It's that special time of year, when dedicated music nerds awake before dawn to congregate around their favorite brick & mortar sonic purveyor to celebrate recorded sound in all of its varied and glorious formats. We're swiftly approaching a "holiday" that has the potential to transform otherwise well-adjusted adults into tantrum-throwing infants. Make your list. Check it twice. On Saturday, April 19, we will celebrate Record Store Day (RSD).
For those unfamiliar, RSD was conceived in 2007 as a celebration of the culture surrounding independent stores with labels and artists joining forces to release limited-edition products specifically for the holiday. "At first blush, it seemed almost too good to be true," says LUNA Music store owner Todd Robinson. "To finally have the labels get their head around the fact that by creating special releases just for the day, you're going to have a captive audience. You're going to have the tangential benefit of reinvigorating an art form, and, in a larger sense, shining a light on these record stores that are still a vital part of the community."
As a member of the Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS), LUNA embraced the RSD concept from its inception. According to Robinson, RSD was the brainchild of AIMS founder and president Eric Levin, who adapted it from Free Comic Book Day. Though Robinson believed in the holiday's potential, he failed to anticipate the immediate interest from music fans. "I think that if we had a secret video tape of us from the first two years, it would probably be a look of sheer f@cking panic," he says.
RSD has grown steadily with each subsequent year, both in terms of interest and the number of independent releases. The growth in RSD interest has been compounded by a resurgence in vinyl sales, which saw an overall increase of 33% in 2013 according to the Neilsen and Billboard year-end report. The logistics involved with preparing for RSD can prove burdensome for independent labels and stores, who often rely on a small staff.
"In addition to the expected stress of making sure the orders are in by their deadlines, this particular year there are more releases than ever," Indy CD & Vinyl co-owner Andy Skinner says. "This makes for stress on many levels: logistical stress of making sure we have room to store and then display the product, financial stress of ordering huge numbers of product and having to pay for it, and the stress of providing good customer service: making sure we order enough of popular and hard-to-find gems to make our regulars happy."
On top of the mammoth list of RSD releases that is circulated to stores all over the country, many of them aim to create a block party atmosphere that incorporates live music and collaboration with a variety of local businesses. Some even create additional pieces that are wholly unique to their particular shop. This year, Indy CD & Vinyl will have material never previously released in a physical format from Heavy Gun Blog, exclusive mix tapes from DJ CRKSHNKS, and an early look at a new LP from Sweden's Kristoffer Ragnstam. LUNA has partnered with Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos on an early release of the band's new album Slingshot to Heaven (limited to just 75 copies), in addition to the exclusive artwork, T-shirts and totes that have served as staples of the shop's RSD experience.
"I'm just beyond thrilled that we get to do that," Robinson says of the Margot release, "because it's just a microcosm of what we try to do all year: support local businesses and support local artists. To have this special thing that we get to do on such a special day, it just doesn't get any better."
While labels and stores appreciate the economic windfall that RSD is able to generate, they note the consumerism often takes a backseat to the party itself. Jimmy Peoni, who runs local label GloryHole Records and curates the lineup for VIBES Music's RSD event says, "VIBES' record store day is about giving back to the people that have supported us all year. It's kind of me throwing a party for the music fans, and selling records is a bonus."
Though GloryHole has yet to partake in an "official" RSD release, the label always releases a few limited-edition items as part of the holiday. This year, GloryHole is dropping a 7-inch vinyl from No Coast, a cassette from Christian Taylor's new project Ampersand Blues Band, and the third installment of its FSDC sampler cassette. Fellow label owner Karl Hofstetter (Joyful Noise Recordings) understands Peoni's decision to simply release the material on his own.
"We've never really done a Record Store Day release besides the cassette we did with LUNA and Landlocked last year, and that was just because they're our buddies," Hofstetter says. "We might be more of an anomaly, because we have more of a record-collecting audience for our label. It's kind of what we do every day, but then there's one day a year that [RSD distributors] ask us to take less money for it."
In the seven years since its inception, RSD has earned its share of detractors. Many argue the demand for limited-edition goods creates a secondary market on websites, such as Ebay and Discogs that fails to reward the artists and labels that manufactured the release in the first place. To curb this phenomenon, many stores (including LUNA and Indy CD & Vinyl) limit shoppers to a single copy of each RSD release to increase the likelihood that items end up in the hands of listeners over opportunists. Despite any misgivings, the overall success of RSD makes it unlikely the holiday will go anywhere any time soon.
"I think the good still outweighs the bad," Flannelgraph Records owner Jared Cheek says, before offering up this caveat: "Just remember that you can most likely find an OG copy of that Muppet Movie Soundtrack they're reissuing for RSD at your local record store any day of the year for like, $3.00."
"We really try to set it up so there's something different for everyone to do," Robinson says of LUNA's RSD event. "Whether it's zine-making with General Public Collective, picking up your first $2 cheapo records, replacing that $1 CD that's in your car, or standing in line and talking with other individuals about what they're excited about for the day and beyond. It's not just opening up the doors, turning on the cash register and shuffling people through the line. We really do try to make it a block party experience ... and kind of make it a larger version of what's going on the block all the time, 365 days a year."
Skinner echoed those sentiments when he talked about Indy CD & Vinyl's RSD partnerships with everyone from Deckademics DJ School to Just Pop In!. "Of course, we are in business to make a living, but we want our regulars to feel like they have some kind of part in the community of small businesses here, and the best way to do that is to invite some of the other Indianapolis small business icons to participate."
Indiana RSD Releases
Jurassic Pop Records
Indy CD & Vinyl
10 a.m. - David Peck
11 a.m. - DJ Helicon
Noon - DJ Lockstar
1p.m. - Duchess / B2B/ Boketto
2 p.m. - Cool Hand Lex
3 p.m. - DJ MetroGnome
4 - 8 p.m. - Deckademics DJ School
Noon - Raw McCartney
1 p.m. - The Bonesetters
2 p.m. - Greg Mullen & MaryAnn (Austin, TX)
3 p.m. - No Coast
4 p.m. - White Moms
5 p.m. - J. Brookinz Producer Showcase
6:30 p.m. - Sirius Blvck
Karma Records (21 N. Post Road)
1 p.m. - Twenty One Pilots & NoNoNo
LUNA Music (5202 N. College Ave.)
Throughout - DJs DMA & Abby Golddust
Noon - Sedcairn Archives
1 p.m. - Sirius Blvck
2 p.m. - The Icks
3 p.m. - Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos
4 p.m. - Sleeping Bag
5 p.m. - We Are Hex
VIBES Music (1051 E. 54th St.)
Throughout - DJ Jewey Ramone
Noon - Caleb McCoach
12:45 p.m. - The Bloody Mess
1:30 p.m. - Bummer Eve
2:15 p.m. - Skin Conditions
3 p.m. - Scanlines
3:45 p.m. - Day Creeper
4:30 p.m. - Benny and the Planes
5:15 p.m. - No Coast
6 p.m. - Thee Tsunamis
7:30 p.m. - White Moms
8:15 p.m. - Raw McCartney