The Problem With Record Store Day
When Record Store Day first started I lauded it as a welcome way to get people away from iTunes and back into the record store. But every year since its inception I’ve grown more and more sour over the event. In 2011 when I posted some tracks from my RSD haul on my other blog Lost Turntable and got called out for it by one of the events founders, I used that chance to comment on what I thought were growing problems with the event. In 2012, I dedicated a whole blog post to the bullshit surrounding RSD (and other ways bands screw over fans) My problem with RSD is the same now that it was then: it’s no longer about music. More importantly, it’s no longer about record stores! It’s about making a quick buck, and it’s not even about making a quick buck by selling overpriced records to fans. It’s about making a quick buck to sell records to speculators, eBayers who will turn around and sell their finds at an even higher inflated price to turn a profit at the cost of some poor fan who loves a band so much that they have to own everything they put out no matter what the cost.
Since I now live in Japan (and work a 12 hour day on Saturday) I wasn’t paying that much attention to RSD this year. I heard about some of the special releases, like that rad glow-in-the-dark Ghostbusters LP; the insane 5LP LCD Soundsystem hipster explosion; and a ultra-cool neon pink LP of the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon video game soundtrack. If there was anything I would have wanted this year for Record Store Day, it would have been that. The Far Cry LP was being released by Invada Records, one of my favorite indie record labels. I fell in love with them a few years back when they released a stellar (and still available and in-print) edition of the Drive soundtrack. This was in contrast to the horrible version that US boutique label Mondo Tees put out, a strictly disgustingly limited affair with hideously horrible cover art. So anyway, I was glad to see they were getting such a big name release, and from what I saw of it, I could tell that it was going to look incredible.
What I didn’t know until RSD however, was that the release was being limited to a scant 1,000 copies. That’s not a lot to go around. That’s so few to go around that some (okay me) might say that it’s downright crazy and a crown jewel of an example of everything wrong with Record Store Day. I suspected that this would be one of the most in-demand and understocked LPs for RSD, and it turns out that I was right. I know I was right, because Invada was bragging it about it on their Twitter, shooting out re-tweets like this one.
If I don’t get the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon soundtrack after waiting in this long line for four hours, I’m going to murder everyone. — Tay Raj (@TaylorR37) April 19, 2014
Now, releasing a ridiculously limited LP seemingly made just for the speculator market is one thing. Bragging about the insane feats people had to go to in order to get it is another set of bullshit entirely. In their defense (seriously, good for them) they were sending out tweets all day directing people to stores that still had the LP in stock, but the aggro-inducing RTs didn’t stop either. The one that really pushed me over the edge was this one, sent out by James White, the awesome artist who designed the dope cover for the soundtrack.
Sorry some of you couldn’t track down the BLOOD DRAGON vinyl. 1000 copies goes thin when it stretches across the globe. Rare and special. — James White (@Signalnoise) April 19, 2014
I mean, what the fuck is that? “Rare and special?” There’s nothing special about under-producing something or screwing over your own fans for no good reason at all. I still don’t get it. Why make something so great that would appeal to so many people, and then sabotage it by making it an ultra-limited edition that almost no one was able to get? Who wins other than the speculators? I mean, don’t you want people to be able to buy something you made? Isn’t that the point? And yes, I know the album is on iTunes (at least it is in some countries) but owning something on vinyl and owning a digital download is not the same thing and anyone who suggests otherwise is insane.
I’ve never liked super-limited edition print runs, and the older I get the more they piss me off. Because I realize that they don’t just screw over the people who didn’t want to wait four hours in line for a thin chance to get something. They screw over people who couldn’t get in line because they have jobs, or y’know, families that make it impossible to dedicate half of a Saturday morning to standing outside in the cold. They screw over people who need to save up their money to buy indulgences like pretty pink records. And they screw over people who, oh I dunno, live in faraway Asian countries that didn’t get most western RSD titles (although like I said, I wasn’t even trying this year).
So when these people (i.e. NORMAL people) head off to their local record store on RSD only to find out once they get there that everything worth getting is gone, they don’t leave with the records they want and a smile on their face, happy to come back to their local record store next week to see what other goodies it might have in store. No, they leave dejected and maybe even angry. They leave confused about how the hell they were supposed to have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the record they wanted. And those aren’t the kind of experiences and feelings that will lead to someone returning to a store in the following weeks or months.
And it’s not just the casual fan or person with a day job whose becoming disenfranchised with RSD. I’m seeing it all over the Internet, people dejected that they woke up early and got in line for nothing. The sense of excitement, the thrill of the hunt, that earlier Record Store Days had is being replaced with an overwhelming feeling of “what’s the point of bothering, it will be gone by the time I get there anyway.” Even the artists themselves are starting to get sick of it. Paul Weller just announced that he was so disgusted over how his limited edition single ended up in the hands of flippers (or, as the Brits say, “touts”) that he’s never going to participate in the event again. I suspect that he won’t be the last artist to do so.
Record Store Day gets its inspiration from Free Comic Book Day, a promotion comic book dealers and publishers launched to get people into comic book stores by giving away free comics. The idea being that if you give them a free book, then maybe they’ll come back to get one they have to pay for. It seems like the record stores skipped the free part and just went straight to the “let’s get their money, and as much of it as possible” part. It’s funny because if they keep up their current speculator-driven industry model, the same thing is going to happen to them that happened to the comic book industry in the mid-90s; they’re going to collapse. And it won’t be pretty.