It’s become a serious fix for vinyl junkies as well as a vital shot in the arm for independent record shops. Record Store Day is being staged in two parts this year, with the first taking place tomorrow and a later ‘drop’ to follow on July 17.
According to the event’s organisers, the split has been designed to ease the pressure on pressing plants and distribution companies put under strain by the pandemic, as well as to give traders more time to prepare budgets ahead of what has become by far their single biggest burst of activity in the calendar year.
Originating in America in 2008, Record Store Day has been a fixture in the UK for more than a decade and has been identified as one of the key drivers in the well-publicised rebirth of vinyl singles and LPs over the period, essentially due to its celebration of the physical format’s unique quality, diversity and exclusivity.
All those plus points are dependent on the annual RSD list being crammed with limited edition releases, whether they be offerings available in exceptionally low quantities, bonus track-type affairs or unusual coloured or pictured discs.
Normally held in April, the event became a three-parter last year after it was delayed until August due to Covid restrictions. The final drop took place in October, so diehards haven’t had long to wait for their next big spending spree.
However, with numerous special issues routinely hitting the shelves every week these days, far from being an easy sell, to many RSD is starting to look like an attraction that is forced to fight for its place in a competitive and crowded marketplace.
Garry Smith has been involved in the initiative in recent years at his Concorde Music outlet in Perth, and reckons it’s been “slightly watered down” by the sheer volume of product that’s offered to bricks and mortar sellers.
“There’s at least one or two limited edition, indie-only coloured vinyl releases every week, sometimes more,” he says.
“When it comes to Record Store Day you have a lot more coming out at the same time. Going back a few years, on the days and weeks when it wasn’t on there weren’t any limited editions coming out like they’re doing now. Those regular limited releases have helped us because sales wouldn’t be as they are throughout the year — in the other 51 weeks — without them.”
Big name major label releases from the likes of AC/DC, Status Quo, U2, Genesis and Motorhead all feature among tomorrow’s releases, with everyone from Little Mix to Madness, DC Fontaines, Mogwai, Chemical Brothers, Alestorm, Roisin Murphy and Cat Stevens also having work repackaged.
Unusually, however, there’s nothing from late icon David Bowie — who’s been a near constant presence on the RSD list — to whet buyers’ appetites.
Loyalty and the trust between traders and the record companies is crucial to RSD, although Garry says certain sales reps can testify to some shops asking for huge numbers of specific titles, despite buying relatively few items via those same suppliers at other times.
“At least one of the guys I deal with tells them where to go, because the whole ethos is supposed to be based on year-round support,” he adds. “You can’t just come along and have your cake and eat it.”
Dundee shop Assai pioneered a biosafe RSD bookings-only drive-through at their West Pitkerro industrial estate warehouse last year, and the same arrangement is in place tomorrow, along with an additional by-appointment opportunity for music lovers to snap up their hoped-for purchases at the firm’s retail premises in Union Street.
It’s less than two months since shops were given a green light to reopen and Assai founder Keith Ingram says such a service is designed to prevent crowding at a time when safety remains of paramount concern.
“A normal walk-up service on RSD titles is something we don’t feel comfortable doing, and we don’t feel it’s right to have people queuing for hours for records whilst the restrictions remain in place,” he explains.
Elsewhere in Dundee, Record Store Day items will be available from Perth Road’s Le Freak from 10am tomorrow, while Mo’Fidelity in Montrose is taking bookings online for between 9am and noon, with Stirling’s Europa Music also set to welcome customers throughout the day at its Friar Street base.