Does Anyone Still Give a Shit About Record Store Day?
Has it been ruined by major label releases and weasels flipping everything on eBay or is it still "Christmas" for music fans? We asked the people of Sheffield.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.
Record Store Day, like most things in life, began with pure and good intentions. But as soon as signs of success started to show it was pounced upon by people with loads of money who then proceeded to ruin it for those who don't.
In the early years, heads would queue for hours outside shops in the hope of snagging a limited-edition run of some lost Sun Ra nugget that a label had lovingly restored. Then, year by year, major labels began to fill the release schedule with mindless reissues, re-releases, and novelty records, often for twice as much as a regular release just because it was blue. Thus driving up the year-round cost of what becomes acceptable to pay for music because collectors simply must have a picture disc of Fawlty Towers (literally just audio from two episodes) or the re-release of Now That's What I Call Music or a glow-in-the-dark Ghostbusters single or this year's extremely on-the-nose release of Toto's "Africa" with the vinyl shaped like the continent of Africa.
Then throw in the hopeful eBayers who get there only to immediately list stuff for re-sale and you have a day that now seems to amount to little more than rampant consumerism fuelled by opportunism. It's basically a Black Friday scrum with all the discounted TVs replaced by Peter Hook's discography.
This week Jason Pierce and Pete Kember (AKA Sonic Boom) of space-rock pioneers Spacemen 3 put out a joint statement on Spiritualized's Facebook page, pleading with fans not to buy the Spacemen 3 records that were being released on RSD due to them having no part in them. To put this into context, the last time Pierce and Kember publicly put their name to anything together was 1995's Recurring, Spacemen 3's last album, which was recorded with such seething animosity between them that they refused to write together, play together, record together and when the record came out, even have their songs appear on the same side as one another. They ended up splitting the record down the middle, having a side each. For them to release a joint statement against this is testament to how pissed they must be. Likewise Simon Raymonde, head of Bella Union Records and ex-Cocteau Twins member, initially seemed to find out about his old band's RSD releases when the general public did (he's since taken down his Facebook post in which he said he knew nothing about the release and acknowledged "permissions for the reissue were obtained" after Universal Music reps gave a statement).
On top of all of this it has now long been argued that RSD is detrimental to smaller independent labels and artists because the sheer mass of releases that major labels are putting out for RSD are getting prioritized and clogging up the printing presses for months at a time, effectively meaning small labels aren't able to put out releases for chunks of the year—creating an obvious knock-on effect. Perhaps the most vocal opponent of RSD has been the Sonic Cathedral label, which last year likened major labels to "who is twisting the knife" as far as Record Store Day's perceived slow death is concerned. In 2016 even record shops themselves began to speak out against it with Phil Harding, boss of Blackcat Records in Taunton, arguing in The Quietus that, "RSD needs to come to an end" suggesting, amongst many other things, it is creating a deeply volatile and unstable model for shops to exist around.
With all this in mind and with faith in RSD seemingly at an all time low, I went down to my local record shop—Record Collector in Sheffield—and hit the queues first thing in the morning on Saturday, April 22 to meet its biggest supporters.
ANDY (59), BOB (31), GRAHAM (61)
Noisey: Morning, lads! You're front of the queue, how long have you guys been out here?
Graham: I've been here since 10PM last night. It's been alright, we've had chairs and made merry, haven't we?
Andy: We have indeed. Bottle of red, we've had a balti, a few beers.
You ordered a curry from across the road?
Bob: Yeah, ordered a balti at 2AM. That was breakfast. We've got some camp chairs, a blanket, we've been very comfortable.
Do you do this every year?
Andy: Every year for the last five years. It's an annual event, I'm here with my son and it's better than Christmas for us. Seriously, this is our Christmas.
Bob: Yeah, it's something we look forward to. We save up for an entire year. Not only to love and look at but to listen to and also maybe as a bit of investment for the future.
What do you say to suggestions that major labels are clogging things up for smaller independents for the rest of the year?
Andy: Well, the conspiracy theorists are having a field day with that one aren't they? Here's a tip: release your record at another time of the year. You know it's going to be crazy clogged up, so move your schedule date. What's the problem?
