Tomorrow (Saturday April 21) marks the now annual Record Store Day. In a lot of ways, I think it’s fantastic -I like the fact that bands are putting things out onto vinyl, that vinyl is still being made and bought by people this far into the twenty-first century, and that while some of the big stores have gone, that there are still independents hanging in there, and in quite a few cases, flourishing.
But like a lot of things, I could make a few grumbles:
Firstly, that the real success is whether people are inspired to go and buy records, CDs or whatever in record shops on the 364 days of the year that aren’t Record Store Day. It’s going to be up to stores to encourage people to want to come back, but also up to customers who like the idea of actual, y’know, physical shops (as opposed to online retailers) to go and buy them.
Secondly, whilst it’s wonderful that stuff is being produced physically, if it’s made too expensive it will put people off (though to be honest, if someone wants to pay £150 for a vinyl boxset of Disturbed albums that’s their call). I was excited by the thought of The re-issued Cure albums, but at £25 a go for the first five albums on vinyl (which I already own)…sorry, but the mortgage needs paying, there’s food to be bought and us poor public sector workers aren’t all on massive incomes. Also if it gets flogged on ebay by greedy sods who are trying to make a fast buck – you are no better than ticket touts.
Thirdly, the music business has been its’ own worst enemy for years. The pricing of CDs when they first appeared in the 1980s was ludicrous: they were more than vinyl or cassettes, and at one point double. Ironically it is far more likely that a new release CD in 2012 will cost you less than it did it 1987. The thing was that it lead to people buying abroad if they could get it cheaper, and then online, with the result that the shops were priced out. Certainly, online retailers had their advantages -but the tax loopholes were closed in a classic horse gate bolted kind of move.
These moans aren’t new, and they will be doubtless be made elsewhere. The thing is: I still love record shops. It may be a romantic idea -and one that my thirteen month old soon may grow up to sneer at, but there’s far much more soul (hopefully literally!) in a bricks and mortar record shop than an online one. I tend to go into my local independent record store, Avalanche in Edinburgh, at least twice a week. It has to be said that seeing -and still seeing -releases that I have put out
in the window there gives me far more of a thrill than seeing them on iTunes ever could.
Independent Record stores -like good independent book shops-should have staff who know what they are on about. Sorry, but the ‘other customers who bought this also bought’ feature is not the same as a personal recommendation. Not when your taste stretch from Schubert to Slayer like mine do.
But bring it on. Great that five years down the line there are still record stores with open doors to celebrate, even if for some artists and their big record companies it will be another marketing ploy, without any of the artists needing to die (and invoke the scenario set out in The Smiths’ ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’). Stuff needs to be happening right the way through the year. People making the effort to go to the shops (I realise easier in a big town or city than a small market town, where the chances are that since Woolworths went bust you can only buy what’s on offer in the supermarket). Record shops staff not being arsey, though the customer may not always be right.
Use them or lose them. My eye is on those Leonard Cohen and PiL 12″s, and the Arctic Monkeys and Belle & Sebastian 7″s…
From some of the special releases available for tomorrow:
PiL ‘Lollipop Opera’ taken from the ‘One Drop EP’:
Arctic Monkeys ‘R U Mine?’
Belle and Sebastian ‘Crash’ (Primitives cover)