The London riots catastrophically damaged many hundreds of businesses and lives, but many entertainment companies are turning to digital distribution as a way of mitigating the worst of it by asking their customers to buy downloads.

Late on Aug. 8, the chaos struck the Sony Centre, Pias/Sony’s only warehouse and distribution depot in the U.K. Arsonists and looters destroyed essentially the entire stock of DVDs and CDs for more than 100 small distributors and labels, many of which now fear for their survival as the fires still smolder in Enfield, North London.

Films distributed all over the U.K. as well as those released by the BFI, Artificial Eye and Dogwoof are gone, with the loss of steady-selling catalog titles arguably causing the worst hit. Music from Beggars Group (which includes 4AD, Rough Trade, XL Recordings and Matador), Ninja Tune, Warp, Domino and about 150 other labels also disappeared.

Many fans are turning to Netribution, which is compiling a list of places to download digital versions of the relevant releases.

“This will lead to much hardship for the artists and labels affected. What music fans can do to show their support for the indie label community, and help them survive this disaster is to buy a digital download of an album from any one of the digital retailers in the U.K., as well as going to their local record store while stocks last,” read a statement from the Association of Independent Music.

The 21,500 square foot warehouse houses PIAS (Play It Again Sam), the U.K.’s largest independent home entertainment distributor. Sony/PIAS has promised that its insurance will cover everything, but that may not come in time to shore up cashflows.

“Sony DADC have actioned their Business Continuity Plan and are back up and running from a new control room in Enfield,” the companies said in a statement. “PIAS continue to work with them to minimize the impact on the business, a number one priority for all labels and clients.”

Related Links:

Netribution –

Retail Gazette (U.K.) –

The Guardian (U.K.) –

Photo by flickr user tgeasland, used under Creative Commons license