With record labels merging into each other, and in turn large record labels being reduced to assets of catalog music instead of purveyors of new music, it is not just the music industry that is suffering. Music lovers are suffering as well. Think of where we are now: a world where lossy digital files (Amazon MP3, iTunes) and vinyl (pop, crack, skip) are the prominent formats. CDs, the better format, are now in swap meet boxes next to 8-tracks and VHS tapes. We are living in an age where chain record stores are virtually gone. No Music Plus. No Tower. Not even a Sam Goody, which wasn't that "good" to begin with.
Luckily, we still have "mom and pop" shops scattered around.
In essence, Record Store Day is for celebrating the local record stores, as well as for celebrating music. Sadly, Record Store Day has become just another excuse for the remaining record labels to gouge fans with "limited edition" records that are priced rather high.
Let's back up: Why should you listen to me about Record Store Day? Who am I? Well… I've been collecting music since I could crawl to a turntable. I have enough music—roughly 500 Beatles records and more than 2,000 Depeche Mode records alone crammed in my one bedroom apartment—that concerned friends think about calling Hoarders. I go to Amoeba Records here in Los Angeles so much they let me do a "What’s In My Bag" segment. I have worked in various aspects of the music industry over the last 20-plus years (radio production, production at record labels, et cetera), and currently work in new media for a number of popular bands. I know my music, I know quality, and I know the ins and outs of record labels.
I love the idea of Record Store Day. Those remaining record stores should indeed be celebrated for surviving. Store owners are paying expensive rent on property, and unless they have a large store with a lot of turnaround on product, they are barely making ends meet. These stores are the last hope of the brick and mortar shoppers—the people who shudder at having to buy from Amazon, and who miss being able to just walk into a shop and buy new music. Even when these shops have more of their floor space for shirts and pins than for music (because you can't download a shirt... yet), they are still getting the music to the people.
Yes, celebrate the stores, but question the motives of the record labels. Paying $10 and up (seriously) for a 45, just because it is "limited?" Paying $35 or more for an out-of-print soundtrack on colored vinyl? Truth is, most Record Store Day records are in record stores way past the actual "day." You go to any shop that participates in Record Store Day, and you will see the box of Record Store Day leftovers. That box that shows the store buyer expected people to come in and buy the "limited releases," but didn't expect the sticker shock that customers would have upon seeing the item.
That's the real rub. The Record Store Day website promotes all of these releases, but note that nowhere on the website will you find how much the items will sell for. So in the end, the day that is supposed to celebrate the poor music proprietor ends up hurting them financially, giving them the gift of merchandise they cannot get out of their store. I've walked into some shops and seen items from the very first Record Store Day, collecting dust in the markdown box.
So, yes, let's celebrate our local remaining record stores, but remember to celebrate them on the other days of the year as well. Go buy records… while you still can.
Click here to add supporting your local indie record store to your GOOD "to-do" list.
Daniel Barassi is a DJ, mashup guy, founder of thearkivist.com, and webmaster/new media for Depeche Mode, The Bird and the Bee, Breakfast with the Beatles and Henry Diltz. Visit his website, Brat Productions.