UK dance music distributor Unearthed Sounds is shutting down at the end of the month.
Owner Mat Harwood announced the imminent closure in an email to clients on Sunday, 3rd July. "...After many months of internal discussions, planning meetings and external consultations, we've reached the conclusion that there's no way this business can continue in the present financial climate," Harwood wrote. "This industry, like many others, has been impacted over the last three years by the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis."
Harwood confirmed that the online retailer and music distributor is not going into receivership and would operate as usual through 31st July. Digital distribution will continue under current manager Jonathan Wilson.
Harwood detailed how the fallout from the pandemic's lockdowns, staffing restrictions and irregular deliveries hurt them, and mentioned the strain on UK and Europe trade since Brexit — "I think anybody reading this will realise how it must have impacted a business that imports the vast majority of its stock from Europe, and also has many end users there". That, combined with "the last straw" of the cost-of-living crisis, led the Unearthed Sounds team to this decision. "...Individuals have less disposable income available for non-essential purchases like vinyl" Harwood wrote. "Retailers and distributors alike face challenges in convincing consumers that the value of and experience of physical media justify the price."
Harwood closed the email by looking to the wider music industry. "It's important to recognise that these challenges aren't unique to Unearthed Sounds, but have affected various players in the music industry, and indeed the business community as a whole", he wrote. "...We will miss you all. It's been a hell of a ride."
Unearthed Sounds launched in 2014 in Bournemouth and is now based out of Poole in Dorset. Specialising in UK dance genres, including dubstep, drum & bass and jungle, they partner with labels like Unknown To Unknown, Sneaker Social Club, Scuffed Recordings, Rhythm Discs!, EC2A and more.
In September 2021, DJ Mag contributor Will Pritchard dove into a number of factors that could spell the decline of vinyl, including many of Harwood's outlined causes. Read more about independent record labels' environmental, economical and logistical concerns about vinyl here.
Revisit Jack Ramage's feature from last November on how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting UK nightlife and clubs.
Read Harwood's email in full via Pritchard.