Record Store Day – A Few Thoughts

Posted on April 19, 2013

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I should probably start this by saying I am not anti Record Store Day, far from it in fact. There are issues which annoy me, such as limited releases appearing on eBay almost instantly & items that are simply repackaged by labels to make them a buck, but overall it’s a chance for people in music to make money, and these opportunities are far too rare these days.

rsdI thoroughly enjoy RSD, there are great collaborations, inventive new ideas that crop up, and great in store shows which are a direct result of having this event, and it reinforces that there are great talents and thinkers working in music today.

The problem is I’m not very likely to buy anything from the shops involved, and I feel no apology is necessary for this.

I’m sure (if anyone reads this) that I’ll be questioned on my musical morals and support of the industry, but I think I am indicative of the vast majority of music fans today, and am simply responding to the marketplace for music in the same way I would to any other branch of retail.

I  have always promoted RSD on this blog, but there is little about it that makes me change my music acquiring ways, and it usually emphasises the reasons I buy elsewhere rather than imploring me to hit the high street.

There are many arguments for purchasing your music from a local record store, but to me it seems they are rarely coming from young people, and in order for these arguments to continue to be relevant they need new music buyers coming through to relate to them, but I feel the reality is they will become old practices.

A lot of people I respect greatly in musical terms are avid buyers from record shops and their reasons for doing so cannot be faulted – they like having a physical purchase; they rely on record store employees for tips and advice; and they enjoy the process of shopping in a store.

I’m at an age (31), where all of those aspects of music buying have been great pleasures to me. My CD collection when I was younger was a source of pride; I looked to people in record stores to point me in the direction of new things, and still love visiting a greatly friendly and informative environment such as Monorail in Glasgow; and loved getting the train to Glasgow with a group of friends as we wanted to buy new music.

The landscape has changed though, pretty much entirely due to the internet.

I now know about a lot more music and want to have as much in my collection as possible, and the only way I can do this is via the cheapest and most practical method available, which is not a record store. I feel no sense of pride or ownership in my iTunes catalogue in the way I did my CD collection, but it suits my need as an avid music fan far greater.

I mentioned Monorail as a great example of a record store I enjoy visiting and do buy from; the staff are so keen for you to ask them about music and share their knowledge and this is what the record store is depicted as in movies. Unfortunately, the majority of outlets I have visited have been far from this, and over the years I envisage the staff in these places more as unhelpful music snobs. This is just my personal experience though, and I understand it can’t be taken as a point of fact.

sbtThe fact you are reading this on a blog also plays a big part, in particular to how you find new music. I don’t think for a second this blog ever moved any mountains, but it’s an example of different avenues that people can look to for new music, which have only very recently become available. There are so many websites, blogs and forums offering opinion now that people are inundated with choices of who to trust and the guy in the record store is just one of them, and not one you are likely to hear from every day, which is important considering people’s desire for instant information these days. They are undoubtedly a great source, but we all have so many options now that no one source is enough. I think it is important to also mention the impartiality of amateur blogs and sites here as it helps when trusting an opinion over an album as you kow there is no vested interest. It may not be though…

Perhaps the last point is slightly mitigated by the fact the high street is dying and there are less options out there for music shopping, but the way we buy has changed and it has been what has changed my actions. More than anything, young people haven’t had going to a record shop as part of their process and sadly it’s likely this ideal will only live on through ways of retrospective homage.

People my age see record shops in a less pragmatic way than those younger, and even at 31 I have lost the link to the enjoyment of such endeavours – we can’t expect people who had record stores as the focal point of their musical upbringing to keep them alive so hoping those who have bypassed this era to keep it going is unrealistic.

I genuinely hope record stores continue to exist, and the figures showing vinyl sales have increased by 78% this year are encouraging and perhaps point to a new direction which will keep them alive.

Things have evolved and my personal hope is record stores will change and become a main point for music with a new stance that will eclipse other avenues available and help bands and music move forward. There are undoubtedly some of the most passionate and invested people out there working in record stores and I hope there is a continuing channel for them.

There is much call for “support your local record store” and I think we should be supporting everyone in this climate. That message for me is massively twisted though; we shouldn’t support our local record store because they need our support, we should support them if they are the best option for us to purchase new music. They are. after all, offering a service, and like any branch of retail, it has to be the most viable option for it to survive. Many realise this, and hopefully we’ll reconnect with them, as that would be much more enjoyable for everyone.

For a great preview on what is out and on tomorrow check out The Pop Cop.

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Posted in: Features