Saturday is that time of the year again. The day when vinyl geeks will have to be tied to a pole like Ulysses to avoid mortgaging their home. April 16 is Record Store Day, the global celebration of independent record shops. Born in 2007 and started in 2008, RSD takes place yearly on the third Saturday of April with the goal of supporting independent stores by releasing limited edition vinyl. An apparently ambitious and praiseworthy venture that, though, may have lost its original goal through the years. This feature, so, will investigate the true nature of RSD by questioning different shop owners.
Record Store Day is growing year after year with costumers’ hype raising at the same rate. If at the beginning RSD was a quite niche project with unique and collectors-essential releases, with the years it opened itself to a broader audience, repressing common titles that sometimes can be found for a quid in charity shops (In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry this year!) We can’t deny that RSD is now a World-recognised brand that appeals mainly those kids that have recently stepped into the vinyl world. A 180g issue on coloured vinyl bought in a fancy faux-vintage hipster-friendly shop certainly has its appeal on a younger audience, that many times doesn’t want to dig into dusty second-hand shops- the true beauty of vinyl shopping according to me.
Another issue that is challenging Record Store Day is vinyl price. With the rise of selling, prices increased in countertrend with market’s laws. This undoubtedly proves how vinyl has become important in a constantly suffering music market, where the wax incomes have reached the peak of £30m in the last year. This is surely not an income comparable to the 60s, 70s and 80s, but it surely it’s one of music industry key resources of the moment. As every trend, also vinyl is fashionable and people agree to spend even £25-30 for a brand new LP with no history that is, many times, just a repress of what can be found for the same price or less in a second-hand shop. Here come the audiophiles’ disputes about the quality of 180g.
George Ginn, 86, owner from 1962 of Brighton’s The Record Album, doesn’t take part in Record Store Day and says: “I don’t like, how they call them, splattered vinyl and all those tricks pretending to get a better sound”, then showing me some original Western movies soundtracks and praising Italian actor Franco Nero adds: “ You can’t do better than the 1st press.” As a small independent retailer Mr Ginn- whose shop has been ranked as the 4th best record store in the UK by The Guardian- explains me how difficult is to keep up with the constantly-increasing prices of new vinyl. He finds impossible to buy the huge amount of repressed albums and fears that record companies’ behaviour could sooner or later cause another collapse of vinyl, by overwhelming the market.
Different is the opinion of Tom Hasson, 27, shop assistant at Resident, one of Brighton’s most established retailers for new music, who firmly reckons that new vinyl are an essential resource for the shop. “Resident opened 12 years ago and used to sell 95% CDs. In the last years we had to double the size of the shop to host vinyl, that are now sold more than CDs.” he says. According to Tom’s words RSD definitely seems like a driving force in the music market. He states: “We can feel RSD atmosphere. Costumers constantly come in to ask about releases and place orders.” By watching at the number of costumers in the vinyl section of the shop on a Tuesday mid-afternoon, it can be said without any doubts that people are going crazy for this wax support.
The threat that websites (Amazon, EBay) and chain-stores as HMV or FNAC stock RSD special releases doesn’t worry too much Tom, who says: “These releases are independent stores exclusives and will only arrive the week later on Amazon and not all of them are available at HMV and often not on coloured vinyl. On the internet everything can happen, we can’t really control it.” Despite Tom’s light-hearted view about the internet, Paul Weller now refuses to take part to RSD after that his 2014 special edition single Brand New Toy was sold on EBay for overpriced sums of money even before reaching the stores. A similar misadventure happened last year to former Kaleidoscope member Peter Feeley, when a hand-numbered lot of Kaleidoscope’s blue 7” with a previously unreleased mix of Fairly Growing never reached the stores.
This is one of the worst points of RSD according again to George Ginn. The 86-year-old has bitter words for major labels who control the biggest slice of the RSD market. It can be suspected that majors are turning RSD into another tasty business opportunity for them. Tim Scullion, 36, owner of Hastings second-hand books, comics and vinyl shop Wow&Flutter, highlights how it can be difficult for small independent labels to have their releases pressed in time for RSD, with major labels influencing and putting pressure on the few pressing plants left.
Tim, despite having a newly-opened shop, doesn’t take part in Record Store Day, but says “I’m not against record store day at all, but I think that, as everything, as it gets bigger it gets overtaken by big companies and major labels.”
If established independent retailers have queues outside their doors, RSD is not always a success for small ones. Tim explains me that the cost of stock to order is unsustainable for a small local shop, especially in Hastings where economic conditions aren’t the best and people look for bargains. He is slightly astonished when states: “I think there are records you can come in our shop and buy the first press, mint, for £8. Or you can go to Record Store Day and buy the same album for £25, but it is clear.” Also for Tim the “market tricks”, as the “non essential 180g vinyl”, play a big part in the success of Record Store Day.
