Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vinyl Experience (10) Record Store Day

Text:Fumimasa Hori

I can’t explain the popularity of vinyl all over the world without Record Store Day (From here, RSD). On the contrary from that, it’s not exaggerated that RSD has played a main role of the vinyl popularity. It’s proof that vinyl sales has grown since the beginning of RSD. Actually, there is a data that the record of vinyl sales in one day was renewed on RSD.

RSD is the event once a year. It was established in the U.S. in 2008 by the owner of independent record shops. It is the open source type event every shops can participate in any country basically, if they ask to participate (major record shops seem to not be able to participate in foreign countries.) . It is decided that it is held on the third Saturday of April every year, the limited edition records of various artists are sold in record shops around the world, in-store events are showing an upsurge on this day.

Explaining only by writing, you can’t imagine how festive RSD is. If you would understand how powerful the influence of RSD is, you should watch RSD movie in first. The following video is the state of the RSD year at the famous record shop Amoeba in California last year. There is an unbelievable long line even though before it opened.

Now, I will write the history and the background of RSD briefly. Acoording to Chirs Brown who is a staff of an independent record shop“Bull Moose”, the roots of RSD was back to mid 90’s when independent record shops would form coalitions. In first, they were doing a marketing together, gradually they collaborate to work.Chris was the chairman of the board of one of the coalitions. The sluggish economy we’ve never experienced before was poured into record industries in US since about 2000. According to one theory, it is said that over 3,000 record shops were passed away for 10 years from 1998. US Tower Record  was closed down in 2004 as if it symbolized such situation, then record shops were seemed as one of the declining industries. On the other hand, ipod dashingly appeared in 2001, the digital music grew up with great vigour as if they beat cd which was the mainstream music media before. Also with this influence, The sales of vinyl in US declined from 1 million 200 hundreds in 2004 to 850 hundreds in 2005.

Chris felt this state risky and proposed Michael Kurtz, then the president of other coalitions to imitate the event “Free Comic Book Day”. It made a chance to revive independent comic stores which already suffered a slump in business. Calling some owner of record shops, two guys made a conference. They discussed how they could make people buying music or make people be interested in music. Although there were independent record shops which thrived, the media wrote independent record shop in the negative tone. So, Chris and Michael seemed to want to take a measure for such media. It was 2007.

Two months later, it was decided that about 200 record shops participated in RSD. When Michael asked labels or artists to participate, in first Paul Mccartney accepted it, then artists like Metallica, Tom Waits, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco supported RSD. And, the first RSD was organized in the US in Apr. 2007. Although RSD started with about 300 record shops and 10 limited records, currently RSD has been organized at about 1,700 worldwide record shops including UK, Australia, Japan, etc., and limited records were growing about 350 copies.

Michael, the president of RSD has made a large scale by only about 5 years. He was named a "Knight" of the Orders of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture in February of last year. Here is the speech of Michael when he was named. I quote from

“No one person is in charge of Record Store Day or profits from Record Store Day, but instead thousands of artists and record store owners come together to bring joy and love to the hearts of music fans," he added. "We have created the first ever worldwide music event"

RSD itself has won the Independent Spirit Award at the annual conference of the NARM (National record retail union). Jim Donio of NARM representative told as follows in the speech. I quote from, again.

“Record Store Day's efforts on behalf of independent record stores, particularly its annual Record Store Day event, personify the independent spirit and have been enthusiastically embraced by artists and fans alike, leading to increased awareness and sales for these important but often overlooked physical institutions.”

RSD has been highly valued by not only record industries but also a big culture power France. They influenced independent record shops, labels, or press factories. Vinyl records pressed for RSD were 600 thousands. When RSD was established, purchase money for vinyl was 300 hundreds dollar according to Michael, it became 7 million dollar in the last year. "We restart the record business." Michale said. 
You can understand if you read until here, RSD has contributed significantly to the current vinyl popularity. However, the new problem has occured. It is that people make a large profit by reselling RSD limited records. For example, the RSD limited version of Boards of canada's 12 inch was sold for 560 hundreds dollar at the auction site ebay in last year. In order to restrict such resale, RSD has incorporate the system that record shops sign a pledge to take a major to prohibit reselling the limited edition records . Because of this system, it is said that resold records in auction were under 1%. However, despite these efforts, RSD couldn't  suppress the resale this year . Paul Weller expressed his regret to the resale of the Limited Edition, he declared he won't participate in RSD from now. According to, the manager of the indie record shop / label Rough Trade in the UK, Spencer Hickman said this year feels like the first time it's been entirely driven by capitalism.

Exactly RSD has the big issue of resale, but even in the age streaming service has penetrated and digital music has grown up than before, the festivity of RSD shows that there are listeners who desire vinyl records. By the way, RSD in USA was broadcasted on Fuji TV or TV Tokyo last year, so the degree of the cognition may be also risen up a little in Japan. Although RSD in Japan hasn’t get into swing as much as the Western still now, the phenomenon we hasn't be able to watch before was appeared. It is 70 people are in line in front of a record shop Jet Set in Tokyo. I'd like to pay attention to the movement of RSD in Japan from next year. (cont'd)

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