For the last couple of years to compensate for the economic impact of the pandemic on record stores, Record Store Day was celebrated 2-3 times per year. It should have been temporarily renamed Record Store Days. This year, since life is returning to normal (knock on wood), RSD is back to its normal single day, April 23rd, plus Black Friday. That doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting. If anything, RSD 2022 gives us more reasons to get excited.
One reason is Record Store Day is celebrating 15 years of supporting independent record stores around the world. Another is the appointment of Taylor Swift as RSD’s Global Ambassador. Yet another is the over 400 special titles on vinyl released for RSD 2022, including one specifically to benefit women in the music industry. Just the fact that this will be the most “normal” Record Store Day we’ve seen in a couple of years is reason enough to celebrate.
Before I take my shoes and socks off and dive into RSD’s record bins, as I did last year, I called a handful of Record Store Day-participating MA record stores and asked them what platter they were spinning on their turntable at that very moment. Here are the results:
Purchase Street Records, New Bedford, MA: Seemless (self-titled)
Joe’s Albums, Worcester, MA: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Unlimited Love
The Nevermind Shop, Upton, MA: Spiral Staircase, I Love You More Today Than Yesterday
Vinyl Destination, Lowell, MA: Colleen Green, Cool
The Record Exchange, Salem, MA: 3 Mustaphas 3, Heart of Uncle
Sunset Records, Somerset, MA: Aquarius, Let the Sunshine In
The Vinyl Vault, Littleton, MA: The Groundhogs, Blues Obituary
Vinyl Index, Somerville, MA: Octahedron, The Mars Volta
The Record Spot, East Bridgewater, MA: The Beatles, Abbey Road (picture disc)
Village Vinyl & Hi-Fi, Brookline, MA: Discharge, Never Again
Inclusion Records, Norwell, MA: North American & Friends, Going Steady (reissue)
Dyno Records, Newburyport, MA: The Police, Synchronicity
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. I got in contact with Record Store Day Project Manager Rick Johnson to set the stage for Record Store Day 2022.
Peter: 2022 marks the 15th Anniversary of Record Store Day. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years. What’s happening this year to commemorate the occasion?
Rick: 15 years and things keep getting bigger and better every year. It’s a worldwide celebration of music and independent record stores. This year we are partnering with VANS [shoe and apparel designer] to celebrate women in the music business with a special release Portraits of Her, featuring many diverse female artists. We are also presenting a panel at SXSW [South by South West music/film/tech conference] in March, focusing on women in the music industry. There will also be a celebration at the Grammy Museum in LA of some of the past RSD ambassadors and early supporters. There will also be many, many other smaller celebrations at local independent record stores on and around Record Store Day. It’s going to be a big year for sure.
Peter: Is RSD celebrated worldwide? On the same day?
Rick: Yes, RSD is celebrated on every continent except Antarctica and it is celebrated on the same day by everyone. Adjustments are made for time zones of course, so some countries get a few hours head start, but we all end up at the same place in the end. Sitting at home in front of our turntables with a stack of great music and cellophane all over the place!
Peter: All Record Store Day releases are special, but are there a few titles you are particularly excited about?
Rick: I am excited about a lot of the titles this year. Everyone at RSD has been working very hard to make sure we have great releases and something for everyone. What’s important to remember is that every release on RSD is SOMEONE’S favorite release. Some of my personal favorites are the RSD curated Patti Smith record, the Lou Reed 1971 Demos and the Ramones box set The Sire Albums (1981-1989). Kirk Hammett from Metallica has his first solo record Portals coming out on RSD22.
Peter: For the last 2 years, RSD was celebrated multiple times a year due to the pandemic’s impact on record stores. You’re back to an annual event for 2022?
Rick: We’re back to RSD in April and then RSD Black Friday on the Friday after Thanksgiving. A lot of fans enjoyed the different “drops” that were done for safety, but we are back to two a year.
Peter: Do you have a Record Store Day-related anecdote you can share?
Rick: I still remember the first time I walked into Rough Trade Records on Record Store Day in 2017. There was a line literally around the block of customers waiting their turn to shop. I saw a guy in his 30s with his young child who was maybe 4 years ago, standing in line waiting to buy their favorite release. They were creating an experience together that was unique to them, and one they would never forget. If you have to wait in line for something, let it be music! I also took a photo inside of the Ramones Singles Box Set in the foreground with the rest of the store in the background, with the vinyl seemingly going on forever! It was beautiful.
I also remember in 2019 Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne spending several days at Rough Trade [record store] building a huge interactive installation for his LP The King’s Head. It was in the shape of a king’s head, and you could crawl inside his mouth and hear a song that was not on the record. Wayne spent days on this one installation that was just a cool tribute to Record Store Day.
