London’s Rough Trade Records shop is an anchor for the independent music scene in the UK. And they have an online presence, too — a good way to support your favorite label in the wake up what for many smaller outlets could be a devastating loss. Photo (CC-BY) Radio Saigón.

The first rule of giving is that you need to make sure that the entity to which you’re giving is actually asking for support. In the wake of a devastating fire started during London’s rioting that wiped out a Sony warehouse, indie labels are indeed asking for such support, says a representative of fundraising efforts. Sony’s facility housed, under contract, massive stocks belonging to UK distributor PIAS, representing in some cases the majority or entirety of inventory of dozens of independent record labels. For smaller organizations, insurance funds may not arrive in time to continue day-to-day operation, at a time when small labels are often on the brink of being able to operate from one day to the next.

That’s the picture painted by Dan Salter, who tells CDM about the effort Label Love, which in the immediate aftermath of the fire was already communicating with labels and beginning organizing efforts. Along with Hannah Morgan, Dan is leading efforts to help keep the lights on at labels, and to communicate with the rest of us about what’s going on.

Note that this is not organized by PIAS; you can read their official statements by following the distributor’s official site. (PIAS say they are also working on cleanup and efforts to benefit labels, but no official statement has yet requested funds; they’ve mainly thus far clarified what’s happened and how they’re responding but stopped short of asking for donations, beyond volunteers to help cleanup the site.)

Updated: An official PIAS-organized fund is detailed below. In addition to providing loans to labels, a statement by PIAS and the Association for Independent Music suggests that the effort will also help coordinate third-party drives like Label Love.

If you’re not up to speed with what’s happened, see yesterday’s post:
150 Indie Labels Lose Stock as London Warehouse Burns; Details Emerging, Reports, and Benefits

CDM: First, who are you? Whom do you represent?

Dan: We’re not actually affiliated to PIAS, we are a little group of bloggers & music fans that wanted to do something to help.

Have you communicated directly with any labels? What have they told you, if so?

We’ve been in touch with a number of the labels. We write & run a number of music blogs so we already knew quite a few people involved but many more have got in touch since Monday. Some of the stories are heart wrenching, people’s whole livelihoods have been put at risk by what’s happened.

Insurance will presumably be distributed through SONY. That said, do we know if stocks were covered by insurance? I know that Sony had told PIAS they’re working on keeping stocks flowing.

We’re not totally clear on the insurance situation, as you say it might be a question for PIAS, but I do know that even if insurance is paid it may come too late for many of the smaller labels. These companies run on a day-to-day basis and this kind of break in their cash flow could be terminal.

What do we know at this point about losses that may be suffered by labels? How are they coping?

I’m not sure of the overall situation but we’ve been contacted by a number of labels who have lost pretty much everything & have said it’s very touch and go as to whether they can survive this.

Who made the decision to begin fundraising? Was this something that came up via fans of the labels, or that the labels asked for? What’s their response?

A lot of these people affected are people know personally and are friends with when we heard the news we responded by thinking about what we could offer as gig promoters and the idea of benefit shows was born.

How will funds be distributed once collected?

100% of money donated through PayPal will go to the labels affected. Money raised from the events less costs will also be distributed to the labels.

Ideally we want to distribute the money in relation to the percentage of stock lost by each label. If we can’t get the relevant information to do that then we will split it evenly between the PIAS clients.

If people want to help now, what are some ways they might do so? How can they give or volunteer?

They can either donate through our PayPal account, link is on or if they want to offer their services they can mail us at labellovebenefit (at) gmail (dot) com

Some people were circulating the idea of buying downloads from their favorite labels who have been affected. Would you encourage that, as well?

It’s a great idea but we would encourage people to use independent sites like Rough Trade rather than iTunes or Amazon as they take a far smaller cut & the labels will benefit more.

And more broadly, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how everybody’s doing over there? Much appreciated!

To be frank, our minds are a little bit blown by the scale of the response to our suggestion. We initially envisaged doing a few small gigs around London, we never expected to be dealing with the sheer volume of offers & support that we have, it’s been amazing & humbling. Right now there’s only a couple of us at the core of this and we work full time as well but we’re hoping to have a team together soon to help us cope with what’s happened!

