Is Record Store Day a Bunch of Bullshit?

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.

9 responses to “Is Record Store Day a Bunch of Bullshit?

  1. I brought up the subject the other day about how on one hand the concept of Record Store Day is great as it helps to give reconition to independent record stores. On the flip side, I find that the people that come out for RSD are not regular customers but more like spectators that are just there for the freebies. What people need to do is support these stores more than just one day a year.

  2. Hi,

    My name is Michael Kurtz and I am the guy who manages Record Store Day day-to-day. I was the one who originally discussed the idea with Chris Brown after we decided to create something modeled after Free Comic Day. The name Record Store Day came ouf of a discussion with a bunch of indie record store owners in Baltimore, MD that I led a few years back when a bunch of us got together to talk about how we could possibly turn the tide of negative press on record stores. At the time Tower had closed and media coverage was just doom and gloom about record stores.

    Ironically, here I am typing you about a negative slanted posting about record stores running Record Store Day.

    I’d like to answer your question about whether Record Store Day is some kind of ploy hatched by the music industry. The answer is no. It is an event that has evolved over the years by and for independently owned record store people. If anything Record Store Day is the opposite of what you are thinking. We, the record stores ourselves, create our own products and events. Yes, we work with labels and they help us because frankly we couldn’t do it without their relationships with the artists and signing off on the creation of the special RSD products, thus their credits as sponsors of Record Store Day. But this is really only a part of what we do. We also help the stores to get organized to throw one bad-ass party for the day. This is probably why some folks are under the impression that we only care about one specific day. Well, that and our name. We like the name so it will simply have to continue to confuse and confound, much like Christmas Day does for some folks.

    As far as not celebrating year round. I can’t help but think you are new to discovering Record Store Day. That’s fine but I will point out to you we actually work with the labels to create releases for record stores outside of the day itself. Last year we put out about 20 releases for Thanksgiving weekend. Basically, we co-opted and took over the Black Friday concept previously owned by large corporate retailers and subverted it into Back To Black Friday where we celebrated music and art in the form of limited edition vinyl runs. The most famous being the Alive In Europe EP that U2 made for record stores. They were beaufiful hand stamped, numbered pieces. You should’ve seen ’em. They were awesome.

    And coming up we are releasing the two track Radiohead 12″ that the band made for RSD that was initially released just in the UK. That said I’m afraid we’re also working with the evil Warner Bros label to put out the new Neil Young album just in record stores BEFORE it gets released digitally or on CD. Okay, I’m getting a little cheeky now but these are all facts.

    I invite you and your readers to join the RSD party. We are run by and for independent record stores and we’re going to have a lot of cool stuff coming your way not just on Record Store Day itsefl but year round.

    All the best,

    Michael Kurtz

  3. I’m a musician and member of The Right Now, a soul group from Chicago. From the perspective of the artist (or at least in our case), RSD is a great thing. The Right Now decided to put out a 7″ this year as a limited Record Store Day release. We weren’t an official “RSD release” (that is, we weren’t promoted as such on the RSD website), but our 7″ was distributed worldwide through URP Music Distributors. The distributor instantly sold through all 300 copies and we just about covered our costs of pressing the record in a week. Without RSD it would probably have taken us 6 months to sell that much. Those sales allow us to fill up our gas tank, pay our publicist, get back in the studio, and help cover all the costs that a DIY band needs to cover. I dig your concerns about the “made-up-holiday” origins of the event, but I also think it provides much needed attention and sales for both record stores and artists.

  4. Great point Brendan, and in your case (an indie band), RSD was a huge plus for you. It absolutely makes sense. Why wouldn’t you do something like this if you can make 6 months of sales in a week? That I get, for me, there has got to be a way to save these stores more than 1 day a year. I agree with some of RSD’s policies and what they are doing, and I have said that for sure. Just playing devil’s advocate here and asking questions that no one has seemed to. Thanks for commenting on this topic. Cheers-

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  6. I’m a record shop owner. Record Store Day has increased my customer base and increased my average selling price. Keep up the excellent work would be my suggestion.

    Thanks for what you do.

    Vinylville, LA

  7. I have no doubt that Record Store Day will bump up your average selling price as well as increase your customer base. I was really just questioning it from a perspective of a person or persons who go to record stores almost every day, promote their local without having to make it into a holiday.

    Thank You for keeping the vinyl alive, and the independent record store alive and well. I appreciate your support and views here at FMF. Keep Diggin’!


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