Record Store Day: The two-sided revolution

Record Store Day is a highlight of the musical calendar, but independent stores are giving it mixed reviews

Once again, it’s that time of the year when vinyl geeks – from family dads to skint students – will ask to be tied to their beds like Ulysses was to his ship’s mast not to be tempted by the sirens’ persuasive chant.

The chant is that of hundreds of records which will be released on April 21 for Record Store Day. RSD was started in 2007 as a way to support independent record shops with vinyl releases exclusive to them. The initiative rapidly grew turning into a massive worldwide brand.

However, the celebration originally conceived to bring record collectors and shop owners together has some dark sides – exactly like that famous Pink Floyd album.

Several independent shop owners nurture doubts about the controversial nature of RSD, complaining that it actually isn’t of much help to the independent record industry – which it is supposed to defend.Most RSD releases are from subsidiaries of colossi like Sony and Universal. These majors’ saturation of printing plants is detrimental to small labels who often have their non-RSD releases delayed.

Nothing bad about this, if only wasn’t that some RSD are deemed superfluous, like Aqua’s Barbie Girl picture disc or the umpteenth repress of some Springsteen or Bowie classic. All records which could be found at bargain prices in second-hand shops.

Tim Scullion, co-owner of Wow&Flutter in Hastings, said: “I think they’ve run out of interesting ideas for reissues. In this year’s list there’s a repress of which you can get the original for £2.

“It doesn’t feel very indie anymore. It’s a market trick all about hype now. Well, there used to be hype as well at the start, but for really exclusive records from indie labels.”

Different is the opinion of Natasha Youngs, manager of Resident in Brighton. She said: “Obviously we do really well with Bowie or Rolling Stones, but there’s a huge representation of indie labels and a good mixture of genres.”
Others argue that 180g vinyl and all the coloured vinyl options are just gimmicks to seduce customers, but don’t bring any further quality to a record.

One of these is George Ginn, owner since 1962 of The Record Album in Brighton. He said: “To me there’s nothing sounding better than the original press. All those things like splattered or clear vinyl are superfluous.”

Chris King, co-owner of The Vinyl Frontier in Eastbourne, said: “I think that those record shops criticising it are just ridiculous. I mean, nothing is perfect but it’s still better than nothing.

“I think it helps a lot. We make massive deals on Record Store Day. We always have bands and DJs, plus we have a bar. Even if you take the records away it’s still a great day out for people to get together. It’s like Christmas for record shops.”

Another issue brought up by small second-hand shop owners is the amount of money the store would have to spend to stock an extensive selection of RSD releases, with the consequent risk of having many lying unsold for a year or more.

Scullion said: “The risk is really high for a small shop. It would cost us thousands of pounds and you can’t return the stock.”

King said: “Selecting the stock is a matter of knowing your audience and trying to be sensible, especially if you are small shop.

“The problem is that releases are limited and you never know how many of each you will receive.”
Some supposed-to-be collectors, then, betray RSD’s spirit, by buying records just to sell them online at inflated prices. This reason led Paul Weller to stop taking part the initiative.

According to recent stats, the record industry hit a 25-year high in 2016 with more than 30 albums selling more than 10.000 copies each.
The billion-pound industry is still receiving the hype which market experts had predicted would fall by 2017.

RSD undoubtedly helped in boosting the interest of the general public in vinyl, bringing it out of the collectors’ underworld.

Scullion said: “We will probably never host RSD, but we still celebrate it. It’s good that people get excited about records, especially young ones.

There should be a whole month dedicated to independent record shops with releases simply put on the market and not squeezed in one day for commercial purposes.”

Youngs said: “Vinyl sells more than CDs now. Many young people are getting to know vinyl also thanks to Record Store Day.”

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