To the Record Store Day Haters: For the Love of Vinyl, Stop Acting Like Curmudgeons
Every year it seems to get cooler and cooler to hate Record Store Day. In fact, this year’s installment has caught the ire of more critics than ever, culminating in a recent article written by Keith Creighton that Salon reprinted from PopDose, titled, “Record Store Day needs to die.”
Creighton's original piece begins, "People have been griping about eBay since the beginning, but there are many more reasons why we should save our independent record stores by abolishing Record Store Day."
What it boils down to, though, is this: Creighton is acting like a curmudgeon. He just doesn't want to put in the effort to enjoy RSD.
While it’s absolutely right to be ticked off at the people who buy RSD titles simply to flip them on eBay, that’s no reason to hate the event. Do we hate live music because people charge outrageous prices for tickets? Do we hate record stores because they charge more for a hard-to-find 10"?
Unfortunately, it seems many people blame Record Store Day for the actions of a few -- and it really is a few. “The vast majority [of releases] end up right where they belong: on fans’ turntables,” Chris Brown, CEO of Bull Moose and creator of Record Store Day, wrote last year. “Record stores, record labels and Record Store day itself are trying to reduce that number still further.” (You can read Brown’s advice for dealing with RSD scarcity and scalping here.)
Creighton doesn't just focus on eBay; he complains about arriving to your local record store at 4AM only to not be the first in line while incurring “the wrath of your line mates when you dare take a pee break,” enduring “the stench of men who have not showered” and getting pushed around by “hired goons and their extended family members ... [who] have a list of items to buy for their eBay overlords.”
I’ve had the pleasure of participating in several Record Store Days in New York City and have yet to incur any wrath from my fellow RSD enthusiasts, smell anyone in line next to me or even come close to meeting someone with the sole intent to buy discs to sell on eBay. Perhaps things are different in Seattle where Creighton is, but I doubt it; if New York City, a place that is notorious for being short-tempered and rude (whether that's accurate or not), can handle RSD like friendly people, I’m sure Seattle can as well.
Regardless of what we're shopping for, we're all committed to Record Store Day and supporting our local shop.
In fact, we don't just handle RSD like friendly people ... we build a camaraderie of sorts; regardless of what we're shopping for, we're all committed to Record Store Day and supporting our local shop. This common thread yields conversations and introductions that might have never occurred otherwise.
Beyond eBay flippers and long lines, Creighton pushes his frustrations to the limit and claims that ending Record Store Day will actually help indie stores. This makes an unwarranted assumption that RSD doesn't actually benefit the stores that participate.
"It's one of our busiest days of the year," Brown quickly responds when he hears Creighton's claim. "It's also one of the funnest days of the year."
"If you were to skip Record Store Day, I would be sad. We would all be sad because we love talking to the fans and customers," he adds. "Personally, I love getting to Record Store Day really early and standing outside and talking to people about what they're interested in and why they're there. I love that. I would be sad, I would miss that."
One of Creighton’s biggest gripes with RSD, and the one I take most offense to as a person who actually does arrive to my favorite shop hours before the doors open, is that he believes he is entitled to hear whatever music he wants: “If a hot title sells out, REPRESS more and keep selling it ... why prevent me from ever hearing the music? Do subsequent pressing on black vinyl or better yet, keep mixing up the perks of subsequent pressings until the market is tapped.”
First off, this already happens, and it doesn't necessarily work. "When that has been done -- and it has been done, things get repressed all the time -- people get mad. They get really mad. Collectors feel taken advantage of," Brown explains. He also notes that, financially speaking, repressing limited-edition releases doesn't really make sense for labels and bands.
As a collector himself, why would Creighton want to dilute the rarity of an item? Doesn't that kind of defeat the whole purpose of collecting?
He admits that he has spent two decades grabbing everything Foo Fighters have ever put out, but this year will miss out on the band's limited EP, Songs From the Laundry Room, because he has “no chance in hell getting” his hands on it. Why? He has kids and he won’t endure the “humiliation” to get one. “F--- Record Store Day, we’re going to sleep in and go to the park,” he writes.
Well ... okay! That’s your choice. But for me, a fan who has also been consuming everything Dave Grohl and company have been putting out since the Foos' inception, I’m ecstatic to have the chance to grab the EP on Record Store Day. And if I don’t get it, I’ll just have to stream it online or hit up a record shop on Monday to see if they have any more in stock. Just because you’re not able to stand in line and actually work to get a limited-edition release doesn’t mean Record Store Day sucks.
It also doesn't mean your quest to find the EP ends when RSD is over.
Isn’t that the whole point of collecting? Since when has collecting anything been easy? Flipping through bins, talking to friends, scouring forums and websites, calling record stores all across the country ... collecting requires time and effort.
Creighton does offer some interesting tips to make Record Store Day more vibrant -- rewarding loyal customers is a great idea -- but Brown wants to make sure he (and readers) know that RSD and record stores already do a lot of the things he mentions.
For instance, Creighton says, “Make Record Store Day a once a month thing. Fill the bins with dozens of special releases once a month instead of hundreds of releases once a year.” This actually happens every week! Record labels and bands release limited-edition vinyl all the time. It’s actually hard to not see this happening week in and week out if you've ever set foot inside a record store.
“Creighton isn’t aware of it, but there are whole blogs about it, you write about it, there are sites dedicated to this,” Brown says about limited releases that are sold 12 months a year. “It’s happening all the time. This is not something Record Store Day is doing, this is something that Record Store Day demonstrated would work -- and now labels and bands are doing it on their own.”
Creighton also tells stores to host their own auction; “Why let eBay have all the fun and profit,” he asks. Brown offers a different and more realistic suggestion: “Many stores sell RSD titles on their websites starting the Monday after RSD. This gives collectors the chance to try out different indie store websites, which could become their next online home. Also, RSD prohibits any store from marking up the titles more than a certain amount over list price. All this means fans have a second chance to find things without getting ripped off.”
Creighton urges stores to “turn the emphasis onto experiences -- [with] less focus on collectables, more on in-store performances and record signings.” Again, for anyone who has ever set foot inside a record store on or near Record Store Day, it’s hard to not witness this already happening; RSD reports that 600 artists will be spending time at stores all across the country on April 18, 2015.
Finally, Creighton implores RSD to not “fill the pipeline with s---," and Brown totally agrees. “Bad releases are a total waste,” he says. “I didn't see that many this year, partly because of the collaborative process we put in place last year. Let's remember that everyone has different tastes, so some people are as excited about the unreleased Brian Wilson-written and -produced tracks as others are about those early Foo Fighters recordings.“
Record Store Day is not the enemy.
The point is this: Record Store Day is not the enemy. Yes, you don't have to participate in Record Store Day to support your record stores -- this is true and something we can all agree on.
But to actively combat RSD and say you, the customer, should skip it because that will actually help your local store? That is just misguided and inaccurate advice, and it doesn't help anyone involved.
Though, if you do decide to skip RSD, make sure you also yell at those damn kids that keep hanging out on your lawn.