Tomorrow: Enjoy Your Local Record Store While You Can

Apr 18th, 2008 // 19 Comments

smallish_goingoutofbusinesssale.jpgAs a reminder of sorts, Record Store Day is tomorrow, with hundreds of independent retailers sticking it to the man for at least one day. With in-stores galore from Metallica at Rasputin’s in San Francisco to Mates of State at a Newbury Comics location, there’s plenty of reason to head out tomorrow, if only to pick up your exclusive Vampire Weekend 7-inch, which I imagine includes a song about scarves or summer homes or something. The question has to be asked, however… is this a little too late?

The independent music retailers behind this whole adventure are pulling out all the stops, and nearly every newspaper that still has a local arts reporter has come through with some coverage, but some of the ploys seem slightly misguided. David Berman and Kurt Wagner will be hanging out in a Nashville store, which sounds like a great reason to leave the house for me, but are guys like me who purchase Lambchop discs the audience stores have been missing out on? Was the missing piece to financial success an exclusive 7″ or a multidimensional Bjork video? Probably not, really.

One has to assume some of the inspiration for Record Store Day comes from Free Comic Book Day, this year on May 3, when other beleaguered retailers try to draw in the customers it once counted on. My observations are hardly scientific here, but last time they had this event, the store closest to me was packed, but partially it was due to the wide net being cast. Sure, the organizers had their key demographic covered with comics exclusive to the day featuring scantily clad women fighting vampires and a ridiculous amount of Japanese stuff, but there was also an appeal to people who might have missed going to a store and looking at a new release wall as part of their comic enjoying existence. They had loyal Hellboy fans covered, but there was a guy in a Spider-Man costume too, handing out Simpsons and Transformers titles.

It’s hard to fault the effort organizers put into Record Store Day–and I hope that the majority of these stores will be around for another edition next year–but when there’s more musical interest in Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers than Pinback or Destroyer, it’s hard for me to not think that the day’s aim was a bit too narrow.

Record Store Day [Official site]

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  1. AL

    I don’t know, your point that Record Store Day seems to be targeting the people who are already the stores’ best/most likely customers is a good one, but I think implying that they should instead be going after Hannah Montana and JoBro fans is a little extreme. I think the best they can hope for, and possibly their conscious intention, is to (re)introduce music fans to the pleasures of going to the (hopefully) friendly local record store and actually paying for music. I know local stores have lost a lot of business to Wal-Marts and Amazons over the past 20 years, but I think mainstream Pop fans have been lost to local stores for a long time, and at this point they just need to hope that those people who make up their likely customer base will start paying for music again. Unfortunately, I’m not too optimistic.

    And you’re right about the exclusives; I don’t find them enticing at all.

  2. Dan Gibson

    The thing to me is that the stink of snobbery that people associate with record stores is all over the events planned for tomorrow. One of the articles I saw in a Michigan newspaper quoted a store manager mentioning he might carry one copy of the Mariah Carey record, for “the one guy looking for it.” While the Disney cartel of artists might not be up for saving music retail, there’s certainly a wide demographic of people who might be potential customers for these stores besides people picking up the new Fleet Foxes disc.

  3. davidm

    My local store (well, an hour away) is having Nada Surf, but unfortunately I can’t make it because of my girlfriends birthday. Nada Surf is probably not going to draw a huge mass market audience, their fans in the area more than likely already know about the store and what they carry.
    I still buy CDs, a lot of them actually, when I have the money. But in recent years I’ve moved on to mostly combing used bins unless it’s something I know I am going to like. I guess I’m spoiled in Central NJ to have 3 good record stores within an hour and another about 90 minutes away, all with good used sections.
    I’ve never really experienced music store snobbery, except when I am buying some admittedly questionable choices.
    I think the problem is more that someone who is looking for a Hannah Montana CD is not going to go to the same store that I go to, they’re going to go to WalMart or Best Buy. And I do hope the stores I visit never close down.

  4. AL

    Very true. But aren’t most of these stores run by snobs anyway? I think a certain ideology that lends itself to snobbery is likely behind most independent stores remaining open in a time of such poor business prospects. That is to say, I’d imagine that anyone who was in the record store business for more business-like reasons, and thus would be willing to appeal to a wider audience, got out already.

    Also (I don’t know much about this stuff at all) but don’t major labels do a lot that privileges giant retailers and makes it difficult/unwise for independent stores to do much business with them anyway?

  5. noamjamski

    @Dan Gibson: You are right about the snobbery, but I think you are missing the fact that independent record stores have lost much of their key demographic of record nerds over the past few years. I am a recovering record nerd who no longer frequents indie record stores. If Other Music gets me back in for a half hour on Saturday it is a big coup for them. Whether this is too little too late is a different issue. As is the price of new vinyl records which is equally prohibitive for people who want to do the right thing and buy albums legitimately.

  6. revmatty

    Damn the man!

  7. Anonymous

    …wait, what is this ‘record store’ place you speak of?

  8. rocknrollwife

    According to my local independent record store…this project is really being pushed/sponsored by the majors. All of the “exclusives” he’s been “offered” are crappy repackages or previously download only songs by major label bands. He said no thank you.

