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Record Store Day – Let’s Aim Higher

Saturday 21st April saw the latest annual Record Store Day celebrated here in the UK, and around the world. A raft of special limited edition vinyl and cd releases (and some tapes!) released especially for the event and available exclusively through participating independent stores. It’s now the busiest day of the year for those shops involved. Read on to see if it was a success this year, and to read my suggestions on how to improve it.

Since it’s beginnings in the US in 2007, this annual event increases in scale and popularity each year. This year saw over 400 seperate releases covering a wide range of bands, artists and genres. Coloured vinyl, shaped picture discs, box sets, 180 gram vinyl issues and exclusive tracks and cover versions. Something for everyone, you might say.

Behind The Counter

For the second year running, I worked behind the counter for Record Store Day, at a shop called Sister Ray. Last year was a lot of fun, so I really looked forward to this year’s event. We’d decided to open an hour earlier this year, at 8.00am. We thought with such a large queue likely, we may as well get it moving sooner. In the run up to the 21st, it was evident that more people had discovered RSD for the first time. Therefore we were going to be even busier. We had a lot of extra entertainment planned for the day instore, with a signing from Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds arranged, plus a live appearance by Billy Bragg with his trusty guitar.

On top of that, there was of course a very long list of limted edition records. Many big names were available this year. Kate Bush, David Bowie, Gorillaz, Noel Gallagher, The Clash, Morrissey, The Arctic Monkeys, to name a few. Additionally many other weird and wonderful items such as coloured vinyl pressings (limited to 1000 copies) of two LPs by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The full list of what came out can be found here at the Record Store Day website.

Early Riser

So I had to rise from my slumber at the unseemly hour of 6.00am, something I’m not exactly used to. At least it’s easy to get a seat on the Central Line that early on a Saturday. I made a quick stop at McDonalds (with not much else open that early in Oxford Street) for a McMuffin to fuel me through what was going to be a hectic, and long morning.

And when I got there the queue was unbelievable. Around the block, twice, what just seemed like a never ending line of eager vinyl collectors. To give you some idea, check out the video below made by Martin Goss posted on YouTube…

And So We Begin

Scary! And then it began. The eager and expectant customers were let in, and the day became one long, but very enjoyable day. Everyone was very patient, good humoured, and understanding when we couldn’t supply their needs. Simple Minds genuinely made some people’s day (a few having travelled from Europe to meet them). They stayed as long as was needed to meet all their fans and not disappoint anyone.

Billy Bragg just did what he always does, entertained people. Instore, and outside in the street (stopping traffic) to keep up the sprits of those still patiently queueing. A lifelong fan myself, I was also lucky enough to get time to say hello to him downstairs whilst taking my lunch break, and got my picture taken with him. I also managed to get him to sign my vinyl copy of Talking With The Taxman About Poetry. Here he is caught on video doing what he does best…

So back to the original question, was Record Store Day a success this year? At Sister Ray, it was a resounding one, everyone seemed to agree. The customers were all just lovely, and have posted many kind comments on the shop’s Facebook page. They applauded the way it was organized and thanked all the staff for their hard work and attitude. Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves, and were all pleased with the purchases they had made. The first 200 customers were also entered into a free raffle prize draw, with one lucky guy winning a test pressing of the new Jack White album. I’m sure that new friends were also made among the queue as people were thrown together for the first time. It’s incredible how music can bring people together sometimes.

Improvements For Next Year

In it’s organisation, and execution, I think most people have it spot on now, and I don’t see many refinements in this area needed. However I do think that now is the time to make some of the limited editions a little bit easier to get hold of. Customer numbers and awareness of the event are increasing with each year, and it just seems odd to me to leave so many potential new customers unable to get the releases they want. Not when you’ve encouraged them to visit their local store perhaps for the first time. Some will argue that the limited nature and scarceness of the releases is what results in such big queues and numbers, and that is certainly true to a great extent. Making things too exlusive though will also prompt some to just not bother venturing out at all.

So what I’d ideally like to see is a few of the releases to be pressed in bigger numbers. Still limited, but sufficient for people to have confidence that queuing up for hours, will at least end with them getting something. It doesn’t have to be many, just a handful perhaps, or even just one release. They could make it the official Record Store Day record. They could try to get a tie-in with some form of media. Get The Sun newspaper involved, for example, and encourage people to go out and buy it. Just a thought, but I think it needs considering.

More Variety

Lastly, I personally think there could be a little more variety in the releases introduced. A few more jazz titles could be sprinkled in, or some classical ones. A lot of those older releases on classic labels such as Capitol, Verve or Deutsche Grammophon could really lend themselves to being lovingly repackaged for new (and old) collectors. Some original 45s (such as Frank Sinatra) with what was often beautiful artwork would I think offer something different and desirable to many people.

I have a few suggestions along those lines that I will share at a later date in a new post, but for now, thanks to everyone who made this year’s RSD such a success. All those customers primarily, but also everyone at the Record Labels who spend months preparing for it. And of course all those hard working shop staff such as myself!

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