Yep, this is another lame Record Store Day article. The trend his year has apparently been to say that Record Store Day is negatively impacting the music industry and should be cancelled. This is to some degree true. For a long time indie bands could rely on vinyl sales knowing that more mainstream music fans would never buy in and thus record store day was really and truly theirs. Of course, as with SXSW, ‘independent distributors’ and club tours, major label interests have come in and thrown their weight around and screwed up vinyl releases for pretty much everyone who isn’t signed to one of the big boys (and even the bands there are facing some issues) Does this mean that Record Store Day is fully evil though? Or is there a mix of factors here?
I really don’t think Record Store Day is THAT evil. Yes, it is a great example of majors messing things up for the little guys, and yes its influence on the industry is overrated but I think it also plays a more important role in the American psyche. That is to say – while normally many people would just stream stuff, Record Store Day is one of the few times in the year when you will really see a large group of fans thinking about buying music. Obviously it has been rigged against smaller bands, when previously it was meant for smaller bands, but in terms of the music industry as a whole it’s a pretty helpful thing. Of course, as Neill Jameson puts it in a brilliant article for Decibel, even then, it’s fairly easy to evidence that Record Store Day isn’t doing that much for indie record stores either. For the record, Jameson’s opinion is probably far more valid than anything I have to say, largely because he y’know… worked in a record store. These are just my opinions as an informed outsider.
See – the important thing about Record Store Day is not so much that it moves copies, but that it keeps the subconscious the notion of the record store going. We are far too often willing to just ignore and forget that these stores were once a key part of American culture. They hold a valuable place in the hearts of many of our parents and grandparents, and the ideas that they support are important because they remind us that music is worth something. That’s why this whole whining about record store day thing gets my goat. Every other day of the year we talk about how streaming is helping indie artists (Even though it probably really isn’t that much better than piracy) and how we just need to accept that music is worth nothing. Well maybe having a day where we say that music is worth something is important because it maintains a sense of hope that there is something of merit and value left in the music industry.
Perhaps it is fitting though that one of the last symbols of the old music industry should have such an ignominious death at the hands of the very people who choked the rest of the industry out. It really goes to show that every time the independent labels manage to find a good thing major players can kill it with another fucking Motley Crue reissue. Who even cares about half of these bands, or hearing another remaster anyway? Ultimately – when you are trying to make money off of selling records as a major, you are going to have to start selling to an ever broader and more basic fanbase leading to reissues that no actual music fan has cared about for years. That’s the real issue with Record Store Day, it turned something for the fans and by the fans into another corporate event that really is only hurting the majority of musicians whilst providing minimal benefit to bigger interests. Of course, we all know it won’t canceled, we just have to make do with what scraps we can before the whole thing becomes a massive corporate choke out.
So is this why we can’t have nice things? Because even though more money is being made from Record Store Day than ever before, the people who made it viable are being screwed? Yeah pretty much actually. It stands as a larger metaphor for the industry. It forces us to realize that the big boys have us at every turn. There are solutions of course, the most notable of course being that we need to have more record producing plants (And from what I understand real progress is being made on that front) But I think we need to take this as a lesson. This is why I get paranoid when things I love start to blow up, I worry if they are going to need up backfiring hilariously like Record Store Day has, leaving us all swallowing the turds of giants who never bothered to learn how to play the game properly in the first place.
Consider this, before I leave you dear reader. I’m in my early 20s I’m as invested in the music industry as anyone can be. I live and breathe this. You’re reading me, so clearly I’ve had something valid to say. I have never participated in Record Store Day. I regularly visit record stores and get stuff, but Record Store Day has never really interested me. Record Store Day never seemed like it catered to someone like me who was just a dork who didn’t have the money to be a collector, and I think there are a lot of people in my boat. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to have a Record Store Day because it alienates those who normally love record stores.
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