This news is hitting me more than some of you, primarily because I remember looking week to week for the release lists that ST Holdings, one of the most important music distribution hubs in the UK, would post every week. I'd actually noticed recently that both dBridge's Exit Records and Marcus Intalex's soul:R imprint had moved operations to Bandcamp, but hadn't heard any word regarding why. Today, FACT is reporting that after scaling their operation earlier this year (dropping more than 150 in the process) to "work with a small number of approximately 30 record labels," FACT confirmed today that "ST will stop trading at the end of July, and aim to pay any money owned to labels in early September."
While vinyl purchasing has been on an upswing over the last few years (with NME reporting that the UK vinyl sales figures could topple the ~794K albums that were sold in 2013), that doesn't mean that services like ST Holdings, which operated with the idea of helping get vinyl from labels to shops, were still as viable these days as they had been during the last vinyl boom (around the late-'90s/early '00s). What was important about ST was a quote from owner Andrew Parkinson, who believed that a certain "ethos" was to remain for ST to live up to its potential. You could see it in the labels they were in charge of distributing in the past: they were the source of funneling music from DMZ, Blu Mar Ten Music, Dub Police, Swamp81, DSCI4, Deep Medi Musik, 31 Records, Critical, Subtitles, Commercial Suicide, Project 51, and a litany of other imprints were being distributed by ST Holdings since their launch in 1998. Now these labels ranged from some of the biggest in their scenes to smaller, more personal projects, but they all seemed to provide unique, forward-thinking sounds to whatever audience they were trying to reach. If you combine the shifts in the electronic music scene with the rise in digital, you can understand why ST Holdings would have to go from operating with a few niche imprints to not operating at all.
That's not to say vinyl is truly dead, but the loss of ST Holdings make it harder for labels to consistently put out vinyl than it had been previously. Paradox continues to champion the medium, as do many other producers and label heads, but now more will be forced to do it on their own if they see fit. Kind of odd to get this news during the same week that Pioneer announced their new direct drive turntable.