I Love Records and I Love Record Stores, but…

April 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Posted in Record Stores, Seattle, Vinyl | 11 Comments
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Every year I become less a fan of Record Store Day. Every year the lines get longer and they seem to start earlier. As I walked out of the coffee shop on my way to get to Easy Street Records in West Seattle I noticed that the front page of the Seattle Times was dedicated to Record Store Day. Has Record Store Day hit the mainstream? Are record stores making a comeback? According to this article and most others I’ve read: hardly, but there are still a fair number of die hard patrons and apparently some fair weather ones. Easy Street opened at 7:00 am yesterday, and I heard that there were people in line to get in as early as 5:00 am.  This day has become like black Friday at Walmart. The doors open, there’s the mad rush to the one or two bins of Record Store Day records and the jockeying to get the records that are on your list.

Not one to wait hours in line, I arrived at the store just as the doors were opening. All of the RSD stuff was on the upper floor in two bins. I waited in line about 10 minutes to get upstairs and then pretty much just gave up when I saw that it was about five people deep to get the loot.  This brings up my first issue. I realize that record stores these days aren’t use to huge crowds (RSD excepted), but they could strategically place the the RSD stuff throughout the store so that more than just a handful of people at a time can get to them.  Why not put them in five or six places around the store so that it gives more people a chance at getting at least one or two of the records they want? While in Easy Street during the mad rush, a woman became visibly upset when she couldn’t get a copy of the Jamiroquai record (to each her own). She said that she had driven up all the way from Olympia for the record, which brings me to another issue I have with RSD. If you live somewhere without a bricks and mortar record store, you are left to Ebay price gougers for getting any of the releases. I saw that Norman Records in the UK, a mail order only record store was not allowed to participate in RSD because they are an online-only store and don’t have a physical store front. They’re a record store, they sell records, and probably to many people who don’t have access to bricks and mortar record store. Aren’t stores like these as vital and important as the ones (if you’re lucky enough to live near one) that you can walk into?

I left Easy Street in West Seattle without buying anything, annoyed by the crowd and bummed I couldn’t even get close to the records. I went home to get some more coffee and get my kid ready for his early baseball game. I dropped him off at the field and headed over to Sonic Boom in Ballard. It was 8:45 am. There was already a line around the block and the store didn’t open for another hour. I wasn’t in the mood to wait for over an hour in line, so I drove up to the Silver Platters in Northgate which opened at 9:00, figuring it was a much more spacious store and a little bit removed from the city so that there may be fewer people. My hunch was kind of right, there were quite a few  people there, but I was able to sneak in and grab the Lee Hazlewood record and the Trouble In Mind  and the Field Music 7-inch’s. I even inadvertently lucked out and got one of the 50 copies of the Hazelwood records that came with a  patch. Not sure what to do with the patch, but it’s cool I guess. Again though, all of the RSD records were in a single bin with people packed in like sardines to get a look at them.

By this time there were still a few records that I wanted to get, but I was resigned to give up. I went back to watch my kid’s baseball game (they lost). After the game I dropped my kid home and went over to Sonic Boom. They had been open for about an hour and a half, so I wasn’t expecting to find much. I guess liking marginally popular music has its benefits sometimes, because there were quite a few things left of interest. I picked up a second Trouble In Mind 7-inch for my friend Bill in NY who couldn’t find it there and got the Blouse/Craft Spells 7-inch, and the Cleaners From Venus box set. It wasn’t crowded by the time I got there, but Sonic Boom had the RSD releases more spread out around the store, so it was easier to browse around without looking over someone’s shoulder.

Truly, one of my favorite things in the world is walking into a record store and having a leisurely flip through their records. Record Store Day is anything but that. It is pressure packed competition, especially if there is something that is a limited edition that you really want.  I know they’re only records and so what if I didn’t get a copy of the Flaming Lips record, or the Domino Records/Ribbon Music FlexiZine. C’est la vie. I also realize that RSD has become the single biggest income day for most if not all record stores, so I’m totally stoked that it’s helping them to stay in business, but I hope that it would serve as an entry point to potential record geeks and get them into the habit of frequently visiting their local record store more than once or twice a year.  Cool limited edition marble colored vinyl is obviously enough to get people into the store, but if it’s only enough to get them there once a year, is it really going to sustain the brick and mortar record store for the long term? As it is, the other 51 Saturdays during the year, I walk into one of Seattle’s many record stores and have a leisurely browse in the company of only a few other customers. Even though I complain about the RSD crowds, I will continue to participate. I only hope that everyone else that goes to a record store on RSD, will start to participate the rest of the year.

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  1. You can get both of the Flaming Lips RSD releases from the store on their website still. It’s flaminglips.com

    • I Would have bought it if I had seen it Saturday, but now I’m kind of trigger-shy given the $40 price tag.

