comments about the CDs and opened discussion. I was made to feel as if what I was buying was actually worth buying. In HMV, I felt as if I was buying the CDs to keep their business alive (literally) instead of for my benefit and pleasure. I am not singling out Rough Trade here, nor am I saying that HMVs have average customer service, these are merely two recent comparisons.

Whilst I have done a gracious morris dance around the actual point, and as much as I don’t intend to sound like a virtual Mary Portas, customer service plays, in my opinion, a much bigger part than people think in keeping the music industry alive. Do you want people to carry on buying CDs? Get your staff to briefly brush up on the new releases perhaps and spark conversation with their customers when they purchase them perhaps, it will make them want to return next time. Even if you don’t know who the band are for Gods sake, just say that you like the album/single/EP, whatever it is they’re purchasing. If customers leave a record store with just a few CDs, where is the future incentive to go and buy music in it’s physical format as opposed to buying it off iTunes or Spotify?

Does anyone else feel the same? Do you disagree? And more importantly, do you still buy CDs? Let me know.


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James Blake – Live at Rough Trade East

Yesterday I got up early, stood in the corridor of a (busy commuter) train on the way to London and met my cousin to go and get wristbands to see James Blake play an in-store show at Rough Trade East, in celebration of his self-titled debut album being released. Rough Trade do a lot of in-store shows for bands, and for last nights show the way it worked was that you bought the album and got a wristband to go with it that gave you entry to the performance in the evening. The wristbands were on a first-come-first-served basis and so in fear of not getting one, we got there at 9:30am. This meant we had the whole day to kill.

After visiting a few of the best coffee shops in London (The Espresso Room on Great Ormond Stuff is fantastic) and picking up a few bits and pieces, it was time to get back to Rough Trade.

The gig, which was more of a brief showcase, started with album opener ‘Unluck’, greeting the fans with a simple ‘hello’. Hardly the most charismatic man of earth, James Blake is a man of few words that allows the music to take centre-stage and speak for himself. Rapidly flicking through album material, Blake isn’t scared to improvise and manipulate his live show. A lot of the chords played throughout ‘Unluck’ differed to those from the album, and ‘I Never Learnt To Share’ at points was more disjointed and free-form. Whilst this keeps his live show fresh and exciting, I wasn’t – and I’m still not – sure whether this was intentional. Blake is still a newcomer in a live environment; I know that his support slot at The Union Chapel in December was his first ever live gig with a band infront of a public audience, and I think he is using these more intimate shows to tweak and tailor his songs for a live show. Saying this, Wilhelms Scream and Limit To Your Love (video above) sounded very strong and were received with rapturous applause.

What made the night special for me was being able to put the hype surrounding James Blake into perspective whilst observing the man himself, who is completely baffled that anyone at all listens to the songs he made in his bedroom. It’s every young musicians dream and I was watching his own dream slowly coming true. Three months ago he was fairly unknown; a Goldsmiths alumni who was releasing very leftfield dubstep music on 12″. Now he is one of the biggest names in music, proven by the Radio 1 airplay, the posters advertising his new album around all the London tube stations and the sell-out crowd who witnessed last nights performance. Blake made a short speech about how he was so overwhelmed with the album’s reception, and you could tell how much it really did mean to him. After every song his face wore a grin, impossible to hide.

There were glimmers of brilliance throughout last nights performance, and a huge amount of potential yet to be utilised, but most importantly was the visible admiration James Blake holds for his listeners and fans.

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