Question……What happens once a year, brings people together in the wee small hours to form queues outside of shops and can sometimes (well usually does) cost a small fortune? I am of course referring to Record Store Day and on April 22nd, shops around the world would open their doors and invite people in to purchase exclusive items made available for this once a year event which is fast becoming THE main event on vinyl lovers’ calendars.
2017 heralds the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day and with over 400 exclusive items being released on vinyl ranging from a 1982 complete live recording of jazz bass player Jaco Pastorius to a 10” record titled “Test Card Grooves” which promised to take you back to the “Halcyon days of daytime television when the test card and music was the order of the day”…. Yes folks, there really was something for everyone!
We live in Devon and thought it would be a great idea to pop along to a local independent record shop in Newton Abbot called Phoenix Sound, they’re no stranger to Record Store Day and having spoken to the owner (Will Webster) a few days before the big day, it was looking like the day was going to be one to remember!
I arrived just after 7am (after just a couple of hours sleep) and was amazed to see a good 20 people in the queue already. I chatted briefly to the group of hardened individuals at the front of the queue and the first person had arrived shortly after 3am in order to guarantee his spoils. Others had arrived shortly after this and admitted to being surprised seeing someone there before them!
I was allowed into the store before opening time to get some pictures of the merchandise and I was amazed as to just how much stock they had, even some of the items which I didn’t expect to hang around for long (Bowie, Pink Floyd, Aqua) were in plentiful supply. Jackie from the store said that this was down to them having a really good relationship with the organisers of RSD and also the labels which produce the goods that allows them to get a high percentage of the goods they ‘bid’ for leading up to the event.
My photographer arrived and got straight to work snapping away at some of the lovely items on display ahead of the hoards of people breaking through the barriers and buying them all…. Shortly after, we took to the mean streets of Newton Abbot to chat to members of the queue who showed a mixture of tiredness, excitement and pure adrenalin as the minutes ticked by. We spoke to people about what vinyl meant to them and one younger gentleman explained that his folks had bought him up listening to records and his passion grew from here. Other folk were die hard collectors whose passion for wax was reignited in the last few years where we have very much seen a major resurgence in the format.
Of the people we chatted to, some had travelled quite a distance to attend the store, I think Collumpton was the furthest, which, given is a good 45 minute journey, shows a real dedication and passion for the event. I chatted to an Exeter resident who had chosen to travel down to Phoenix Sound because, as he said, “the choice of exclusives that Phoenix Sound has on offer is far better than other stores around here and even if you’re not #1 in the queue, you still stand a good chance of getting a few items off your list”.
Will had lovingly created a RSD 2017 playlist which he kicked off minutes before the doors opened to get people in the mood and create a bit of an atmosphere in-store, it certainly worked as I was bopping along to The Ramones and nearly missed the grand opening!
8am came, the doors opened and the first punter was allowed into the store for a couple of minutes to select his items before more joined him and the melee begun! It was great to see some of the tactics at work, people poring through the racks, shouting out when they found something on their list, or on the list of someone they befriended during the cold small hours of the morning, waiting for the shop to open. At no stage was there ever any trouble, people were polite, the staff on hand to point them in the right direction and it wasn’t long until the queue had formed and the magical noise of the cash register started racking up the cash! I snapped someone walking around the store carrying a crate of records, I asked him how much he thought they’d total and he shrugged his shoulders and said that it was only once a year! (I was stood by the till when he was making his purchases and I think it rung in at just under £700…..I think he’d have hidden the receipt prior to getting home!)
I asked Will if they were going to have any bands playing in-store during the day, he said that he’d have liked to but with the organisation, space limitations and general chaos of the day, meant that they refrained from doing so this year, instead, they invited Vinyl Avengers to play a DJ set from midday to keep the spirits up and give people something to enjoy whilst browsing. I missed these guys but from chatting to people who were there later in the day, said that they went down a storm, spinning classic Mod, Soul and Ska tracks that were guaranteed to keep the punters spending!
We spoke to a few people who we had chatted to earlier in the morning after they had made their purchases, most had got 80% of what they'd wanted so it was smiles all round!
Whilst Record Store Day has receivedmajor support in the last few years from some key ambassadors, some sceptics argue that it’s just a way for people to get their hands on records which inevitably end up on popular online auction sites, coining them a tidy profit, but spin this on its head and you would have exactly the same situation despite what the event was. If the powers that be were THAT concerned, I am sure that an agreement with said online auction site agreeing that anything made available via RSD (or certainly in the days leading up to the event) would be removed is an option worth considering.
All in all, I think that Record Store Day is a key event that celebrates a much loved format which has proven that it has stood the test of time and no doubt will go on to become THE format which will continue to bring pleasure to the many millions of people around the world who enjoy the cumbersome, awkward round plastic discs which take up far too much space and require love, care and attention to keep them in tip top condition. I for one wouldn’t change them for the world!
Words by Steve Muscutt
Pictures by Julian Baird