Record Store Day. What it means to me.
There's a lot of Record Store Day bashing and kicking going on right now, mainly from small, indie shops like mine. There was last year too, and even the year before, when it really started to infiltrate the music retail world and while small shops have started to move away from this day, like everything in life (unless you're a racist, homophobic right wing piece of crap) I can totally see their point of view and appreciate why they feel this way.
The thing for me is, I have to believe that ANYTHING that brings attention to independent retail, especially about something I'm passionate about, and I mean "true independent retail" has to be a good thing.
Tym guitars is totally independent. We don't ask for or get grants, handouts or do kickstarters to support and impress our scene. All the money spent on and in Tym guitars and the people we work with is my family's money. We're not "independent" like some bands and businesses that get "sponsored" or grants and do the same circuits, shows, awards and advertising as all the other bands/businesses that are involved in these "clubs" because that's the way it works. I'm not knocking them. If that's what you do, that's fine, but you HAVE TO compromise your beliefs somewhere to appease the accountants (or the money lenders), and I'm not prepared to do that with anything that has my name on it. I'll compromise how and why I do the things I want to do because I can't afford it but I'll do them the way I can and/or want to.
You can say "this isn't a vinyl revival, I've always bought vinyl" but you know what, IT IS a vinyl revival with pressing times and availability of low volume pressings getting more and more difficult to work with, but the flipside is ........ people are actually paying for recorded music. Where's the negative there, except for the above mentioned issues, which is an inconvenience bought on by people actually BUYING music.
I'm effected by this dramatically. When I started my label 2 1/2 years ago I could get a 7" pressed and delivered in about 5 weeks. I had to submit my RSD releases for this year by the end of January to assure they'd be here in time for the end of April. The reason for this is ...... people are pressing music into vinyl again.
I'll jump in here and say outright that as a shop, WE DO NOT ACTIVELY STOCK ANY official RSD releases as the shit fight that it has become trying to buy, ship and stock this stuff has become a monumental headache, and yes, they're expensive partly because major labels have taken over the festivities in an attempt to rub some of the cool off on themselves. Well, they've been doing that since Elvis sold more than 3 records. This is no different to the rest of the music business at any given time over the last 50 or 60 years. When something underground "works", a guy in a suit works out how to make a buck from it.
Let them "take the day" and pretend they're cool. We were never part of their plan and never wanted to be anyway. I personally believe that punk and DIY is exactly what this is for. They can all pat themselves on the back and tell everyone how great they, and their idea of selling vinyl again is, while we work away in the basements, store rooms and indie shops releasing and selling genuine music by and for people who care.
Even though I don't buy and sell official RSD releases at my shop, I believe it is a very important day if for no other reason than to just get physical and valuable music back in front of humans that want, or hadn't realized that it can be more than 1 and 0's coming down a cable. What's wrong with people actually paying for physical music ?
But in reality there are other reasons. Every year my label releases "RSD" records, and even though they're not "official" RSD releases I've never been asked or stopped from doing them by the powers at be. Maybe they believe, like me, that physical releases are more important than registering to be part of the machine ? Maybe they don't and I'm just too small to put a blip on the radar ? Either way I'll keep doing them because I believe they're important.
Since I started my label, and celebrating RSD I have released 7"s by US band the Shrine, the Gods of Australian punks the Hard-Ons, US band Sweetapple and this year US indie stalwart Nate Hall and local band Golden Bats and all have been to celebrate the fact that we, not them, can do this.
Every year I celebrate the day with a shop full of like minded people who are not there to not recognize and glorify the majors taking over "our" idea, but music, pure and simple. In the last three years I have had Dumbsaint (Sydney), Margins (Melbourne) , Turnpike (Brisbane), No Anchor (Brisbane), Violent Soho (Brisbane), Cannon (Brisbane), Roku Music (Brisbane), Midnight Woolf (Melbourne), Bruce (NSW), Emperors (Perth), The Nation Blue (Melbourne), Columia Buffet (Brisbane), Golden Bats (Brisbane), Captives (Tasmania), Sounds Like Sunset (Sydney), The Hard-Ons (Sydney) all play in the shop, for FREE. Humans have got off their arses and into a space to see live music and interact with other humans who feel the same way, and bought, with CASH, actual music BECAUSE of a day.
Sure, you can say "they should do that all the time", and of course I agree with you, but they can't and they don't so they do on this day, and it's because it's special.
I'd personally rather have one "special" day promoting something I'm passionate about than none.
When you own and work at an indie shop every day is special. You get to work around things you're passionate about and hopefully your passion rubs off on other people. It's hard work. Harder than most understand but as I've said many times, we, as humans need these spaces , probably now more than ever. If you are the sort of person that is happy to interact with a mouse and buy everything online, so be it. I'm not. I want to talk to people, and not just people who are paid to serve you, but people who are there because they love what you want just as much as you do, and quite often have given up something in life to make that happen, as has the owner. I understand why small shops have given up on RSD. I don't really understand why they've given up on the idea of RSD. It's all in your attitude towards how it works and what you want or need to get out of it and give to others.
Sure, the people who didn't even believe in this idea when it started have taken the reigns and are steering it towards their yacht. Sure, the "limited edition, impossible to get, super cool, overpriced releases are going to be scooped up by the scalpers and be on Ebay (or Discogs) by lunchtime for stupidly increased profits. Sure, we, as owners and operators of small indie shops wish people would appreciate and support us the whole year through ...... but none of this is new and all of it is irrelevant if you spend your life believing in the idea behind RSD which is to promote, appreciate, educate, understand and financially support physical music sales and the artists who produce it.
There are true indie retail shops in every corner of nearly every city on the planet and they need your help so the world doesn't become a glutinous, self indulgent, mindless and soulless over consumer. There are forces much bigger and much better equipped at work to make you believe that you don't really need these little shops, and some of you don't, but when it comes to something as important, personal and passionate as music, I can tell you with all conviction, you do.
If you own a shop or are into music and you don't believe RSD works, so be it. I don't believe capitalism works, but that ain't gonna stop. I will keep releasing and celebrating it for what I believe it is and hopefully be joined by a bunch of half deaf clowns to celebrate with me. The more commercial and mainstream it gets, the more I will push the dirty, obstructing indie DIY ethic into that cog to irk the powers and remind them that we always supported music regardless of whether it was cool or made a profit.
We will be celebrating RSD2015 on April 18th in our usual style with 6 live bands, lots of vinyl, charity auctions, giveaways, a DJ, 2 exclusive Tym records releases and lots of carbon based bipedal lifeforms with inexplicable obsessions with collecting archaic flat, round polyvinyl chloride discs and punishing their ears with obscene volume while yelling at each other why American Football are so seminal or how could Radiohead release Kid A straight after OK Computer when they really should be asking why aren't the Ramones the biggest band in the world. Hopefully I'll see you there.