On Saturday, independent record stores worldwide will celebrate the 11th annual Record Store Day, a holiday aimed at crate-diggers and the overall record store atmosphere. It has become an opportunity for musicians of all kinds to do in-store performances while customers scour for hard-to-find exclusives.
According to the 2018 Recording Industry Association of America revenue report, the sale of physical music products surpassed that of digital downloads in 2017, something that hasn’t happened in eight years. The annual celebration continues to value vinyl and CDs more than a virtual medium, helping that upsurge in physical media sales.
“To have something that’s tactile and collectible just gives it more meaning,” Spinster Records event planner Kate Siamro says. “Something about having album art and also buying something that gives back to the artist like it does, I think it’s great. It’s not something you can download off the internet; you have to buy it.”
Since its 2008 inception, Record Store Day has amassed a large amount of support for local record stores, and the number of participants keeps growing. On a national scale, roughly 1,400 stores participate, and internationally, about 70 countries have stores taking part in the occasion. For Good Records co-owner Chris Penn, the yearly turnout has increased because of such expansion.
“We’re part of a coalition called AIMS [Alliance of Independent Media Stores], and the president of AIMS is one of the founders of Record Store Day,” Penn says. “The very first year we participated, we weren’t sure it was going to take. We decided to make our store’s birthday party the same day — even though it wasn’t — and it just turned into a big party. For us, it’s gotten more packed each year.”
Bill’s Records owner Bill Wisener has seen attendance in his store grow as well.
“It’s better than it was when nobody had any interest at all,” he says. “Gradually, more people know about it every year, definitely. They do a whole lot more with it now than they did. I think it’ll continue. I don’t see any reason why it would stop now that it started because I don’t see it suddenly disappearing.”
Personal interactions among fans are one of the appeals that record stores offer. Record Store Day promotes a community that has established a common ground in listening.
“It has a place in so many people’s lives,” Wisener continues. “And the people who really love to listen to records, whether it is families, friends or just doing it by yourself — it’s just a whole ’nother thing. The record is like a friend.”
Josey Records store manager Wil Brooks enjoys the event for a similar reason.
“We look forward to RSD each year,” he says. “It gives us a chance to celebrate with our friends, sharing our common bond and love for music. We have participated for the last three years, and it has been an incredible experience. We look forward to many more days like this.”
Record Store Day create synergy among consumers, as well as music makers and distributors. The performances are important elements that attract people to the annual events, spreading support for both local and national acts. Sometimes, however, that can get in the way of the shopping aspect.
Siamro says some shoppers leave the record store if they don't like the music.
“The thing we’re doing special this year is we’re really celebrating local DJs,” she says. “We usually do bands, but we thought this year, we didn’t want anything too distracting for shoppers who are real diggers. We know last year sometimes it was too loud, and some people would leave if the music wasn’t quite what they liked. So this year, we figured how can you go wrong with people who spin vinyl?”