This morning I started queuing at 7.26am to get into Jumbo Records. Just over two and a half hours later, I was in the shop buying some of the records on my list, and learning that others had already sold out.
If you are familiar with Record Store Day, that may sound like a familiar experience. If not, you may be wondering why us crazy fools do this. Record Store Day is an annual event to celebrate independent record shops. Hundreds of (very) limited records are released on the day and are only available in independent record shops. Some shops also arrange live instore performances for the day.
While queuing I was interviewed by a BBC reporter, who asked “why vinyl?” I think I gave a fairly eloquent answer, but in hindsight I wish I’d given a politician’s response, and answered a different question to the one I was asked, namely “why record shops?” Record Store Day is about reminding people how important independent record shops are. It did that for me 5 years ago. Before the 2009 Record Store Day I hadn’t been paying for much new music*, and that which I did pay for I tended to mostly get online. But since 2009 I’ve bought most of my new music from Jumbo Records in Leeds, and have developed good personal friendships with the staff.
In terms of the day’s releases themselves, I’ve learnt to accept that I will miss out on some of the things I want, due to the extremely limited quantities released. I did get most of the things I was after this year though, including Inspiral Carpets’ Dung 4, released for the first time on vinyl. This cassette-only release was huge for me in my teens as I moved away from listening to chart music.
I think there is a real danger that these limited edition releases are now overshadowing the real purpose of Record Store Day, and there are record shop owners who share my concerns. It is not Limited Edition Day, or Record Label Day. The clue is in the title. It is about the record shops and our relationship with them. We mustn’t forget that. When committed collectors and record shop regulars are missing out on records they want, only to see them on eBay later in the day, it is perhaps time to reconsider whether all these special releases need to be quite so limited.
The special instore performances that shops like Jumbo Records line up for the day help to keep the focus on the shops, and not just the list of special records. On Record Store Day in 2012 a couple of children who are special to me saw The Staves perform at Jumbo Records, instantly became fans of the band, and wanted to go back to Jumbo. The array of limited edition releases didn’t really matter to those young girls, but Record Store Day has done its job in drawing them into an independent record shop. I for one hope that relationship lasts many years for them. Their lives will be all the richer for it.
* In case you were wondering, when I say I didn’t pay for much new music, I wasn’t indulging in naught downloads. I was getting sent a lot of new music for my radio programme.
Edit: You really should now go and read Phil Cope’s raw and impassioned blog post about Record Store Day. He wrote his after mine, and he has gone much further than me in his criticism of Record Store Day.