The third Saturday of April each year is the official unofficial holiday “Record Store Day” (RSD), the Christmas Day for record geeks (geeks is meant with much love) and collectors of every genre and style of music.
This holy music day celebrates independent music stores and the culture they create providing an outlet for musician and listener alike. RSD is the day artists release limited release records (yes, records – as in vinyl) in celebration of RSD; the intent being to promote local record shops and bring in new business, as well as giving the regulars a treat.
Saturday, April 16, 2011 around the world hundreds of record-geeks stood outside local haunts and waited patiently for their chosen store to open with hopes of capturing some of the musical treasures released that day. Oh what treasures indeed.
Participating artists this year included The Flaming Lips, The Rolling Stones, Phish, Green Day, Husker Du, Bouncing Souls, Lady GaGa, Bob Dylan, Big Star, Ryan Adams, Jack White, The Beastie Boys, Bad Brains, Foo Fighters, Daft Punk, Duran Duran, Beth Ditto, Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Phish, Queen, The Yardbirds, Tom Petty, The Velvet Underground, Flogging Molly, RUSH, and hundreds more.
Officially founded in 2007 RSD engages hundreds of recording artists as well as independent record stores with special appearances, performances, art exhibits, promotional products, and of course music, all celebrating the independent record store and the contribution they provide to the music industry and local community.
Artists who release music on RSD are connecting with their fans, providing the vigilant with something unusual, something rare, something that will never be seen again (except perhaps on eBay.) This officially unofficial self-made holiday boosts sales in a market that struggles to survive, the independent record storeowner who competing with instant on-demand availability of the digital music.
More importantly RSD, and the artist releases, get fans “talking” about music again. Take for example Big Star’s re-release of “Three” for RSD. This album was originally recording in 1974 and released in 1978 as a follow-up to “Radio City”, it is coveted among record collectors and Big Star fans. The much anticipated and limited re-release of 2000 copies on 180-gram vinyl set message-boards and record stores a-buzzing with the plans and hopes of collectors all vying for a copy. The piece-de-resistance was that five original test pressings were randomly inserted into the run (insert a low “ooooohhh” here), meaning that five lucky fans hit the record-collecting lottery this weekend.
Fleetwood Mac released a High Fidelity version of ‘Rumours’ mastered from the original tapes. This double-LP is available in 45 pressing or 33 1/3 and is the talk of the town, demanding a high price ($140.00 + on eBay) but delivering a very high quality product. Released on RSD every single copy has been swooped up, good luck finding one, but is well worth the wait and the cost. (The sound really is THAT good.)
To be sure; record collectors can be a fickle bunch, The Flaming Lips’ box-set release this year was also a big draw. Releasing the first five Warner Bros. albums, with a super-deluxe version (each record on colored vinyl) some fans were still fuming from last year’s Flaming Lips RSD release which remained available on the band’s website for some time; the release may have been special to some, but in the eyes of some collectors should not have been promoted as a RSD release. To the fervent and loyal the difference between “releasing on RSD” and a “RSD release” is vast.
Jack White (The White Stripes, The Ranconteurs) is well known as a vinyl enthusiast and aficionado and his Nashville record store is Mecca for some. Fans know that Jack will surely have some rare and interesting treats for those that visit him on RSD. Music and vinyl is a family act as his wife, Karen Elson, contributed this year with a 45 single with rose-petals inside the vinyl in promotion of her new album.
RSD is a celebration of music, artists, fans and culture, in four years it has grown dramatically and will likely continue to escalate. This year the Chicago-based Numero Group propagated a “flash store” with 11 dealers under one roof for one day to offer not only RSD releases but a large selection of stock for the experienced collector as well as the new; Numero Group even had a secret code word that scored something extra if used at checkout .
This type of one-on-one mentality and special/limited edition material will surely continue, and evolve in coming RSD for years ensuring in some form the vinyl will live on in the hearts of many. It, like anything else, is in danger of becoming “too commercial” and perhaps the spirit will be lost, but for now it is big business and still a lot of fun.
By –Meredith Underhill