Record stores: remember those? Independent music stores in America and abroad get a day to celebrate (and mourn their losses) on April 17 this year.
This is a time for artists large and small, dead and very much alive and on fire, to give a little something to fans and to the stores that continue to support them on local, tastemaking levels.
Record Store Day may not save record stores, but it is a valid moment of reflection and expression: to offer something special to vinyl lovers, for collectors, for hipsters to brandish their flags.
But are those the only groups of people that appreciate the "holiday?" In such limited supply, the pressings of these exclusive and fan-centered projects aren't enough to boost sales on their own -- they're supposed to be a gateway drug into the other aisles of the store, an enticing way to get customers into the doors and out with more than just the RSD release of, well, The Doors.
Those are the customers who are already aware of their local record shop, and of Record Store Day, so is the appeal really meta in stature?
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In 2009, there was a 1% increase in album sales for indie stores due to Record Store Day, according to Billboard retail guru Ed Christman. That's just the independent stores. Vinyl sales from that week compared to the same week of 2008 were doubled --- but that was only 80,000 units, spread out over hundreds of stores.
But I don't want to rain on anybody's parade. Stores have thrown parties, invited popular local bands to play their compact spaces. It's a good time and drink beer and pretend that big box retailers, the overall decline of album sales and the limited appeal of vinyl format aren't cramping their style. I mean, just look at the complete list of all Record Store Day releases. And look at some of the most major artists contributing exclusives: Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Dave Matthews.
Do the artists get any monetary benefit from Record Store Day? Likely not, considering they get pennies on the dollar of even a regular sale. It's the label that gets a wider percentage and then disperses it. Is it a holiday for labels, then? They should be as invested in independent retail as independent retailers are, should they wish to make their content appear more exclusive and valuable as ever.
So why should you support RSD and indie retailers? Well, you don't have to, if you don't think good taste ought to be rewarded.
Check out this mostly comprehensive gallery on the hottest RSD releases for Saturday. What will you buy?