Mike Peters from the Alarm celebrated RSD a few years ago by playing concerts at local record stores in London, NYC and LA, all on the same day! He started out early in London, hopped a trans-Atlantic flight to New York, played an in store gig there. Then he flew to LA and finished up his long, long day with a final show at a record store there. AMAZING!”
Peter: Why was Taylor Swift chosen as Record Store Day’s Global Ambassador for 2022? What is her RSD offering this year?
Rick: Taylor Swift is one of the biggest global superstars and she has built her career from the ground up, doing it the right way. Taylor has reissued almost all her albums for RSD in the past, bringing new vinyl buyers into independent record stores for the first time. She was also very supportive of independent record stores during COVID, even paying the health insurance for workers at her favorite record store in Nashville. She supplied independent stores with signed copies of her releases to sell during the shutdown. Taylor has also contributed a track to the special 2022 RSD release Portraits of Her, celebrating women in music. She is also contributing a 7” single of the lakes for RSD 2022. I couldn’t think of anyone better to select as RSD’s very first GLOBAL ambassador.
Peter: If you could only give 1 reason why people should go to their participating record store on RSD, what would it be?
Rick: Independent small business owners are the life’s blood of any town and community. These small businesses have been hit hard the past few years, yet they are still there every day, working hard and making sure they have what you want when you walk in the door. We HAVE to support our independent record stores and other small businesses in our communities to make our local world a better place. Plus it’s fun! Music is universal and makes people happy.
Peter: How has COVID-19 impacted vinyl record manufacturing and record sales?
Rick: The music industry was not immune to the temporary plant shutdowns everyone experienced. It created bottlenecks of course, and you just have to fight through those like every other business. Record people are very tough though and extremely resourceful. I was amazed by the ingenuity I saw displayed by the record stores. Lots of stores increased their on-line presence, shipping orders to customers’ homes during the crisis. I even saw stores personally DELIVERING orders to their customers by car. Dropping off the vinyl at the doorstep, creating their own version of “touchless transactions.” Many stores reported doing a stronger business than normal as more people stayed home and had time to curate their collections. I know everyone is happy to be getting back to some sense of normalcy, but I believe the resilience and tenacity shown by everyone in the music industry has been nothing short of incredible
Peter: I know you’re not clairvoyant, but how do you see record sales performing over the next few years?
Rick: Actually, I AM clairvoyant. I KNEW you were going to ask that question. Seriously though, I see record sales rising as more and more music enthusiasts buy turntables and youngsters become old enough to buy their own music. It keeps getting bigger every year. Many younger fans who have bought turntables this past year and are buying vinyl and supporting their local shops. It’s great to see. People still stream or listen to the radio, but there is something so satisfying about buying tangible music and playing it at home on your turntable. I think the trend will continue for many, many years.
Peter: What records have you personally been spinning lately?
Rick: When listening for pleasure I tend to go back to the roots of punk rock. The Velvet Underground- Live At Max’s Kansas City is a timeless classic. I’m listening to it right now. Same for the first New York Dolls LP. It turns 50 in 2023. I hope they get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. I’ve also been listening to a stack of old rap 12” records I recently bought. Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh, Eric B., Count Coolout, Duke Bootee, etc. Lots of amazing music I’ve never heard before. Then some old Ministry, Wire, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. My favorite new group for the past few years has been Starcrawler from LA. Amazing female lead singer, Arrow de Wilde. Great bunch of young kids with two records out and another coming out soon.
Peter: Do you remember the first record you ever bought or listened to?
Rick: One of my very first was Hot Rocks, the double LP compilation by The Rolling Stones. I bought it at our local K-Mart when I was about 10. Loved it! Bought the Beatles Red and Blue albums in 1978 when Capitol re-issued them on colored vinyl. Bought the Beatles White Album on white vinyl and freaked myself out by playing “Revolution #9” backwards! Spooky!!
Peter: Why are you a vinyl geek?
Rick: I’ve always loved the sound and the feel of vinyl. Being able to hold the record carefully in my hands and sliding it on the turntable. Listening to the needle drop and find the groove. Love it! Plus holding the jacket and looking at the cover art while listening completes the experience.
Peter: Any final thoughts?
Rick: Record Store Day has something for everyone. Come out and support your local independent record store on April 23rd for RSD22. Discover your new favorite record and your new favorite local independent record store!
The Flip Side Of The Record
As exciting and profitable as Record Store Day is for store proprietors, it’s not without its critics. It may surprise you to learn that a few of those critics are in the very business RSD was designed to help…independent record stores. Long time UK independent record store owner Rupert Morrison wrote a story in The Guardian in February advising that COVID supply chain issues continue to make obtaining records for his customers very difficult. Morrison said he has customers who are still waiting for records they pre-ordered a year ago. He said adding another 411 new titles in the pipeline this year for RSD will only exacerbate the problem and suggested Record Store Day be postponed until the vinyl backlog gets cleared.
