Saturday marks the fifth annual Record Store Day, the celebration of all things indie, vinyl, and limited edition-slash-noble ploy to get customers through the doors of the music stores still standing in the spring of 2011. It’s basically the record shop equivalent of a Hallmark holiday, but that’s OK, since this year’s list of special releases looks pretty killer. Here’s a look at how different players in the retail system benefit from the celebration.
So you’ve got Johnny Punk Rock waiting all morning on line to scoop up that limited-edition Fucked Up outtakes LP (because dangling a limited pressing in front of vinyl fetishists is like dangling crack in front of a basehead), and perhaps he’ll add an armful of whatever is kicking around in the new arrivals bin; in a perfect world he’ll turn into to a returning customer. Yes, RSD is about celebrating the music, but it’s also about attracting new business. Typical return-visit conversion rates across a host of businesses usually hover around 2%. Once you weed out all the prospectors (more on them later) and the superfans who are on a mission to own every Bruce Springsteen release ever The Boss always makes a respectable showing on RSD ), the conversion rate still ends up being in the high teens. And that’s great. That’s what the founders of Record Store Day had in mind way back in 2007 when they set off on this noble quest.
Record Store Day is a celebration of independent record stores, but it is also like a one-day SXSW, where labels can peddle their wares and trot out the stars from their roster. Everyone and their ex-roommate from Bard who is now interning with Matthew Barney is out trying to grip that new hot Panda Bear record/t-shirt bundle , while this writer is on the lookout for the 12-inch picture disc version of DIO’s Killing The Dragon. And it’s like Reaganomics for the indie set, with the attention the larger label releases garner (Hello, Mastodon/ZZ Top split 7″!!!) trickling down to the smaller ones. So, for instance, Warner Music Group, which is celebrating 50 years of being in the record business, has a whole crop of releases and some–the Flaming Lips 5xLP box set , the Deftones covers LP , the Mastodon live album–are going to be serious draws. Warner Brothers’ balance sheet isn’t necessarily going to change that dramatically come closing time on Saturday, but tons of smaller indies can (and will) quite literally coast in on their fumes, because special releases from those labels will get just as much counter space as the ones from the the big guns.
(To be quite frank, Record Store Day is an easy way for a label to sell through an entire pressing, because stores will stock any RSD releases they can get their hands on. I’m not recommending this approach, nor am I pointing fingers, but if some enterprising party out there started an indie label solely to press up limited-edition records sold on Record Store Day, there would likely be a really easy quick return on investment. Just gonna throw that one out there.)
It’s a sad fact of life that some people out there couldn’t care less about letting you grab that last copy of the Bad Brains’ God of Love reissue (though seriously, real talk: a decade and change down the line, that turd of a record still ain’t getting any better). They’re strictly looking to profiteer and they are going to go to great lengths–from Permanent Records to Earwax to Other Music and even as far as Looney Tunes in West Babylon–just so they can throw the hot platters up on eBay before close of business on Saturday. And it’s serious business: Last year the Stones’ Exile On Main Street outtakes and the Hold Steady pre-release were hitting the $200-300 mark a couple of hours into their auctions. If you plan to camp out at your local shop tomorrow in hope of snatching the My Morning Jacket picture disc, watch out for these guys–they have no moral qualms about throwing an elbow in your general direction.
Real live dedicated fans of music, you are the real winners on Record Store Day–that is, if you are quick enough on the draw. If you are lucky enough to get to a shop that has what you are looking for in stock, battle through the chaos at the front counter, and walk outta there with the International Submarine Band mono reissue, the Wild Flag debut 45 , and the Guided By Voices double LP tribute then congratulations, my friend: You’ve done Record Store Day right.