Record Store Day

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Commemorative Days are everywhere if you check the calendar.  Family Literacy Day, World Glaucoma Day, World Day for Water, World Tuberculosis Day, Earth Day, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day, National Missing Children’s Day, Boss’ Day, World AIDS Day, Christmas Day…  And now back for its third appearance amongst this heavily burdened or overmatched bunch of remembrances is Record Store Day.   Woohoo! Please, save the planet, and don’t forget your local record store along the way.

No, I’m not being sarcastic… well, maybe a little.

Even back when I was a neophyte record buyer, I knew the difference between a place that sold records and a record store. It was obvious when I bought from a Record Bar or Musicland at a mall that I was 1) paying too much and 2) buying from an unsympathetic vendor.  You go to these places when you know what you want to buy and due to convenience.

However, simply step into an independent record store, and suddenly, you’re among a wide assortment of possibilities and people who gave a damn about it.  Lights bright or dim, records new or used, air scented or musty, records sorted or mixed… it’s just a cool place to find something that you weren’t necessarily looking for until you found it.

The mall stores, bless them, are still out there, somehow.  It’s rather shocking that the monolithic Best Buy hasn’t absorbed the remaining “boring box” patrons due to their deep discounting, but I guess some people like paying full retail.

Fortunately, there remains a fair quantity of the endangered species known as the “record store” out there.  Fewer than there used to be, certainly, but they’re out there, hanging on to their fragile existence.  They tend to be shy and hide in shopping centers that are past their glory days, but if you have the mindset of a bird watcher, you can find them.  In my blogs, I’ve mentioned Criminal Records in Atlanta, Park Avenue CDs in Orlando, Manifest Records in Charlotte, and The Great Escape in Nashville – all of which are great stores.  I’m adding Newbury Comics, in Boston, to the list.

My daughter and I were walking around Harvard Square, and she (yes, really…) suggested we step inside, as she hadn’t been in a comic book store before.  Well, honey, sure!  (To any of her friends, it should be noted that Jackie did not actually touch a single comic book.  She, therefore, should not be ostracized but rather be allowed to remain within her current social circles).

Newbury Comics, Boston, MA

Lo and behold, Newbury represents a very fine example of the 21st century model for a successful record store.  Despite its name, the focus is actually on music, with a very good assortment of both new and used CDs.  And, as is common, there are also comic books, as well as many of the pricier bindings and devoted fandom publications that accompany that interest.  And there are DVDs.  And action figures (no dolls).  And guitar strings.  And T-shirts. And posters. And gimmicky toys/novelties related to anything currently fashionable – movies, cartoons, books, TV shows, gaming, etc.  It appeals to adolescents of all ages.

Newbury Comics, Boston, MA

There are far fewer record stores than just 10 years ago, but they’ve become a storefront for what is current in popular arts, and not just for the teens.  Products hold  general appeal to those at the tail end of the baby boom to today’s young World of Warcraft guild champions.  In other words, you’ll find “stuff” from Star Trek to Twilight.

In short, the pop-art approach is the means by which record stores can survive in an age where most kids think downloading mp3’s on the internet isn’t stealing.  And, all of the stores I’ve listed have adopted this approach.

Record Store Day began inauspiciously enough in 2008, with little fanfare.  But it did introduce Record Store Day as a special occasion for collectible goods to be released.  Approximately $15,000 (translated: a pittance) in exclusive CDs and vinyl were distributed to and sold by legitimate (old fashioned, boutique… whatever you want to call them) record stores, per USA Today. NAD turntable This year, there’s over $1.3M of collectible merchandise being released for Record Store Day, 90% of which is on vinyl – yes, turntables are seeing a renaissance of sorts.  Items include rarities by John Lennon, REM, the Flaming Lips, the Rolling Stones and many others.  Artists, and their labels, are supporting the cause.  Sure, there’s a profit motive for everyone involved.  But it creates interest which then increases exposure.  And let’s face it, as evidenced by the company they keep on the calendar, record stores face a bleak future.

Today, April 16th, is Record Store Day.  Go explore the possibilities!

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