Record Store Day is all very well — but don't forget the rest of the year

The sight of people buying multiple copies of the most sought-after releases and listing them on online marketplaces the very same day can be deeply dispiriting


Record Store Day, the annual celebration of independent music shops, returns this Saturday. The event kicked off in the US in 2007 and has since gone international, with stores in the UK, Canada, Germany, France and more taking part.

Over 240 shops across the UK will be participating this year, with a stack of exclusive releases, live recordings and reissues from artists as varied as Nirvana, Frightened Rabbit, Eric B & Rakim, David Bowie and Skrillex hitting the shelves.

But beneath the buzz surrounding the live in-store events, coloured vinyl, exclusive 12”s and, yes, even the odd cassette, there’s a nagging perception that Record Store Day is becoming increasingly characterised by bandwagon-jumpers casually dipping into vinyl culture for a day. People who a fortnight ago didn’t know one end of a tonearm from the other will be flooding independent stores this weekend to grab a pile of records, spending the day tapping into the ‘hip’ cachet attached to vinyl, before returning to their Spotify or iTunes playlists for the remainder of the year.

Now, that's their prerogative — we live in a democracy and people can choose to consume music however the hell they like. It’s 2014, and vinyl and mp3 can happily co-exist.  But don't complain when the store you copped that LCD Soundsystem ‘Live At Madison Square Garden’ 5xLP boxset from on Saturday shuts down six months from now thanks to a chronic lack of custom. If the people who are so eager to stand in lengthy Record Store Day queues got as excited about buying music for the other 364 days in the year then perhaps our record shops might be in better shape financially.

For music fans, an afternoon’s crate digging was once an essential part of any trip overseas: cities like London, New York and Tokyo were renowned vinyl meccas for everything from hip-hop to punk, while on a trip to Havana a couple of years back I was blown away by the rich selection of Afro-Cuban jazz in the city's ramshackle record shops.

That said, vinyl sales reached a ten-year peak last year, shifting close to 800,000 - almost double 2012’s total - according to figures from the industry body BPI, with sales of the format particularly strong among the under-35s.

Mainstream acts like the Arctic Monkeys and Daft Punk have helped push the revival, offering listeners something more tangible than a digital file, while cutting edge artists like MF Doom have tapped into their obsessive fan bases, rolling out collectable releases in lavish, elaborate packaging with extensive liner notes.

But the longer-term downturn in sales over the past decade, coupled with the rise in downloads, has taken its toll, with legendary spots on both sides of the Atlantic (Bleecker Bob’s in New York; Mr Bongo’s in London, among countless others) shutting their doors. In that context, events like Record Store Day — which get people through the doors and boost trade — can only be a good thing, right? Sure. Yet the notion that people should be ‘reminded’ that records still exist — prepare for the avalanche of tweets on Saturday morning compelling people to ‘go buy a record and support your local music store‘ — leaves something of a sour taste in the mouth. For instance, the sight of people buying multiple copies of the most sought-after RSD releases and listing them on online marketplaces such as Discogs and eBay at inflated prices hours later can be deeply dispiriting. There shouldn’t just be one special day to celebrate those gorgeous circular slabs of black plastic.

So this Saturday, enjoy Record Store Day. Go to the live events. Visit your local indie store. More importantly, put your hand in your pocket and buy some physical releases. Just don't wait another year to do it again.

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