London rioters set fire to the UK and Ireland’s largest distributor of independent labels this week, burning CDs and vinyl belonging to over one hundred and sixty independent labels.

The Sony/PIAS distribution warehouse, which formerly stood in the Enfield neighbourhood of London, was burnt to the ground in the early hours of Tuesday morning (9 August), leaving a crippling amount of music labels with no stock.

WARP Records (Sheffield), Faith and Hope (Manchester) and Dance to the Radio (Leeds) have all been affected by the blaze, with Beggars Group (Matador, XL, Rough Trade, 4AD, True Panther, Young Turks, Too Pure) in London losing their entire UK stock – 750,000 copies, in all.

Deeply saddened that the independent music scene, an already-fragile sector of society, has been so massively hit, we spoke to Simon Raymonde of London-based label Bella Union (Fleet Foxes) and Sean Adams of music website DrownedinSound to find out what we, as music fans, can do to help get indie labels back on their feet…

Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde, who has used social networking sites to offer storage space to labels who were moving stock from “a to b” during the riots, said:

“I urge everyone to take a minute to find an artist they may like on one or more of those affected labels (link below), and buy an LP or two online tonight. This may seem like an empty gesture but I can assure you it isn’t.

“Most of those labels will be run by one or two people, who have, as a labour of love maybe for years and years invested time and probably considerable personal money to get these artists out into the world for us all to enjoy, and every penny that comes in from digital sales will go towards re-pressing the destroyed stock. If it is safe to do so, visit your local record shop too as there will be a decent amount of stock there.

“Keep the circle of life moving!”

Using Twitter, Sean Adams, editor of Drowned in Sound, urges music fans to support the affected labels by digging deep and buying those records you have been meaning to buy, now. And if you haven’t got the cash, well, he offers SevenStreets readers some other good ways to show your support…

He said, “Put your money where your heart is. If you’ve downloaded or streamed something, and not bought it, buy it from your local store, iTunes, Amazon, 7Digital, wherever, however. If you love a label, go to their website and buy direct from them if you can, get yourself a t-shirt or a totebag or an Aidan Moffat bottle opener or whatever.

“Do your bit and don’t let these little bastards destroy the backbone of the UK music business. And if you’re broke, the least you can do is blog/talk/email/tweet some #labellove and remind the people who’re quite likely having a shit time of it this week how important they and their releases are to you.”

In the meanwhile, Sean has also been busy putting together a system whereby fans can support the labels that they know and love, whilst discovering some new ones too.

“Currently, I am compiling data so that some ‘hackers’ can create tools and sites to help labels and to assist fans in supporting labels, and maybe even discovering labels and releases they weren’t aware of,” he said.

“I’ve also been tweeting incessantly about it all and just written a column for the Sunday Times about why I love independent labels and why people should support them. It all feels like the very least I can do for the truly brave and incredibly inspiring people behind the music that have
been there for me like a loyal friend when I’ve needed it the most.”

Looking forward to the future, he says: “The fact this has affected so many good people who release life-changing records and future generations of music-makers, who may not have the same risks taken on them, is utterly-utterly unbelievable. It could take several months for insurance funds to come through, and a lot of labels don’t have the sums of money to replace stock.”

“It’s going to be down to music fans to not shy away from showing their support for many weeks and months to come.”

Sean believes the fire will have a knock-on effect to music websites like Drowned in Sound too, if the labels are not supported.

“My livelihood doesn’t depend on record sales but it does rely on there being a thriving independent music scene, as celebrating those releases is what drives people  to DrownedinSound.com,” he says.

Reflecting on the riots and consequential blaze at the PIAS warehouse, Simon Raymonde of Bella Union concludes: “We, as in the independent label family, are hurt by this. Burning music, music that was created by no doubt similarly disaffected and disenfranchised human beings as their way of expressing themselves, seems utterly fucked up and upside down. But our family, our community is a wonderfully generous and selfless one, and I have no doubt that between us, with the Association of Independent Music at the helm to steer us along, we’ll get through it.”

To find out which labels you can support, visit:
http://recordlabellove.com/

For guidance on specific albums you could buy to help save our indie record labels, check out The Quietus’ list  of 20 recommended PIAS albums.