Ah, the annual geek/freak fest of Record Store Day, pushing music fans to the limit, wondering what else they need to add to their collection.
As someone who’s supporting RSD (i.e. plopped down hundreds of dollars over the years), I have mixed feelings about the whole idea of it and participating in it. Sometimes I take a breather from it; sometimes I shell out for it. Just so that all of us music nuts can commiserate, I wanted to share some of the plusses and minuses of RSD, which will take place this Saturday, April 18.
WHY YOU SHOULD SUPPORT RECORD STORE DAY
* Record Shops Are Hurting
In the Internet age, just like bookstores, these places are becoming endangered species. Once a place to congregate, argue and discuss (London’s Deal Real was a great hub), the Net provides plenty of marketplaces that are a click away and plenty of discussion boards and newsgroups to congregate in, thus providing big competition for the shows. Even if it’s rank nostalgia, there’s something to be said of being there in a store — you can read some heartwarming stories about the geek holiday in the 2012 book “Record Store Days.” There’s nothing quite like the feeling when you see all that music in one place, ready to be grabbed and bought, which leads to …
* You Crave Physical Music
Digital and streaming are great for ease of use and portability, but there’s something to be said about actually holding and looking over a favorite album. You get to savor and slobber over the cover, photos, lyrics, liner notes all in one place.
* Other Than the Vinyl Craze, There’s Something to Be Said About Audio
After the screwed up CD-era loudness wars, one reason that vinyl made a comeback among music heads (and trendy retro types) was because more care was usually put into the audio experience. We usually listen through crappy computer speakers or cheap headphones, but when you hear music that’s been carefully mastered and then played through a good stereo system, you can really hear the difference. Digital services like Pono and Tidal offer better quality digital audio, but you still don’t have the touchy-feely experience there, do you?
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T SUPPORT RECORD STORE DAY
* Most of the ‘New’ Releases Aren’t New
Knowing that collectors salivate over their fave artists, labels know that any kind of repackaging, remastering or reconfiguring will get them to shell out money for music that’s decades old. RSD 2015 offerings include colored vinyl single reissues from Jeff Beck, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix and Wu-Tang Clan, vinyl reissues of Bruce Springsteen and Jerry Garcia and the mono edition of The Doors’ second album. Truth be told, a lot of the rest of the archival records that come out for RSD are out-takes or material that will eventually or soon come out on CD or digital format later.
* How Many Rarities Do You Really Need?
After buying piles of RSD releases over the years, admittedly sometimes because of great-looking covers, I came to a sad conclusion: I rarely play ANY of these RSD finds once the thrill of grabbing them up has gone. Sure, I have a nice pile of semi-rarities and great record sleeves, but I usually won’t play them instead of my purchases from the rest of the year. Ideally, I’d probably buy the 2015 RSD records from Captain Beefheart, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, industrial mavens Ministry, Sly & the Family Stone, the Zombies, Rolling Stones buddies The Master Musicians of Joujouka and the “Ork Complete Singles” box (note my oddball tastes), but I really wonder if they’re worth hearing more than once.
* It’s Debatable Whether Record Store Day Actually Helps Stores & Indie Labels
Some RSD records get hoarded by greedy middlemen, labels or store owners who sell them as even bigger rarities on eBay. Also, some record stores themselves have questioned how useful RSD is for them as the goods aren’t equally distributed to all stores, with some being shut out of rarities or just totally shut out of RSD. My favorite New Jersey store told me that the RSD people wouldn’t work with them because they weren’t “big enough.” Some indie labels also complain that they’ve been shut out of RSD in favor of major labels.
* Fighting Off the Horde
Unless you want to show up hours early at your RSD-participating store, you’ll be waiting in line for a while, and then you get to paw over whatever’s left alongside sweaty, pushy horde of collectors. Fun and fragrant it ain’t.
SO SHOULD YOU DO RSD?
Got the time? Got the money? Got the irrational fervor of a collector? Wanna support your fave shop? It’s a no-brainer then. Otherwise, enjoy your own collection — it’s lonely, and it misses you.
Jason Gross is the social media manager for TheBlot Magazine.