Every day is record store day!
That is the collective sound of record collectors, independent labels and now indeed many record stores coming together to voice their concerns over Record Store Day (RSD) on April 16.
Now in its ninth year, it has gone over the years from champion of music’s most celebrated format to the scourge of the independent labels it was set up to promote.
The argument of independent labels and store owners is that the major labels have hijacked the day, marginalising the smaller ones by clogging up pressing plants for up to six months beforehand with needless money-making pressings (this year’s Lynyrd Skynyrd live concert LP springs to mind) and that it has become an increasing chore to pester the RSD people to sort it out.
RSD started in 2008, kicked off by a Metallica concert in San Francisco (an irony in itself considering they are as far away from independent labels and shops as possible) and had, until recently, been growing in both popularity and record output – this year’s total reaching over 550 records split across around 250 labels.
But this has not stopped a backlash from the smaller labels and stores, who now see it as a cash-cow for the major labels.
Independent record labels Howling Owl and Sonic Cathedral kicked off the argument over RSD last year, pulling out of the event by releasing a joint 7” and a statement setting out their disagreements. Record Store Day, they said, had become “just another event in the annual music industry circus that begins with the BBC Sound Of… list and ends with the Mercury Prize, co-opted by major labels and used as another marketing stepping stone.”
In quite a crass manner the people behind RSD hit back, stating: “To make it clear, the purpose of Record Store Day is not to promote independent labels. It is to promote independent record shops (the clue is in the name),” which only added to the furore from fans, labels and stores alike.
The stores that RSD were clearly insistent were their main priority then too joined the RSD witch-hunt.
Berlin record store lynchpin OYE Records pulled out of this year’s event, stating the usual grievances about major labels and being unable to talk to RSD about what releases they could get into their store – so they couldn’t decide which records to stock, they were handed a list by RSD and that was that.
Alongside this, Peckham-based record stores YAM records and Do!! You!!! records are hosting their second annual anti-RSD, instead choosing to promote local artists and labels in the Peckham area of London.
To add to the party-pooper atmosphere, this year’s street party in Soho to celebrate RSD has been cancelled due to roadworks taking place, increasing the gloom now surrounding the event.
RSD has again remained resilient, and hit back by stating that four out of five releases are from independent labels and that it will once again have more than 200 participating stores in the UK alone.
As a customer, RSD can be a joyous day that is the focal point of your unexplainable love of records.
For record labels and stores however there is clearly an underbelly to this day that is slowly removing the romantic elements of record culture.
And let’s be honest, if people are turning up to stores this Saturday ambling for a James Bay picture disc, then the meaning of RSD truly has been lost.