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London riots hit key UK indie label distribution centre

By | Published on Tuesday 9 August 2011


Communities and businesses across the country are already counting the cost of three days of rioting and looting in London and, as of last night, some other English cities, and that includes the music industry, in particular many of the UK’s independent labels, after a warehouse facility used by leading indie label distributor [PIAS] was burned to the ground yesterday.

As anyone who has glanced at any British news channel or website in the last 60 hours will know, there has been mayhem on the streets of London since Saturday as disenfranchised young people run riot, literally, smashing up shops and businesses, setting vehicles and buildings alight, and looting properties damaged in the rampage.

Violence first broke out in Tottenham on Saturday during an otherwise peaceful protest against the shooting, by police, of local man Mark Duggan last week. Copy cat violence then began elsewhere in the capital, rioters possibly spurred on by the excitement of seeing their otherwise pointless violent acts played out on rolling news channels, and with some seemingly linked up via social media, especially BlackBerry’s messenger network.

Rioters and other possibly desperate opportunists then followed the violence to loot damaged shops and offices. Last night similar gangs of teenagers started to run riot, with differing levels of impact, in Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol.

Some North London branches of HMV were among those vandalised and looted over the weekend, and as violence moved to Brixton and Camden yesterday, there were reports – albeit as yet unconfirmed – that both the Brixton Academy and Electric Ballroom venues were attacked. But the biggest impact on the music business is likely to be the fire, caused by rioters, at an Enfield distribution centre operated by one of Sony Corp’s businesses.

The impact of the centre and its stock being destroyed will be felt far beyond Sony’s own operations, because the warehouse was used by [PIAS], one of the country’s leading distributors of CDs for independent labels, including the Beggars Group, Ninja Tune, Warp, Domino and around 150 others. It is as yet unclear exactly how much [PIAS] stock was damaged, and indeed just how much stock was stored at the facility, though with informal reports that the centre was “burned to the ground” some already fear the worst.

The Sony DADC centre was also used by movie and gaming distributors, so the impact of the fire could hit various branches of the British entertainment business, hitting supply of product in the short term and, for smaller businesses, already operating in a tough economic climate, maybe even resulting in an uncertain future long term.

Both Sony and [PIAS] are yet to comment on the extent of the fire and the damage it caused – presumably they themselves are yet to work that out – but we should find out later this week how bad the impact really is.