Another Casualty of the London Riots: Indie Music

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 9 2011 7:47 PM

Indie Labels Devastated by London Warehouse Fire

Photo of Sony/PIAS warehouse by LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images.
Photo of Sony/PIAS warehouse by LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images.


London’s entertainment industry is reeling after ongoing riots there caused a distribution warehouse to go up in flames on the north end of the city last night. While there are no reports of injuries, the warehouse stored thousands of CDs, vinyl records, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, all of which now appear to be lost. The warehouse was owned by Sony and its stock was primarily distributed by giant PIAS Entertainment, but most of the companies whose merchandise was housed there were small independent labels, and last night’s damages may prove too large for them to recover.

Labels with stock lost in the fire include influential indie institutions like Warp, Sub Pop (the first label to sign Nirvana), and Beggars Banquet, and film distributors include BFI, Dogwoof, and Artificial Eye. Insurance is expected to recoup damages for many of these companies, but a number of independent music labels distributed the majority of their releases out of this warehouse. For these labels, it may take weeks, if not months, to restock.

While recent entertainment headlines have emphasized how digital downloads and on-demand streaming services are affecting the film and music industries, both continue to derive significant profits from physical sales. As industry analyst Paul Scaife told the Guardian, "Physical retail is still absolutely crucial to many in the independent sector and if—as seems quite likely—several smaller labels aren't covered by insurers, this could be the difference between survival and going out of business."
 
If there’s any solace in this news, it’s that most of these properties will be replaceable, as copies of these albums and movies exist in other warehouses and offices. That hasn’t always been the case in the past. Film studios, warehouses, and vaults have periodically been the sites of very damaging fires, particularly in Hollywood’s earliest days, when movies were made with highly-flammable nitrate film. Many would-be classics, such as the Lon Chaney films London After Midnight and A Blind Bargain, were lost to history this way. The backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood, in particular, has suffered several fires, most recently in 2008, often resulting in millions of dollars in damages.

You can read more on the effects of this fire on film distributors and the music industry at The Guardian.

For the latest on the London riots, head to The Slatest.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.