Apr 21, 2010, 09:56AM

On the Glory of Record Store Day

It's not all about the digital downloads.

I don’t really care if my album is on vinyl, CD or iPod. I get that there’s an experience involved in playing a record for someone; for picking up the needle and having to listen to entire tracks instead of beep-beeping the fast forward button to your favorite of the album. The joy in hearing the little creeks and cracks a warped or scratched album may bring. I get it. I’m not Seymour from Ghost World or anything, but I do appreciate it.

It’s no big secret that with box stores and online retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Amazon, along with the huge popularity of digital downloading, a lot of independent record stores are at risk. Many of those stores have closed. Others are treading water. This is bad for local communities left with empty storefronts, and bad for many music lovers, especially in a town with a thriving music scene. Independent record stores are far from extinct, but they are endangered.

Record Store Day, an event to celebrate music and the culture of independent record stores as well as a day to promote the reasons that those independent stores are worth keeping around, was formed three years ago. This year on April 17, 15 stores participated in Maryland alone. Josh Homme, lead singer of Queens of the Stone Age, proclaimed himself “Record Store Day Ambassador” and released a special 10”. A lot of bands made appearances, including Frank Black, HIM, Angie Stone and uh, The Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan did not bring Jessica Simpson, sadly), and special limited edition releases from Gorillaz, MGMT, Muse, Modest Mouse and many more drew hipsters and music enthusiasts from all over.

Event organizer Michael Kurtz claimed this year’s RSD was “Bigger than Christmas,” with participation from (according to Hitsdailydouble) over 1400 stores, a 41 percent increase in sales from last year’s RSD and a 109 percent increase over just the previous Saturday. Vinyl sales were higher this day than ever before.

This makes me glad; because without physical locations, the vinyl format will become endangered. Of course vinyl could live on, through eBay, online record stores, and the occasional record fest, but an important tradition would be lost, and many of my friends would be broke. The joy of flipping through old LPs, examining each piece of vinyl for scratches, checking the cover for wear, asking the folks behind the counter for a quick listen and walking out with a stack of records will be lost. Most importantly though, if independent record stores die, we’ll have to go to coffeehouses to discuss our latest finds, or how Weezer and Green Day suck now. And that place may even have to be a Starbucks.

  • Todd Totale from Glorious Noice posted a solid Record Store Day piece a few days ago: http://www.gloriousnoise.com/articles/2010/death_at_ones_elbow_the_long_g.php Also Ian Rogers at FISTFULAYEN wrote one of the best things I've ever read for last year's RSD. Money quote: http://www.fistfulayen.com/blog/?p=258 "I’ve heard talk around Record Store Day that sounds like we should all be lamenting the death of these bastions of culture that have fueled the music business. First of all, the stores that are left claim to be doing well, Newberry Comics is expanding and evolving their business, for example. There are some GREAT fucking record stores, Amoeba, Newberry, Waterloo, etc, but they have always been few and far between and during the heyday of the CD business they didn’t contribute to the growth of the business nearly as much as Best Buy and Wal-Mart. So while I’m happy to celebrate these great stores and glad to see people like Sonic Youth making rad 7?s to do so, lets not slag the Internet as the enemy of culture in the process. Lets celebrate rather than curse the Internet for bringing music sources like Mojo and Pitchfork to people in places similar to the one I grew up in, which btw is most of the world, and for having a true impact on both culture and the way people who make music connect with the people who love music."

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  • Dang, that fistfulayen post was really great. I find out about most of my music online these days, too, and I've been known to snag some online-release mp3s as well. I'd say I appreciate all forms of good music. It's mainly for the sake of my collector friends (I collect stuffs likewise) that I harp about vinyl.

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