Updated: an official PIAS and Association of Independent Music (AIM) fund has been announced.

This morning, we are announcing the creation of a fund to help independents affected by the catastrophe. They will be able to draw upon the fund to help cover the interruption to their business and the cost of getting back onto their feet.

The fund is being provided by some of AIM’s larger member labels, other well wishers and from AIM’s reserves, and will be made available to affected smaller labels pro-rata to labels’ [PIAS] turnover this year, as required.

Funds will be made available as interest-free and security-free loans repayable within a year. 

Total initial funds available are £250,000.

[PIAS] are first and foremost focused on supporting their labels. AIM will be coordinating the fund, and also other offers of help in the form of promotions and benefit gigs.

Source: AIM, via their site

The likes of Mute and Beggars Group also repeat what Label Love are arguing: that smaller and emerging labels may not yet be prepared to whether the immediate aftermath of these events without additional help. The fund would appear to help the cash flow problem.

  • strunkdts

    "…unable to sell albums, cos we all DL from blogs and torrents, Sony have set fire to all of their Indie stock and now ask us to pay for it in the form of donations, cos its not covered by insurance."

  • Peter Kirn

    Didn't follow that, but in case it's unclear, um, I'm fairly certain Sony DADC didn't torch their own warehouse. Sony DADC is in the business of servicing other labels.

  • Random Chance

    To me it's amazing that people will actually run "businesses" that operate "from day to day." Isn't that something that should not happen given a proper business plan? They got to have some reserves or some kind of insurance as basic precautions against this kind of desaster. Weighing probabilities can be such a cruel thing. I hope people learn from this and start to develop contingency plans like not keeping all eggs in one basket. Such a big warehouse is a single point of failure and you cannot rely on that to function properly every day. Sadly, as I see it, the joke's on the people who only ever planned for the sunny days. But then again, I would probably not have really thought it likely that a big warehouse would burn down, one that is run by a Sony subsidiary. I'd have expected it to be properly secured. Let's just hope that the contracts of the labels included provisions for this sort of thing happening. But as this is allegedly the outcome of a riot, I have doubts that anyone will go overboard with paying anyone. For example, those kind of events are specifically excluded from any insurance policy I have. Can't emphasize the point enough: Read the fine print and have contingency plans. Don't rely too much on others, especially if you are not a major player. Good luck to everyone, though, as far as I can tell, they'll really need it this time — and "they" told us that filesharing was bad for business …

  • Nickho

    @RandomChance. Blimey. Where to start? 
    I'm sure there's a lot people out there right now who aren't seeing the funny side "of the joke being on them".A lot of these labels are a labour of love. You don't start an independent record label with plans to get rich, in a lot of cases not even to make a profit. You do it because you love music. I doubt most of them could afford having multiple distribution companies standing by and stock-piles of CDs just in case.  If record labels want to get records in to record shops they have to use a distributor, in the UK that pretty much means PIAS. It's just how distribution works.
    Oh, and the British insurance indusrty has assured people that business insurance does cover you fully for the result of riot damage. And it wasn't allegedly the outcome of a riot. It was the result of a riot.

  • [PIAS] & AIM Establish Fund for Labels Adversely Affected By The Sony DADC Fire

  • Elaine

    @RandomChance. First I will say I agree with Nickho. RandomChance cannot possibly be a music lover of any sort or be an individual of compassion to have made such a comment. I hope devastation never hits your door. Enough of that.

    I am in US and came across this blog by chance. I am a lover of all music and send my heartfelt wishes and prayers for those that are affected by the damages.

  • mtn

    @ random chance

    i´m running a small label myself, we do vinyl and digital downloads with first cd coming soon. anyway, like one said before, it´s a labour of love. 300 pieces vinyl cost roughly 1000 € (including promotion) and even if you sell every single record you´re just close to getting what you´ve spent in first place. distribution can go broke (like it happened to our distribution recently) or burn down or just don´t send you the money they made with you, it´s not much of it anyway 😉 so, i can feel the pain of everyone who lost their stock in the fire. this easily could break your neck, especially if you`re NOT running it on a day to day basis, because you then have to watch your economics. to be honest, i´d never start a label to make a living out of it.
    i could go on and on about this, really jope most of them make it through and can keep on releasing music we then can enjoy.