Supply chain issues aside, getting the RSD titles you want in general can be difficult. Two years ago, I called a record store a few days ahead of RSD to ask if they’d be stocking a certain record I wanted. They told me they weren’t allowed to give out that information. Apparently, they’re not allowed to give customers advanced notice of which RSD titles they’ll be carrying. I knew there would’ve been little point in calling the day of because the staff would be too busy, so I drove to the store the morning of Record Store Day, only to be told upon arrival that the record I wanted had already sold out. The clerk suggested I go to another one of their locations, but it was quite a distance away and I didn’t plan on spending the day on a treasure hunt. It’s hard to get excited about a record you really want if your chances of actually getting it are akin to winning the lottery. It also doesn’t help when record some stores hold back certain titles to later sell on eBay or their own website at inflated prices, a practice Record Store Day strictly prohibits. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem.
Speaking of record prices, I’m an old enough fossil to remember when CDs first came out. In an effort to win the music buying public over, the record companies promised CDs would cost less than records. With few exceptions, that never happened. Forty years later, it’s finally come true. It isn’t unheard of to drop a hundred bucks or more and emerge from the record store with only a handful of records. I’d be interested to learn what percentage of 12″ albums released for RSD are priced under $20.
Don’t get me wrong. I love records. If I cut myself, I’d probably bleed red liquid vinyl. But if Record Store Day’s price of admission gets too high, it risks alienating music enthusiasts who don’t have that kind of disposable cash. The current economic situation only makes it worse. At the rate things are going, gas to get to the record store and back again might cost almost as much as the records themselves!
Phono what? Phonocut
Speaking of cutting, and this has nothing to do with RSD, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could cut your own records? In October of 2019, the introduction of Phonocut practically gave vinyl enthusiasts an analog orgasm. Phonocut is a fantastic plastic machine that allows you to cut your own 10” vinyl records at home with the mere press of a button. Two and a half years later, the Austrian company that invented it has yet to ship a single Phonocut, and their latest update says not to expect one until the end of 2024 at the earliest. The company’s website states they’re “truly sorry that we have over-promised so profoundly”, and to their credit, are offering refunds to any of their crowdfunding backers who want one. I came very close to becoming a backer myself, but frankly, I was turned off by the fact that Phonocut only supports 10” records and you can only buy the “blanks” from Phonocut. If you failed to get in on the ground floor at the bargain basement Kickstarter starting price of $1,089, be prepared to shell out $8,000-$10,000 for one Phonocut, which is what the company estimates the retail price will be when the vinyl dust finally settles. That’s what I call a deep cut.
The Legend Keeps Spinning
If you’re in the market for a special turntable to play your special Record Store Day acquisitions, you’re in luck. Yesterday, Technics announced a pre-order for its limited-edition version of their legendary SL-1200M7L in recognition of its 50th Anniversary. The Anniversary Edition of this iconic direct drive turntable will come in 7 different colors and include an etched number, an anodized gold-colored tone arm, a custom slip mat, and a couple of Technics stickers. It’s very rare for a consumer electronics model to remain in production for 50 years, so that says a lot. Over its long history, the SL-1200M7L has earned respect from both DJs and audiophiles alike. I used a similar model when I was a DJ at my college radio station over 30 years ago. Many radio stations used them because they were a workhorse and very reliable. But you better hurry. Only 12,000 in total will be made available worldwide. Note the $1,100 sticker price doesn’t include a stylus and it isn’t expected to start shipping until July.
APRIL 23, 2022
Mark April 23rd on your calendar and be prepared to arrive early at your participating record store to get the Record Store Day releases you’re coveting. Before you leave the store, make it a point to stop and take in the moment. Look around you and appreciate the many music lovers of all ages happily exploring the record bins. It just might bring a smile to your unmasked, naked face. It’s one sign that life is gradually returning to normal. It’s time to treat yourself to some special music. After what you’ve been through, you deserve it.
Major thanks to Rick Johnson of Record Store Day for answering my questions and providing me with his exclusive snaps. Thanks also to all of the MA record stores that participated in my informal poll. I’ve listed their links at the end. Please support your local record store.
Trivia (from Wikipedia): “Record Store Day 2020 was scheduled to take place on April 18, but was postponed to June 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 29, it was announced that Record Store Day would be postponed again, and spread across three dates called RSD Drops: August 29, September 26, and October 24. A fourth date, RSD Black Friday, occurred on November 27.”
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