Record Store Day: Indie labels say majors have ruined the big event

Records from Mumford & Sons, Calvin Harris, David Bowie and Bob Dylan are crowding out indies

Nick Clark
Tuesday 17 March 2015 20:06
The popularity of vinyl has soared, with sales last year reaching an 18-year high
The popularity of vinyl has soared, with sales last year reaching an 18-year high

It was supposed to be a way of celebrating small, independent record shops and the music labels that produce vinyl LPs and singles throughout the year.

But Record Store Day, now a staple of the musical calendar in Britain and around the world, is facing increasing criticism that it is harming the very businesses it was originally set up to help.

Two independent labels have criticised the event – due to take place on April 18 – saying it had lost its way and adding that it had become just another “marketing stepping stone” for major labels.

This year, records from Mumford & Sons, Calvin Harris, David Bowie and Bob Dylan are among the 592 limited releases only available in independent music shops.

The result will leave small labels such as Sonic Cathedral, from London, and Bristol-based Howling Owl Records unable to compete, “so we won’t compete”, they said, adding: “Record Store Day really isn’t fun, and it’s certainly not beneficial to small, backs-to-the-wall labels.”

A combined statement from the two revealed plans to release a split single and, rather than limiting it to the one day, one copy would be released every day for 365 days – as “every day should be Record Store Day”.

“This is not a protest against record shops,” they said, or even a protest against the annual day itself. “It’s what Record Store Day has become: just another event in the music industry circus.”

In need of a leg up?: Mumford & Sons

Nathaniel Cramp, founder of Sonic Cathedral, said since posting the statement he has had support from other labels and even record stores. “The feedback suggests there’s something not quite right about the way it works,” he said. “It was a good idea. Maybe it just needs to be rethought.” He questioned whether Noel Gallagher or Mumford and Sons “really need a leg up”.

Vinyl sales have soared in recent years, with figures released by the BPI in November showing sales in 2015 had passed one million, the highest since 1996. It accounted for £20m of industry revenues.

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Yet ahead of Record Store Day, vinyl pressing plants have such a backlog of mainstream records that smaller labels say they find themselves at the back of the queue.

Record Store Day was set up in the US in 2007 and was quickly taken up in Britain. Special vinyl releases and promotional products are sold exclusively in independent stores, while artists make special appearances.

This year over 200 stores are participating in the UK. Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association which administrates Record Store Day in the UK, said: “It has been very beneficial to independent stores... Some have told us it’s bigger than Christmas.”

She rejected the labels’ claims and said 75 per cent of titles were from independent labels, adding some titles “just wouldn’t work for that day”.

For the record... What’s out on April 18

A-ha – “Take On Me”

1,000 copies of a 10-inch picture disc to be released with artwork from the video

Foo Fighters – Songs from the Laundry Room

1,500 records with unreleased demos and a cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America”

Johnny Marr – “I feel You”

Marr’s cover of this Depeche Mode song in 7-inch format

Mumford & Sons

A bootleg-style record will be from their coming album

U2 – Songs of Innocence

After its controversial release into iTunes libraries comes a deluxe edition double-LP

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