Record Store Day 2014

A month ago, flying to South By Southwest 2014, the numbers on paper were grim. According to the March 15, 2014 issue of Billboard the overall unit sales of music were down 12.2 percent year–to–date. Looking at weekly unit sales figures, the sale of digital tracks (as opposed to albums) was down 12 percent over a year earlier. There was one bright spot: under the sales by album format category, while CD album sales for 2014 were down 18.5 percent, and digital album sales for the year were down 13 percent, both when compared to 2013, vinyl albums were up 34 percent over 2013, though the volume of units was still very small, 1,237,00 compared to 19,609,00 digital and 21,850,000 CDs.

I got off the plane at the glorious Bergstrom Airport in Austin—best airport food ever!—shaking my head about this sad state of affairs. Almost immediately however, I was confronted by the affirming explosion of music and good human energy that is SXSW. Despite the fact that it’s now a monster of sorts—aggravated this year by the poor decision making of a 21–year–old rapper named Rashad Owens who killed four people and injured many more with his car—SXSW still never fails to recharge my batteries. Its naysayers are emphatically wrong. If you think that making good music is a dying art form, a part of history to be fondly remembered and nothing more, go to Austin in March and be reassured that young folks and music are still happening— not just in the USA, but around the world. With piracy having made recordings little more than a marketing tool, being able to bring it live is more important than ever. The only way to get paid is to play live, and that goes for U2 as well as aspiring hopefuls. It was a point unmistakably emphasized this year by the crunch of discarded promotional CDs that carpeted Sixth Street, Austin’s club strip downtown. You could walk for blocks, mashing CDs underfoot all the way. Needless to say, the puzzle over money and the future of recorded music is yet to be solved.

Which brings us to tomorrow, April 19, 2014, Record Store Day, the other annual beacon of enthusiasm in an otherwise unsettled music world. Since it’s inception in 2008, it has become quite a Saturday morning event, with lines running around the block at many stores. And of course, once the limited edition goodies get them in the door, hopefully they will buy something else as well. At the very least, they’ve now been in the store. For those of us who are obsessed all year long, every day is record day and going to record stores is an everyday occurrence. But for those who need an event to inspire them to buy records—just as New Year’s Eve makes amateurs think of booze—Record Store Day was and continues to be a brilliant idea.

This year the list of exclusive items that labels large and small have produced is longer than ever and varies between straight up record store day exclusives of previously released material like a Bowie 1984 picture disc, a Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band seven inch and a Big Mama Thornton LP, and the one-offs that bands use as a promotional tool like a Deerhoof & Ceramic Dog split seven inch, two new songs from Veruca Salt on a seven inch, and finally, the new Pixies record, Indy Cindy. This year the limited run “regional focus” stuff is a particularly long list that includes things like a beautiful red and black splatter single of Django Django's cover of “The Porpoise Song,” a tune the Monkees cut as part of the soundtrack to their ill–fated film, Head. Do I want to stand in line before dawn waiting to grab my limited edition LP copy of the outtakes from Gram Parson’s two solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel? Hell no! But I probably will.

Yet the Parsons outtakes will never approach the brilliance of last year’s star, the short documentary film, Last Shop Standing which in preparation for this year’s scrum I viewed again.

If you haven’t see it, the Graham Jones film, which comes from his book of the same name, will warm the heart of any record collector and proves once again that the only thing quirkier than record store customers are record store owners. The key stat here is that in the 1980’s there were 2200 independent record shops in the UK and by 2009, there were only 269 left. Along with such memorable shop owners as Mike Dillon of Apollo Music in Paisley, Phil Barton of Sister Ray and best of all, Diane Cain from the Musical Box in Liverpool (who’s mum, after hearing Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” upon it’s release said, “We’ll never sell that, it’s dreadful!”), the film weaves in bits from Johnny Marr, Paul Weller and other musicians. At one point calling the effect of downloading on indie record stores, “butchery,” this is a film with a happy, or at least happier ending. The return of vinyl has helped those stores left stay alive and Record Store Day—what one store owner calls “ten Christmas Eves stuck together”—has given them genuine hope for the future.

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COMMENTS
Allen Fant's picture

Thanks! for sharing RB. Happy RSD to All!

Bill B's picture

My local record store was crowded yesterday.  There were even some women there too!

NMMark1962's picture

It is so good to see record stores sort of resurging. One interesting aspect of vinyl is the amount of LP's I am starting to see in antique malls. I have found LPs in fantastic condition (properly cared for and stored) to what must be idiots who bring the moldy scratched garbage that has been in the garage for the last 30 years.

In one antique mall, I found four RCA Shaded Dog classical LP's ( in fantastically excellent condition for about $5 each) to one mall that had about 35-40 Shaded Dog LP's w/o inner sleeves or even record jackets sitting loose on the floor (earning from me some pretty foul curses directed to the SOB who let a collection deteroiate to a stack of LP's sitting on the floor).

So, be sure to check out antique malls in your travels...you never know what you might find

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