    As to the nature of independent records stores, it really is about local economies of scale. Just as the push is to “eat local”; you’ve got to “shop local”.

    Just suck it up. You want to live in a neighborhood, you’ve got to support the locals. Curb the aural gluttony. Spend the dollar more at your local place. This is the “Niemoller” of local economies…if no one shops at the local grocery store, then the hardware store goes out of business…you know the rest! C’mon, just do the right thing.

  9. brandonsoderberg

    The thing about “Free Comic Book Day” is that you know, they reward their patrons with FREE COMICS BOOKS and generally, have some pretty crazy sales (1 dollar back issues, huge mark-downs on all graphic novels). Record Store Day (which I’ve heard nothing about until this) just seems like a total ploy to get people into the stores…

  10. Tenno

    The once awesome, and now sadly defunct, Big B records here in Vegas used to do awesome promotional days to help get rid of excess used and new stock, just this huge up to 80% Cd and record sale, you could buy any promotional crap they had on the walls, bands, food etc.

    Sadly all gone.

    However, we still have Zia’s, which is actually expanding miraculously here. Las Vegan’s love their discs I guess.

  11. Tenno

    Oh and as far as snobbery is concerened, I got a what the fuck look from some college kid because i didn’t recognize Joy Division being played…. sorry you elitist fucker, I was into Michael Jackson as a kid and Tom Petty, my family and friends never played that shit, or punk or even metal. Bastard.

  12. Captain Wrong

    @brandonsoderberg: Agreed. Now, I’m lucky to live in an area where I have two good shops and one alright one to chose from, but I’m not seeing anything associated with Record Store Day that’s making me want to slog out there tomorrow, unless someone calls to tell me they finally have one of the half dozen things they’re supposed to get in for me…

    Which brings me to my point. I’ve been trying really hard to support my local record store. Even paying more for the convenience of having them within quick driving rage. But, all too often, they don’t have what I’m looking for. They’re always glad to call me when they get more in or put an order out, but those calls never seem to come. It’s just easier for me to jump on-line and get what I want from any one of a dozen places and have it at my door in a few days than wait for the locals to call, if they ever do, and then drive out and pay a premium on top of that.

    I think I may be the only record collector who has never been a huge fan of record stores. The internet was the best thing to happen to my collecting hobby (and the worst thing to happen to my pocketbook.)

  13. exposition

    Is it just me, or is that the worst site ever? Takes ages to load, and the only way to look up participating stores is alphabetically by store name?!? Baffling.

  14. Dan Gibson

    @exposition: It’s definitely not just you.

  15. Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree more! [www.orlandoweekly.com]

  16. Maura Johnston

    @exposition: And none of the links work!

  17. rocknrollwife

    Have any of you guys worked at an ind. record store. I have. Minimum order amounts from the majors. Irregular shipping from small labels/distributors. International weirdness from the oversees distributors. Astronomical shipping costs. High rents. Overhead costs like crazy….

    I worked in the same shop my buddy now owns in the late 1980′s. Not a day went by without a phone call asking for “Children of the Sun”. I would say snobbery is created, not born.

    It’s the same today. You do the research, unearth some very rare nugget, order in for a guy only to have him tell you he found it cheaper on the internet. Nice.

    How many of you heard something that you never would have had it not been for the ratty little record store? How many bands would have never had a shot without the local record store to take their shitty self-released cassette on consignment?

  18. brandonsoderberg

    “It’s the same today. You do the research, unearth some very rare nugget, order in for a guy only to have him tell you he found it cheaper on the internet. Nice.”

    If dude found it on the internet for cheaper, it couldn’t have been to “rare” of “a nugget”.

    It’s this kind of record store martyrdom that makes me half-happy when the stores close. You make it sound as if calling around or looking through some catalogs to get a record for a POTENTIAL CUSTOMER is some major feat…

  19. rocknrollwife

    Brandon…It is a big deal. Time is money. If someone spends the time to do the research to give you the specific ordering info; that has value: you didn’t spend the time doing that research. Now if you (the theoretical you) want to do spend the time and then buy online; go ahead.

    What’s your perspective on retail? If every “thing” you buy is valued only by the “thing” itself and not by the tangentials that add the value; OK: You want the drive-thru equivalent of retail. Then don’t be surprised by the limited menu of “things” being offered.

    When I choose to support an independent; be it record store, book store, restaurant, I am making a personal investment in my community. The local record store I support in turn supports local bands. It’s cultural Milorganite. Fertilizer for the future.

    You may want to knock me for elitist martyrdom…but I live in Milwaukee and I’m old. I’ve seen lots of bands almost make it. I’ve seen bands “make it”. We need to live somewhere where we feel connected to our community. So my local record store becomes more than just “a dollar more for a disk”. It’s where the aspiring punk rock kids run into the guys from long established bands. It’s the place where the owners organize all-ages shows. It’s the place that worked with a local club and radio station to bring the White Stripes, Interpol and numerous others BEFORE they got “big”. It’s the place that booked Brazzaville to play a neighborhood street party and then had all the same neighborhood teenage bands warm up the crowd.

    I’m no Pollyanna; but if my dollar more pays for the perpetuation of my neighborhood… Hell, I’ll pay it.

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