rock-o-the-northRock is recession proof. Or so we keep hearing. Well try telling that to German label SPV after the legendary rock and metal specialists today announced they were insolvent.

There are high hopes the Hanover-based company will survive – with a number of interested parties considering a swift purchase – but the European home of bands like Alice Cooper, Whitesnake, Saxon, Iced Earth, Sepultura and Motorhead is clearly struggling.

Earlier this year SPV/Steamhammer made a huge song and dance about their 25th anniversary with a slew of stunning vinyl reissues complementing a series of special CDs celebrating the label’s rich and varied heritage. The German heavyweights appeared to be in rude health. But suddenly their 25 Alive publicity campaign looks like a desperate last throw of the marketing dice.

Only this month rushonrock received SPV promos by the likes of Tim Ripper Owens, UFO and Magnum and all three acts have been backed by typically enthusiastic advertising and PR strategies. There was no sign of a label in decline. The hot new releases have kept on coming thick and fast and only the odd whisper of trouble hit the occasional website.

David Coverdale has described last year’s decision to hook up with the Teutonic standard bearers for all things loud and heavy as one of the best moves he ever made. In the fickle world of rock and metal it’s amazing how many bands have stayed loyal to SPV over the years and within the industry the label is held in the highest esteem.

Yet every business is driven by sales and in the same week it was announced Ripper Owens’ excellent new CD had shifted a meagre 800 copies in its first week of release Stateside then it’s clear the recession is forcing punters to pick and choose.

There will always be spare cash to plough into Metallica. AC/DC, Guns N Roses and the like but a strong German market can’t fully compensate for slow sales elsewhere. With a large roster SPV requires a large return on its investment and that clearly isn’t the case.

The label’s bigger bands won’t be too concerned. Cooper, Whitesnake etc won’t find it tough to find a new home but dedicated rock labels don’t grow on trees. The likes of Roadrunner, Century Media and Nuclear Blast are not in the market for new bands and while they might pick up the cream of the SPV outcasts there could be a number of acts facing an anxious future this week.

Of course the question on every rock fan’s lips should be this: if SPV can go under (and the administrators are still confident that won’t happen) then what about the other rock labels listed above? Is this the start of an inevitable collapse within the rock and metal industry as a whole or is today’s news nothing more than a blip? Watch this space. And hope and pray it’s the former.