Let me pose this question to you? Is Record Store Day a bunch of bullshit? Is a day purportedly to promote independent record stores just a front for marketing machines to release “special” 7″s, Lps, and assorted music related items just to make more money for record companies and distributors? Flea Market Funk checks out the event called Record Store Day to find the answer.
Record Store Day’s biography states that it was created “as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally. This is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, djs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday every April.”
Sounds like on helluva party once a year to me. Or is it? Here’s an article from Time Magazine in 2008 that preaches how vinyl got it’s groove back, just one year after the first RSD. Rolling Stone touted that despite the music industry slump, vinyl sales increased by January 2011. There are a myriad of articles from newspapers on both coasts on the resurgence of records. That you can’t deny. For most of us record diggers, vinyl never went away. Everyone from diggers to DJ’s to vinyl enthusiasts can concur that music simply sounds better on vinyl. We also all agree that vinyl should be promoted. It has long been a format that has been passed by for convenience and portability by 8 Tracks, cassettes, CDs, Mini Disc, and now the MP3. It always seemed that the record was pretty much left for dead. For many of us, vinyl is an integral part of our every day lives. However, it’s so easy in this day and age to get any song or album you are looking for. A few clicks to Amazon or iTunes, Soul Seek or Bit Torrents, and you have something you can listen to. You’re not actually holding album art, reading liner notes off of said album in your hand, or putting your side on a record player. You may get album art, etc., but it’s not a physical object. In the age of instant gratification, we get what we want when we want it. Gone are the days that you had to wait for a release, go to a specific record store, buy the record, and wait until you got home to listen to it. It’s back! Now you can do that specifically on one day a year.
Here comes Record Store Day. A made up holiday that promotes record stores, created in 2007. It’s logo is a record, duh, it’s Record Store Day! Here’s my question, why are we just promoting independent record stores one day a year? Where are all these record and music enthusiasts the other 364 days? Rob Henry, a NJ based DJ/ Record Store Buyer had this to say:”I think record store day is just that. Not vinyl awareness day. Not a thank you to all vinyl buyers. It’s a day for those record stores to make some coin. This is their Black Friday. I’m cool with that. I hope they prosper from RSD. If the ‘industry’ needs to make an excuse for people to spend their money in record stores, that’s fine. Vinyl sales have increased over the past few years yet shops are closing all over the place. Who wants record stores to be solely online? We need to keep a physical connection between distributors and vinyl buyers.” This is true, it is not vinyl awareness day, it’s record store day. I get a little touchy because it has the word “record” in it and the logo for RSD has an LP and a 45 in it. However, I am posing the question again: Where are all these people the other 364 days a year? Downloading music from iTunes for pay or the internet for free? They don’t seem to be at their local shop, at the rate all of these stores are closing. Can an independent record store function every other day that isn’t Record Store Day? Many do. Internationally known record stores like Other Music in NYC, Dusty Groove in Chicago, Amoeba in SF/LA, ear X-tacy, Louisville, KY and many other high profile shops have been staples in their metropolitan areas. They have the benefit of being in a heavily populated area, they are established, and all have reputations. What if you’re a smaller Mom and Pop store struggling to keep your head above water? A day like Record Store Day might make your whole month, it’s a long way until Christmas ya know. If it’s the only biz you’re generating while waiting for something else to happen, of course you will participate. There are rules though: ” Record Store Day participating store is defined as a retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation. (In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths).” Many of these stores do have an online presence. In this day and age, if you’re not online, you’re missing out on a whole customer base. What percentage of actual business a place like Other Music or ear-X-tacy actually does online as opposed to actual in store sales I do not know. IMHO most of their sales are in store, as these well know shops become a destination shop because they are experts in the music retail field. Who decides this? Is it the Alliance? Their creedo is straight forward: they are a “a group made up of forward-thinking music stores across the country dedicated to bringing you the best music shopping experience possible, united in their dedication to putting artistic integrity ahead of mass-market commercial hype. In other words, it’s about the MUSIC”. Sounds legit to me. Fair enough, it is about the music. But what if in the tough days of this economy my Mom and Pop store that’s been around for 20 years had to shift it’s focus more online than in store (although they still have a brick and mortar), can they not be allowed to participate in RSD? Are there exceptions? I guess this is nit picking, but if we’re celebrating independent record stores world wide on one spectacular specific day, I’d like to know.
In 2011, RSD sales were way up. Last year, the LA Times said that RSD was more important than Christmas. So what’s the deal? Why are people making such a big fuss for one day of the year, when you can buy records/ music at an independent record store every day of the year? Seems to me it’s just a marketing ploy for record companies and distributors to boost revenue. By the way, RSD has Warner Brothers Records EMI, Universal, Sony, and Red Music as sponsors. How Indie is that?? Vinyl afficiando/ DJ Pat James Longo says: ” I fucking hate it [Record Store Day] and it is no different than things like CMJ saying they are independent music festivals and all the bands are signed to majors.” It seems to me that RSD is really a marketing scheme to foster increased sales for record companies and distributors, flat out. While we’re supposedly celebrating, let’s release limited edition vinyl (because that’s cool) that only a few lucky ones can purchase. The rest of you can find it here. For me and a lot of other people, record store day is every day of the year. We go to our spots, buy vinyl etc. new and used, and help keep these stores alive. We buy limited edition records from the Wax Poetics label and new and used vinyl from from indies like Good Records in NYC. We get the limited edition Stones Throw stuff. We get Daptone releases. We buy stuff from record labels such as Timmion, Colemine and the like. We spend hours digging through dollar bins on the floor in record stores helping these places stay open. This is something we do every day, not just because a holiday told us to. We do it because we love the music, we love record stores (key word record) and as FL Digger/ DJ Doc-Nu puts it: “It’s in my blood.” Like I said, I’m happy that there is more awareness for independent record stores, and RSD seems to have really grown into a huge hype monster since it’s inception. I think the state of the RSD thought process is best summed up by an expert in the music industry, Billboard’s chart guru Keith Caulfield: “It’s just too bad this kind of thing can’t happen all the time, where you get people really excited to go to physical stores and pore over records”. Something to think over while you’re waiting in line next year for that RSD exclusive, that is if the record store is still open.