Record Store Day 2017 a Success

While I hadn't actually been in several years, the Tenth Anniversary of Record Store Day on Saturday, April 22 was, despite a rainy afternoon in NYC, quite a success. Everywhere I went lots of LPs, RSD special releases, and vintage vinyl alike, were steadily flying out of the bins. Stores were crowded. The energy levels were off the map. And it did my `ol 331/3 heart good to be shoved out of the way, at Academy Records in Brooklyn's Greenpoint district, by vinyl-mad teenagers who'd grown impatient with my aimless grooving to Let It Bleed and my serious abuse of the free Stumptown Coffee. These kids were focused and motivated. In other words, RSD works.

Having hit three stores in Brooklyn where nearly all of the best record stores in the five boroughs now reside, thanks to skyrocketing rents, I watched as those in the considerable line inside Academy slowly wound around and bought up most of the RSD special LPs and 7-inchers. Bowie's Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74), The Cars, Live at the Agora 1978, and Go Robot by Red Hot Chili Peppers all flew off the shelves as I stood doing my best Mick air-vocals to "Monkey Man."

My friend Rick, who has contracted a vinyl obsession late in life and is rapidly making up for lost time, walked right past the free donuts and coffee, dove into the vintage vinyl and scored an 1980s British Apple reissue of The Beatles Let It Be and a pristine 2008,180gm reissue of the landmark Prestige Records Bill Evans live set, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, for $15 each.

At Rough Trade in Williamsburg, the last large new vinyl store in all of New York City, the most annoying aspect of Record Store Day showed its ugly visage. If you wanted to enter the store and shop in the normal racks, or even see the live performers like Steve Earle in the venue that is part of the store, you could walk right in.

But if you wanted to peruse any of the 350 RSD specialty items, you had to go outside, cross the street, put on a wristband, stand in a line, in the rain, before being let in, a couple folks at a time. Once in you were allowed to dig through plastic milk crates of RSD stuff on tables. Meanwhile, the store was filled with shoppers, browsers, and a lot of folks, like me, who couldn't understand exactly where they were and were not supposed to be. Chaos reigned. A vivid example of what happens when whatever plan exists just ain't workable.

The day's highlight was a stop at Human Head Records in Bushwick, which had a booming scene going on. A huge amount of 99-cent LPs in boxes under tarps, a deejay, free beer, grills for burgers and dogs, and a store packed beyond claustrophobia was all fabulous to see and experience. Not sure that allowing open cups of tap beer around racks of records is such a great idea—saw several spilling incidents—but the wide-eyed millennials, standing in line, cradling armloads of vinyl, and eventually trundling laboriously towards the checkout counter with their booty was a sight I will not soon forget. Suffice it to say, the vinyl resurgence shows no signs of abating any time soon! Viva RSD!

jrmandude's picture

What no gleeful Beatles find?

dalethorn's picture

With all the negative angst that tries to crowd its way into discussions of vinyl records, I experienced a sudden (albeit small) epiphany when looking at your cover (heh) photo. The people digging into those crates knew there were things in there that would be interesting, unique, even revelatory. It's right there in their eyes and hands, searching through the record stacks. I remember a certain feeling doing the same thing, once upon a time, and I miss it.

Anon2's picture

I'm too far invested in CDs/SACDs to retool and get into vinyl. Still, I support this movement. It mirrors larger trends that we see, and are likely to see, in the US in the future in a range of consumer goods.

The resurgence of vinyl shows the durability and adaptability of US capitalism--even for those who might eschew the term. The resurgence of vinyl shows where a market for a product never really goes away; it's only a matter of reaching this market. Getting people back into a format that was left for dead 20-30 years ago is ingenious (prognosticators of the end of CDs take note). Tons (perhaps thousands) of LPs that were sitting in basements and attics now have a new life as currency in our economy, even if it's a pennies-on-the-dollar market.

Vinyl also supports the reuse of perfectly good (or less than perfectly good) products. I'd rather see people buy vinyl to take home and use than to see this product go into a non-recyclable ending in the burgeoning landfills of America. If there are some really bad LPs, perhaps a niche in the recycling market can be found for these A "fill-in-the-blanks...Hawaiian Christmas Pineapple Coconut Celebration" that even a resurgent LP market cannot salvage.

Vinyl supports what I see as a growing market for used products in the US. I underestimated the extent to which Americans would rethink their priorities, and go used for more products in the wake of the Great Recession. Still, the movement towards used products seems to grow. I frequent a thrift store in my neighborhood. Based on my donations, thrift stores have rates of sales of used product that major, profitable, national retailers would kill for. Vinyl fits neatly into this trend.

So, I won't be there for Record Day, but for a variety of reasons I need not wish Record Day success; its success is all but assured. Perhaps in 10-15 years Record Day will become Record/Reel-to-Reel/Cassette/CD/SACD Day. After all, the laminate that binds CDs was marketed as something that would last for 200 years.

dalethorn's picture

Those are all interesting reasons for the attraction to vinyl, but from what I've heard from friends in the indie music community, the sound is a big part of the equation.

tonykaz's picture

except the records weren't a couple of bucks or good pressings.

There's a thrill that's an exciting part of discovery, like finding a 1957 LP of Chet Atkins in mono, phew.

Take all those Records Home, 200 or more, and you'll be lucky if 2 are "keepers".

It takes Youth to be hopeful.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

It doesn't take youth to be hopeful, it takes old to know what helps 'hopeful' to succeed.

tonykaz's picture

I'm in a Dark place, my older brother is dying of Cancer.

I should keep my mouth shut and "stand-down"

Thanks for the note.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

We have a lot of that malady in the family, so best wishes.

monetschemist's picture

"too many other things to do".

Here in western Canada we have a drugstore chain called London Drugs. Visitors from central and eastern Canada usually seem to enjoy a visit to LD because there is MUCH more than pharmacy products there... including a decent assortment of new vinyl for sale, and of course one can pick up an inexpensive record player in the audio/video department.

While I really appreciate the great people who run our local record stores and wish them all the success in the world, there's something quite great about being able to pop down to the drugstore and pick up some decent records. On record store day or any other day of the year.

volvic's picture

To me every day is Record Store Day, not wild about special days like these as they tend to get crowded and difficult to get around and peruse. BUT, I will say that I think it is great that the next generation has embraced vinyl and Record Store Day. I would have never imagined the vinyl revival gaining such traction, I remember in the mid 80's being the only person gobbling up as many sealed vinyl records as I could afford from my local record stores, as everyone else was jumping ship to CD's. I even became friendly with record store managers all over town and getting notified when new sealed records would come in so I could get first dibs on new arrivals; stocked up for pennies a record back then. As record titles dried up in the late 90's and early 2000's I too switched over to CD's, gobbling up just as many shiny discs a I could, as they too were being reduced in prices. Wouldn't surprise me if down the road the old silver disc experiences some sort of revival.

avanti1960's picture

success nationally? are the numbers even in yet?

Glotz's picture

as we will see pricing stay down from higher demand in the 'normal' lp sector.

Moreover, I see a lot of sloppiness in that sector due to rushing and a variety of reasons for poor pressings. I can think of a 'Morrison Hotel' release from one, that is sub-par in every way from label to levelness. Many of these are not to the master-level standard audio-wise either. Generally, most manufacturers are not bad, but there are examples of poor digital re-masterings.

I am glad there is another company that offers well-inspected product and master-quality sound. Hopefully general LP consumers will continue to demand better by buying audiophile pressings (and promoting the process online/socially) for their most cherished titles. I think it will create a more positive market for everyone.