Has Record Store Day Jumped the Shark? (And, Uh, A List of Record Store Day Releases You Should Buy)

record store day

Since 2007, Record Store Day has been something of a national holiday for record nerds. Hundreds of brand new vinyl releases hit shelves, often in very limited quantities, at independent retailers all over the country, and those of us who are afflicted with the tendencies of a collector are thrown into an absolute frenzy over the whole thing. There are lines and crowds and lots of shouting, and of course the unmistakable thrill of the hunt: you have a list, and you know you probably won’t get every record on it, but you’re sure as hell going to try.

There’s been some rumbling over the past few years that RSD was getting a little too big for its own good, that the number of releases was growing too fast, and that as the vinyl boom has continued to thrive, the event began to lose some of its original insider charm. Opposition to the event has become more concrete this year.

An article on British music website The Quietus went deep on some of the issues that have made things so complicated. And basically, what it all comes down to is that the major labels have gone and fucked it up for everyone. Desperate to cash in on recent upticks in sales of vinyl  (the one area of music retail that’s still growing, thanks largely to the hard work and dedication of people like the organizers of RSD), they’ve taken to flooding the market with the kind of releases that don’t add much of anything to the day: picture discs and pointless repackagings of old singles; shitty demos and low-quality live recordings, often by artists with no real ties to the spirit of independent music, or record stores. Do we really need an entire day set aside to properly welcome a new 311 record into the world?

All of this seems easy to ignore, of course. No one’s stopping you from just going in and buying the records that appeal to you while ignoring the insane amount of bullshit you’ll have to ignore along the way. Pressing plants, the places that actually make the records you buy, are in relatively short supply—they’re incredibly expensive to operate, and the machinery they use is hard to find and even harder to maintain—so when there’s this huge crush of records that need to be pressed right around the same time every year, and when one group of potential customers (the major labels) is willing to pay a certain amount of money for your services, while another group of potential, or even longtime, customers (the indies) is willing to pay another much smaller amount of money for your services, well, it’s not difficult to guess who will be forced to wait. The independent labels that have traditionally been so supportive of the independent record store RSD was created to benefit are being left out in the cold. The record stores themselves are faced with a complicated situation as well: with so many releases on the schedule, there’s no way they afford to stock all of them, which leads to unhappy customers.

The solution isn’t clear at this point, although limiting the number of releases seems like the surest way to slow things down. But even then, it would seem to spell doom for the little guys: if the number of releases RSD organizers are willing to accept is capped, it’s hard to imagine a huge percentage of that number not continuing to be eaten up by majors. They have the most reach when it comes to promoting their releases, after all, and, in turn, the entire event. This is exactly the problem: The people who stand to raise awareness the most are the ones ruining it for the people who were already aware.

There’s been talk of people actively boycotting this year’s event, I guess to show how strongly they disapprove of the direction in which things have gone, but this seems a little harsh. If you want to stick it to anyone tomorrow, consider leaving the major label releases on the shelf and force them to question whether they even want to participate next year. Or better yet, get up early, hit every record store you can get to over the course of eight hours, and buy a non-RSD release at every single one of ’em. At the end of the day, this winds up being far more gratifying than picking up any of the exclusive releases anyway, since the appeal of so many of them is simply in their novelty. Just go buy records. Regular records from an actual store. And then get up on Sunday and do it again. And then then next time you have $15 to spare? Again. And so on.

Now! That said, here are the the Record Store Day Releases I’m most looking forward to tomorrow:

Built to Spill: Ultimate Alternative Wavers 12″
This is a super amazing record, and yet even fans of the band don’t ever seem to talk about it. Highlights include “Nowhere Nothin Fuckup” and of course “Built to Spill” the song, which contains some of Doug Martsch’s best guitar playing and some of his best, most strained singing.

The Cure / Dinosaur Jr. “Just Like Heaven” Split 7″
This is one of those releases that’s probably going to be stupidly expensive and that, frankly, you probably won’t listen to all that often. But still, everyone knows the original “Just Like Heaven” rules, and anyone who’s anyone knows that Dinosaur Jr’s version of it is one of the best covers ever to come from the indie world. The sqealing guitars, the barely out-of-bed vocals, and then the chorus… I won’t ruin it for you. (And yes, that’s how it ends.)

Fishbone: Self-Titled 12″
The debut EP from these ska-punk-funk legends is absolutely full of hits, from crowd-favorite “Party at Ground Zero” to “Lyin Ass Bitch,” the song ?uestlove had to apologize for playing as Sarah Palin came out as a guest on Fallon.

Hamilton Leithauser: “Alexandra” b/w “In the Shallows” 7″
“Alexandra,” the first single from the former Walkmen lead singer’s debut solo album, is one of the best songs of the year, and one of the best of his career.

Otis Redding: Pain in My Heart 12″
The 50th anniversary edition of Otis Redding’s debut, in original mono with fancy foil stamping.


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