This Saturday (18th April) me and some pals will be going round to VoxBox in Stockbridge for beers and records and live music. People who run record labels will be there, as will lots of musicians, promoters, Darren who runs the shop, and a lot of people who just plain love music. (And, erm, free beer. People who love that too.)
In short, everyone who is involved in the art of music will be getting together and celebrating this thing we all do. As the record industry struggles for an identity it is this interaction that will keep it all together, I think, and recent initiatives like Record Store Day, the Independent Label Markets and Independent Venue Week are a really important way of cementing that.
Spotify can do what it likes, no-one cares what Jay-fucking-Z thinks, and people who love music will continue to write it, record it, make it, sell it and buy it. That’s what Record Store Day is good for, and that’s what I like about it. And the live music – either in the shop itself or over the road in The Last Word – will be as follows:
12:45 The Holy Ghosts
13:30 Tuff Love
14:15 Miracle Strip
15:00 Gerry Cinnamon
15:45 Delta Mainline
16:30 Randolph’s Leap
17:15 Garden Of Elks
Funnily enough though, VoxBox won’t actually be stocking any Record Store Day exclusive releases. In fact I haven’t even bothered looking up the RSD list, and in all honesty I don’t really care. I don’t think VoxBox is the only good record shop in the city of course, and there will be others which do have the limited stuff, but Darren isn’t doing it this year.
I’ve explained why I like Record Store Day and for all it’s easy to be attracted to the shiny baubles, it’s not really the releases which do it for me. In fact, if you look at the list of labels represented in that poster above I think only one of them is actually doing a proper RSD release. This may sound weird, but the day itself is suffering something of an identity crisis at the moment.
There has been a lot written about the state of Record Store Day recently, and a couple of labels are doing a sort of semi-boycott which led to a rather spirited response from the organisers themselves, and everyone getting a bit hot under the collar and blah blah blah, all the usual pish.
I have some sympathy for both sides of this actually, and in fact the whole spat reminds me rather a lot of my own inner debate about Record Store Day, which I wrote about extensively about four years ago. It’s not quite this simple, but you can break the argument down into a few things: namely that in its favour Record Store Day is a huge boost in cash and promotional awareness for record shops, as well as encouraging interest in unusual releases.
On the negative side, releases from major labels, quite a lot of which are dubious reissues, apparently often pressed without permission, now completely overwhelm all the independent stuff. Apart from starving the indies out of any opportunity to benefit from RSD this also clogs up all the vinyl pressing plants to the extent that even if we aren’t doing anything for RSD our manufacturing lead times are fucked for months either side of it.
Then there are the eBay scalpers who buy things at (an already inflated) retail price and due to scarcity are able to sell them on for instant and considerable profit. These are not music fans, they are just exploitative little shits. Shops rarely get everything they order because of the scarcity, but still have to pay up front because there is no sale or return, meaning they have no idea what their bill is likely to be in advance.
So it’s contentious. I can see the drawbacks. I can’t be arsed doing a release myself, really, as much as I enjoyed our Beer vs. Records project. And actually I can see why Darren can’t be bothered pissing about with all the uncertainties of stocking the releases. Some of my label-running pals say they can sell out a whole pressing of something in a single day, in which case I get it, but we can’t really do that. And every shop you speak to will tell you that the influx of cash is massively important for them.
So I get it. I can see the benefits. But I don’t think you have to succumb to all the frantic mentalism to get a lot out of the day. After all, it’s just supposed to remind you of the importance of independent record shops and their role in the music community, and to encourage you to support them. A deranged frenzy of exclusive releases isn’t really necessary to achieve that.