Despite his doubts about the positivity of RSD, Tim recognizes it some merits. “It made people excited about vinyl again. It’s not all to blame. It made young people buying a record for the first time.” he states.
Even with all these controversies vinyl is still vinyl and without any doubts some releases are incredibly appealing and tempting, not for their look but because of the content. Among those I would recommend to the readers feature (many prices may make you start hating RSD):
- Rockin’ Vickers- Dandy (The Kinks cover)/I don’t need your kind
- The Animals- We gotta get out of this place (The Animals radio& TV sessions 1965)
- The Black Tambourines- Chica EP
- Leon Bridges- Louisiana sun (from the ‘Coming Home’ sessions) (10” EP)
- The Deviants- You got to hold on/ Let’s loot the supermarket
- The Electric Prunes- I’ve got a way of my own/ World of darkness
- Florence + The Machine- Delilah/ Only love can break your heart (yes, indie-pop take on Tom Jones)
- Gerard Heinz- Schamlos 7”
- Goblin- La via della droga ( Heroin busters) OST
- Goblin- Suspiria/ Blind concert
- Hooverphonic- The magnificent tree
- The In Crowd- That’s how strong my love is/ Things she says
- The Incredible Bongo Band- 5X7” boxset
- Quincy Jones- The dude
- The Kinks- The Kinks in concert 65
- The Limiñanas- Garden of love (feat. Peter Hook)/ Maria’s theme
- Mike Stuart Span- Children of tomorrow/ Concerto of thoughts
- The Monkees- Classic album collection (10 LP boxset)
- The Move- Something by The Move (7” EP)
- Ocean Colour Scene- Moseley shoals (2LP)
- The Remains- The Remains (mono LP)
- Armando Sciascia- Impressions in rhythm and sound
- The Skatalites- Original ska sound from The Skatalites 1963-65 – Independence ska and the far east sound (5X7” boxset)
- The Slits- I heard it through the grapevine
- The Small Faces- The autumn stone (mono single mix)/ Me you and us too
- The Sonics- Live at Easy Street
- Sun Ra- In some far place: Roma ’77 (2LP+CD)
- Sun Ra- Spaceways
- Sun Ra- Jazz by Sun Ra
- The Syndicats- On the horizon/ Crawdaddy Simone (blasting early Who-style riotous r’nb)
- Piero Umiliani- La legge dei gangsters (Gangsters’ law) (2LP)
- The Undertones- My perfect cousin/ Hard luck (again)/ I don’t want to see (you again) 87” + 5 magnetic moveable characters on cover)
- Various Artists- First class rocksteady
- V. A.- Monster a go go (Japanese trash r’nr)
- V.A.- Slitherama- Psychedelic Tokyo (66-69)
- V.A.- Banzai! Sixties Japanese garage-psych sampler
- V.A.- Soul Jazz records presents: New Orleans funk- New Orleans: The original sound of funk
- V.A.- Get me home for tea rare psychedelic rock from the Uk
- V.A.- Psyche France vol.2
- V.A.- Nuggets: Hallucinations- Psychedelic Pop
- V.A.- Don’t think I’ve forgotten- Cambodia’s lost rock n roll
- V.A.- Soho Scene 64 (Jazz goes mod)
- V.A. Soul-in (Mods out on the floor)
- V.A.- Texas soul 65
- V.A.- West Coast soul 65
- V.A.- Songs The Bonzo Dog Band thaught us.
- V.A.- Mod- Classic 45s
- V.A.- This is Trojan (6LP)
- V.A.- Wake up you vol.1- The rise&fall of Nigerian rock music (1972-1977) (2LP boxset+ 104 page colour book)
- The Zombies- The Zombies
Record Store Day should be the celebration of local records shops as community meeting places, where to find an analogical support that goes beyond mere streaming , where one can build his music knowledge, where kids can start living those emotions that only music gives, where meet friends or set up bands, where to lively discuss and generate culture. Because, yes, music is culture. This should really be the aim of RSD, not an event with people queuing outside shops from midnight as greedy costumers waiting for the latest IPhone model. Overloading the market with wonderful releases on one day just creates loads of costumers pushing each other in a capitalism-based wanting greedy euphoria. Record shops are far more enjoyable when half empty with just a bunch of people (friends or not) you can share opinions wit. Record shops are losing this reference role into communities and they should not become high-browed boutiques for wealthy kids spending £30 for the last Arctic Monkeys double vinyl LP.
In the end, I couldn’t agree more with Tim’s last words: “It makes me sad that there are people who only go in a record shop on Record Store Day, but everyday should be Record Store Day.” Enjoy your Record Store Day, responsibly.