Record Store Day is today and looks to be another huge success for independent record stores across the UK. The official Record Store Day began in 2008, celebrating the unique culture of each record store across the US and UK with special RSD releases, and stores hosting live performances and signings. In the last year vinyl sales have reached 1 million a year, the highest since 1996, and most small independent record stores have been thriving. We have all enjoyed the special little in store gigs, as well as the one off releases to treasure. But at what cost does this one day of frantic fun come at for smaller artists and label’s sales? Does every record store benefit? Are “unique” represses really that special?
Ultimately it is a day for record stores to put on great shows and sell new and limited records, and it still does this fantastically well. But the lists of “new” releases have been drowned in represses. As fantastic as A-Ha, Simple Minds and the White Stripes are, these constant repressings are clogging up the arteries of RSD, leaving little space for new acts and small labels. Even if you can look past this decay of new releases and try and focus on what the day stands for, RSD is still exclusively indie in every sense of the word.
It is understandable that in the beginnings of RSD, the records released may have been moulded around the founder’s personal tastes, but while the day has blown into a worldwide celebration, the music released is still almost exclusively indie and rock. Looking over the releases this year it is tough to call out many other genres, a slight hint of hip hop perhaps with Jay-Z, Run the Jewels and A$AP Rocky amongst a forest of guitars. Even if you can look past the truck load of re-releases the unmistakable genre-bias is not so easily ignored.
It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Post-Grunge two-piece Drenge recently spoke out about their distaste for RSD, comparing the latest release list to “a swamp of bullshit”. A good point regardless of how it was phrased. RSD has also become a hotspot for people to buy “limited” pressings and then sell them immediately on Ebay or Amazon for thousands. In all fairness you can’t pin that on RSD, but more on people generally being arseholes. Essentially though, the feeling is that the focus has been lost, “bigger labels see it as an opportunity to make money”.
As much as all of this is true, RSD does still does what it set out to do: support indie record stores. Most of the problems raised are not down to the day itself, but more what people have done with it. It’s hard to resist the call of RSD; there’s a wealth of interesting and exciting new material, even if we now have to scramble through masses of represses like one big jumble sale. Despite all these frustrations, there are still gems to find.
Jack White paid $300,000 for the first Elvis Presley recording, which will be released via White’s Third Man Records. Chrvches have thrown out 7” ‘Get Away/Dead Air’ whilst working on their second album. Slow Club contribute to the pile with ‘I Swam out to Meet You’ and just after releasing her debut album, Courtney Barnett is already primed with EP Kim’s Caravan. Jay-Z will also release ‘U Don’t Know’ (although it may come with a mandatory $20 subscription to Tidal). Team ups are supplied by Daughter/Warpaint, Hinds/ the Parrots, The Wytches/Hooton Tennis Club and an intriguing Remixes mash up between Imagine Dragons and Bastille. Others to watch out for include Vampire Weekend’s 12” ‘Step’, George Ezra’s monster debut Wanted On Voyage on picture disc with a “Where’s Geoff” game. Mysterious listings from Peace and Glass Animals are also worth a look into as well as a two track 12” from Florence and the Machine and a 7” from Django Django, both giving us a taste of their forthcoming albums. So head down to Crash Records or Jumbo Records to find some golden purchases and possibly see a few cosy in store shows, because despite the heap of represses and almost exclusively indie rock releases, it’s still Record Store Day. It can’t be beat.
Watch a short video about Jack White and that pricey Elvis record below: