When I was recently sent a list of all the shops taking part in Record Store Day (RSD), it made interesting reading as I tried to place them into categories.
Based on their own descriptions all the “new” RSD shops were second hand shops and those that had closed were mainly high street stores selling new independent music, most notably One Up in Aberdeen and Rounder in Brighton.
As a founder member of the event, it certainly felt like failure to me.
I wondered if maybe the ethos for RSD had changed without anybody telling me, but not according to the organiser, Entertainment Retailers Association. In a statement this year, they said: “However big and glossy and commercialised the entertainment business becomes, it is vital that we support the grassroots record stores who day-in, day-out help break new artists and support emerging talent”.
Supporting new music on a regular basis is a very hard thing to do these days. Doing so on the high street is even harder. Competing with the record company/label sponsored HMV/FOPP is, well, you get the idea.
RSD was certainly not meant to be about limited releases bringing people back to shops.
The first UK RSD organised with only five weeks’ notice in fact consisted of only in-store events.
Soon, however, it was quickly taken over by artists e-mailing their fans to tell them of a very limited RSD release, only to then be offering the very same release themselves sometimes just days later. Their next e-mail would often be for something not available in shops.
Next to follow was a host of small bands and labels who would spend all year trying to entice fans to buy directly but would suddenly decide to “do something” on RSD.
I’m always pleased that the first thing people mention about our first RSD in the Grassmarket is the Frightened Rabbit in-store. Of course, the band are on record many times with their support for record shops and to this day say their strongest support is in areas where shops supported the band from the start.
There is still a place for shops breaking outstanding bands simply by playing them to a busy shop, and I would include HMV in that.
There is now too much choice and people feel overwhelmed, so to hear something that appeals in a shop still gets a great response. I wouldn’t limit that to record shops either. I think there is a place for a curated selection in places like coffee shops that also play music.
RSD will come and go and in truth, apart from adding cash to the coffers it will make no difference.
Avalanche can certainly not carry on competing with HMV and FOPP and their “revised terms”.
I think HMV is a great brand and could be so again but it needs to seriously look at how it supports music. Quality is more important than price.
For Avalanche, I’ll be looking to strengthen areas where we don’t compete enough. I’m also in a minority who would not rule out working with HMV on campaigns supporting the high street.
As for RSD itself, it needs an overhaul.
There is certainly the will among many bands, most labels and all the record companies to back the shops who support them on a more regular basis than once a year but at the same time, they need to understand that needs to be more than tossing shops the odd scrap.
Shops aren’t asking for favours, they are asking to be allowed to do what they do well.
I’m no musician and I have a great respect for many who are, but bands and sometimes labels seem to lack respect or maybe it is understanding of just what a good shop can do to help a band.
Certainly, a band that has some ambition should seriously consider to what extent they are limiting themselves with a strategy that ignores shops.
Avalanche will continue to support new music whenever we can and wherever we can.
n Kevin Buckle is owner of Avalanche Records
THE SPIN THAT WENT GLOBAL
Record Store Day on Saturday is an event which came into being in 2007 when more than 700 independent stores in the US came together to celebrate their unique culture.
The UK followed, and this year will see the sixth celebration of the UK’s independent sector.
Special vinyl and CD releases and other promotional products are made exclusively for the day, and hundreds of artists make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, meet and greets with artists, DJs, in-store quizzes and many other events.