KEVIN (51), PAUL (59), DAN (40)
Noisey: Kevin, I recognize you from your Public Enemy exploits.
Kevin [to friends]: I told you I was a legend!
What's the appeal of Record Store Day?
Kevin: I collect. Vinyl, CDs, anything to do with music.
For personal collection or do you sell it on?
Kevin: Personal. I prefer second hand, original stuff, but I don't mind doing this because they get some decent stuff in. I'd always rather have the original than the re-issue though.
How much are you guys going to spend today?
Kevin: Around £200 i think.
Do days like this help people come to record shops more often or does it run the risk of turning it into a novelty once a year outing?
Kevin: I think they've gone past the novelty thing because it's been going ten years. I think what will kill it is when the big shops get involved: HMV, Amazon. Once they get involved, which they try to, that'll be the end. It has to stay independent. They need to look at prices too, things have really gone up and you're not getting that much for your money.
Noisey: So, why do you still give a shit about Record Store Day?
Kieron: To be honest, I was just coming home and I saw there was a queue here and I wondered what was going on. Then I found out and I realised I actually quite like some of records, so I thought I'd buy one.
So you were just on your way home from a night out and you've not been to bed?
Yeah, that's right. Hence the coffee and the booze.
Did you even know Record Store Day existed?
I knew about the shop because I live near here but I didn't know about this thing that happens each year and I guess now I do, so I'll come back next year.
What are you buying?
I think I'm going to get Spacemen 3.
Do you know they publicly asked people not to buy these records?
Yeah, I've heard about this. I personally don't think it affects them that much because if you think about it, me paying £20 for that record is not going to make much difference if it's going to a third party or if it's going directly to them. They're not making that much money off it anyway because the percentage they get from them is so small. I don't think it'll matter all that much. It is unethical in a sense but I just want the album.
Noisey: What are you here to buy today?
I don't really want to mention out loud until I get in there and can get it because it's very limited runs.
Aw, go on.
I'd rather get them first and then I don't mind talking about them.
Are these for your own use or are you going to sell them on?
No, I go home and I listen to them and they go into my collection.
Do you buy records year-round then?
I don't need Record Store Day to put money into this store.
Do you think there's a danger that some people are just coming out once a year and creating an unstable model for record shops?
I think there will always be people there doing that but the majority of people that are here are buying records just for themselves. I don't think people are queuing up in the early hours to get something in which the value decreases so quickly online anyway. I don't think there's that much of a market for selling on stuff from today, but some people will abuse the system.
Do you think the huge amount of releases put out today is impacting on smaller, independent labels?
Yes, a lot of the major record labels have jumped on the bandwagon of RSD and are releasing stuff you wouldn't traditionally find on vinyl, like Little Mix. So there are instances of that but I don't think it's a huge problem.
So you think it's a manageable and sustainable situation?
EMILY (25) AND JORDAN (27)
Noisey: Is Record Store Day getting too commercial, big and less independent, do you think?
Emily: I think there's such a big range that people will always be interested in the smaller things as well as the bigger things. I guess last year when they had things like One Direction, it opened it up to a different market.
You can buy Aqua records this year, I believe.
Jordan: You were considering that as a last minute panic buy, weren't you? If everything went
Emily: Yeah, if we get to the front and everything is gone then it'll be "Barbie Girl."
Of the 15 or so people I speak with, most are nice people who are buying music for themselves and who buy and support music year-round and simply see RSD as an extension of that. The many, many who refuse to speak with me I suspect are some of the ones that don't and wish to hide in the shadows and quickly get home to add to the now thousands of eBay listings with enormously inflated price tags.
Some shops have been saved by the boom of RSD in recent years and others have closed because of it. However, for those in any state of belief that they are supporting independent music through buying records one day a year, they are about as deluded as someone who thinks they are in a happy and healthy relationship because they go out and buy chocolates and flowers for their partner once a year on Valentine's Day. If you wish to support independent music, artists, labels and shops then go to their shows, buy from their labels and pop into the shops that are open on the other 300+ days a year.
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