On April 16th 2011, it is Record Store Day. An idea that was originally conceived in 2007, Record Store Day is a celebration of independent record stores across that the world that typically features many special releases that are entirely exclusive to those stores. At least, this was the whole idea behind the event. While others, such as Rick Martin of NME, have written about the day with a nonplussed attitude towards physical music in general, I wanted to offer a more balanced account of the pros and cons of the day from the perspective of someone you’d actually see in the queue, and regularly buys music from these types of stores. Here are a few things to think about.
POSITIVE – Record Store Day lets you know about record stores in your area
One of my local stores, Love Music, support Record Store Day. With a 90% drop in the sale of singles in recent years, and over 3,000 record store closures, sometimes the stores that are still standing need to be given the opportunity to shout about it. The day now features independent record stores in over 20 countries, many of which you might not have heard of. Residents of Texas, did you know there are 13 participating indie record stores in Austin? Now you do! Check out the full list of stores here, and visit the stores you’ve missed in your local area.
POSITIVE – The reissues! The reissues!
One of the greatest aspect of Record Store Day is that many records that have been out of print for a number of years are finally repressed. While I am certainly tempted this year by many reissues such as: Bad Brains – Pay To Cum 7”, Beach Boys – Good Vibrations, Glassjaw – Worship & Tribute LP and the Jimi Hendrix – Fire 7”; it is the reissue of Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American LP that I am most looking forward to. Bleed American has been out of print for a number of years, and because of my love for the album I felt that I had to own a copy on vinyl. I was forced to spend about £55/$90 on a second-hand copy so I could play “The Authority Song” over and over. Now thanks to Record Store Day, I will be able to get my hands on a pristine copy, and so will the fans that simply couldn’t afford those aftermarket prices.
POSITIVE – The selection of exclusives are musically eclectic
One of the best things about Record Store Day is getting to browse from such a musically wide range of exclusives. It’s a great thing to see how the event unites such an eclectic group of people by their mutual love for music. Whether you are there to pick up a reissue of a lost classic, a collection of remixes, a single by a chart-topping artist or a selection of the above, it seems that everyone is catered for in one way or another.
NEGATIVE – The releases are produced in small numbers and are expensive
It seems rather counter-productive for a label wanting to promote their bands, on what for many stores is their busiest of the year, to produce their releases in such limited quantities that justifies pushing the price up to £5/$7 for a 7”. This encourages eBay resellers to pick them up and resell them sometimes mere hours after the stores have opened. This was certainly the case with the Blur “Fools Day” 7” single last year. It was limited to 1,000 copies when the label could have sold 5,000 easily. This led to a number of the singles being sold at auction for £100/$150+. Hardly in the spirit of day, is it? This meant the record store and the band received a meager profit, while the £95/$143 profit from the eBay sale went in the back pocket of some unscrupulous tout. What is worse is the number of fans excited about the release, not able to pay so much via a reseller, that left empty handed.
NEGATIVE – Sometimes different stores get different releases
Sometimes sourcing one of your top picks from the official list can be a nightmare. For starters, there is a separate list for UK RSD and US RSD releases, but some releases do feature on both. Many releases that do feature on the list get cancelled, or do not arrive in time and go on sale a week later. Due to the limited quantities of several releases, some record stores might get five copies of a release, and some may get none. To avoid disappointment, the best thing you can do is phone ahead and ask the store directly if they will be stocking that particular release you are looking for.
Record Store Day is an event that we should celebrate, after all, for many of us, our local record stores contributed significantly to the artists we were exposed to and subsequently shaped our musical tastes and our outlook on life. Sure, it certainly isn’t perfect with some of the prices being quite high and never quite getting everything you hoped for, but think about where the money you are spending is going; in the majority of cases, it’s going to support independent businesses, and independent music. Surely that is something we can all get behind.
Record Store Day 2011 is on April 16th. For more information on the exclusive releases and participating stores, go to http://www.recordstoreday.com.