Everyone has an opinion about Record Store Day. I have this Google alert set up, where they forward any and all articles pertaining to the celebration on a daily basis. It’s entertaining, if only because of how many claim one of two things: RSD is dying and will be dead soon; and RSD is thriving and has never been better. We’ll have our own thoughts closer to April 18th, but I wanted to at least detail what the buzz has been in the past few weeks.
If it’s a protest against anything, it’s what Record Store Day has become: just another event in the annual music industry circus that begins with the BBC Sound Of… list and ends with the Mercury Prize, co-opted by major labels and used as another marketing stepping stone, like an appearance on ‘Later… With Jools Holland’ or bagging the sunset slot at Glasto. If you want to queue up from the early hours of April 18 to buy Mumford & Sons’ 7” or an overpriced Noel Gallagher 12” to flip on eBay, then fine, but what the hell has it got to do with us? U2 have already shat their album into our iTunes, why should they constipate the world’s pressing plants with it too? And there’s a picture disc of A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ as well. Of course it’s a fine pop single, but there’s bound to be a copy in the Oxfam around the corner.
No, because of the rules and regulations (minimum pressing amounts, no direct to customer sales, blah blah blah) Record Store Day really isn’t fun, and it’s certainly not beneficial to small, backs to the wall labels like Sonic Cathedral and Howling Owl. But we are still affected by it. Badly. There are currently no copies of Spectres’ album ‘Dying’ on vinyl in the shops because the repress is somewhere towards the back of the queue after some Foo Fighters studio scrapings, a host of EPs by The 1975 and about a million heavyweight ‘heritage rock’ reissues that no-one really needs. Less Cheap Trick, more bloody expensive con.
Carvery Cuts, a vinyl mastering business, told Gigwise how the event puts too much of a strain on the industry.
“Last year we did a lot of records for Record Store Day, and we predominently worked with independent labels. This year, we haven’t done any. To me that’s a good thing. Last year, it took us over six months to recover from all manufacturing worldwide for vinyl, because of Record Store Day.”
He concluded: “So I think Record Store Day is there for people who don’t buy a lot of records to go out once a year, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Universal UK claims that Record Store Day is actually the “single best thing that has ever happened to indies.” And that 3 out of 4 RSD releases do come from indie labels, something Sonic Cathedral argued.
Marc Fayd’Herbe is also indignant. Universal’s independent sales manager, who heads a team of six serving around 300 indie stores, including Rough Trade and Manchester’s Piccadilly Records, says his team has supported RSD since the beginning. “I have worked with indies for 25 years and RSD has been the single best thing that has ever happened to the indies. We should never forget that,” says Fayd’Herbe, who also bristles at criticism that the majors are johnny come latelies to the event or that bands like Mumford have no place at RSD.
“It’s a very important part of the music year. There’s the feel good factor of seeing the queues around the block and then the financial shot in the arm. There are three sales spikes throughout the year and Record Store is the biggest,” jt (of Banquet Records) says, dismissing any perceptions that the majors have got to the front of the queue. “Different releases encourage a lot of other music fans to shop in stores and maybe see stuff they wouldn’t have ordinarily bought.”
The official Record Store Day UK organization stated, through The Vinyl Factory, that complaints about number of titles and major label domination is overblown.
The number of releases from the majors has remained relatively static in recent years, so the increase in the number of titles – another criticism is that there are too many – has mainly been driven by indie labels. We don’t blame indie labels – the whole point is to sell records – but we have asked all labels to think harder about quality and this year the number of releases is in fact down by around 10% compared to 2014.
Yes, we do suggest a minimum of 500 copies– though we do make exceptions – but with over 220 stores participating and huge public demand, we don’t think a little over two copies per store is too onerous. Remember too that smaller runs can increase costs, which does not serve fans. The flipside of limited editions of course is the eBay problem. The greater the excess of demand over supply, the more likely it is that someone will really betray the spirit of the day and try and make a quick buck.
So where do you fall on the event?