  2. hi Toby!

    i could write something a bit similar about Paris too
    i have mixed feelings about RSD even if in France it’s quite new (second year)

    i’m happy for record stores that they make some money and have got some attention from mainstream media (can you believe places i’m going too where on the most viewed channel during the evening news!) but in the other hand a lot of exclusive release are really pricey, it’s sometimes like a “record hunt” and in a lot of place you feel packed and can not ask anything or take your time, or to me the cool thing with a record store is a place like a sanctuary where you don’t feel underpressure and where you can ask to hear the records and chat a bit with the owner!

    some labels did some great jobs to release original stuff (like domino) but for other it seems it’s overall a way to rise their price and release boring reissue on color vinyl (i’ve seen Cure releases that were twice the price of a new LP)
    in a way RSD sounds a bit like Valentine’s Day, maybe it will become the only day to not buy any discs…

    anyway, i went in several place, and if some of them were packed and not friendly as usual, in other it was really nice cauz you could chat a bit with everybody.
    A friend a mine that is running an awesome mail-order, organised a kind of convention with friendly labels. They were not too much people and the people were really friendly, they offer coffee and chat with everybody. They were also gigs of quite known people here in France like Bertrang Burgalat (his label was at this convention). Funnily i didn’t buy so much RSD exclusives from my friend but mostly back catalog from nice indie-pop labels like Odd Box or Yay! (an awesome 5 inches release! it looks so cute!) he had the Cleaner from Venus box too but i’d bought it elsewhere from another friend.
    Funnily he also sells to someone my 4 releases🙂🙂🙂

    the other place was my favorite record shop. It was not affiliated to the official french RSD and he get releases from USA (that most of others record shop didn’t have), there was a little more people than usually but it was also very friendly, we chat about music with other customers and i could find a lot of stuffs i was searching for (including the Wake & Cleaner from Venus boxes)

    anyway here are my RSD finds:
    – Dead Boys – sonic reducer 7′
    – Flamin Groovies – shake some action 7′
    – Richard Hell and the Vovoids – blank generation 7′
    – Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information 7′
    – Nobunny – maximumrocknroll ep 7′
    – V/A – tribute to the Wake 7′
    – Field Music – actually nearly 7′
    – Cleaner from Venus – Box LP
    – The Wake – Box LP
    – Jeff the Brotherhood – upstairs vol3 12′

    and i think i’ll get a few more during this week in the Record Stores with less people and also the late arrivals

    • Alex, that’s quit a haul you got. Would have bought that Dead Boys single, but I don’t think they were available in the US. Would’ve liked to have gotten the Go-kart Mozart and the Gruff Rhys/Cate Le Bon split single too, but those were UK only also. Oh well, that Cleaners box set will keep me busy for a while.

  3. Agree with all you’ve said. Plus I managed to bag 2 of the 3 RSD releases I wanted from hhv.de, an ONLINE store in ANOTHER COUNTRY, for half the price that my local bricks and mortar store (in the UK) had been charging. Plus, Amazon.com (the polar opposite of an independent record store) are stocking at least 1 RSD release I’m aware of. Messy…

  4. I love that Record Store Day exists. I actually get to tell my wife that she will watch the kids if I want to go out to the record store. I mean it is record store day how could you deny me that? Ever since I bought the live Pavement record on record store day a few years I usually stay pretty clear of the RSD releases that are limited. I did go out later in the day and picked up a few records. Still felt like a win.

    • My wife just kind of rolls her eyes and mumbles something about spending the kid’s college money on vinyl. I tell her it’s an investment.

  5. I don’t buy RSD releases, and I’ve only gone out one time and that was to Tunes in Hoboken, NJ. This year I DJed at The Groove in Nashville and it was a great time.
    As far as the actual day, yes it’s a lot of hype but it’s a win win for just about everyone. These stores are in fact getting more traffic during the year, the press around RSD is bringing in new clients that may have not known about the shops, and it gives people a chance to see other stock etc.
    The only thing I could see as a problem is the bin issue like you pointed out, and it seems like Amoeba in CA has that figured out. Other than that, I don’t see one problem with Record Store Day. -NOah

    http://www.coffeebreakradio.com

    http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/NU

  6. I have yet to get to a record store day and it does seem a bit crazy and not the best way to shop for music but I am happy for the shops and hope they make some good money to help them keep going as it would be a real shame to lose that experience. I think that websites that sell music should be allowed to stock the collectible stuff – Norman Records especially help out a lot of record labels. And as for The Cleaners From Venus Box Set – it is a real treasure and I have been listening to it quite a bit and I hope they do a volume 2.

    • I hope they do a volume 2 also. Those first three Clearners albums aren’t even the best ones!

  7. or next time you want something hit me up toby. i’d ship you some records. next year wuxtry in athens is doing a reserve list or a want list so we know what to order as far as quantity goes.


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