Thursday, May 8, 2014

Reflections on Record Store Day 2014

On April 19, Record Store Day, I got up early, had a quick shower and one cup of coffee (for reasons which may appear obvious later) and made my way to my first stop.  I knew from advance recognizance that the Great Escape in Nashville was likely to have many of the exclusive titles I was looking for (the RSD folks make  the list available online) which when coupled with an 8:00 starting time and a conservative line has made this location a no-brainer starting point for the past couple of years.

            True to form, the Great Escape had most of the special Record Store Day releases I was looking for and a few surprises in the regular stock.  I was out of there before 9:00 a.m. and ready for my next stop.  I knew that Jack White had promised to record and release the world's fastest single that day and more significantly I had it on good authority that his Third Man  Records was going to be stocking Neil Young's A Letter Home which was recorded on  Jack's Voice‑o‑Graph late last year.
            Between waiting in line to get into the store at Third Man to purchase the Neil Young album and waiting in line for the world’s fastest single I probably spent four hours at Third Man.  I had a blast people watching:  Hipsters, soccer moms, soccer kids, even some honest to goodness dope smoking burnouts. I got to hear a couple of cool young bands in the parking lot.  We all go to watch as the suspicious looking motorcycle cops drove up escorting Jack White while he delivered on his promise to create the world's fastest record pressed (at one of the coolest places on earth,  United Record Pressing) in something like 3 hours 55 minutes.  Because of prior commitments I didn't get to hit Grimeys or the Groove or the new store Fond Object - but there's next year.

            Why I am writing all of this?  Because I want to relate how much fun I had buying records and perhaps more importantly participating in the communal activity of buying records.  For those of us of a certain age the record store was an important part of our musical development. From the formal stores of my youth to the head shops of my early teenage years to the mega chains of yesterday, all were important. Record Store Day as an event has brought back the fun of the record store, something we all used to experience on a weekly if not nearly daily basis and I can't help but think this has had a positive effect on the music industry.  It certainly had a positive effect on me and 
all those folks at Third Man Records a couple weeks ago.

            As I write this, I am aware that artists like Paul Weller are less than charitable in their view of Record Store Day because of the obvious profiteering that always arises when demand is greater than supply.  As much as I admire Weller (and I admire him a lot), I think his comments are a bit short‑sighted   He complained when his Record Store Day single, which was apparently limited to 500 copies ended up on eBay. What did he expect?   Sure, all of the bad things that Weller describes happen but they would happen with or without Record Store Day (have you tried to buy a concert ticket lately?)

            I applaud Record Store Day and the companies that participate by doing something to make their releases special and by keeping the buying experience fun.  I see that some comic book stores are starting to adapt the model and I can't help think that book stores should try to create the same strategy to bring people in; as a child of two booksellers I like this idea.

            My inner teenager and I are already looking forward to next year (and oh yeah, record store Black Friday in November).

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