Every Day Is Record Store Day
By Lance Barresi
t’s kind of a bummer that we even have to have a Record Store Day. Grocery stores don’t get their own Day. Neither do bars, restaurants, or venues. Getting people out to brick and mortar record stores shouldn’t be a struggle that necessitates a Day, but it is. So thank goodness for Record Store Day and the people who founded it.
Record Store Day, conceived by an indie record store clerk named Chris Brown, was inaugurated in 2007 by a sextet of record lovers, storeowners, and music biz peeps named Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner. Record Store Day (or RSD) takes place annually on the third Saturday of April and April, 20th 2013 marks its Fifth Anniversary. RSD has come a long way since its inception. In 2008, it was celebrated by just a few hundred stores with a handful of exclusive releases — a feature for which Record Store Day has become known over the years. By 2012, it was celebrated by thousands of independent record stores internationally with nearly 500 exclusive releases.
Record stores celebrate in different ways. Some open earlier than usual and stay open later. Some offer discounts, freebies and prizes. Live performances have been a major part of the celebration as well. Artists as massive as Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco, Eagles of Death Metal, Alice In Chains, Mastodon, Frank Black, Emmylou Harris, Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters and Duran Duran have made special in-store appearances on RSD. The list of performers includes thousands of local and underground acts as well.
The film, I Need That Record! and at least two books (Last Shop Standing and Record Store Days) honor the history of record stores and RSD. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg honored the holiday and it was referenced on American Idol back in 2009!
Sales on RSD have grown exponentially since the first year. According to Billboard Magazine, in 2011, sales during the week of RSD were up by nearly 200,000 pieces and RSD was directly credited with the increase. Up nearly 200K from the year before.
Seemingly, everybody who’s anybody in music has released an exclusive piece on RSD. David Bowie? Yep. Bruce Springsteen? Duh! Flaming Lips? Multiple. And thousands of independent artists and labels have collaborated on RSD releases over the years as well. Some are essential, others forgettable, but most are at least semi-limited. These releases are only available on Record Store Day in real world, independent record shops, at least until they’re taken home and hocked online by flippers.
This is one of the major drawbacks to having anything in limited release. Demand will often exceed supply and this creates a a dilemma. Fans get excited about getting their hands on limited releases by their favorite bands and are willing to pay exorbitant sums for them. When record stores sell out or when fans aren’t able to physically make it to a store on RSD, they go online, to eBay mostly, where savvy speculators have listed their RSD purchases, sometimes at prices much higher than retail. My advice to fans who missed out: Wait a couple of weeks. Historically, eBay prices on these releases drop drastically less than a month after RSD.
Another issue is the regulations that the Record Store Day Organization enforces. A few years into the celebration, the people over at RSD started asking stores to sign a pledge in order to be allocated any number of RSD exclusives. This pledge asked stores to only sell the exclusives in their physical stores on RSD. It also asked stores not to list anything online until the day after Record Store Day and to keep the prices on these items reasonable. As a record store owner myself, I found all of this reasonable. But when they asked stores not to open until 8 A.M. EST, I was a little bummed. At Permanent, we’ve been having a midnight sale annually since we began celebrating RSD years ago. I think we were the first store to do this. Our loyal customers have always gotten excited about the midnight sale and come out in droves. There would be a line of people down the block that snaked through the store until 2 A.M. when we closed until the next morning. The RSD people cited complaints from customers as the reason for disallowing midnight sales. If stores don’t sign the pledge, they don’t get any exclusives, so we were sort of forced to comply. I’m all for RSD in general, but I hope the restrictions on stores end here.
Regardless of its minor faults, RSD is a good thing for independent record stores. It gets them more attention and reminds the general public that stores like ours exist. You wouldn’t believe how many people come in to my shop each week stunned, saying “People still buy these things?”
EBay gougers are annoying and they might change the way we celebrate, but they can’t take Record Store Day away from us. The most important thing to remember is that for independent record shops worldwide, every day is Record Store Day. Go out and support your favorites as often as you can! See ya on 4/20!
As of this writing, the official list of Record Store Day 2013 Exclusive Releases has not been made pubic. However, a few of this year’s RSD releases have been announced and here’s a list of a few that I’m stoked on:
- Gardner, Jacco/Resonars/MMOSS/Maston – 4-Way Covers Split, 7” (Trouble In Mind)
- Public Image Ltd., Public Image b/w The Cowboy Song, 7” reissue (Light In The Attic)
- Roky Erickson, Mine Mine Mind b/w Bloody Hammer, 7” reissue (Light In The Attic)
- The Bat’s, By Night EP reissue (Captured Tracks)
- Snapper, S/T EP reissue (Captured Tracks)
- Fela Kuti and Afrika 70, Sorrow Tears and Blood/Perambulato LP reissue (Knitting Factory)
- Flaming Lips, The – Zaireeka 4LP (Warner Bros.)
And of course the two releases we have coming out on Permanent this RSD:
- Cuntz, Aloha LP (Permanent)
- Watchout!, Flashbacker LP (Permanent)