When I work up this morning I was excited to start my weeklong coverage and celebration of the vinyl record due to the superbowl of wax, Record Store Day, taking place this Saturday. I was shocked to find on my daily reads of music blogs an article: “Record Store Day: Could It Actually Be Bad For Music?” on one of my favorite blogs Knox Road. I was shocked and interested as RSD is not only the most important music day for me, but it does so much for independent record stores, musicians, and the record industry as a whole. As I read, I found myself disagreeing with basically everything that was written and decided to respond. I recommend reading the full article linked above before moving on, but if you don’t have time then I pulled sections that I address. I’ll address in the order of points made.
Finally, the big day arrives and only then do the stores and customers find out how much of the order actually reached the store.
I'm not sure where they got this information, but most record stores get a list of the items they are receiving days before RSD. Origami Vinyl in Los Angeles is releasing a detailed list of on April 14th of the stock they will be receiving and putting out on April 16th which allows music fans to see if they should go to Origami or elsewhere to find the select releases they desperately want.
The next three paragraphs go on to profile Iko’s Music Trade and owner Paul Hamilton complaining about reluctantly participating in RSD. He complains about having to purchase his RSD order blind. RSD usually supplies based off of store traffic, size, etc to determine how they give out their limited amount of products . Then there is the question of how many each store gets. So, if Mr. Hamilton requests 20 Nirvana records, there is a chance he could get none. But if RSD fulfills this request of 20 then he has to purchase them. First, we’re talking about independent record stores here. To guarantee the success of RSD moving forward it only makes sense to give a larger record store like Amoeba 100 Nirvana records and a store like Iko’s five. This is simply based off of the demand and traffic each store will experience on RSD. A hundred records at Amobea and the demand they will see on Saturday will feel equal to Hamilton's five and his demand. Secondly, RSD is optional. Hamilton is complaining, but is definitely participating because RSD is a cash cow for record stores and participating can lead to keeping doors open longer. RSD is not sneaky about their process, you tell them what you want to order, the quantity, and if they can give it to your store they will fulfill the request. There is nothing hidden, that is the process. If Hamilton has a problem with the ordering process his store does not have to participate. I’ve been to really small record stores on RSD and I’ve never seen a store that submitted receive zero of their requests. The claim that the deal is flawed because of this threat is just ridiculous. The smaller stores might not be able to secure all the pieces they request, but they will get RSD stock and that means big business of that one day.
Then the article shifts and focuses on two issues: limited edition records and Ebay. The complaints about limited edition records as a negative on RSD is the reason I’m writing this rant. One section really boiled my blood:
What seems to be forgotten along the way is the music. I’ve overheard too many conversations in record stores about trying to get all eight different colors the record was pressed on, and what pressing was the red vinyl from, etc, etc. I’ll admit I have my collector dork moments as much as the next guy, but what bothers me is how little I hear about the music.
Other than people who buy records to flip on Ebay (we’ll address that in a second), people collect limited edition records and obsess over getting “all eight different colors” because of their love of the band/artists. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC. It’s a direct reflection of what that music means to them. If Katy Perry releases a fifty run on glitter vinyl will a person who doesn’t like her music buy it? No. The obsession to collect and have a piece of wax that is rare stems from being a fan of the specific music they’re hunting.
Again, Madrigale makes a good point, “You can overdo everything where it’s like a super limited color of the same record, but what it comes down to is the record any good and in five years is anybody going to care.”
The fan who owns the limited wax will care. This article is missing the other side of collecting limited edition vinyl. We all agree that people who flip rare records on Ebay are horrible, but that’s one group of people who buy limited records. This article fails to understand that the music fan who buys a limited record to own (not to flip) doesn’t care what it’s worth at that moment or in five years. So, is anyone going to care in five years about the limited edition of a record? YES. The music fan who bought it will. That’s what Record Store Day is all about, the celebration of vinyl from three sections: the store, the musicians, and the music fans. I own a hand made copy of “Window City” by the Fiery Furnaces and it’s limited to sixty copies. That record is special to me because I love the band, that album, it was handmade, and only fifty-nine other people own it. It feels great to own a piece of their work that is limited; it’s a symbol of my love for the band. It’s special. It’s priceless to me now, tomorrow, and in five years. That’s the power of limited edition vinyl, it’s about the music and something more, a special feeling it brings as a music fan.
The article focuses heavily on people who see RSD as a way to buy limited edition vinyl and make big bucks by flipping them. This is a problem regardless of RSD or not, therefore should not be part of an article speaking to the negatives of RSD. With any limited vinyl, there are a few people out there who will try to make money by reselling. Simply put, there are more limited items released on RSD so there are more Ebay flips. What this article fails to address is that this problem does not start or end with RSD.
The biggest problem I have with this article is the sub-textual solution to the fictional RSD problem they present. This author is saying that RSD should do large pressings, nothing limited, and every record store should get the exact amount of stock they order. I would like to inform this writer that this does exist, 364 days of the year. Everything that this article addresses as a negative is what makes Record Store Day exciting and special.
The culture of listening to music and buying music was turned on its head by the advent of downloading; now limited editions are changing the way we think about buying what remains of the physical music formats. Did we forget about the music? Is it possible Record Store Day is feeding the self-destructive monster the record industry has become? Record Store Day isn’t solely to blame, but it could certainly be credited with an assist.