|Photo by: recordstoreday.com|
Last year, the crowd started lining up at 6 a.m. It was a chilly mid-April morning. Some brought blankets and thermoses, but most brought lists--titles to look for, scribbled on bits of scrap paper, so that they would be prepared when Lost Weekend Records opened their doors at 10 a.m. for Record Store Day, 2011. By opening time, about 50 people stood outside. Kyle Siegrist, owner of Lost Weekend, an independent record store just north of the Ohio State University Campus, expects a similar scene this year.
Record Store Day began just five years ago. Like most movements, it began with a simple misunderstanding. Chris Brown, from Bull Moose, in Portland, Oregon, noticed that customers would continually ask about the state of the business. "How were sales?" 'Was Bull Moose, and places like it, going to make it through the recession?" Brown would answer in the affirmative, assuring customers that independent record stores were doing fine--great actually, better every year. But after the questions continually kept coming up, Brown started looking for a way to show customers rather than just tell them. Record Store Day was born.
The concept was simple: Have independent record stores across the country band together for one day and let the consumers know they are still around. Maybe have a sale and some posters with the event title. Get a band or two to release an exclusive title just for the day. That was the concept. The result was more than anyone, Brown included, could have expected.
When Metallica kicked off Record Store Day in 2008 with a performance at Rasputin Music in San Francisco, the creators knew they had a hit. Celebrated the third Saturday in April, Record Store Day now includes record stores across the country as well as internationally. But you won’t find any Virgin Megastores on the list. All participating stores must be brick and mortar, with the bulk of their retail coming from in-person sales. As those in charge of RSD put it, “We’re dealing with live, physical, indie record stores--not online retailers or corporate behemoths.”
This year, over 200 exclusive titles are listed on the website, slated to be revealed on the big day. That old cliché of “there’s something for everyone” doesn’t even begin to cover it. There are the alternative mainstays like Beach House, Animal Collective and Arcade Fire that will be stocked next to folkies like Blitzen Trapper and Ryan Adams. Legends like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Aretha Franklin, with an assist from Otis Redding, have made exclusive pressings and re-releases.The punks have someone in their corner with an exclusive 7” from the Misfits while the hippies aren’t to be overshadowed; Phish, The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin will all have titles on the shelves. Even Abba has an LP rolling out for the day. Whatever your pleasure--or guilty pleasure--there is a place for it on Record Store Day.
The releases come in three fashions: The first are the Record Store Day Exclusive Releases. These are the ones that are only available on RSD in RSD participating stores. They won’t be available in the same format anywhere else.
The second are the Record Store Day Limited Run/Regional Focus Releases. Think of these as the exclusive of the exclusive; the same rules as RSD Exclusive Releases apply but this time the pressings all run under 1,000 and, in many cases, well below that. So, know your risk and get there early.
The final type are the Record Store Day First Releases. Those are the titles that you find first on Record Store Day but they will be available in other venues, in the same format, after about a four-to-six week period. The RSD website’s list of titles also explains which category each release falls under.
But Record Store Day isn’t just about exclusive releases. Many record stores are hesitant to divulge which titles they will be getting ahead of time since they really only find out a few days in advance; even then it’s never a sure thing. Most make a point to order the titles they think their customers will be most interested in, but they try not to make that the main focus of the day. For many store owners, performers and consumers alike, the day is about much more than that.
At Used Kids Records, on the Ohio State University campus, the day usually begins with the kind of Black Friday atmosphere one might expect when exclusive releases are on the line and everything in the store is 20 percent off. The morning crowd does tend to be a bit more materialistic, interested in those eBay worthy titles. But throughout the day, that changes. Used Kids has live music in the store, as many record stores do on this day, and that brings in a more community-like atmosphere. As Jon Witzky, an employee at Used Kids said, “We have tons of people in this community who love the store and come out. That’s always what’s great to see.”
Siegrist over at Lost Weekend said something similar. He explained that his crowd is mostly regulars--familiar faces that know his name and know the store’s name. Yes, many are there for the steep price cuts--Lost Weekend runs the largest RSD discounts among Columbus record stores and its sale lasts the whole weekend--but customers would usually be at the store anyway on a Saturday, sale or not. The crowd is always calm, friendly--even given what is at stake.
“It’s as calm as it can be for as crazy as record store day is,” said Siegrist.
And that’s the other thing about RSD that keeps it from becoming the music industry’s equivalent to Black Friday: The employees don’t seem to fear or loathe this day. In fact, they seem to enjoy it just as much as the costumers. And not some weird, masochistic enjoyment; they are very genuine.
This will be Lauren Hurd’s first year working at Used Kids for RSD, but she has worked RSD every previous year at Culture Clash in Toledo. She says she loves working Record Store Day.
“It’s great,” said Hurd, unhesitatingly. “It’s always a ton of fun.”
“Great” and “Fun” are rarely used by say, a Walmart employee on Black Friday.
Maybe it’s the product that give RSD that vibe, but it’s doubtful. More likely, it’s the community. It’s the kind of people that own these stores and work the counters, the kind of people that will track down that deleted Smiths single for an eager customer or spend some time talking music with that eager customer on a slow afternoon. It’s the performers who want to play live RSD sets, neither for fortune nor fame, but just because they know what their local record store has meant to them over the years and they want it to mean that for someone else as well.
Nick Hornby, the author of "High Fidelity," once wrote of music download culture, “Go ahead and save yourself a couple of quid. The saving will cost you a career, a set of cool friends, musical taste and, eventually, your soul. Record stores can’t save your life. But they can give you a better one.”
At Used Kids, they seem to be about being that kind of record store; the kind that doesn’t just take your money, but the kind that gives you more than a download would.
“For us, it’s really about supporting the local bands and being a part of the local music scene,” said Witzky. “A lot of it is about giving back to the community.”
In the end, that’s what Record Store Day is: A community.
Some things you can expect from local record stores on RSD, 2012:
Haffa’s Records- 15 W. Union St., Athens, OH
Lost Weekend Records- 2960 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio
Opening an hour early, at 10 a.m.
Sale the entire weekend (Friday- Sunday)--33 percent off all used LPs, 45% off all used 7” 45 rpms, 78 rpm records for 78¢, all new LPs and CDs 10 percent off (Excludes RSD titles), all other merchandise 20 percent off.
Live Music (weather permitting) on RSD featuring: Lydia Loveless (1 p.m.) and Southeast Engine (4 p.m.)
Issuing of the debut record from the new Lost Weekend Records label, split 7” of Will Foster, from the Guinea Worms, and Nasli Hovespian. Limited press of only 300 copies.
Used Kids Records-1980 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio
Live music starting at noon. Bands (in order): Ryan Jewell and Mike Shiflet, New Hoot Owls, Nervosas, Francis Bacon Band, Mike Rep, Shack Job, Nelson Slater, Mendlesonics, Cheater Slicks, Moviola, Delay, MSSRS, Psychedelic Horseshit.
Everything 20 percent off
Spoonful Records-116 E. Long St., Columbus, Ohio
20 percent off used vinyl (including showcase items)
“Grab bags” for the first 50 people in line
Magnolia Thunderpussy-1155 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio
Elizabeth’s Records- 3037 Indianola Ave., Columbus, Ohio
Roots Records-1357 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio
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