Record Store Day Preview
Thomas Murphy | Friday, April 20, 2018
Saturday morning, thousands of audiophiles will line up in front of record stores worldwide in preparation for Record Store Day, an annual holiday celebrating independent record stores and the lost art of vinyl. Founded in 2007, what began as an attempt to generate interest in record stores, which were suffering from a lack of interest, has grown into a massive event with over 1,000 participating stores from every continent fit to carry vinyl (sorry, Antarctica).
The creation of Record Store Day corresponds with an explosion of interest in vinyl: In 2007, just 1 million vinyl LPs were sold, but by 2017 that number had rocketed to over 14 million. Record Store Day has played no small part in this resurgence of vinyl, as sales at independent record stores leap almost 200 percent in the week leading up to Record Store Day.
Record Store Day provides independent record stores with the publicity and interest they need to compete with large corporations like Amazon who also seek to capitalize on consumers’ sudden infatuation with vinyl. In 2016, the week leading up to Record Store Day saw independent record stores boost their share in the market by over 30 percent.
These numbers are encouraging yet strange when one considers that vinyl can be bought and shipped to one’s house year-round. So, what is it about Record Store Day that draws in such large crowds? Aside from being an excuse for music lovers to spend a day saturated in high-fidelity, it is the hundreds of special releases by artists ranging from Pink Floyd to Taylor Swift that make Record Store Day such an exciting event.
This year, 422 special editions, live recordings and early releases will be carried by independent record stores scattered across the globe. Most stores won’t have all the special releases or many copies of any single release, but the chance to grab, for instance, a copy of Lil Uzi Vert’s “Luv is Rage” mixtape on yellow vinyl, of which only 2,200 copies are being pressed, can be irresistible.
Doug Zimmerman, owner of Orbit Records at the Town and Country Shopping Center in Mishawaka, said that Record Store Day and its releases are important for generating interest in the community.
“It’s by far the busiest day of the year for me. Publicity and business-wise; it’s big,” he said. “Making sure I got all the tough-to-find releases — that’s my biggest job — making sure I have enough stuff.”
Matt Shaver of Rumor Records in Niles, Michigan, said that although Record Store Day may not be his store’s biggest day of the year, it brings in large crowds interested in special releases as well as the large collection of used records available in the store on a regular day.
“It’s a good thing, Record Store Day … it gets people out shopping,” Shaver said. “We open at noon — always have — even that Saturday. Literally everybody is with me, they go to all the other places and they all end up here and hang out. We have hundreds of people here at the end of the day.”
But the festivities of Record Store Day go beyond the vinyl. Stores hold live performances and bring in local celebrities to add to the atmosphere, while the Record Store Day committee appoints ambassadors for the event each year. Past ambassadors include Jack White, Metallica, Chuck D, St. Vincent and Dave Grohl, and this year will see Run the Jewels, the rap duo consisting of El-P and Killer Mike, carry the torch.
El-P said in a video press release that, as with many musicians, independent record stores were a strong influence on him as he matured as an artist and became more serious about music.
“When I became a part of the music scene I knew that I wanted to be someone who was a part of [record store] culture because … [record stores] were cornerstones of the community, and that’s what we appreciate about [records stores],” he said in the release. “[Record stores are] not just some place to press a button and get a song, [they are] part of the community.”
El-P’s remark about “pressing a button” is especially appropriate as 2018 marks the first year since 2011 that physical music formats, primarily vinyl and CDs, have outsold digital downloads. Streaming platforms like Spotify have come to dominate the music industry, but even the most advanced playlist algorithms are unable to replicate the joy found in discovering, purchasing, placing and playing a record.
Record Store Day returns the now cold, impersonal methods of hearing music to a time when music wasn’t heard, it was experienced. It celebrates and supports the independent stores that have made vinyl such an extraordinary medium, and all the while gives loyal fans the opportunity to get their hands on discs of rare vinyl gold.
Here are 10 releases to be excited about
- Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead — “Dylan and the Dead (live in ’87)”
- Dre — “Dre Day”
- Led Zeppelin — “Friends” / “Rock and Roll”
- Sufjan Stevens — “Mystery of Love” EP 10”
- Car Seat Headrest — “Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror)”
- Mac Demarco — “Old Dog Demos”
- Fleet Foxes — “Crack Up (Choral Version)” / “In The Morning (Live in Switzerland)”
- Wu-Tang Clan — “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”
- The Rolling Stones — “Their Satanic Majesties Request”
- Wilco — “Live at the Troubadour 11/12/96”