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Independent Labels Cope with Aftermath of London Warehouse Fire

Inventory loss likely to cause financial, release setbacks

August 10, 2011 9:00 AM ET
sony fire london
David Goddard/Getty Images

Several of the world's most prominent independent music labels are scrambling to deal with the ramifications of the fire that devastated a Sony warehouse in North London earlier today. The facility, which was set ablaze as a result of riots spreading throughout England, housed the stock of PIAS, the largest distributor of independent labels in the United Kingdom. Over a hundred labels have been affected by the massive loss of stock, including Beggars Group, Sub Pop, Domino, Polyvinyl, Warp and Asthmatic Kitty.

"We lost around 100,000 units across all formats and the entire catalog," Ninja Tune Head of International Jamie Collinson told Rolling Stone. "That's the majority of our stock, although our international partners do hold significant amounts on certain titles. As far as we know so far, nothing is salvageable." Though Collinson is optimistic that insurance will cover some of the costs, he's unsure of how much to expect. "Riot damage is often not insured, but there may be options available to us. We're looking into those now."

Beggars Group, the label family that includes Matador, XL, 4AD, Rough Trade and True Panther, was hit especially hard by the destruction of the warehouse. In an interview with Pitchfork earlier today, Beggars chairman Martin Mills confirmed that the company lost their entire U.K. stock of approximately 750,000 items. Mills estimates that it will take ten days to replenish their stock of CDs and at least three months to manufacture new vinyl.

Photos: Random Notes

Ben Swanson, co-owner of Dead Oceans, Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar, says his label group has suffered some losses, but estimates that only 5-10 percent of their global inventory was destroyed in the fire. "It's too early to tell how this will affect our business long term," Swanson told Rolling Stone. "Short term, we have some records that have recently been released, or about to be released that will surely feel the brunt of the fire. For example, The War on Drugs has a new album coming out next week. We've been very excited about the response in the UK and its pretty devastating to think the CD and LP won't be available."

"Mostly I'm concerned about our records that are just now coming out, and how this will affect an already fragile physical market," Swanson says. "It certainly won't be the end of physical media in the U.K. as some are suggesting, but its a massive to blow to pretty much everyone up and down the chain - from bands to consumer and everyone in between."

Related
Sony Warehouse Destroyed in London Riots

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