  • Instead of asking for donations, ask people to help the artists by buying the music digitally so they still have money coming in in place of the physical media. (I know I would in light of this.) Asking for donations to replace stock that was destroyed, that labels and artists will likely see compensation for via insurance, is asking for a double dip.

    It has been made very clear that Sony's insurance covers it. If for some reason it doesn't, then you can donate…to a legal fund to recoup losses from Sony for not properly insuring their stock or acting on the "indie labels' " best interests. THEN you can say you were adversely affected.

    To quote for truth.
    "Oh, and the British insurance indusrty has assured people that business insurance does cover you fully for the result of riot damage."

  • And to clarify, for this "well wishing" stuff…Sony and labels lost physical stock. The musicians didn't lose instruments, recorded work, their health, their sanity, drugs, their girlfriends, or even their lives. They aren't out of work, their cars didn't break down (well, maybe their cars /maybe/ got smashed in or blown up), they didn't oversleep, and they didn't lose their jobs.

    This is where they get up and say, "oh hai, we lost our physical stock so if you wanna buy it, here is the link to our digital store. Maybe when we recoup some money, all who buy the record digitally right now will get a physical copy in the mail." (maybe even offer a small discount to people just to get the ball rolling on the digital sale.)

    This is where the musicians get out and try doing some shows especially for the London area.

    The insurance Sony has is likely enough to cover "lost wages" for actual employees of the warehouse too. The hourly/salary employees are covered.

    These indies are making it sound like a bunch of musicians just died in a plane crash and their families are destitute. Go eat flowers!!

  • Downpressor

    @Random Chance

    As another small label owner, let me tell you it is not always easy to have contingency plans for storage & distribution. With the razor thin margins these days, paying twice instead of once can be the difference between recouping costs and losing money.

  • Elder

    Sad news! But here is a small reactionary troll rant folks : first imho it's all on the responsibility/insurance of the distributor to refund/cover/protect the labels they maintain the stock of… now eventualy they will turn that in a marketing campain to show how supportive they are of indies problems and how much they care about art.

    BUT most of all, maybe it's a good time to rethink some of a system where basicly all the hard work (artist discovery and development, innovation, maintaining scenes alive, etc) is made for free (almost) by smallest indies who are basicly just free employees of the majors and distros, you know just like for the vegetables in the supermarkets and how they pressure the farmers.(some indies do just fine though hopefully).
    you sell your vinyls and digital files at vile prices despite making all the most valuable work…while some distros and shops will make margins you'll never make on a record, send you back what they dont sell even if the packaging is broken, maybe wont pay or will pay with long delay.
    Bigger labels will eventualy pick "your" artists once your hard work is starting to make them "interesting".(ahhh yeah exclusivity contracts yeah…).

    No, distros wont forgot to take this huge % off your hard work, and they dont take much risks anymore with who they would work with (well except digital of course,), and will drop your deal if they think you are not interesting anymore… it was 3guys who threatened the scene this month, rest of the year it is an unfair system that sounds like exploitation that does. Most small labels suffers not because their music is unlistenable but because this market and the medias that goes along with it are biased and monopolised. And some journalists that are also only talking of big products, even to say it's bad, rather than pushing some small guys.

    well imho… maybe i had a very bad cofee

    to be supportive try to exclusively buy from labels and artists sites first, bandcamp eventualy, make donations to weblabels, and spread the word, even if it bores you to create a new account somewhere, and if you do some piracy sometimes choose the ones you pay for to make a balance, that's the power of the customer 😉


  • Olivia Edward

    The fire was extinguished and the situation swiftly brought under control by the emergency services. No personnel were injured. The damage appears to be confined to one warehouse and a full investigation has begun. Working Capital Loans