This year marks the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, a day originally set up to celebrate and boost commerce to the independent record stores, where releases ranging from singles box sets to picture discs to never before released film soundtracks, they can be picked up exclusively from your local independent record shop rather than your high street chain store. Sounds rather nice and positive doesn’t it? and in some ways, it is but as with most things, there is a murkier side.
On the plus side, it is a day that independent record stores can enjoy an upturn in sales and exposure, a day where eager buyers will camp from the early hours to get their hands on this years hot exclusive or snaffle that rarity that they simply must add to their collection. I myself will be queuing outside Cave Records in Shrewsbury to hopefully obtain my picks this year. Added exposure and sales for independent record stores is a wonderful thing but it does beg a question, where are these throngs of people any other day of the year? There is an adage that has become synonymous at this time of year, a record shop is for life, not just for RSD. There will be people in these queues on Saturday who never come to these stores at any other time, that may only visit them this one day in the year to grab what they can get on this independent only release day and that is where the message of RSD start to loose its lustre and the murkier side starts to rear its head.
RSD has become just as synonymous for flagrant, opportunistic profiteering by “unscrupulous carpet baggers”, as a friend of mine so eloquently put it, as much as for raising the profile of independent stores. Go on to eBay on Saturday afternoon typing in any one of the prime releases and I’m guaranteed you will be disgusted by what you find. Inflated prices, multiple copies up for sale from the same vendor, all taking sales away from the very places RSD is supposedly there to support, some vendors even selling stock at inflated price before RSD even arrives. There are of course things that can be set in place by the stores to combat against this happening, no duel purchases of records and a maximum of 2 records per customer but these opportunists I guess will always find a way.
Many people, record store owners themselves included are starting to come to the conclusion that RSD is kinda on quite a few levels, a bit of a con, that the only real winners with no negative comeback are the labels that are putting out the releases for the day, some of which have highly questionable merit. Go in to any participating RSD store and you will find amongst the decent releases, tacky picture discs, even re-releases of current albums with a few b-side tacked on, destined to loiter in the racks long after the day has passed. The more exposure the day starts to receive, the less certain labels seem to care about what they are putting out. Not wanting to put too much of a downer on it but it does kinda suck when a lack of thought is put into releases but as long as it is putting money in the tills of the independently run record stores and not in the pockets of chancers, who am I to argue.