Every third Saturday in April, music fans and record collectors all over the world celebrate Record Store Day, a sort of musical Easter, complete with a hunt for vinyl.
As its online bio states, Record Store Day started in 2007, “as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA and hundreds of similar stores internationally.” The first official year of Record Store Day was celebrated in 2008.
This year, I made it out to five local record stores before I depleted my allotted budget. I’d love to say that my search for vinyl ended when I found everything on my list, but unless one has an extremely short list, it’s likely a few items aren’t going to get crossed off.
Like thousands of others, I woke early April 21 (9 a.m. on a Saturday is early for the average record collector) and headed out to brave the crowds in search of the limited vinyl records and CDs being released throughout the day. Most of these special records were released by some of my favorite musicians in support of independent record shops all over the world.
What most audiophiles were looking for couldn’t be found at Wal-Mart or a Best Buy. For instance, you can’t buy the White Stripes’ single 7-inch called “Hand Springs” inside Target and you can’t download the mp3 on iTunes.
Instead, only record stores that meet the Record Store Day requirements can participate. According to the Record Store Day website, a participating store is defined as a “stand alone brick and mortar retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation.”
My first Record Store Day was in 2009, and it was a paralyzing affair. Having studied the list of scheduled releases beforehand, I set out with realistic expectations but, as a student, I didn’t have much cash and I had to choose when I found too many rare records. In the end, I had to decide which ones I could afford.
This year, my plan was different and so was Record Store Day. Having set aside a larger budget and more time to browse, I was prepared for the challenges of years past, but this year was a whole new beast. In 2009, the smaller the record shop, the smaller the crowd. Such was the case with Atomic Records on South Broadway. The masses at Twist and Shout, Denver’s largest independent record store, had swelled up dramatically from last year and the whole store had a different vibe.
It took me a while to place it, but something felt different about Record Store Day 2012. The event itself seemed commercialized — less like a celebration and more like a “Black Friday” for record collectors.
In years past, free champagne was handed to patrons who smiled excitedly as they browsed the shelves to the tune of exclusive live performances or DJ sets. Now quickly diminishing supplies were worsened by long waits in line. And this year, there was little fanfare like stickers or slip-mats for record players.
Not that I went for the freebies, but the extras made me feel like it was a holiday.
This time around I was excited to see families with children that cried in line as they waited with handfuls of 7-inches. I was happy to see the older baby boomers, picking through the exclusives before eyeing the costly LPs that sat up on the wall.
I hope I see people like this next year, but I also hope to see the things that I missed this year. Record stores have a chance to take back some of the territory they’ve lost to digital retailers. They shouldn’t focus on profit, they should just focus on luring in vinyl-centric shoppers. Of course, they only have one day out of the year to shine, so they better spin it right.