Record Store Day: a good thing for music shops?
Rebecca Monks speaks to record store owners about vinyl's revival and the mixed impact of RSD
'Record Store Day isn't always an easy day to manage, but I'm bored of the negative chat,' says George Macdonald, owner of Underground Solu'shn on Edinburgh's Cockburn Street. It's easy to see how it can be a bit of a handful: across the UK, over 200 independent music shops come together to celebrate their unique culture, with live instore performances from bands and special vinyl releases created just for the event. Customers queue for hours to get their hands on rare singles, EPs and albums, and according to Macdonald, it's even helping to keep independent shops afloat. 'In terms of shops still existing, that would be a pretty positive thing,' he says. 'I know of a significant number of shops who are only still trading because of Record Store Day.'
For Macdonald, the benefits are obvious: 'hundreds and hundreds of customers'. But he doesn't just mean on the day itself. 'They come back because there are thousands of great records that will sell for years to come. Plus, there's a very good atmosphere on the day.' That said, his attitude is not completely positive. 'People can be disappointed if they don't end up getting what they want'.
But what people want from RSD has changed dramatically over the last few years, something Kevin Buckle, owner of Avalanche record shop on the capital's St Mary's Street has noticed affects the way the event runs. 'Record Store Day is a really good idea, if it was what it's meant to be,' he says. 'Record Store Day wasn't about vinyl at the start, it was about the record shops. In the first two or three years I was involved, the shops would complain to me, "why aren't there limited CDs for Record Store Day?", because they all wanted limited CDs.'
To put this into context, a few years back, vinyl was not so ubiquitous, therefore the material coming into independent stores was not necessarily something you could pick up at a big store. But things have changed. 'Especially this last year, every week is like Record Store Day', Buckle says. 'Because there's more stuff re-issued, there's more vinyl.'
But it's not just the material's format which is an issue. 'In truth, the bands and the labels don't want to give you the good stuff because they can do that that themselves,' adds Buckle. 'And then there are the 7 inches, which haven't really taken off at all as part of the vinyl revival, but a lot of what is on Record Store Day is 7 inch, which is a format nobody cares about.'
Buckle covered some of these issues in a blog post, which was much shared on social media. It reads: 'given the fantastic rosters many record companies and labels have. what shops have been offered is a huge disappointment but not a great surprise given vinyl re-issues were once an unusual occurrence whereas they now appear every week.'
Buckle used that same blog post to announce that Avalanche would be shutting its doors. One interesting way to look at this debate is that the bigger vinyl gets, the more it could potentially hurt smaller shops, since bigger chains (and even supermarkets) are wanting to take a slice of the pie for themselves. Sure, for some, RSD is a keystone in the retail calendar, but for others it highlights wider issues within the music retail industry. It leaves a big question to be asked: will the vinyl revival leave record stores healthier or hurt?
Record Store Day, various venues, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Sat 16 Apr.