U.K. Indie Recovers From London Riots One Year Later

A London warehouse where 3.5 million music releases went up in smoke exactly a year ago will reopen next month

Sony's warehouse, ablaze / Photo by Getty Images
Sony's warehouse, ablaze / Photo by Getty Images
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

A year ago today, rioters in London set fire to the main warehouse for Britain's largest distributor of independent music. By the following morning, at least 3.5 million CDs, vinyl records, and box sets had gone up in smoke. As the BBC reports, however, the Sony-owned building is set to reopen in September, and despite massive losses, no indie labels are known to have shut their doors due to the arson attack.

The fire took place at a Sony-owned building in London's Enfield neighborhood. PIAS Entertainment Group, which distributes more than 150 indie labels in the U.K. and Ireland, used the warehouse as its primary distribution center. Sub Pop, Beggars Group, Domino, Warp, XL, and Soul Jazz were among the influential labels that lost their discs to the fire, as the New York Times reported at the time.

If indie music has been making like the mythical phoenix, it's in part thanks to generous financial help. "We very quickly put together a disaster fund for those labels affected," said Alison Wenham, chairman of the U.K.-based Association of Independent Music, as quoted by the BBC. Bigger independent labels that hadn't been hurt as badly had donated or advanced £350,000 (more than $500,000) by August 10, 2011 to help labels that otherwise couldn't meet their expenses, according to Wenham.

Stolen Records, headquartered in London's Tottenham area, was one label accepting a loan, the BBC reports. Stolen was scheduled to put out an album by JEFF the Brotherhood the day after the fire. "We had to get it repressed as an emergency order," label co-founder Merida Sussex is quoted as saying. "It was a really terrible time, but it seems like a million years ago now." Stolen's full insurance payout, she told the BBC, is still pending.

The fire had a "multi-million pound" impact, Sony Digital Audio Disc Corp. spokeswoman Christina Schobesberger is quoted as saying, which of course means multi-million dollars, too. Sony DADC shifted its operations to another town and PIAS teamed up with another independent music distributor, Proper Music Distribution, in the aftermath of the riot. Schobesberger told the BBC the Enfield warehouse has been rebuilt in its old location, with an official reopening set for next month.

The police are still reportedly investigating the fires. Seven suspects have been arrested. Six have been released and not charged. A spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police told the BBC that authorities had re-arrested one suspect, a 23-year-old male, in relation to the blaze.

Via Pitchfork, here's a full list of labels PIAS helped distribute at the time of the fire:

[PIAS] Recordings
[PIAS] Recordings Belgium
4AD
A Camp
Absynthe Minded
Accidental
AEI Music
Air Recordings
ALC Music
Alsation
Ambush Reality
Ancient & Modern
Angular Recording Corporation
Arcady Records
Ark Recordings
Asthmatic Kitty Records
Atlantic Jaxx Recordings
Bad Magic
Balling The Jack
Banquet Records
Battered Ornaments Records
Beggars Banquet
Best Before
Big Brother
Big Dada
Bird Records
blackmaps
Bloody Chamber
Blowout Music
Blue Chopsticks
Border Community
Borstal Beats
Boysnoize Records
BPM
Brainfeeder
Brassland
Bright Star Recordings
Brille
Broken Sound Music
Bronzerat
Brothers and Sisters
Brownswood Recordings
Buzzin' Fly
Cache Cache
Cadenza Records
Celluloid Records
Chalkmark / IE
Chemikal Underground Records
Cocoon
Control Tower
Counter Records
Dance To The Radio
Dead Oceans
Deceptive
Defenders Ent UK
DESOLAT
Dessous
Different
Dirtee Stank
Divine Comedy Records
Domino Records
Double Six Records
Drag City
Dreambrother
Drive Thru Records
Drowned In Sound
Dummy Records
Duophonic
Eat Sleep Records
Fabric Worldwide
Fake Diamonds
FantasyTrashcan
Fatcat Records
Fence
Feraltone
Finders Keepers Records
Flock Music
Flying Circus
Freerange Records
Friends Vs Records
Full Pupp
Full Time Hobby
Gang Of Four Recordings
Geographic
Ghost Ship
Glaze Recordings
Groenland Records
G-Unit
Hardly Art
Hassle Records
Helpless
Hem Hem Records
HFN Music
Immune
Independiente
Infant
Infectious
Jagjaguwar
Kartel
Kitchenware
Kitsune
KMS Records / Fabric
Laughing Stock
Lex Records
Lipservice
Little Sister Recordings
LO-MAX Records
Loose Music
Lovepump United
Low Life Records
Lucky Number Music
Lucky Seven Records
Mantra
Matador
Memphis Industries
Merok
Metric Music International
Metroline Limited
Model Citizen
Moikai
Motion Audio
MyMajorLabel Ltd
Nation
Ninja Tune
No Quarter
NovaMute
Nusic Sounds
One Four Seven Records Ltd
One Little Indian
Organs
Outcaste
OVNI
P.I.L.
Peartree Records
PeMa
People In The Sky
People Tree
Pirates Blend Records Inc
Planet Function
Play It Again Sam
Playlouder
Poker Flat
Polyvinyl Records
Poseidon Records
Post Present
Pschent
Raw Canvas
Red Cord Records
REK'D
Rekids
Rekords Rekords
Renaissance
Reveal Records
Riverman Records
Rock Action Records
Roots Records
Rough Trade Records
Rubyworks
Sea Note
Search and Destroy
Secretly Canadian
Setanta
Shape
SideOneDummy Records
Silva Screen
Slam Dunk Records
Smekkleysa
Soma
Sonic Cathedral
Soul Jazz Records
South Paw
Southern Fried Records
Stereo Bang Media
Stolen Recordings
Stranger Records
Streamline
Sub Pop
Suicide Squeeze
Sunday Best
Thrill Jockey
Tirk
Too Pure
Torque Records
Touch & Go Records
Transmission Recordings
Tri Tone
Trouble Records
True Panther
Try Harder
Turnstile
Twisted Nerve Recordings
Universal Sound
Victory Records
Wagram
Wall of Sound
Warp
Watergate
We Love You
Wiiija
Willkommen Records Ltd
Wonderfulsound
XL
Xtra Mile Recordings
Yaala Yaala
Young Turks

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