Reports are coming in that in the last week, local independent record stores have experienced a surge in footfall through their doors. This surge has been followed by a slew of tumbleweed in the subsequent days. Further investigation revealed that the phenomenon known as Record Store Day took place last weekend.
Officially founded in 2007 RSD is now celebrated at stores across the world, with artists/labels issuing special vinyl and CD releases along with other promotional products to mark the occasion. Much like another religious holiday, every year from mid March, vinyl collectors begin ticking off the days on their Advent calendars as they patiently await the opening of the doors to their local music emporium.
In the early years, Record Store Day was fun; a celebration of the local music shop. Is there anything that can beat walking through the doors of your vendor and spending a few hours chatting with the staff, the random punters who wander in, the regulars who sit back and extol their opinion on every release? For sure, it can all be a bit High Fidelity but would we have it any other way?
Hailed as the most important thing to ever happen to independent record stores, RSD became a saviour for the local retailer. It brought the customers like bees to flowers. Slowly at first, but in the last decade it has grown and that is purely down to the dedication of music fans who believe in the vinyl format and the actual pilgrimage of shopping for a physical slab of music. But as with most things in the capitalist regimes which rule from their ivory towers; in recent years the bigwigs of the music industry have taken note of possible profit and the once hallowed few limited releases have been inundated with waves upon waves of seemingly unnecessary pressings by artists that would never have considered releasing in the format in the first place. Oversaturation has strangled the market and as the stores sweep the tumbleweed from the floors, they end up with boxes of overpriced product that hasn’t shifted over the 24 hours.
These days, RSD has become a feeding frenzy of genuine fans, collectors and hipsters, rabid at the mouth, poring over the shelves on the quest for the holy grail of this year’s never-ending limited list. While there are the aforementioned genuine fans and collectors (some may even be hipsters), there are the vultures. The “fans” who walk into the store, grab two copies (the second for insurance), rudely walk up to the counter – “Excuse me, do you have the limited (insert band) release?” On being told that none remain, they spin on their heels and march to the next store on the list. There is no passion, no rapport, just steadfast disregard for those who stand in their path. Let’s not forget the Ebay hawkers who have their copies online within minutes of the official release time. Yes, vinyl can appreciate in value and become a jewel for collectors but these hawkers drive prices up within days, feeding on the pockets of honest fans whose love of the band clouds their buying hesitancy in an age of instant need.
For today that’s enough about the predators for this article. With the added “interest”, perhaps a lot of people have lost sight of what Record Store Day actually is about: the independent store itself. Thirty years (and more) ago, music stores were where we went to hang out, to hear new bands, to meet friends, to make friends, to get concert tickets, browse the new releases and look in the second hand section with the hope of stumbling upon the holy grail; that one final piece that completed your collection. The store and it’s staff were the hub of all our music knowledge and with the internet ruling our lives it is nice to be able to step into a dingy little store, to inhale the musty second hand smell and for a short time on a Saturday morning, forget about notifications, emails and likes and lose ourselves in a sanctuary from our past.
Record Store Day has brought in new fans of the vinyl format, it has recalled many prodigal sons and daughters to the counters and shelves, and maybe, just maybe it has let artists realise that there are people who still want their music in a physical format that is as rewarding to hold as it is to listen to, rather than on an online streaming or download service. Like everything in our modern age, there are pros and cons to the whole event but most importantly RSD has breathed lifeblood into local stores that many felt were a dying breed.
In the advent of this year’s widely publicised event, please remember this: a record store is not just for one day, it’s for a lifetime. Treat it well and don’t discard it when those seeking to profit have torn the beating heart from it’s chest.