Rejoice, music geeks and vinyl lovers. Today is Record Store Day!
Started in 2008 by a group of record store owners and employees, the event began as a vehicle to celebrate and highlight the special place that independent record stores hold in the hearts of music lovers and buyers around the country and the world.
Many independent artists and labels produced special, limited-run exclusive items ranging from previously unreleased songs to commemorative T-shirts and other rare items for the day.
But as with most good independent ideas, particularly those that generate money, RSD has been appropriated to some degree by major labels that often use the day to promote upcoming archival releases to hardcore music collectors.
The spirit of RSD has also been tainted by folks who purchase the exclusives and immediately put them up on eBay at exorbitant prices.
Nevertheless, RSD has become an ersatz holiday for those who love vinyl (about 90 percent of the day’s special releases are on vinyl, but several also contain download codes for on-the-go listening convenience) and anything that can be described as “rare” and/or “exclusive,” giving record store owners an opportunity to attract and hopefully keep new customers.
In Northeast Ohio, there are officially more than 25 stores including area chains such as the Exchange taking part in Record Store Day.
Go to recordstoreday.com for a list of retailers and special offerings. You may want to contact stores because all the specials are not available at every store.
Area participants include Square Records in Akron’s Highland Square, whose owners David Ignizio and Juniper Sage have participated in RSD since its inception and say the concept, though a bit more commercial than its early days, is a definite help to their business.
“If you don’t line up an hour before we open, then you’re really taking your chances on getting what you want,” Ignizio said. “Most of the sought-after records are gone by two or three in the afternoon; that’s just the way the day has become. It’s kind of a mad dash.”
Among the items at Square at which collectors will dash madly are a rare 1991 live recording of the Pogues fronted by former Clash singer Joe Strummer, a reissue of Joy Division’s long-out-of-print debut EP An Ideal for Living and a few copies of the JB’s Food for Thought LP reissue featuring a large poster of the original cover art and a bonus 45 of the much-sampled The Grunt Parts 1 & 2 on purple vinyl.
“That one is a killer,” Ignizio said of the JB’s album.
Over at Time Traveler Records in Cuyahoga Falls, a longtime haven for collectors of rare classic-rock reissues, owner Scott Shepard said the Record Store Day rush is his best day of the year by far.
“There’s not even a close second, not even around Christmastime,” Shepard said, noting that the event brings him new repeat customers. “It’s that one day. … If there were two or more spread throughout the year, it would sure help the bottom line. It’s that good.”
Shepard said he has about 150 RSD items and some of the coolest records include a Bruce Springsteen 12-inch American Beauty featuring four unreleased tracks that will surely appear on eBay at exorbitant prices before RSD ends.
Shepard also has a live recording by veteran indie-rock band Death Cab for Cutie with the Magik*Magik Orchestra on 180g double vinyl and the Flaming Lips/Devo split 7” featuring dueling live performances of Devo’s Gates of Steel. Shepard will also be raffling off a signed copy of the Black Keys’ El Camino LP.
The hundreds of RSD specials cover a wide gamut of genres and styles. There’s jazz such as a Sun Ra’s outre Outer Spaceware and a 1965 live recording by saxophonist Charles Lloyd.
There are Northeast Ohio-based items including Raspberries singer Eric Carmen who offers his 2013 single Brand New Day on a 45, three releases by Devo including a picture disc and DVD combo pack of a 1995 concert and a 1977 recording of the band’s star-making show at famed New York club Max’s Kansas City.
Many record stores also celebrate the day with live music. Performances at Square Records will begin at 5 p.m. and feature Travelogue, Chimney Swift and the Echoes and Analog Fog — a John Carpenter tribute band. Time Traveler will have live music beginning at 2 p.m. with performances by the Poplars, Cory Thomas, Ryan Humbert, Tracey Thomas, the Strange Familiar, Emma Shepard and Red Sun Rising.
Although vinyl makes up only a small portion of total music sales, it is the only physical format that has seen its sales grow for the past several years.
RSD may have gone a bit commercial, but the spirit remains and the real world benefits for independent record store owners are palpable.
“Record Store Day is a lot of planning and work, but it is worth it for sure. I wouldn’t participate otherwise,” Ignizio said. “We do gain some new customers who keep coming back. We have plenty of steady customers who come in that day as well. Some people will wait until that day to pick up a record or two that they’ve been meaning to get for a while.
“It becomes a nice little community thing then, with lots of people running into old friends in the shop. Stuff like that.”