Independent Retailers Primed for Annual Record Store Day
The prep work has begun. Music retailers are stocking up on merchandise, tidying up their aisles and hiring temporary workers. Music collectors, meanwhile, are checking their bank accounts and plotting a shopping strategy. It’s all in preparation for music geeks’ biggest day of the year. The sixth annual Record Store Day will take place on Saturday, April 20, at hundreds of independent retail shops in the United States and abroad.
Record Store Day (RSD) began in 2008 as a grassroots effort to raise the profile of independent brick-and-mortar retailers, some of whom were struggling due to competition from online outlets. The yearly event has evolved into a massive international celebration that features in-store performances, film screenings, book signings and exclusive releases on vinyl, CD and DVD.
Among the artists whose titles shoppers will be scooping up are Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, Buddy Guy, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Fela Kuti, Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys and Ben Harper.
Because quantities are limited, not every store will receive every title. In collectors’ parlance, the titles are broken into three categories: RSD exclusive releases, RSD limited-run/regional focus releases and “RSD First” releases.
RSD exclusive releases are only available on Record Store Day at participating stores. Such titles include Bobby Rush’s Southern King Of Blues Funk, which includes “Chicken Heads” and is available on CD and 12-inch vinyl; the Cal Tjader Trio’s self-titled release, which features Vince Guaraldi on piano and is issued on orange 10-inch vinyl; Trey Anastasio’s Blue Ash And Other Suburbs, containing previously unreleased material on a 7-inch vinyl picture disc; and Captain Beefheart’s Frank Freeman’s Dance Club (And Other Rarities), featuring a live 1968 performance and issued with a gatefold sleeve on 12-inch purple vinyl.
Another RSD exclusive release, Gary Clark Jr.’s HWUL Raw Cuts, Vol. II, is a 12-inch vinyl EP pressed in three different colors: clear, white and gold. It includes a 17-minute live version of “When My Train Pulls In.”
The rarest titles are the limited-run/regional focus releases, such as Rodriguez’s Cold Fact, which is issued on 12-inch clear vinyl, limited to 500 copies and sold only at the RSD pop-up store at the Coachella music festival. (Rodriguez, who was the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary Searching For Sugar Man, will play Coachella on April 21.)
“RSD First” titles are available at participating stores for a limited amount of time before they become available at other outlets. Among the “RSD First” titles are the 12-inch vinyl versions of Miles Davis’ ’Round About Midnight (1956), Milestones (1958) and Someday My Prince Will Come (1961). These are mono recordings pressed on 180-gram vinyl.
The official 2013 RSD poster features Ira Rosen’s photo of Jimi Hendrix shopping in a record store in 1967. The poster, which is limited to 5,000 copies, will be distributed free at participating stores on April 20.
The late guitarist’s sister, Janie Hendrix, said, “It’s entirely appropriate that an image of Jimi Hendrix is on the official Record Store Day poster. He was an avid music fan and record collector himself, and, of course, his recordings are among the most enduring and cherished of all time. Jimi’s musical legacy and influence grow with every passing year, so, in a sense, he makes Record Store Day last much, much longer than 24 hours.”
Hendrix collectors will seek out another RSD exclusive item: a limited-edition, individually numbered 7-inch single with the original mono mixes of “Hey Joe” and “Stone Free,” which have been unavailable since their original 1966 release.
For many participating shops, April 20 will be their biggest overall sales day of the year. In addition to boosting indie retailers’ profits, the event also promotes the sense of community that is fostered by locally owned businesses.
This week, several music stores will present screenings of Pip Piper’s 50-minute documentary Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall And Rebirth Of The Independent Record Shop. Based on Graham Jones’ 2009 book Last Shop Standing, the film examines indie stores in the United Kingdom, including Cardiff’s Spillers Records, which was founded in 1894 and proudly calls itself “The Oldest Record Shop in the World.”
Piper’s film will be shown on April 17 at Touch Vinyl in Santa Monica, Calif.; on April 18 at the Mesa Theatre in Grand Junction, Colo., sponsored by Triple Play Records; on April 19 at Uncle Sam’s Music in Tampa, Fla.; and on April 20 at Hideaway Records in Philadelphia and at Natasha’s Bistro & Bar in Lexington, Ky., sponsored by CD Central. A special edition DVD of the film will be sold at participating shops.
This year’s official “Record Store Day Ambassador” is Jack White, who issued a statement that read, in part, “I’m proud to help in any way I can to invigorate whoever will listen with the idea that there is beauty and romance in the act of visiting a record shop and getting turned on to something new that could change the way they look at the world, other people, art, and ultimately, themselves.”
The Record Store Day website showcases a compilation of quotes from artists in support of independent brick-and-mortar retailers. Many of these quotes were published in Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo’s 2010 book Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again.
Norah Jones said, “It’s important to keep indie record stores alive because their unique environments introduce music lovers to things in a very personal way.”
The Bad Plus offered a statement that said, in part: “None of us would be here if it weren’t for independent record stores. It’s the place you go to get inspired; to find something off the beaten path. They are a wonderful resource to discover new local talent or something you can’t find anywhere else. You believe in the place because it’s run by music lovers.”
Many shops have planned in-store events for April 20. At Cactus Music in Houston, author David Ensminger will sign copies of his book Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin’ Hopkins. John Egan and The Mighty Orq will perform a set of songs popularized by Hopkins.
Drummer John Densmore of The Doors will sign copies of his book The Doors Unhinged at the Bull Moose shop in Scarborough, Maine.
In Chicago, singer Otis Clay will perform at Dusty Groove, and the store Saki will present the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) Listening Station featuring its archive of Sun Ra recordings.
At Vertical House Records in Huntsville, Ala., the RSD shopping spree will last from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be followed by Happenin’ Fest, featuring 12 bands.
Some of the other participating U.S. shops include Vacation Vinyl, located at 3815 W. Sunset Blvd., in Los Angeles; the Jazz Record Mart, 27 E. Illinois St., in Chicago; and Other Music, 15 E. 4th St., in New York. George’s Song Shop, which was established in 1932 and is known as “The Oldest Record Store in the United States,” will draw fans to 128 Market St. in Johnstown, Pa., where they’ll find an enormous inventory that includes more than 1 million 45 r.p.m. records.
RSD events will also take place in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
For more information, including a list of participating shops and a list of releases, such as Kate Nash’s red, heart-shaped 7-inch vinyl single, visit the Record Store Day website.